Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Things No One Tells You About the Blue Lagoon

101

If there’s any one attraction you’re planning to visit in Iceland, it’s very likely the Blue Lagoon. It’s the most popular destination in Iceland — nearly everyone who visits Iceland works a trip to the Blue Lagoon into their itinerary.

And being the most popular destination, there are plenty of guides and how-tos for the Blue Lagoon. But to be honest, I was surprised by how many things I didn’t know, and how many things people should know before they go.

Things No One Tells You About the Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is not in Reykjavik.

Two-thirds of Iceland’s population may live in Reykjavik, but the Blue Lagoon is quite a distance away. If you haven’t rented a car, you’ll need to book a transfer with a tour company. The drive takes about 45 minutes each way. Some of these shuttle transfers do not include Blue Lagoon admission; be sure to check beforehand. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to pay your admission separately when you arrive.

That said, Reykjavik is a fabulous city and being based here is the best option for visiting the Blue Lagoon and exploring the nearby region. The cheapest Reykjavik hotel rates tend to be on Agoda.

The Blue Lagoon is not a natural phenomenon.

While Iceland is a country brimming with natural hot springs, the Blue Lagoon isn’t one of them. The land is natural, as is the lava that shapes the pool, but the water is actually the result of runoff from the geothermal plant next door.

The plant was built first, and it uses Iceland’s volcanic landscape to produce heat power. The runoff is filtered straight into the Blue Lagoon, which is what heats the water.

That doesn’t mean it’s dangerous or toxic — far from it! It’s just not the natural phenomenon that many people believe it to be.

You have to get naked first.

Not unlike many spas around the world, you need to take a shower before going into the pool. However, the Blue Lagoon goes one step further and requires you to shower naked. While on my first visit, the shower stalls were open, there are now several stalls that lock for privacy.

Once you’re rinsed and conditioned, you can put your bathing suit back on and head on in.

You should go to the Blue Lagoon before or after your flight.

With super-early flights on both days, I wasn’t able to do this — however, if you have a morning or afternoon arrival or an afternoon or evening departure, you should take advantage of hitting up the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. It’s much closer to Keflavik than Reykjavik. Doing this will save you a lot of time and a fair amount of money as well.

If you’re visiting Iceland as a stopover between North America and Europe, you’ll find much more convenient times for visiting the Blue Lagoon if you are flying from Europe to Iceland to North America. Skyscanner usually has the cheapest flights to Iceland.

Even if you take precautions, your hair will get DESTROYED.

The one thing that everyone says is, “Use lots of leave-in conditioner.” The locker rooms at the Blue Lagoon offer lots of conditioner, so that made it easy.

Well, after covering my hair in conditioner, twisting it up in a French twist, leaving the conditioner in, and going into the Blue Lagoon, then coming out, rinsing my hair, conditioning it like crazy, and leaving it in again — my hair was destroyed for the next five days.

And during that time, I had a photo shoot for my interview in Frettabladid, Iceland’s largest newspaper. It came out okay, but I was still freaked out.

Take my advice — even if you condition your hair, don’t let it touch the water. You’re not missing out on much if you don’t.

The Blue Lagoon Experience

I enjoyed my time at the Blue Lagoon. Being the kind of girl who loves extreme heat, I thought the water wouldn’t be hot enough for me, but it turns out that there is a super-hot section just for cold-blooded ones like myself! You can see it in the above picture — it’s where the steam is coming out.

In late May, temperatures were in the mid-40s (about 10 C), which made the pool nice and toasty, and not so cold that walking was like Nordic torture. It felt just fine.

The Blue Lagoon has a sauna and steam room, as well as an exclusive section. You can get a variety of spa treatments, including a massage on a float right in the Blue Lagoon! There are cocktails at the swim-up bar, but I opted for a smoothie instead, which I conveniently paid for with my wristband. (The wristbands are brilliant — you put all your purchases on them. This also prevents people from buying more than three alcoholic drinks.)

Overall, if you’re going to Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is one of those experiences that you just have to try. But if you can, I recommend you do it on the way to or from the airport — and I beg you, don’t let that water touch your hair!

Essential Info: The Blue Lagoon offers no-frills entry from 40 euros ($43 USD) in winter and 50 euros ($54) in summer. A series of packages have higher rates.

For accommodation in Reykjavik, I recommend Radisson Blu 1919 for midrange travelers, Black Pearl for luxury travelers, and Kex Hostel for budget travelers.

While Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, it’s vital to get travel insurance before your trip. If you get seriously injured and require an air ambulance home, it could save you literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t travel anywhere without insurance, and I use and recommend World Nomads.

Many thanks to the Iceland Tourism Board and the Blue Lagoon for hosting my visit.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

Comments

101 Responses to “Things No One Tells You About the Blue Lagoon”
  1. Kelli Anne says:

    My boyfriend is dying to go to Iceland, this post made me want to go, too!! : )

  2. Great post! I had no idea the Blue Lagoon wasn’t entirely natural.

    And well, the getting naked part… that seems pretty popular in Europe. Canada may be different than the US, but we do not like to go around butt naked either!!! So that would require a bit of adjustment on my part. But I guess in the end it’s worth it!

    • maria says:

      Well if you are planing to go somewhere a bit of research is expected, there one can realise that this is not a natural phenomenon.

      As per walking around butt naked being a common sight in Europe!!!!!! I can safely say that you have never been to Europe, you may have never left your street but you should try it sometimes but drop the assumptions and please oh please don’t walk around butt naked you may get yourself in a lot of troubles, on many levels.

      • Diane says:

        What a snide response…she never said walking around naked was a common site in Europe. In the US it is not common in most places to bathe naked in public, fact and in Europe it is, fact. I’ve soaked all over the world! The only nude bathing places I’ve been to in the US were in Northern Cali.

    • mike says:

      You don’t have to get naked anymore. The changing rooms are wide opened, but in the men’s they have at least one changing room with a door. If you go when it’s busy I’m sure it’s impossible to get, but there is that option. Also they now have multiple shower stalls with doors as long as you don’t mind being one of the few waiting to use them… and honestly there is absolutely nothing forcing you to shower without a bathing suit on. There’s a sign…. but that’s all.

      • mmi says:

        Thanks for the update Mike. I have a group going to the Blue Lagoon soon and they’ll be happy to know they can change and shower privately. 🙂

  3. DebbZ says:

    Thanks for the tips, Kate !

  4. Curt says:

    The part about getting naked to shower seems to be common to all the thermal pools in Iceland. In addition to the Blue Lagoon, I also had to strip to shower before using the pools at Laugardalslaug in Reykjavik. (For the record, I had to use Google Maps to get the spelling for that one.) The signs that graphically depict which body parts require soap are rather amusing.

    I agree about enjoying the Blue Lagoon after arriving or before departing Keflavik. I did it before departing. It was a great way to relax before the onward flight. And even my short hair was destroyed.

  5. 2 things i tell everyone, including my readers, about the blue lagoon is leave your modesty at home and wear a not so cute shower cap. i have dreadlocks and my poor hair sucked up so much of that devil water that i considered chopping them off. after two weeks of deep conditioning they felt like hair again. that stuff is no jokeni

  6. Amanda says:

    It really is horrible for your hair! I was warned ahead of time, and made sure not to get my head wet!

    I did get to go to the Lagoon before my flight home (as I had a 5 p.m. flight), and it was PERFECT. A great way to relax before the stresses of air travel kick in.

  7. Sandra says:

    I was surprised by the fact that it wasn’t natural, too. But one of the biggest surprises I had was that there was a lot, and I mean a LOT, of “action” going on in the murky waters of the Blue Lagoon. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
    All that notwithstanding, I did have a great time!

  8. Ava Apollo says:

    Yikes, runoff?? I think I’d rather bathe in volcanically heated pools. Risk level might be similar, actually.

  9. Hannah says:

    Thanks for this information! After hearing all this, I might consider skipping the Blue Lagoon on my next trip to Iceland. Though you said that you ultimately enjoyed your time there, it does seem like there are some negatives. Just the fact that you have to get naked is enough to scare me away!

    • Oh, it’s only for a minute, and it’s Scandinavia — nobody looks or cares! Please don’t skip it for that reason. It’s a cool place.

    • Emma says:

      Getting naked in the shower is normal in Finland too and propaply everywhere in the norden countries. We also sit in the sauna naked, at home or in bublic saunas, but every woman has seen a naked woman before, so nobody cares! I’ve heard that in germany they have same changing rooms together with women and men. THAT is something I would’t do..

  10. An says:

    In all the swimming pools I visited in Iceland, you had to shower naked before going in (and wash thoroughly – there are pictures in the showers showing you which parts you have to wash exactly. Kind of funny). Doesn’t matter – everybody else is naked too, nobody will notice you. And if I remember correctly, at the Blue Lagoon you have smaller shower stalls, not (only) one big open space, so there is some degree of privacy.
    The Blue Lagoon is a wonderful and one of a kind experience – don’t let the little inconveniences deter you. Even the hair recovers after a few days…

  11. Megan says:

    Perfect timing…this was on my agenda for Wednesday!
    Will not get hair wet, will not get hair wet, will not get hair wet!

  12. Betti says:

    what’s in there that destroys your hair, what kind of minerals?

  13. Damn it! I didn’t know that you have to shower naked before going into any of the thermal pools in Iceland! Now I’ll think twice before going! That’s such a bummer 🙁
    (Yes, as an Egyptian I am not used to showering naked infront of anyone, even in sports classes in school we had private bathroom stalls :D)

  14. I agree! I went before my flight and loved it because I was so relaxed. Also, the other thing? There is A LOT of gross hair in the lagoon.

  15. Hannah says:

    I hadn’t heard of this particular Blue Lagoon before but Iceland is a place I’d be interested to visit in the future so it’s good to know of it!

    Have you heard of the Blue Lagoon in Malta? Not heated I’m afraid, but completely natural … It’s so clear it’s like a massive swimming pool but in the sea 🙂

    • I haven’t heard of the one in Malta! I know there’s a Blue Lagoon in Fiji, one in Croatia, and one on the island of Capri in Italy that I unfortunately didn’t get to see because the waves were too rough during my visit….

      • Charlie says:

        Been to the blue lagoon in Fiji… there’s also a blue hole in Belize… but the place on Capri is the blue GROTTO. Sorry you couldn’t make it. Usually tourists are taken in by small (very small) boats. One day I was there with family, the boatmen went on strike, the weather was perfect, and we jumped off a cliff and swam into the grotto to see the magical projected blue light. As it happened, a local guy was with us, and he told us stories about the place, and showed us where an ancient Roman tunnel into the gotto was used by Partisan during WWII.

        Now, heading off to Iceland and thinking about Laugarvata Fontana, a different hot springs off in the countyside.

  16. Waegook Tom says:

    Awesome post, Kate! I think I’d melt in the lagoon – just a wee bit hairy – but glad you had a great time. That’s insane about your hair, though – 5 DAYS?!?

  17. Elle Croft says:

    Haha, I agree on all counts! I try to warn everyone about the hair thing but it seems you have to experience it for yourself to believe it! It’s still a great experience though, and very relaxing…

  18. Kathryn Quigley says:

    All good points. I went to the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. I didn’t wash my hair afterwards and it REEKED on the plane. But it was still one of my best travel adventures ever.

  19. memographer says:

    agree, it’s a great way to relax on your travel.
    in my opinion, all public places should require naked showers with a soap.

  20. Wow thanks for the tips Kate – still trying to get over the naked bit!! Will remember this for when I eventually go to Iceland.

  21. Richard Green says:

    By take a shower naked in public, do you mean in the open in front of children (and opposite sex)? Or nude inside the lockers of the same-sex. I’m amazed others haven’t asked this question.

  22. Dave says:

    I’m going to the Blue Lagoon this afternoon. Glad you warned us about the naked showering part. At least we don’t have to go in the water naked, like the onsens in Japan.

    I’m also slightly turned off after reading Sandra’s comment about the amount of hanky-panky going on underwater.

  23. Amanda says:

    I was a bit scared the first time I went swimming in Iceland, but I got over it pretty quickly when I just did what I saw the locals doing. I realized pretty quickly that they weren’t staring at me or judging me.
    I completely regret going to the Blue Lagoon because of the things no one told me. Everyone talks about how beautiful it is, and how ONLY Americans are going to ignore the washing rules.
    After visiting other local pools during the week, I had embraced the preswim ritual so much so, that I felt superior to those that felt they could just ignore the instructions. I wanted to tell people that they had to shower, but I couldn’t….you know why? They didn’t speak English, which means they weren’t Americans! That made me feel better about the stereotypes…until I got in the pool….
    It was crowded and on the verge of being filled with trash. People in groups really forget who and where they are. Probably everyone in that pool would deny that they skipped their shower or left their beer cups on the side of the pool, to fall in and ruin things for everyone. Then there was the creepy guy that took up the whole waterfall for a half hour.
    After a week, taking in the natural wonder and beauty of Iceland, without bumping into many other tourists or crowds at all, the crowded Blue Lagoon left a bad taste in our mouths. I will suggest that people visit the Blue Lagoon as soon as they get off the plane, and before they see anything else in the country.
    Try to find a natural hot spring, rather than this overpriced spa.
    Oh, yeah, wash your junk thoroughly, and don’t be embarrassed.

  24. Thomas says:

    Nice article – I find it funny how many people are horrified by the showering naked part. As a Scandinavian living in the US I was horrified for a long time at the fact that people are *not* required to shower naked at US pools – I found it (and still kind of do, but learned to live with it) incredibly gross that people can walk straight from the street into crowded public pools *without* washing their private parts – just passing through the shower for a second with your grubby swimsuit on…
    It’s funny how cultures differ in what we find offensive 🙂

  25. Mel says:

    We were just there in November on a cold and rainy day. The shower thing is no big deal. No one is interested in your bits and pieces. One thing I didn’t realize is that u don’t have to get in and out of pool. You can enter through an adjoining door in the bottom of the indoor pool. There are steam rooms and saunas carved into the rock caves and a cave with music playing. It’s an awesome experience – don’t not go if its raining – it almost makes it better.

  26. james says:

    For goodness sake — there is LOTS of privacy — you don not have to shower in front of everyone. Lots of private stalls. Yes, shower naked but you do it privately, don’t listen to those silly posts. Apr 2013

  27. stiggg says:

    I visited the Blue Lagoon in august of 2012, It was a beautiful experience.
    I was also quite nervous about the showering-bit. Yes, it is true that you have to shower naked. But as stated here before, there are lots of private stalls, so don’t worry about being naked in front of strangers if you don’t wan’t to. You have te be prepared that most visitors aren’t very prudish though, so don’t be shocked by other guests’ nakedness..

  28. Daníel says:

    it is a fact that Blue Lagoon is natural phenomenon they just built more stuff around it.

    im from iceland and i know all about blue lagoon i went there first when i was 5 yers old and im now 33 🙂

  29. Ross says:

    I am so glad somebody else wrote about this and mentioned it is not natural, I thought I was the only one! They do a very good marketing campaign and the pictures look brilliant so everybody wants to go. If they told you it was just a spa resort (where you had to show your bits) then I wouldn’t have any problem. Going on the way to or from the airport is a good idea as it is a good bit away.

  30. hmmm says:

    Well, I came here hoping I could swim naked in the pools. Oh well. Try swimming naked in the Ocean or even just a pool. It’s a feeling like no other. I don’t get why everyone is so uptight and I’m an American.

  31. Carrie says:

    My work social club just offered up a group trip to Iceland and was looking for information as I may end up travelling mostly alone for the trip. Great insight and I’m even more excited to go. Beautiful pictures as well!

  32. jules says:

    We just came back from there this weekend….and we didn’t have to get naked? Who told you that?! FAIL. Plus it’s only 15 minutes from the airport…maybe less!

  33. Simon Jones says:

    Went to the Blue Lagoon April 2013. There are different showers for men and women, and there are private stalls, but you may have to queue for them. For the record, some people were showering naked, but as I didn’t see any shower police around, I kept my swimming trunks on. There again I am British. We invaded Iceland in WW2, therefore we can do what we want. (and the Yanks as well, as they also invaded)

  34. Tiffany says:

    So, if not The Blue Lagoon, could someone recommend another geothermal spa, that might be entirely natural? I’m looking forward to my visit to the B.L., all things considered…except the hair part….someone ought to be able to filter it out and skim on a regular basis. gross!

  35. Elaine says:

    How do I dress for my travel to the Blue Lagoon? We are going there around the 17th of September.

  36. Vanessa says:

    I have to say that my experience to the blue lagoon was extraordinary. It’s not lame like some people say. I paid 80 dollars round trip bus fare and entrance. Had a bus pick us up from our hostel and dropped us off to our hostel. What’s the big deal about showering naked! Ughhh! Separate showers for women n men. Please it’s the 21st century, there’s worst things than that! Get a grip! No one is making sure you wash your genitals. Use a lot of conditioner, your hair will deffo be a bit dry, you will survive, your hair will survive, just have a good time, that’s what’s all about!

  37. Vic says:

    I just came back from here. I did NOT get naked and no one told me I had to. Showered before and after with my bathing suit on as did many other women. Others undressed if they chose to. We all have the same body parts so don’t see what the big deal is either way or why it was mentioned here. Not like it’s coed. It’s really not that far from Reykjavik and I didn’t go before or after my flight. Honestly this post was not helpful or that informative. This as well as other geothermal spas in iceland are not to be missed.

  38. Ashley says:

    Hi!
    My concern is this: We will be visiting the Blue Lagoon on our way to the airport heading for Germany. What do you do with your wet bathing suit when you leave? Just pack it up in your suitcase and carry it with you? I want to avoid the stink and the mildew if at all possible! I guess I could towel dry it as much as possible? Any advice?
    Thanks!

  39. Mette Thune says:

    Kate!!
    I went to the Blue Lagoon two days ago and my hair looks Like a mix between hay and cotton since I did not know it was so bad for your hair

  40. Shaye says:

    My hair actually felt AMAZINGLY after my trip to the Blue Lagoon. That conditioner is awesome. It’s true that I did not get my hair that wet while in the lagoon, but to me it’s not really a place for swimming. It’s more like the greatest hot tub you could ever imagine. Go on a weekday morning and avoid the crowds (in the winter anyway…not sure about the summer.)

  41. Elizabeth says:

    I gave been twice to the Blue Lagoon and both times I had the shower before going in it was an enclosed shower with a frosted door and I kept my costume on both times too.
    Also, I didn’t think it affected my hair.
    It was a fantastic trip both times and would highly recommend

  42. Great post! I had NO idea about the hair issues, and I was trying to figure out why so many tours offer a pickup or dropoff at the Blue Lagoon before the airport. Now I know it’s because it’s just a more convenient way to see them. I, too, am familiar with the shower-naked-before-you-get-in-the-pool scenario from the hot pots at Laugardalslaug. It’s not really a big deal in the end, but I don’t see why these other commenters are getting all bent out of shape one way or another about it. It’s just the rule, and you should follow it whether someone is policing you or not… It’s that simple.

  43. Sheryl says:

    I am confused about the hair issue. I plan on taking a shower and not washing my hair or getting it wet. And then going into the Blue Lagoon and not putting my head in the water or getting my hair would, much as in a hot tub. So I won’t have any wet hair issues. Is this a correct assumption? If so, why is impossible hair such an issue. Do most people dunk their head under the Blue Lagoon water?
    Thanks much for any info you can offer.
    Sheryl

    • Don’t dunk your head. But you might end up accidentally getting a bit of Blue Lagoon water on the bottom of your hairline even if you’re careful, so I recommend the conditioner route.

      • Doug Dickson says:

        Been to The Netherlands and Germany and visited saunas where nudity is the norm, but never been swimming in the nude………from your own experience would you say it was quite
        exhillerating(sorry bout the spelling no dictionary to hand)?
        Are you by any chance Scottish? Just going by your name!

  44. Jeff says:

    Heard two ladies in the Blue Lagoon 3 hours ago – discussing this exact page

  45. mike says:

    You don’t have to get naked anymore. The changing rooms are wide opened, but in the men’s they have at least one changing room with a door. Also there are multiple changing rooms for both sexes so I assume each one of them has at least one closed changing room. If you go when it’s busy I’m sure it’s impossible to get, but there is that option.

    Also they now have multiple shower stalls with doors as long as you don’t mind being one of the few waiting to use them… and honestly there is absolutely nothing forcing you to shower without a bathing suit on. There’s a sign…. but that’s all. Just clean under it if you’re really that freaked out about being naked no one is going to say anything to you.

    It was a truly amazing experience, but next time I do want to find some of the more secluded natural pools. But don’t skip the blue lagoon if you’ve never been I spent like three hours there going back and forth between the pool, the waterfall and the steam room (stream room #1 is much cooler than the others). It was incredible. I did go in May so there was plenty of room not sure what you should expect if you go later.

  46. Dorothy says:

    Hello Kate,
    Thanks for the info. I am planning a trip to Iceland for next month. You have provided some good info for me to plan my visit. Can you tell me how much time that I should allow for my visit? This would be just for visiting the lagoon without any spa services. Also, should I book now before I get there or is it better to book locally? Happy Travels

  47. Gregg says:

    Wow. We were thinking of going to the blue lagoon, but you make it seem like crap. Thanks for the warning

  48. Rob says:

    I’ve heard that some thermal pools in Iceland actually employ attendants who watch you shower nude and yell at you if you fail to properly wash your genitals and other required parts. Can someone confirm this?

  49. Vic says:

    Yes plenty of them do actually

  50. Vic says:

    Incorrect this does not happen at all

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