Europe Nature Travelling

Taking a Dip in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Steam rising from the milky blue water of the Blue Lagoon is probably the most iconic image of Iceland for many people. Indeed, it was one of the things that I knew I simply must do while in the country.

The iconic Blue Lagoon
The iconic Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon’s location near to Keflavik airport makes it a very popular stop for travellers on their way to, or from, the airport. I booked a tour with Reykjavik Excursions opting for the ‘Comfort Package’, which includes a bath robe, towel, slippers (which were actually flip-flops), a drink at the bar, a €5 discount voucher, and the choice of either an algae face-mask or a volcanic scrub. The package cost €60($82).

Contrary to what many people believe, the Blue Lagoon is not a natural formation, but a man-made lagoon created by run-off from the power plant next door.  The water temperature is 37-39°c, which, while not as hot as I imagined, is still pleasantly warm to get into.

The Blue Lagoon is fed by groundwater from the  Svartsengi power plant next door.
The Blue Lagoon is fed by groundwater from the Svartsengi power plant next door.

I had read a few blog posts about the Lagoon and was aware of two things:

1)   Guests are required to shower naked before entering the lagoon.

2)   The high mineral content of the water will destroy your hair.

 Frankly, both of these facts bothered me. 

Not sure how to shower naked in public? Don't worry: help is at hand.
Not sure how to shower naked in public? Don’t worry: help is at hand.

We changed quickly and headed nervously to the showers. We needn’t have worried. Yes, the sign requested that you remove your bathing suit to shower, but nobody else seemed to be doing so. I would usually respect local customs and requirements, but I certainly had no intention of being the only one to get my kit off for the showers. I also saw that there were individual shower cubicles with doors (4 in one changing room, and 8 in the other), so do not be put off visiting the Lagoon by people telling you that you have to publicly expose yourself.

Slathering my hair in a leave-in conditioner that I had bought specifically for the purpose, I wrapped up in my fluffy bathrobe and headed out to the pool.

Relaxing in the robe.
Relaxing in the robe.

An icy wind blasted me as I disrobed, hanging my bathrobe by the side of the Lagoon. We ran to the pool, happily sinking into the warm water. Whilst the water was warm, it was a tepid warm—not as warm as I would have for a bath, but there were hot spots that drew people to them like moths to a flame. Horizontal rain blinded us and the wind continued to blast us. The water was pleasant, but there was absolutely no hiding from the bitter Icelandic climate.

Can you spot the hot-spot?
Can you spot the hot-spot?

Coating our faces with silica found in buckets at the side of the water, we swam over to the bar and claimed our complimentary drink;  choosing a smoothie made with Skyr—an Icelandic yoghurt with an impressively high protein content. We asked for our complimentary facemask and were given something resembling a small grey pebble by the bar staff. My skin definitely felt well-scrubbed and clean afterwards.

Having a swim-up bar in the pool is a great idea, and lazily sipping a sparkling Rosé – or a healthy smoothie – is a great compliment to your luxury spa experience. Drinking it next to a large group of loud-mouthed, beer-swigging guys starting their stag-weekend in Reykjavik? Not so much.

We only stayed in the pool for about 15 minutes, before heading inside to warm ourselves up. As well as the Lagoon, the complex has steam rooms, saunas, a café and a restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was booked for an event as it was the Iceland Airwaves music festival while I was visiting, and so we were unable to go inside. This was disappointing, as we had been looking forward to eating something more substantial. We went to the café instead.

As expected, the café was very expensive and offered a fairly unimpressive array of sandwiches, but we were hungry and needed to warm up. My bathrobe had become soaked in the rain, and I was finding it hard to keep warm. 

At the end of our visit we visited the gift shop to redeem our voucher. Sadly, without adding extra money, €5 will only buy you a badge or a pen in the shop. Even a single sachet of the algae face mask will set you back €10.

So, did I enjoy my day at the Blue Lagoon?

The Blue Lagoon is promoted as a luxury spa experience, but with over 80% of visitors to Iceland visiting the Lagoon the clientele is mixed. On the day of my trip there were a few school trips from the UK visiting and they don’t seem to have been informed of the differences between an expensive health spa and the local fun-pool, or  of the etiquette expected in a health spa.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy my day, I did, and I would recommend it to a first-time traveller to Iceland. I would advise, however, that you avoid going on a day with strong, icy winds and horizontal rain.

Aesthetically, however, the Blue Lagoon is quite simply, breath taking. Sitting serenely amongst a barren volcanic landscape whilst swathes of steam driven by an unforgiving Icelandic wind float across the blue surface of the Lagoon is a mesmerising sight, and one of my most-cherished memories of Iceland.

 Have you visited the Blue Lagoon, or would you like to? Let me know in the comments below.

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1 Comment

  1. says:

    Tom -I’m so glad that you’re enjoying Iceland! After the U.S., Iceland is my fivtraoe country in the whole wide world, and I encourage everyone to spend at least a day or so exploring if they ever have a stopover to or from Europe.I lived there as a tot in 1966 to a teenager in 1978 when my dad was in the Air Force and stationed at the big base you flew into. (The international airport is now separated from the base, but we were one big happy back then.) I’ve even casually enquired into Oracle DBA/dev jobs there, but I’m kinda spoiled now by being back in the states. But it’ll have a very WARM place in my heart!

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