Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa
Like most visitors to Iceland, we spent some time at the Blue Lagoon. Unlike most other travelers, we have mixed feelings about it. We really don’t want to deter anyone from visiting the Blue Lagoon. However, we think our experience would have been better had our expectations been a little different. As their website touts, they are “home to one of 25 wonders of the world” and “a place where the powers of geothermal seawater create transformational spa journeys.” Needless to say, our “spa journey” wasn’t so transformational.
Before You Go
First, we’re not sure when or why National Geographic named the Blue Lagoon as one of 25 wonders of the world, but we have to disagree. The Blue Lagoon is a man-made spa that is situated in a real lava field. The “geothermal seawater” is actually run-off from a nearby geothermal power company. While the water is natural and filled with minerals like silica and sulfur, the Blue Lagoon is not a natural phenomenon.
Second, the Blue Lagoon is a tourist trap. Over 700,000 people visit this attraction each year. From the moment you enter until the moment you leave, you become part of the tourism machine. With fancy bracelets that allow you to spend money without having to think much about the costs, it’s easy to overlook the ridiculous prices.
Third, the company’s website will have you believe that everything about visiting the Blue Lagoon is relaxing and easy. This was not our experience. We found the locker rooms to be more chaotic and confusing than anything else. As well, the lagoon itself was gorgeous, but it was hard to enjoy with so many strangers. We visited in October, which is not during high-season for Iceland. Unfortunately, the lagoon was still too crowded for us.
Our “Spa Journey”
Following some advice we found online, we knew that we should plan our visit to the Blue Lagoon at the beginning or the end of our trip, due to it’s proximity to the airport. We chose to go before because we prefer not to plan activities before needing to catch a flight. It’s harder to enjoy any activity if you’re checking your watch the whole time. However, after arriving in Iceland before sunrise on a long red-eye flight and then renting a car, we just wanted to relax. You would think the Blue Lagoon spa would be the perfect place to go.
Arrival at The Blue Lagoon
We didn’t have any trouble finding the spa and we already had our tickets since we purchased them in advance. Once we arrived, we weren’t sure what to do with our luggage. Normally, we would have dropped off our stuff at our AirBnb, but since we followed the advice to go straight from the airport, it was all in the car. We know that Iceland is safe, but leaving luggage sitting out unattended in the back of car still makes us nervous. There was a building at the edge of the parking lot, so we went to check it out. It turns out that it’s a luggage check room, which would have been nice to know in advance. We left our luggage there and headed inside.
The entrance to the spa is beautiful and quite surreal, especially at sunrise. The pathway is surrounded by volcanic rock formations and the geothermal waters can be seen as you enter the building. The interior of the building is clean and contemporary. While the atmosphere is nice, the first thing you’ll encounter is the line, even if your one of the earliest scheduled times of the day. In line, you’ll go through an assembly line of checking in. Depending on the ticket type you purchased, this is where you receive your towel, slippers, robe, and wristband.
The Locker Rooms
Once you’re checked in, you enter the locker room for your gender. We parted ways and said we would meet in the lagoon. There are no instructions in the locker rooms, which left both of us confused and alone in a sea of other tourists, many of whom did not speak english.
The women’s locker room was so crowded, I felt like I was constantly in the way of someone else. I managed to find an open locker, but I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to put in it. I knew that we were required to shower before entering the lagoon, so I changed into my swimsuit and stupidly left my towel and flip flops in the locker, thinking I would come grab them after the shower. Off I went to shower barefoot in my bathing suit.
The website stated that they have some shower stalls with doors for privacy, but the line for the showers was long and I never saw any stalls with doors. I realized once I got near the front of the line that there were hooks by the showers for your towel, but I had already waited so long, it wasn’t worth going back. I showered in my swimsuit, but still felt strange showing with other people. After an awkward shower surrounded by older, very naked European women, I made the freezing cold walk to meet back up with Jake out in the lagoon.
Jake’s experience didn’t sound so bad. He had trouble getting his locker open in the mens room, but was able to get it resolved. Then he beat me to the lagoon because he didn’t know he was supposed to shower first and just skipped that bit… lucky him.
Swimming in the Lagoon
The lagoon itself was nice, although crowded. I brought my phone in a waterproof case, so I was able to take a few photos. Our wristbands allowed us to buy overpriced tiny beverages in the lagoon, like smoothies. We waded around in the warm water and put on mud masks. After a while, we agreed that neither of us felt too great and decided to go. I’m not sure if it was because we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, the temperature of the water, the chemicals in the water, or a combination.
The Shower Police
We went back to the locker rooms and took another uncomfortably exposed shower. It felt like there was a film of chemicals on my body and in my hair. I washed off as best I could with the provided gel and conditioner, but I never felt truly clean. When I finished, still barefoot, I attempted to head to my locker to grab my towel. However, the shower police quickly stopped me. Where were they when I was confused my first time in the locker room?
Standing in front of the still lengthy line of women waiting to shower, the woman told me that I couldn’t go into the locker room wet. I explained that I accidentally left my towel in my locker. She then told me to go steal someone else’s towel from the hooks in front of the lagoon. A tad embarrassed, I stole a towel, dried off, went to my locker, and changed. I just wanted to leave, so I avoided the hoard of ladies crowding the mirrors and didn’t bother much with my hair or makeup.
Very hungry at this point, we ate at the attached Lava Restaurant for lunch. We felt under-dressed, me with wet hair and Jake wearing the lagoon slippers, but it didn’t seem to matter much. The service, atmosphere, and food was great. As well, our table had a beautiful view of a more secluded part of the lagoon. We knew it would be an expensive meal, but it was definitely worth it considering that it was the best meal we had while we were in Iceland.
If you’re traveling to Iceland for the first time, you should probably check out the Blue Lagoon. People ask us about this attraction constantly and we would have regretted not at least checking it out. It was a stunning introduction to the Icelandic landscape and an overall good experience. While we dislike crowds and tourist traps, we are still glad that we went. In hindsight, our locker room issues could have been avoided by just following the herd. But as travelers who normally try to avoid what everyone else is doing, this just isn’t how we naturally operate. Would we go back in time and skip the Blue Lagoon on our first trip to Iceland? No. Will we ever visit the lagoon again? No.
Tips For Your “Transformational Spa Journey”
- Bring a waterproof phone case so you can take pictures in the lagoon
- Purchase your tickets in advance on their website
- Use the luggage check building when you arrive
- Take anything you plan on taking out to the lagoon with you when you get in line to shower
- Shower before entering the lagoon
- Bring a hair tie if you’re concerned about the water affecting your hair texture (some women report this in reviews)
- Shower off well after swimming in the lagoon
- If you’re okay with the cost, eat at the Lava Restaurant for great food and views