The world-famous Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s No. 1 geothermal spa and one of the most popular attractions in the country. Three decades ago, it was just an abandoned pond that was open to the public. Today, it’s a world-class spa with pricey fees and luxury service. Find out why the Blue Lagoon became so famous, what kind of minerals it contains, and what the benefits and drawbacks of bathing in it are.
What is the Blue Lagoon?
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in an 800-year-old lava field in the Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark. The 8.7 km2 (3.35 sq. mi) lagoon holds approximately 9 million liters (2.4 million gallons) of geothermal seawater, reaching down to a maximum of 1.6 m (5.2 ft.) in depth. The lagoon is filled with mineral-rich, milky-blue water and has a large bathing area with warm water that stays at around 37–39°C (98–102°F) all year.
The Blue Lagoon facilities include:
- A luggage storage building
- A waiting area
- A souvenir shop
- A buffet
- An up-scale restaurant
- Changing areas
- Massage rooms
- A relaxation area
- Exclusive areas and private changing rooms
- An in-water buffet
- The bathing areas
Additionally, there are two hotels located directly at the spa: the Hotel Silica and the Blue Lagoon Retreat Hotel.
Why is it so famous?
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010 put Iceland on the map as a travel destination. People all over the world started to notice this small Arctic island thanks to its exciting geography, history, culture, and breathtaking nature. Tourism in Iceland began to grow rapidly.
In 2012, the National Geographic magazine published a special edition about the 25 Wonders of the world, and Iceland’s Blue Lagoon was listed as one of those remarkable destinations. The Sahara desert, Borneo’s lush rainforests, Hawaii’s erupting volcanoes, and Mexico’s legendary Cave of Crystals were also on this illustrious list along with many others.
With Iceland becoming an increasingly popular travel destination, the Blue Lagoon became a must-visit place for visitors thanks to its fortunate location between Reykjavík and the international airport.
As it’s become more famous, the Blue Lagoon has also become a beloved filming location. It was the pit stop for the first leg of The Amazing Race 6, the location for the thermal spa scenes in Hostel: Part II, appeared in the documentary Look Alive, and was in Britain’s Next Top Model as well as in Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
Floating in a warm, milky blue lake surrounded by moss and lava is a truly memorable experience. Photos and videos of celebrities bathing in the lagoon have gone viral. The fact that Northern Lights may even make an appearance or the midnight sun might paint the sky in vibrant colors make it even more tempting. The Blue Lagoon experience is simply epic, which makes it no wonder why it so quickly became an ultimate bucket list item for every traveler.
Where is the Blue Lagoon Located?
The spa is located on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwestern Iceland, about a 20-minute drive from Keflavík International Airport and a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík.
The closest settlement is Grindavík, which is a 10-minute drive from the lagoon. Apart from the two hotels, the spa buildings, and a geothermal power plant, there are no other buildings near the lagoon, only a vast lava field stretching out in all directions.
How to Get There by Car
To get to the Blue Lagoon from either the airport or from the capital, take Reykjanesbraut (Highway 41) to Grindavíkurvegur (Highway 43) and follow the signs to the Blue Lagoon (Bláa Lónid).
How to Get There by Shuttle
There are several bus and taxi companies that offer shuttles to and from the Blue Lagoon. Scheduled buses are the cheapest option. They run at least once an hour while the facility is open. Shuttle buses to and from the capital have multiple stops in Reykjavík, including some hotels and other central locations.
Scheduled buses run between the airport and the spa as well as between Reykjavík and the airport with a stop at the Blue Lagoon since many travelers schedule their Blue Lagoon visit right on arrival or right before leaving the country.
Keflavík–Blue Lagoon: Appr. 2800 ISK
Keflavík–Blue Lagoon–Reykjavík: Appr. 5500 ISK
Reykjavík–Blue Lagoon: Appr. 2800 ISK
Taxis are much more expensive, of course, but the price will depend on your destination. Between Reykjavík and the spa, a taxi will cost approximately 20,000 ISK.
How Was the Blue Lagoon Created?
The Lava Field Was Formed
Reykjanes Peninsula, where the Blue Lagoon is located, sits on top of an active volcanic system, which is home to many volcanoes, calderas, and craters. In the 13th century, six eruptions occurred in the area at around the same time. These events created the beautiful lava field that surrounds the Blue Lagoon today. Although there haven’t been any eruptions since the 13th century, there are still strong signs of ongoing volcanic activity happening beneath the surface.
A Power Plant Was Built
To benefit from the incredible power hidden under the ground, Icelanders decided to build a geothermal power plant using renewable energy from the volcanic heat. Electricity is generated in turbines run using superheated water. This power plant, which generates both electric power and hot water, was the first of its kind in the world. It has been providing the surrounding villages with electricity, warm water, and heat ever since.
A Pond Was Created
During the drilling process, strangely colored water began to appear. It was so rich in minerals that it coated the power plant’s engines and kept them from running. The workers wanted to get rid of this runoff water and so pumped it out, disposing of it in the lava field. As this was naturally occurring water, which came from under the ground, it offered no threat to the environment.
Soon, the silica-rich water started coating the rocks, creating a lagoon. For many years, people believed that this water was poisonous.
The First People Bathed in the Lagoon
One day, a worker named Valur Margeirsson started bathing in this strange water and realized that it wasn’t poisonous at all. He suffered from a rare skin condition called psoriasis and after a while, he noticed that his symptoms started to improve. Valur was the first person to call the geothermal pool the Blue Lagoon.
Iceland is covered with both swimming pools and natural hot springs. The Icelandic people love to bathe and so in no time at all, the locals began to venture to this newly discovered bathing location. The Blue Lagoon’s convenient location near Reykjavík was another great reason for its quick surge in popularity among locals. The lagoon could be unsafe at times, though, since it was full of hot spots with a depth ranging anywhere from 1–7 m (3–22 ft.).
How Did It Become a Spa?
In the 1980s, the source of this water and its minerals was finally discovered. These minerals come from deep in the geological layers of the Earth and the hot water carries them up to the surface on its journey. Not only is it rich in these natural minerals, but the Blue Lagoon’s silica and algae were shown to be beneficial for the skin.
Studies found that the water was perfectly safe and could be used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. After hearing this news, including the possible health benefits of bathing in this special water, the locals began to visit the lagoon with more frequency.
The Lagoon Was Opened to the Public
In 1992, the Blue Lagoon company was founded to meet the rising demand of the public and allow them to enjoy the lagoon safely. The company also took steps to guarantee the safety of all visitors to the lagoon’s mineral-rich waters.
After building the bathing facilities as well as the changing rooms, the Blue Lagoon spa opened to the public. Since then, it’s only continued to increase in size and popularity. As more visitors are able to enjoy the spa, new sections are continuously built to improve and expand the facilities. One thing that remains unchanged is the water, which continues to come from the nearby power plant.
A Research Center Was Established
A clinic was opened in 1995 to treat chronic skin conditions. This happened after a large amount of research was carried out confirming the curative power of this geothermal seawater. This clinic was naturally followed by the creation of Blue Lagoon skincare, which creates special treatments for those who suffer from psoriasis.
Is the Blue Lagoon Natural?
As explained above, in the strictest sense, the Blue Lagoon isn’t a natural phenomenon. The water doesn’t flow out of the ground by itself, but rather is artificially extracted using a drill. It’s used in the power plant first and then directly deposited in the lagoon, which is also partially man-made. This process might sound intimidating, but it’s perfectly safe and environmentally friendly. The water is clean and no artificial chemicals are used during the process.
What’s in the Blue Lagoon’s Water?
The water at the Blue Lagoon is 55% seawater and 35% freshwater that originates about 2000 m (6500 ft.) below the surface. Here, the seawater and freshwater combine under extreme heat and pressure, forming a mixture called geothermal seawater. After traveling to the surface through different layers, the water emerges enriched with all kinds of bioactive elements that have proven to have healing and nourishing abilities.
The Blue Lagoon’s water contains high levels of silicon dioxide, which is the white mud that gives the water its unique milky color. Silica is composed of silicon and oxygen. It’s naturally present in the ground in large quantities and occurs in various living organisms. When applied as a face mask, it cleans the skin and reduces the size of the pores, resulting in tighter, refreshed skin. An array of minerals, including mineral salt, is also found in the water.
Another main ingredient in the Blue Lagoon is algae, a special kind of microorganism that is unique to this geothermal seawater. When the ecosystem of this lagoon was analyzed in 1996, it was found that these blue-green algae are a completely new organism. Research has shown that these potent algae nourish the skin, reducing lines and wrinkles.
These algae are the only living organisms in Blue Lagoon’s water. Thanks to the high silica and mineral content, no fecal bacteria, environmental bacteria, fungi, or other plants can survive here.
As the water filters back into the ground, new water comes to replace it, renewing itself completely every 40 hours. For this reason, it doesn’t need any artificial disinfection or chemicals. All these attributes together make the water in the Blue Lagoon miraculous.
Will the Blue Lagoon’s Water Damage Your Hair, Swimsuit, or Jewelry?
The silica-rich water won’t literally damage your hair, but it will make your hair feel very weird and dry. The elements in the water actually strengthen hair, stimulate circulation, and revitalize the scalp. They’re especially good for skin problems such as psoriasis, acne, dandruff, and eczema. Minerals like silica will coat the surface of the hair, making it matted, stiff, dry, and unmanageable, especially if you have color-treated, keratin-treated, or permed hair.
For this reason, we recommend washing your hair before bathing in the lagoon with the shampoo provided in the showers and using plenty of hair conditioner. Leave the conditioner in your hair while bathing and keep your hair out of the water as much as you can. After bathing, if your hair feels stiff and dry, wash it profoundly again and then apply an overnight deep conditioning treatment. This will fix the texture of your hair.
Like everywhere in Iceland, the water in the showers contains sulfur, which causes silver jewelry to change its color. This is a harmless effect, but we recommend removing your jewelry before entering showers and the lagoon to avoid discoloration. If your jewelry has been discolored, you can clean it later using a special liquid. You can request this liquid at any jewelry store in Iceland for a small fee. The water won’t damage gold, other precious metals, precious stones, swimming suits, or other materials.
Is the Blue Lagoon’s Water Hot?
In the bathing area, the water temperature is around 37–39°C (98–102°F), which is perfectly comfortable for bathing. Some spots are slightly warmer than others and the water has warm currents. Don’t worry, though. The superheated water doesn’t flow directly into the lagoon and the water temperature in the bathing area is regulated.
The entire lagoon is much bigger than the bathing area itself. Outside of the facility, you can walk around the lagoon and admire the wild volcanic landscape, the milky-white water, and the silica-coated lava rocks while the power plant in the background blows big white clouds of steam into the air. The water is very shallow here and the temperature isn’t regulated, so it’s cold and unsuitable for bathing, but perfect for taking photos!
When Is the Best Time to Go to the Blue Lagoon?
The best time to go to the Blue Lagoon is during the day. This is when the sun is bright and you can see the colors and the landscape at their best. During sunsets and sunrises, if the weather is clear, the beautiful colors can make the experience even more romantic. The spa is open every day, all year round, but the opening hours differ from season to season.
If you want to see the Northern Lights while bathing, you must visit Iceland between October and March, arriving at the lagoon in the morning when it’s still dark or arriving in the evening and then waiting for the darkness. In the middle of winter, between November and February, the daylight periods are quite short while in summer, there’s no darkness at night at all.
Read our article about the Northern Lights and find out when and where you’ll have the best chances of seeing them in Iceland.
What Amenities Are Available at the Blue Lagoon?
Even though a rustic, rough lava field surrounds the spa, the facilities are modern and world-class. Many extra services are also offered if you feel like you need some extra care. In-water massages, guided tours, and algae masks are offered for an extra fee while some amenities, like silica face masks, saunas, steam rooms, the relaxation area, and a welcome drink at the in-water bar are included in the entry fee.
In the bathing area, you’ll find a cave and an artificial warm waterfall. There are private lounges, changing rooms, and bathing areas for those who book the luxury retreat ticket.
Do You Have to Shower Naked Before Entering the Pool?
Yes, everyone is required to shower naked before entering the lagoon. This is true not only at the Blue Lagoon but at any pool in Iceland. The reason for this strict rule is that the pool isn’t artificially clarified. In Iceland, since the warm water comes for free and without limits, instead of using chemicals to clean the pools, the water is changed much more often than in other countries.
But because of this, when many people enter the pool, it’s especially important that everyone has showered to make sure the water doesn’t become polluted and that germs don’t enter. Showering with soap and without a swimming suit is much more effective than doing so with your swimming suit on.
This is something that Icelanders very much insist on. Getting naked in front of people of the same sex and using communal showers is completely normal in Iceland. People don’t stare at each other and don’t hide their bodies either. In fact, the locals will look strangely at people who try to ignore the rules and don’t shower naked.
Out of consideration for any shy visitors, the Blue Lagoon has built some cubicles where guests can shower privately, but you’ll still be required to enter the cubicles without your swimsuit on.
What Should I Bring to the Blue Lagoon?
Depending on the package you’ve purchased, you might need slippers and a robe as they aren’t included in the comfort package. These are not necessary, though, and many people don’t use robes and slippers at the Blue Lagoon. This is completely up to you.
Snacks can be purchased at the buffet and you can buy drinks at the in-water bar. If you’re hungry after bathing, you can visit the restaurant, but you must reserve your table before arrival. A restaurant reservation is included in the premium and luxury packages.
Is There Any Accommodation Near the Blue Lagoon?
There are two hotels at the Blue Lagoon: the Silica Hotel and the Retreat Hotel. The Silica Hotel is the cheaper option while the Retreat Hotel offers private lagoons that can be accessed from the rooms. Both hotels can be booked through the Blue Lagoon’s website.
The nearest villages are Grindavík, Vogar, Reykjanesnaer/Keflavík, Gardur, and Sandgerdi. There are plenty of hotels, guesthouses, and Airbnb apartments on the Reykjanes peninsula, all within 30 minutes’ drive from the Blue Lagoon.
When Can I See the Northern Lights From the Blue Lagoon?
To see the aurora borealis from the Blue Lagoon, you must visit Iceland when it’s dark during Blue Lagoon’s operating hours. As we’ve explained in this article, the Northern Lights are visible in Iceland from late August to early April, but the hours in winter are somewhat shorter at the spa then in summer.
January 1–June 4: 8:00–21:00 (9:00 p.m.)
June 5–August 23: 8:00–23:00 (11:00 p.m.)
August 24–December 31: 8:00–21:00 (9:00 p.m.)
December 24: 8:00–15:00 (3:00 p.m.)
In January, you’ll have the chance to see the Northern Lights from the pool before 10:00 a.m. and again after around 17:00 (5:00 p.m.). In February, the mornings are too bright, but you can still see the lights after about 18:00–19:00 (6:00–7:00 p.m.).
In March, you might still catch some darkness after 20:00 (8:00 p.m.) in the first week of the month, but in the later weeks, the nights will become bright earlier and you won’t be able to enjoy the darkness during the hours that the lagoon is open.
The months between April and August aren’t suitable for aurora watchers at the Blue Lagoon because the nights are too bright all night long.
From around the end of September, it’ll be dark at the spa after 20:00 (8:00 p.m.). In October, you’ll have even more time as the early sunset allows you to enjoy the darkness from about 18:00–19:00 (6:00–7:00 p.m.).
In November, the daylight periods get even shorter, allowing us to see the lights before 9:00–10:00 a.m. and after 18:00–19:00 (6:00–7:00 p.m.). December provides the longest darkness periods with about 19–20 hours of darkness. In mid-December, you can see the lights from the lagoon before 11:00 a.m. and after 16:00 (4:00 p.m.).
You can check the exact sunset and sunrise times for Grindavík here. Keep in mind that the darkness will last up to about one hour before sunrise and will come back at least one hour after sunset.
When Can I See the Midnight Sun From the Blue Lagoon?
The midnight sun is visible in Iceland from late May until late July. During these months, the days are completely bright until about 21:00 (9:00 p.m.) and sunset colors start to appear in the late evening, around 22:00 (10:00 p.m.).
In these months, the Blue Lagoon has longer opening hours. No matter when you start your spa day at the lagoon, just wait for the evening to come and stay at the spa until it closes to enjoy the colors of the midnight sun.
In this article, you can read more about the midnight sun and the best places to watch it from.
Is Blue Lagoon Expensive? Is It Worth It?
This question is quite hard to answer since what you find expensive will be relative to your budget. Low-budget travelers usually find the Blue Lagoon overpriced. It’s the priciest spa in all of Iceland, of course, and also has the longest queue.
There’s only one place where the water has similar characteristics: the Myvatn Nature Baths in North Iceland. These are often referred to as a great alternative to the Blue Lagoon – at half the price.
However, Myvatn is somewhat smaller, has fewer amenities, and is less luxurious than the Blue Lagoon. The Myvatn Baths are located a 7-hour drive from the capital, visiting it requires a multi-day trip. So, they’re not worth visiting for those who aren’t planning to travel around the country due to lack of time.
In terms of authenticity, some people say that no locals visit the Blue Lagoon anymore and it’s become a tourist trap. Since it became so famous, it’s true that much fewer Icelanders visit the spa than foreign tourists and even locals find it overpriced. There are plenty of great geothermal pools in Iceland that are extremely cheap.
Since Icelanders are used to the volcanic landscape, most of them aren’t willing to pay a higher price just to have a nice view and luxurious treatment. Most locals are satisfied with the cheaper geothermal pools and although they might visit the Blue Lagoon once in a while, they mostly leave it for the tourists to enjoy.
Are There Cheaper Alternatives to the Blue Lagoon?
There are plenty of amazing spas in Iceland. They each have their own special reasons that make them the best. Some offer breathtaking views, some have special water characteristics, and some are just so remote that even traveling there is a great adventure. If you’re looking for cheaper alternatives to the Blue Lagoon, here are some of our suggestions:
Even though the Blue Lagoon is extremely popular, in our opinion, it definitely deserves a visit. The experience is truly memorable and will be the perfect start or ending to your Icelandic travel adventure!