Soak in a subterranean spa at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Travels with Deb
October 9, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
Photo by Debbie Stone
Photo by Debbie Stone DEBBIE STONE

Set amid black rock lava fields in the southwest corner of Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, a top attraction for visitors to the Land of Fire and Ice. The area where the lagoon is located is at the convergence of the North American and Eurasian plates, which is a geothermal hotbed of activity.

Photo by Debbie Stone

Named a wonder of the world by National Geographic in 2012, the Blue Lagoon is a place of mystical, otherworldly beauty. Location aside, this unique spot is known for its water – a phenomenal natural resource found nowhere else on earth.

The origins of the Blue Lagoon started deep underground where seawater and freshwater come together in the heat and pressure of volcanic aquifers. When the water encounters the arctic climate and the natural forces of the volcanic landscape, it creates its own ecosystem full of silica, minerals and a novel species of blue-green microalgae. The latter is responsible for the alluring color and name of the lagoon.

Photo by Debbie Stone

In the early 1980s, locals began bathing in the warm blue reservoir that had formed in the lava field adjacent to Svartsengi Resource Park, a geothermal power plant. Though engineers at the facility had expected the water to trickle through the lava and return to the earth’s volcanic aquifers, this didn’t occur. Instead, a body of water took shape.

To clarify, though the land that the Blue Lagoon is situated on is natural, the lagoon is not a natural hot spring. Lava has formed the pool, but the water itself is the result of runoff from the geothermal power plant next door.

The water is regarded as a bioactive marvel and purportedly possesses an array of benefits for the mind, body and skin. Its restorative powers have enhanced the wellbeing of visitors from around the world. Research has led to patents for Blue Lagoon Microalgae and Silica, and to the development of Blue Lagoon Skincare products.

Photo by Debbie Stone

Having been to the Blue Lagoon eons ago, before Iceland became a tourist magnet, I was eager for a return visit on my recent stopover in the country. I was in for a surprise, as the place had burgeoned over time. Today, it’s a one-stop soak, eat, shop and stay hub of activity, with two onsite hotels, four restaurants, a Retreat Spa and store where you can purchase Blue Lagoon merchandise. The scene was a bit overwhelming for me at first glance, and I missed the lowkey vibe and simplicity the place once had.

Day users, who make up the majority of visitors to the Blue Lagoon, can select from three packages: Comfort, Premium and Luxury. You’ll most likely have sticker shock at the pricey costs, but this is true for most things in Iceland, so it’s best to know ahead of time and plan accordingly as your budget allows.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The Comfort package gives you use of a towel, the first drink of your choice and a silica mud mask, whereas Premium includes all of the above plus use of a bathrobe, two additional masks of your choice, and a glass of sparkling wine if you dine at the Lava Restaurant.

At the Luxury level, you get 5-hour access to the Retreat Spa and Retreat Lagoon, eight subterranean spaces and a variety of masks and body exfoliating treatments. It’s a more intimate and secluded scene.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The lagoon, though, is a marvel. And soaking in the soothing, milky blue water is a treat. Yes, there were lots of people, as it was high season in Iceland, but the place is expansive, so it never really felt overcrowded. Plus, entry is on a timed reservation system, thus limiting the number of entrants. And as the steam rises from the surface of the water, it creates semi-privacy curtains, making it seem like you’re in your own little pocket of space.

The temperature of the water vacillates between a comfy 98 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s similar to bath water. I would have appreciated it a bit hotter, especially since the outside air was damp and cool the day I visited. The depth of the water ranges from 2.6 to 4.7 feet.

Photo by Debbie Stone

The in-water mask bar is a nice touch. As a day user, I had selected the Premium package, which guaranteed three facial masks. I started with a lava scrub (great exfoliator!) followed by a silica mud mixture and ended with the anti-aging algae mask. In between, while waiting the prescribed amount of time to let each mask set, I headed to the in-water bar. It reminded me of the swim-up bars at beach resorts, where you can quench your thirst without leaving the water. Offerings included smoothies, soft drinks, juices, beer and wine.

Additionally onsite are sauna and steam rooms where you can feel the warmth of heat directly from the earth. I went from one to another, then back into the lagoon to soak some more, a “routine” I thoroughly enjoyed. While in the pool, I also spent some time under the man-made waterfall, which pounded out my stiff shoulders.

I left the Blue Lagoon fully relaxed, and my skin felt velvety soft and smooth, especially my face. Alas, the wrinkles were still intact.

Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications.  

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