Visiting the Blue Lagoon, other Icelandic geothermal pools make for a relaxing Ring Road trip

Research any town in Iceland, and one of the most surprising commonalities you'll find will be elaborate discussions of the town's public pools and spas. 

What at first glance may seem like an odd feature to highlight makes sense when considering their equivalents in other European countries.

In the warmer climates of France, Spain and Italy, ornate piazzas or plazas are the central meeting places for the community. When traveling in the southern European countries, you'll see the locals gathering in plazas to relax, drink a glass of wine, sip on a cappuccino and watch the neighbors stroll by during their passeggiata.

Steam rises over the Blue Lagoon in Iceland as swimmers
enjoy the geothermally heated waters.
Courtesy of the Blue Lagoon

But in Iceland's cooler, subarctic weather, geothermal pools provide a space for people to connect with one another outdoors while staying warm — even when the daylight hours are scarce in the winter months.

As discussed by Dan Kois in his 2016 article for The New York Times, the communal pools and hot tubs of Iceland started off as a way to teach people to swim, and have since become one of the cornerstones of Icelandic society. Iceland's cold winters and not much warmer summers don't inspire citizens to sit outdoors for extended periods of time, so the public spa culture acts as a substitute for the plazas of southern Europe. 

While in Iceland in May 2017, my husband Peter and I had the chance to visit several pools and nature baths while driving around the Icelandic Ring Road that encircles the island. 

Although we planned to visit the Blue Lagoon the day we left Iceland, we also wanted to check out some of the other natural pools during our road trip.

Something to note if you've never visited a spa abroad: Icelanders aren't shy, they bare it all in the locker rooms while getting ready to go into the pools, and it is required to thoroughly shower in the nude before putting on your bathing suit and entering the communal pools.

Blue Lagoon

Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
Price: $75+ (depends on day, time and amenities)

A segment of the Blue Lagoon is on display in front of the Blue Lagoon spa. Lauren J. Mapp 

The most famous — and most expensive — spa in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal pool characterized by its cloudy, silica-filled, turquoise-colored water that starkly contrasts with the black lava fields surrounding it.

Due to its location close to the airport, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect first spot to visit after landing in Keflavík or last stop before jumping on the plane home.

When booking your ticket, you'll have the choice of three ticket options.

  • Comfort, which includes entrance into the Blue Lagoon, a silica mud mask, use of a towel and one drink of choice; 
  • Premium, which gives you the comfort package plus two additional masks of your choice and a glass of sparkling wine if you dine in the Lava Restaurant; or
  • Retreat Spa, which gives you a five-hour experience with access to the Retreat Spa, a private changing room, access to both the Retreat Lagoon and the Blue Lagoon, skin care amenities and access to the Spa restaurant. 
The sun rises over the Blue Lagoon on Nov. 2, 2014.
Lauren J. Mapp
Next, you can add an in-water massage, float therapy or a meal at the on-site Lava Restaurant, as well as transportation to and from the Blue Lagoon. If planning to visit on a day in the middle of your trip, you can buy a one-hour, round-trip ticket to various locations in downtown Reykjavík, or you can book transportation so the lagoon is a stop on your way to or from the airport.

While the Blue Lagoon may be the most expensive of the geothermal pool spas I have visited, it is definitely worth the price of admission.

During my 22 hour-long first visit to Iceland in November 2014, I took a bus from my hostel to the Blue Lagoon on my way back to the airport, where I arrived before the sun came up since it's tardy to rise in the late fall and winter months. By the time I had checked in, received the wristband that becomes your wallet while relaxing in the lagoon, showered, changed into my swimsuit and dipped into the waters, the sun was just barely peeking its head over the nearby mountain peaks.

I spent the day at the spa, enjoying my mask and the warm waters of the lagoon, before having lunch at Lava Restaurant and heading to the hotel to make my trip home. The restaurant serves a Michelin star worthy menu, which includes dishes like langoustine soup, arctic charr and lamb filet. 

Mývatn Nature Baths

Jarðbaðshólar, 660 Mývatn, Iceland
Price: kr. 6490 (~$49.41)

At Mývatn Nature Baths, seen here around midnight in May
2017, you can enjoy a brightly lit sky at night in the summer
since it is so far north.
Lauren J. Mapp
During our road trip around the Icelandic Ring Road in May 2017, we made a stop at the Mývatn Nature Baths as we curled our way around the northern stretch of the country en route to visit Akureyri, the largest town in the country outside of Reykjavík.

The Mývatn Nature Baths share many of the same qualities as the Blue Lagoon, like the cloudy turquoise water and volcanic rock field, but it is a much smaller spa and there were far fewer people there during our visit. 

There is only one ticket option available to purchase, which is priced based on age and includes locker rentals, and you have the option to add on a towel or a bathrobe for an extra fee — about $6.44 and $13.64, respectively. We arrived at Mývatn late in the evening so we didn't eat anything at the spa, but there is a cafe with limited, inexpensive food as well as beer and wine. 

The water in the pool varies from about 96.8 to 104 degrees, and there are also steam baths available with windows to enjoy the view. 

Since Mývatn is a six hour drive from Reykjavík, I wouldn't recommend it as an alternative to the Blue Lagoon, but if you are driving the Ring Road or visiting Akureyri, it is definitely worth  a visit.

If you do go to the Mývatn Nature Baths, make sure to take the six minute drive east to visit Námafjall, an otherworldly looking geothermal hotspot with steam vents and boiling mud.

Secret Lagoon Hot Springs

Hvammsvegur, 845 Flúðir, Iceland
Price: kr. 3300 (~$25.12)

Courtesy of the Secret Lagoon

An hour and a half east of Reykjavík in the small village of Flúðir sits the Secret Lagoon, a geothermally heated, natural pool surrounded by lush green moss-covered volcanic rock that makes it feel like you're swimming in a fairy's garden.

Opened in 1891, the Secret Lagoon is purported to be the oldest natural pool in Iceland, and is surrounded by several hot springs and a small, active geyser that spouts every few minutes — all of which are off limits since the water in each is about 212 degrees. The water in the pool is clear and about 100 to 104 degrees. 

Also known as Gamla Laugin —"old pool" in Icelandic — this spa is similar to the Mývatn Nature Baths in that there is only one ticket option with pricing based on age. You can also add on towel and bathing suit rentals for about $6.82 each. 

Lauren J. Mapp

The on-site cafe serves a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages — I had a can of a refreshing, elderflower hard cider — but the food menu is very limited. 

Aside from renting a car to drive yourself to the lagoon, those staying in Reykjavík can access the Secret Lagoon day tour from a company like Your Day Tours, Getaway to Iceland or Bus Travel, which start at about $110. 

Do you have a favorite geothermal spa location in Iceland? Leave yours in the comments. 


Popular Posts


Show more


Like the content that you see in my blog posts? Donate now through PayPal to help fund more writing projects, recipes, adventures and blog content.

Total Pageviews