The Blue Lagoon is easily one of Iceland’s most visited attractions — some 1.5 million people bathed in the mineral-rich waters in 2017 alone — and it’s completely worth all the fuss. Craggy black lava rocks surround the naturally heated waters, which are a fluorescent shade of blue that seem entirely unnatural; the steam rising up from the water creates an other-worldly effect; and the temperature of the waters is a perfect 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
All that to say — the lagoon might seem touristy, but it’s a must-see when in Iceland. Allot at least a half day in your schedule for the lagoon, ideally to recuperate after a long hike or ice cave excursion.
About the Lagoon
Most visitors assume the Blue Lagoon is a natural lake, but the pool actually formed in 1976 during construction of a geothermal electrical plant nearby; the water is runoff from the (clean!) plant. Legend has it that a construction worker on site discovered the bright blue, warm waters and started bathing in them after work — no surprise given Iceland’s cool weather and traditional bathing culture. What was a surprise: Less than a month after the worker began bathing in the hot springs, his chronic psoriasis had allegedly disappeared.
Dermatologists might disagree on whether the minerals in the Blue Lagoon actually cure skin disorders, but anyone who visits this landmark can agree that it is pampering at its best.
Magma deep in the earth heats the impossibly blue water to 104°F (or 40°C) all year-round, and the silica that seeps out from the ground into the water (and gives it that mystical color) is said to keep skin smooth, supple, and moisturized.
You can test the effects of silica yourself at the mask bar, where everyone gets a dollop of silica mud to slather on their faces.
Let the mud dry for about 10 minutes — your face will feel taut — then rinse off the mask in the lagoon. Additional masks are also available for purchase: Try the algae mask, to stimulate collagen production and smooth out fine lines; test a lava scrub, to exfoliate your face; or slather on a mineral mask for deep hydration.
While your mask is drying, paddle over to the swim-up bar for a drink. Each admission package comes with at least one drink, including wine, beer, green juices and smoothies; each wristband may only purchase up to three alcoholic beverages.
The water depth varies throughout the lagoon, but its deepest is just over 5 feet. Children or anyone who is nervous in the water can borrow arm floats, available free of charge during the stay.
All visits to the Blue Lagoon must be pre-booked; you can select an entrance time, and choose from three admission tiers:
- Comfort: Basic admission includes towel service, locker access, use of the saunas and steam rooms, one mud mask treatment, and one drink at the swim up bar (6,990 ISK, or about $65).
- Premium: Enjoy everything included in the basic admission package, plus a robe and flip flops to use during your stay; an algae mask treatment; a reservation at LAVA restaurant; and a complimentary glass of cava during the meal (9,990 ISK, or about $93).
- Retreat: The highest admission tier provides four-hour access to The Retreat, a private section of the lagoon. Change in your own private quarters; take advantage of the full spa menu; and experience the Blue Lagoon ritual, a combination of silica, algae, and mineral treatments.
Facilities & Logistics
The locker rooms at the Blue Lagoon can be confusing and hectic. Here’s what to expect:
- Remove Shoes at the Door: Take your shoes off when you first walk into the locker room; a rack is available if you want to leave them at the front door, but you can also carry your shoes and stash them in your locker. This is an important part of hot spring etiquette in Iceland.
- Choose a Locker: Put your belongings in an open locker. Shut the door after you’ve changed and are ready to head to the showers.
- Scan Your Bracelet: You have 10 seconds to scan your wristband after shutting the door — this will attach your bracelet to the locker. The locker should pop open if you don’t scan in time — an easy thing to do when the locker room is busy — and you can try again.
- Shower: You’ll need to shower and soap up fully nude before entering the pool — it’s a sanitary concern that’s standard at all of Iceland’s hot springs and swimming pools. Because so many foreigners visit the Blue Lagoon, a few stalls with doors are available. Take advantage of the leave-in conditioner in the showers; it will protect your hair from the harsh waters of the lagoon.
- Dry off: When you’re leaving the pool, prepare to dry off as fully as possible in the designated area; this keeps the changing areas from getting soaked.
Access to saunas and steam rooms are included in all admission packages; massages and additional spa treatments cost extra. All additional charges can be put on your wristband, which is attached to a credit card at check-in.
Food & Drinks
Choose from two restaurants at the Blue Lagoon:
- Blue Café: This more casual eatery offers light salads, sandwiches, smoothies, snacks, beer, and wine.
- LAVA Restaurant: On clear days, this restaurant offers panoramic views of the Blue Lagoon and the sparse lava fields surrounding it. Cuisine is local and fresh, including seafood caught in the nearby fishing village of Grindavik and vegetarian dishes that are as creative as their omnivorous counterparts. Premium package admission includes a reservation at the restaurant and a glass of sparkling wine. And don’t worry — dining in your terrycloth robe and flip flops is perfectly acceptable.
The Blue Lagoon is located about 30 miles from Reykjavik and 13 miles from Keflavik Airport. If you haven’t rented a car, there are a few ways to get to the lagoon:
- Guided Tours: Guided tours leave from Reykjavik and Keflavik airport regularly. You can choose tours that only visit the lagoon, or full-day excursions that stop by other popular attractions.
- Private car from Reykjavik: A cab from Reykjavik is an expensive but doable option for visiting the Blue Lagoon. Private transfers start at 33,800 ISK ($318) for up to three people.
- Private car from Keflavik Airport: If you have a several hour layover in Keflavik, Iceland’s main international airport, you can easily take a cab to the Blue Lagoon. Transfers from the airport start at 19,00 ISK ($176) for up to three people.
Tips and Advice
Book Early: The lagoon now requires pre-booking for entrance — no drop-ins allowed — to maintain crowd flow and keep the pool from becoming uncomfortably full. The pool is booked to capacity nearly every day of the year, so purchase tickets as soon as you’ve sketched out a rough itinerary for your trip; there is no time limit for your visit, so if you plan to stay the whole day, book a morning time slot.
- Don’t Go Underwater: If you have sensitive or color-treated hair, avoid going under the water, which can leave behind a thick and salty mineral coating. Conditioner is also available in the locker room showers, which can help combat the roughness of the water.
- Swim Away: After you’ve grabbed a drink or slathered your face in mud, head away from the main entrance area and under one of the pedestrian bridges. These pockets of the lagoon are less crowded than the main pool area, so you can enjoy your drink and treatments in relative peace.
- Visit Before the Airport: The Blue Lagoon is just a few miles from Keflavik airport, so consider visiting after landing or before an afternoon departures — you’ll arrive fresh, clean, and sleepy from all the pampering.