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One of the most enduring experiences of our trip to Reykjavik was relaxing outdoors in warm, sea salty water of the Blue Lagoon, with the temperature out of the water at no more than 3° and the hail clouds approaching. Watching the steam rise from the milky aquamarine water, with the lava fields all around and the dramatic, constantly changing October sky overhead is something not to be forgotten.
~~~What and where is the Blue Lagoon?~~~ The Blue Lagoon is undoubtedly the most notorious attraction in Iceland. Outdoor swimming is very common in Iceland, the difference here is that the lagoon uses sea water containing minerals, silica and blue-green algae, all of which are meant to be very good for your skin.
The Blue Lagoon is situated just outside Reykjavik and very close to Keflavik airport. Having said that, there is not much for a long way around apart from lava fields and the neighbouring geothermal power plant. The landscape in the area is just how you would imagine another planet to look and is a stunning first impression of Iceland as you leave the airport.
The proximity of the lagoon to the power plant is no coincidence. The sea water is heated deep below ground and then rises. The power plant uses it to produce electricity and to heat up fresh water which is then used by thousands of households in the area for hot water and heating. The sea water is then piped over to the lagoon for a far more therapeutic purpose.
~~~Practicalities~~~ You can get to the Blue Lagoon on a coach from Reykjavik with Reykjavik Excursions or the lagoon has its own bus service. Both of these services will collect you from your hotel and both include the entrance fee in the overall ticket price.
The Blue Lagoon has a very good website where you'll find up to date prices and opening times. It also explains in detail the various ways to get there and the prices thereof. Pointless me repeating it here when it will get out of date very quickly. The web address is at the end of this review.
At the moment, prices are 1800 Icelandic Kroner for an adult entry - this is around £14. If you take an inclusive tour with Reykjavik Excursions you pay almost
double this. Kids under 11 are free in both cases. It is not cheap by any means, but nothing much in Iceland really is.
Because the Blue Lagoon is so close to the airport, it is possible to visit it either on your arrival in Iceland, or on the way back to the airport on the way home. If your flight times fit and particularly if you are on a short break, this seems to be an ideal solution and well worth looking into. Again, you can find details on the Blue Lagoon website.
~~~The Experience~~~ Whilst the water and the means by which it is heated is natural, the lagoon itself is man made. It is set outdoors right amongst the lava fields, so you still get a sense of being very close to nature, but it is also very nicely finished and quite luxurious. The edges are also softened by the fact that the lagoon blends into the surroundings, it's not a geometric shape, and also by the fact that there is a sandy, sludgy layer of silica and algae on the floor - a sensation between the toes that take a little getting used to!
They have just undergone a renovation and expansion which means that the facilities are very spacious, but also in pristine condition. The changing rooms and shower area are all very nice indeed.
You are meant to shower thoroughly, naked, before entering any pool in Iceland. This is because they do not use chlorine and they therefore take hygiene seriously. Be warned if you are squeamish about such things. The men's and ladies' changing and shower areas are separate, but all the same some of us Brits get a bit bashful about this sort of thing…
You get to use their very nice shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in the shower, and they provide you with a packet of moisturiser to lather on once out of the pool. You'll need the shampoo and conditioner - all the stuff in the water makes it go really sticky and I found myself washing this out for a day or 2 after! If you've got a lot of hair it might be worth putting conditioner on it before you enter the pool, or do what the locals do - wear a swimming hat or shower cap.
They have this rather clever wristband system to control entry to the facilities and to act as your locker. This seemed over engineered to me, but added to the sci-fi feel to the place.
The pool itself is pretty big. I think this too has been expanded very recently. There was plenty of space despite this being one of the busiest places we visited on our trip. There are also lots of different nooks and crannies, bridges and mini lagoons to explore, as well as a mini waterfall to massage the shoulders and back. My 3 year old enjoyed the cave, which brings me on to….
~~~Kids~~~ Kids under 11 are free here as in many other places in Iceland, which is great. I have to say that we nearly didn't come to the lagoon because of my 3 year old. He really doesn't enjoy the extremes of hot and cold and was not particularly happy when we visited the municipal pool in Reykjavik. We did manage to cajole him into the water, first off in the small pool indoors which is your entry into the lagoon and has the door (yes, a door in the water!) leading outdoors. We then managed to get him into the cave just outside the door, and finally he ventured further afield and quite enjoyed it in the end.
My 7 year old really enjoyed this, just because he loves swimming, and because this was a new and odd experience.
All kids under a certain age have to wear bright orange armbands to ensure visibility as the milky water and the steam that rises off it can mean you lose site of them. My youngest clung to either me or my husband throughout the visit, so there was really no danger of that! Also, the water is so salty that you simply float, which they love if they are not strong swimmers!
The water temperature varies between 37 and 39 degrees. There are some spots in the pool which are really quite hot and we had to avoid them because they were too much for the kids. Worth watching out for if they're going to venture a way ahead of you.
~~~Other facilities~~~ There's a decent café for after your swim. There's also a very expensive restaurant. My son has a spotting book with detailed pictures of various far flung places in the world. One location is the Blue Lagoon at Iceland, and the picture showed fish dishes being served to people whilst they swim. We were disappointed that none of this was going on, but maybe that's because it was October when we visited and far too cold to be eating outside..?
There's a shop selling expensive Blue Lagoon spa products and other tourist tat.
There's also a spa next door where they treat skin conditions. More info on this on the website - we didn't visit it so I can't add any personal view on it.
~~~Conclusion~~~ The Blue Lagoon is to Iceland what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and the Statue of Liberty is to New York. It's the place that every one knows before they visit that country and the place that you really feel you ought to see before you leave.
We were concerned it would be a tourist trap. It does get mixed reviews (including on this site) because it is so popular with tourists and because it is man made and not natural… and because it is expensive. We took all this into consideration, concerned that our 3 year old would just hate the whole experience and decided it wasn't for us. As our last day approached, we both started to regret this decision and we changed our mind at the last minute and headed off there on our last day.
I do not regret one bit changing our mind in this way and thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
Yes, there were other tourists there and not many locals, that's true. As for it being artificial, well I don't see that this is really a problem. I don't think it's sold as being a natural phenomenon, but it really is right in the heart of the Icelandic landscape and you do end up feeling close to nature. Also, whilst we had told ourselves that having a swim outdoors at one of the municipal pools would be just as good, it was very different. The municipal pool visit was the closest we felt to doing what locals do as we shared the pool with school kids having swimming lessons and pensioners chatting on one of their regular visits. The trip to the Blue Lagoon was an altogether more extreme experience because of the setting, but also because of the water, which was so salty you could float without any effort. And finally, yes, entry is expensive, but this was our last day in Reykjavik and we had got used to the Icelandic prices by then…
I would totally recommend a visit here if you are visiting Iceland. I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.