Spend a Relaxing Day at Iceland's Blue Lagoon
If you take a look at any island in the world, you will notice that water is an integral part of its inhabitant’s culture. Iceland is no exception to this rule. However, as with most things, Iceland has a different approach to its relationship with water.
As a geothermal paradise, Iceland reaps the rewards of both pure, glacial water for drinking, and bubbly, steaming water for soaking. The prospect of visiting geysers, hiking volcanos, and relaxing in steaming springs are some of the main reasons visitors are attracted to this teeny island.
Water, and especially warm and sulfuric water, has always been a large part of Iceland’s culture - so much so that swimming lessons are mandatory in Iceland’s schools! Spots like the Blue Lagoon and Seljavellir have put Iceland on the travel map in recent years, but locals have been enjoying these thermal spas for decades! This makes sense, as the magic behind Iceland’s geothermal activity is part of a natural process that is thousands of years in the making!
Iceland is primly located on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, straddling a tectonic hotspot that is constantly bringing the heat from the earth’s core up to the surface. Because of this, Iceland is one of the best places in the world to appreciate geothermal activity. The most popular place to do this in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon.
What is the Blue Lagoon?
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most famous hot spring. While it is no travel secret, the same people who criticize its touristy reputation admit that no trip to Iceland is complete without a soak in its aqua waters. Though the lagoon is man-made, it is situated in the middle of a lava field. The pool is fed and powered, by the surrounding geothermal landscape. The waters are renowned for their healing qualities.
Top Tips for Visiting the Blue Lagoon:
- Check out the lava cave, visit a swim-up bar, and get a floating massage
- Rub the silica on your face and leave it on to make your skin soft
- Put conditioner in your hair before you enter and leave it in! Repeat this if you soak for a while. Avoid getting your hair wet as much as possible.
- Hygiene is taken very seriously, so be sure to comply with the regulations - scrub down before entering
- Visit the Blue Lagoon early to beat the crowds
- Book in advance to avoid waiting in line
- Avoid tour groups for a more intimate experience
- Run from the showers to the pool - it is going to be cold!
- Stay for a few hours to get your money’s worth
- Explore! The pool is very large
- Bring all of your waterproof camera gear - you’re going to want to take a LOT of pictures!
More Hot Springs!
Iceland is FILLED with natural springs and manmade pools heated by the island's geothermal activity. Locals of all ages frequent the hundred pools and spas around the country to relax, hangout, and benefit from the medicinal waters - geothermal spas are a huge part of Iceland's culture. Additionally, public, outdoor swimming pools (sundlaugs) are geothermally heated and open year round. A local can suggest their favorite pool - many towns have local spas that tourists wouldn't find.
Some popular hot springs include:
- Krossneslaug: Secluded pool on the beach on the Westfjords.
- Dalvík Swimming Pool: Outdoor pool with slides near ski resorts.
- Drangsnes Hot Tubs: Collection of hot tubs on a beach in the Westfjords.
- Akureyri Swimming Pool: Massive geothermal swimming complex in Akureyri
- Grjótagjá: Cave with thermal lake inside... also the filming location of Jon Snow Ygritte's cave dip on Game of Thrones.
- Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool: Olympic-sized swimming pool with hot tubs near Reykjavík.
- Secret Lagoon: Iceland's oldest public pool in a natural setting not too far from Reykjavík.
- Laugarvatn Fontana: Geothermal wellness spa located in the Golden Circle.
- Reykjadalur Geothermal River: Beautiful valley with steaming river - short hike required.
- Sundlaugin Laugaskarði: Huge geothermal swimming pool with hot tubs.
- Hrunalaug: Tiny, secluded hot spring that has been very popular with tourists. Read this before going to be respectful.
- Sundhöll Selfoss: Indoor/outdoor pool with slides.
- Seljavallalaug: Famous geothermal lap pool with located in the middle of the mountains - short hike required.
- Landmannalaugar: Beautiful hot pool located in the middle of Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Highlands.
- Strutslaug: Geothermal river near glacier river in valley, 2 hour hike required.
- Kirkjubæjarklaustur Sportcenter: Gigantic hot pool complex.
- Neskaupstaður Swimming Pool: Outdoor swimming pool with beautiful surroundings.
- Eskifjörður Swimming Pool: An outdoor swimming pool with many slides.
- Selardalur Swimming Pool: Secluded outdoor swimming pool.
- Hoffell Hot Tubs: Beautiful hot tubs on farm land.
- Lake Viti: Geothermal lake in a volcanic caldera. Only open from when the highland roads are open (June - October)
- Hveravellir: Natural hot springs between two glaciers.
- Myvatn Nature Baths: Beautiful hot spring located in the mountains - similar to Blue Lagoon.
Tips for Iceland's Public Geothermal Spas
- Make sure you pay the fee, if there is one (sometimes just a small collection box to deposit cash in)
- These spas are often very old, so be respectful of Icelandic culture and tradition
- No vandalism or littering
- Be sure to completely wash and scrub your body before entering a pool - this is strictly enforced!
- Put on your suit after washing
- Try to plan a trip around watching the Northern Lights from a geothermal tub
- Befriend locals you may meet in the water - this is a great way to get tips, and thank them for their hospitality
Even More Geothermal Activity in Iceland:
Iceland’s geothermal doesn’t stop at the Blue Lagoon - in fact, that is just the tip of the glacier. The entire island is bubbling with geothermal activity in all forms.
The Great Geysir
The Great Geysir is another major tourist attraction in Iceland. This is the geyser that the word “geyser” is derived from. Though incredibly famous, this geyser is less active and erupts infrequently. However, the steaming and electric water is always interesting to see.
Located very close to the Great Geysir, Strokkur Geyser is very popular because it erupts on a more regular, on six to eight minute interval, shooting 15-40 meters into the air. The field surrounding this geyser is filled with tiny, bubbling fountains.
Due to its location on the mid-Atlantic Ride, Iceland has an extremely dense concentration of volcanoes scattered across the Island. Climbing, hiking, and snowmobiling around these wonders is a popular (and beautiful) activity for visitors in Iceland. Some popular volcanos for exploring include:
- Eyjafjallajökull - an ice cap covering a volcano
- Mýrdalsjökull - larger than Eyjafjallajökull, another ice cap covering a volcano
- Laugahraun - lava filed with trails for hiking
- Thrihnukagigur - dormant volcano that visitors can enter
- Eldgjá - largest volcanic canyon in the world
- Hekla - active volcano
- Nautholsvik is a geothermal beach where hot water is poured into a manmade lagoon, raising the temperature of icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. To create this beach, sand was brought in from Morocco, and a giant seawall was built.
- Vík beach is a black basalt beach on the south coast of Iceland. It is commonly hailed as one of the top sights in the country, though visitors are warned to not get too close to water, as waves can be surprisingly large, and sweep people out to sea. The beach’s famous black sand and basalt columns were caused by nearby volcanic activity.