Swimmers at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Soaking Up the Warmth: Visiting the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

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When planning a visit to Iceland, there are a wide range of tourist sites that travelers wish to take in. One of the most sought-after destinations, however, is also one of the most convenient. While many of Iceland’s majestic glaciers, fjords, and ravines require quite a bit of travel and some strenuous hiking, the famed Blue Lagoon in Iceland is accessible to nearly everyone who is passing through the small island country.

A Blue Lagoon visit tops many travelers lists of activities in Iceland, and it’s easy to see why. The almost impossible deep blue hue of the steamy water provides a beautiful contrast against the daunting black lava rock formations that surround it (and the white snow in the winter).

The allure of the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is not just in its aesthetics. People from all over the world come here to visit the Blue Lagoon and experience its therapeutic properties and its wide range of healthy treatments.

Sidewalks among the steam
The sidewalks among the mist

Because these deep blue waters are located just over 21 kilometers south of Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, it is a fantastic place to stop either on your way into or out of the country. With a highly rated restaurant and world-class spa, you are sure to be satisfied whether just getting off the plane or before heading home.

If you have a desire to visit Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, take some time to read about our experience and learn from some of our helpful tips before booking your trip!

Overview

You may have seen pictures or heard stories about trips to the Blue Lagoon, but you may still have questions about what this popular tourist destination is. In short, this is a geothermal spa located amidst black lava rocks near the southeast corner of Iceland. There are many natural hot springs and spas located throughout Iceland thanks to its unique geography and positioning in the world.

Water runoff from the power plant
Pooling blue waters outside the complex

However, this is not quite a natural geothermal spring. The bright blue water is fed into the cavity by a nearby geothermal power plant. People discovered this accidental creation of the pool, turning it into a tourist attraction where others could enjoy the hot spring experience near Iceland’s airport and largest city.

Don’t let that lessen your opinion of the Blue Lagoon Spa, though. Everything surrounding you is still a natural wonder, and you’ll gain all the benefits and enjoyment that you would in a smaller, natural geothermal pool. The water is still heated by Iceland’s natural geothermal energy, but with this particular pool, you have access to an entire spa and delicious restaurant!

A Brief History

Like many of Iceland’s power plants, the Svartsgeni plant was built in 1976 to harness the power of Iceland’s geothermal energy. By 1977, the water runoff began to create pools in the nearby landmass. While there were some early adapters, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that people started to use these pools in large quantities. Many who suffered from skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema were vocal about the pool’s healing properties for these conditions.

The power plant beyond the spa complex
The Svartsgeni plant can be seen from the spa complex

In 1987, the pool was opened to the public, and by 1994, a clinic for skin conditions was built on site. After this, tourism here was in full swing, with over 50,000 visitors a year coming throughout the 1990s. That may seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to what was about to happen in the coming decades.

After Iceland recovered from its financial crisis in 2011, tourism to the country started to boom. People were interested in seeing the beautiful, unique, and sometimes eerie geographical structures located throughout the island. But they also wanted to experience the majesty of the massive Blue Lagoon spa. Thanks in part to social media and television influence, it is estimated that over 1.3 million people visit the attraction every year!

The saunas
The saunas

Where is the Blue Lagoon?

Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is located approximately 50 kilometers southwest of Reykjavik (a 45-minute drive) and approximately 21 kilometers south of the Keflavik International Airport (a 20-minute drive). It is located inside the Reykjanes Geopark, which is a sprawling landscape rife with lava fields, geothermal regions, and active volcanoes.

The official address is:
Norðurljósavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
GPS Coordinates: 63.8804° N, 22.4495° W

How to Get Here

It is easily accessible if you fly into Keflavik or if you are staying in or near Reykjavik or other nearby towns. See below for directions from different locations. Depending on how long you are staying or how comfortable you are with driving, you have several options for travel to the Blue Lagoon.

Driving

Driving to the Blue Lagoon will be the most direct route and will give you the most flexibility, but it might not be the answer for everyone. If you have a rental car and are comfortable with Iceland’s roads (there are paved roads all the way to the Lagoon), you can follow these directions from different locations.

From Reykjavik: Take Route 49 out of central Reykjavik east to Route 40 south. Continue on Route 41 heading West until you reach Route 43, also known as Grindavikurvegur. Follow this for about 5 minutes and turn right, following the signs for spa complex. There is free parking for visitors to the spa.

From Keflavik International Airport: Follow Route 41 East straight out of the airport until you get to Route 43 – this will be the first main road you can turn off on. Take Route 43 for 5 minutes until you see the entrance for the attraction on your right-hand side.

From Vik: Take Route 1 West to Route 34 West to Route 427 West. This will take you to Route 43 where you will head north. The entrance to the attraction will be on the left-hand side.

The landscape in the geothermal area
The landscape outside the spa complex

Guided Tours

If you don’t have a rental car or aren’t comfortable with driving, you can opt to take a guided tour to spa. This allows you to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a bus without having to worry about following directions. The downside is that you must follow the schedule of the tour, so you don’t have quite as much freedom as if you drove.

There are several different tours that take you here. Most of the Golden Circle tours from Reykjavik include a stop at the lagoon at the end of the day (and for that reason, late afternoons/evenings can be busier).

Also, you can also book fully private tours specifically for the spa complex, but they may be more expensive. Blue Lagoon getaways are one of the most popular things to do in Reykjavik among tourists.

Airport Transfer or Reykjavik Shuttle

The company offers transport options for those staying in Reykjavik or simply stopping in for a layover. You can book a shuttle from Keflavik to the Lagoon to Reykjavik or vice versa, or you can do round trips to either location.

The shuttle bus in the parking lot
The airport flybus stops at the complex

We enjoy this option because it allows you to visit the lagoon either on your way in or out of the country and you can time it to match up with your flight. The shuttles offer transport for luggage as well, and there are lockers on site. The transfers cost 5,500 ISK, or about $45 USD. This is about half of what you would pay for a traditional taxi from Reykjavik to the airport, so it is an excellent deal.

Are Reservations Required?

If you are hoping to enjoy the blue waters during your visit to Iceland, it is highly recommended that you make reservations far in advance. The attraction is often booked completely quite a bit ahead of time, so you will be doing yourself a favor if you make reservations.

While they technically allow walk-ins if spots are open, you shouldn’t leave your Blue Lagoon tickets up to luck, or you’ll likely be stranded outside of the attraction with nothing to do.

Be sure to read our Frequently Asked Questions about the Blue Lagoon.

Our Visit

We’ve visited the Blue Lagoon Iceland Resort & Spa on each of our trips to Iceland. We just love visiting hot springs and, while this isn’t a natural hot spring, it is very relaxing.

Our first trip to Iceland was in the summer and we visited the lagoon just before sunset at the end of the day driving the Golden Circle. Our most recent trip to Iceland was in the dead of winter and was a very different experience.

Despite coming in the dead of winter and in the “off season,” we found that ticket reservations were very limited, despite booking weeks in advance. Our top times were booked out so we needed to change around our plan a little bit.

On arriving, we walked around the geothermal park and the informative displays near the parking area. This information was extremely helpful to understanding the property and how it was created.

Entrance  lines
Entrance ticket lines

The check in process was extremely quick and we soon had our towels and robes. In the locker room, we found the lockers nearly completely full. The TV panels showing the open lockers were working, but with so many people looking for a locker, someone would grab it before you you had a chance. This was a very chaotic process.

Everyone needs to take a full shower with soap before putting on their bathing suits and entering the pools. Locker room attendants will enforce this rule. It’s also helpful to put some leave-in conditioner in your hair before hitting the water (you’ll be thankful later in the day).

People applying silica face masks
The swim-up silica mask bar

Otherwise, you can roam the pools and soak to your heart’s content. There’s a bar where you can get a silica mask for your face. While one mask comes free, we found they were essentially unlimited.

The swim-up bar was also very popular. You can grab non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages and enjoy while relaxing in the water.

People getting cocktails at the bar
Swim-up cocktail bar

If you brought a waterproof case for your phone, the staff are more than willing to take pictures for you…as long as it doesn’t become a full photo shoot.

Yes, this is a kind of tourist trap. Yes, it is only foreigners here (the locals go elsewhere). And yes, it’s ridiculously expensive. But there’s also something to this place with it’s magical blue waters that is incredibly special. If you go, you’ll see for yourself.

Tips for Visiting the Blue Lagoon

Here are some helpful tips for visiting. If you want to learn more, also check out our Blue Lagoon FAQ guide.

Reservations Are Essential

It is highly unlikely that you will be able to walk in without a reservation, so be proactive and book your slot ahead of time. Booking weeks or even months in advance is advisable. Of all the tips, this is the most important!

Make Restaurant Reservations If You Plan to Eat

A reservation to the spa does not give you a restaurant reservation, so be sure book that in addition if you are planning to eat. We highly recommend the Michelin-recommended restaurant as it offers fantastic cuisine with plenty of local and seasonal options. Although the lagoon is relaxing, you will likely be very hungry after your session!

The snack bar
Food and drinks available in the snack bar in the lobby

Plan Your Travel in Advance

Whether you are planning to drive, take a tour, or utilize the airport transfer, you will want to do this ahead of time as well. If you are driving, map out your route so you don’t’ get lost. If taking a tour, make sure it matches up with your schedule. The same can be said for the airport transfer which should also be booked in advance as those spots fill up quickly.

Remove Jewelry and Contact Lenses

Employees will remind you of this, but you should be aware that you will be very uncomfortable if you forget to follow these instructions. The geothermal water and silica contained within it are likely to stick to your contact lenses, which will irritate your eyes for a long time after your bathing session is over.

The gift shop
The gift shop at the end of your spa experience

Put Leave-in Conditioner in Your Hair

The aforementioned silica in the geothermal water can make your hair stiff and tangled. It won’t cause any damage, but it can be a pain to deal with after you are done bathing. To counteract this, we recommend putting conditioner in your hair before you enter the pool. Leave it in for the duration of your session and you’ll have a much easier time combing your hair once you are finished.

Bring a Waterproof Case for Your Cell Phone

If you want to take pictures while in the lagoon or need to be able to communicate with the outside world, you will want to bring a waterproof case for your phone. This will ensure that you can take it into the pool with you and that you will be able to snap shots of the beautiful scenery and document your wonderful experience. The employees will happily take pictures of you in the water so you aren’t limited to only selfies.

People entering the pool
Leave your robes outside before entering the pool

Shower Before and After Your Bathing Session

Showering before entry to the pool is required, so you will have to whether you desire to or not. This is for hygienic reasons and makes for a cleaner, safer experience for everyone that visits.

It is also highly recommended that you shower afterwards because of the minerals in the water. While they are good for your skin and hair, you don’t want to be covered in residue, especially if you are flying home afterwards! Take a nice warm shower with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, which are all complimentary. There are public and private shower stalls available in the men and women’s bathrooms.

The Best Time of Day to Visit

This will depend on your personality and what you are looking for, but we recommend booking an early morning or late evening slot. This is when the lagoon will be the least crowded and when you will be able to enjoy the facilities with very little waiting time. This means you’ll get in faster, be able to get food and drinks quickly, and that you won’t have to wait for a shower or stall when you are finished.

The prices are also lower during these hours because they are not peak hours. If you have the time, visiting at night can be a particularly magical experience.

Late afternoons can be particularly crowded (and difficult to get a reservation) because of all of the day trips that end up here at the end of the tour. This is a common stop at the end of the Golden Circle day trips.

The architecture of the spa

The Best Time of Year to Visit

This answer will also depend on what you are looking for. If you want to avoid crowds, we recommend visiting Blue Lagoon in the spring, as that is not a heavy tourist season. However, summertime has the nicest weather outdoors, and some people prefer that (note that it never gets particularly hot in Iceland).

During the winter, the warmth of the pool provides a nice contrast to the crisp, cool air, which is something that many people have reported enjoying. No matter what time of year you visit, the temperature will always be around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Our guide to the best time to visit Iceland may be helpful.

Where to Stay

The Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland – The official Blue Lagoon hotel is right on premise and has it’s own private lagoon and spa. This is absolutely first-class, luxury accommodation at the corresponding price point. If you want to maximize your time in the water and minimize your travel time, this is the place. (Read reviews and book a room here)

Northern Light Inn – Set among the black lava rocks, this family-owned hotel is the closest hotel to lagoon complex and offers free shuttles to and from the lagoon. It’s also located immediately adjacent to the power plant, which some people find as a detraction. With reasonable prices, a gourmet restaurant on site, and convenience, this is a good bet. (Read reviews and book a room here)

Don’t discount staying in Reykjavik. It’s about an hour drive from Reykjavik to lagoon complex, but gives you access to all that the capital city has to offer. Every time we’ve visited Iceland, we always stay in the city. There are a number of excellent accommodations in Reykjavik.

For budget accommodation options, consider staying at a Keflavik airport hotel. It is a short drive from the lagoon and prices are much cheaper than in Reykjavik.

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