The joke amongst locals is that 90 percent of the people who go to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in a lava field between Reykjavík and the Keflavik International Airport, are tourists. The other 10 percent are Icelanders with visitors in town.
Still: go. It’s stunningly beautiful rain or shine and a ton of fun, at least once you figure out the electronic wristband-and-locker situation.
The lagoon has been undergoing a major expansion in recent years. It now covers 8,700 square meters (that’s about 94,000 square feet) and has a 60-room boutique hotel in the works. Where does all that warm blue water come from? About 2,000 meters below the surface. It’s drilled up by nearby geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, to harness electricity and hot water for nearby towns and villages. The water is 98 to 104 degrees F and rich in minerals, algae, and silica.
When floating around the lagoon, look for the swim-up troughs filled with thick silica mud. Use the provided ladle to scoop the mud out and slather it on your face, neck, and hands. It feels gloopy but does wonders for the skin. (Note: The geothermal water is brutal on long hair. If you don’t want yours to dry out like crazy, massage a generous amount of conditioner into your hair and wrap it in a bun before swimming.)
FYI, you must shower naked before entering the lagoon—and yes, this is enforced. Attempting to wear your swimsuit into the shower will lead to loud, public shaming. (We speak from experience.) Fortunately for us non-exhibitionist types, swimsuits are required everywhere else—including in the lagoon, steam baths, and saunas.
Pre-booking tickets is a requirement, even in low season (May 31-September 1). Brace yourself: Prices are steep. The standard package (5,400 ISK or $48 USD in winter and 6,100 ISK or $54 in summer) covers your entrance, mud for your face, and not much else. The Comfort package (7,400 ISK or $65 USD in winter and 8,100 ISK or $71 in summer) includes entrance, face mud, towel, drink, and algae mask. The Premium package (9,500 ISK or $84 USD in winter and 10,200 ISK or $89 in summer) has everything in the Comfort package, plus the use of a bathrobe and slippers and a glass of sparkling wine at dinner, should you choose to eat at the lagoon’s frou-frou restaurant, LAVA. For our krona, we’d go with the standard package and just borrow a towel from our hotel.
Of course, you should also set aside a day to explore some of the geothermal swimming pools (Laugardalslaug, Grafarvogslaug) and beaches (Nautholsvik) that are so dear to locals. Both options are cheaper than the Blue Lagoon and far less touristed.
Grindavik, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland; +354-420-8800.