Iceland's Biggest Attraction - The Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Tripsavvy / Linda Garrison


Every cruise port of call has a place that visitors must see. Even if your friends and family know only a little about the port, they will be sure to ask whether or not you visited this place. In Iceland, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is the place everyone knows about.

In addition to scenic cruising along the spectacular coast of Iceland, cruise ships visiting Iceland usually include the capital of Reykjavik as a port of call. All ships will have half-day shore excursions that offer the opportunity to either swim or just visit the Blue Lagoon. Those who like to travel independently can book their own Blue Lagoon guided tour, take a public bus, or rent a car. The site is near the international airport at Keflavik, so it's also possible to visit on your way to or from the airport.

The 25-mile drive from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon is less than an hour, and the road is well-marked. As you leave Reykjavik, the scenery becomes more stark, with black lava fields on both sides of the highway. It's much like similar roads on the big island of Hawaii.

I visited the Blue Lagoon on a shore excursion from the Holland America Maasdam, which was on an 18-day "Voyage of the Vikings" transatlantic cruise. On this visit to the Blue Lagoon, I was surprised to find that the geothermal spa is not on the coast. The Blue Lagoon is inland, and the road turns off away from the sea not long before you get to the airport. In addition, it's not even a natural lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is an artificial pit dug into the lava and filled with hot seawater from a nearby thermal power plant. The temperature of the water is about 38 degrees Centigrade (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

The color and density of the water are what differentiates the Blue Lagoon from other thermal baths (like the ones I've visited at Baldi Hot Springs in Costa Rica or the Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest). This bluish-white lagoon is surrounded by the black lava, and these striking colors and the steam rising from the lagoon makes for an amazing picture. It's almost like a milk bath, but the milky look comes from the suspended silvery-gray silt and minerals. This silt is like a sticky mud, and people smear it on their faces and bodies for therapeutic reasons (and maybe a little fun).

The entry fee into the Blue Lagoon is not cheap (about 40 euros), but it includes a locker and towel. The thermal spa also has larger lockers for those who need to store suitcases. You are required to take a shower before entering the lagoon, and you will want to take one when you get out, too. It's a good idea to cover your hair with a swim cap or even a shower cap from your cruise ship or hotel since the mud and minerals in the water really dries your hair out. Also, if you are on a tour, be sure to allow about 45 minutes to get showered, dressed, and have a few minutes to check out the cafe or gift shop before you have to meet up with your group.

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Black Lava, White Mud, and Blue Water

Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Blue Lagoon (c) Linda Garrison

The silvery-gray or white silica is suspended in the hot water of the Blue Lagoon, but also sticks to the edges and bottom of the lagoon, making a nice contrast between the black lava and bluish water.

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Lifeguards wear unusual attire at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.
Blue Lagoon (c) Linda Garrison

Although the Blue Lagoon is less than four feet deep in most places, the facility has lifeguards. However, instead of being dressed in a swimsuit, they wear coats and vests. Since the facility is open year-round, it can sometimes be very cold when you are not in the thermal bath of the Blue Lagoon. I've heard that your wet, steamy hair will freeze in the winter!

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Hot Waterfall

Blue Lagoon hot waterfall
Blue Lagoon (c) Linda Garrison

I loved sitting under this hot waterfall at the Blue Lagoon, but it sure ruined my hair for a couple of days. The liberal use of conditioner cured the frizzies the muddy water caused.

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Relaxation Room

Relaxation room at the Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon (c) Linda Garrison

This warm, indoor relaxation room overlooks the Blue Lagoon and provides a quiet spot to rest after a spa treatment, the sauna, steam bath, or just swimming in the lagoon.

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