The Blue Lagoon looks pretty dreamy in photos, right? Who wouldn’t want to soak in those milky blue waters, washing away all of your worries and stresses?
It’s amazing how beautiful things can look on Instagram, but when you visit in person, the experience can be a little different. That was my experience at Iceland’s famed Blue Lagoon and it totally caught me off guard.
Although I left the Blue Lagoon feeling relaxed and recharged, I also felt a sense of disillusionment. Their highly effective influencer marketing convinced me to visit, expecting to have a serene and peaceful experience floating in the lagoon. The actuality of my visit was a little bit different.
There are 5 Things No One Tells You About Visiting the Blue Lagoon
In every photo that you see of the Blue Lagoon, the focus is put on the blue water and the black volcanic rocks creating an idyllic scene for a spa day. What the photos hardly ever highlight is the massive power plant that sits behind the Blue Lagoon…
Buzzfeed has a hilarious Instagram vs Reality demonstrating this point.
You’ll drive right past the powerplant on your way into the lagoon, and it is easily visible while you are soaking in the pool. The Blue Lagoon is not a naturally created hot springs. It is a manmade pool that is heated from the earth, but also from the residual heat of the power plant. Not exactly the blissful expectations you had in your mind, is it?
The Blue Lagoon is probably the most iconic attraction in Iceland, and it is conveniently located only 20 minutes away from Keflavik Airport, the major international arrival and departure point in Iceland. There is hourly shuttle bus service from the airport, which means there is a steady stream of visitors coming to the lagoon. Read → BIG CROWDS.
Although it is hard to find firm numbers on the daily visitor count, it is estimated that the Blue Lagoon attracts up to 4,000 guests per day, totaling nearly 1.5 million people each year. That is a lot of bodies soaking in those waters!
The lagoon is pretty sizable so it doesn’t necessarily feel crowded while you’re in it, but you are never floating more than a few feet from the nearest person. There is a line for food, there is a line for the sauna, there is a line for the masks. The whole thing is specifically built for tourists, and it feels that way when you’re there.
When you purchase your ticket to visit the Blue Lagoon, you are given a very strict window of time. It is down to the hour! You need to arrive within that window, or else you forfeit your ticket (which you prepaid).
Our flight was in the early afternoon, so we opted to visit the Blue Lagoon first thing in the morning at the 8:00am timeslot. We did not rent a car for our 24 hour Iceland stopover, so we were dependent on the Blue Lagoon shuttle bus. We missed the first shuttle, which never showed up at our bus stop, delaying our arrival.
We were very stressed about missing our strict window, because I didn’t want to lose the money we had already paid for it. When we arrived at the Blue Lagoon check-in counter a few minutes before 9:00am, the staff seemed annoyed by our delayed arrival, but we were ultimately allowed to enter without repurchasing our ticket. I was anxious all morning, so I needed the lagoon to relax from the stress their policies induced on me!
With 4,000 daily visitors, the Blue Lagoon needs to have a systematic and streamlined way of managing the flow of tourists. But in my opinion, it doesn’t need to feel like an efficient process to the visitor. I have been to plenty of high-volume tourist locations that still maintain a calm and pleasant experience for the visitor. Unfortunately the Blue Lagoon misses the mark on this point.
From the minute you arrive at the lagoon, you are essentially shuttled between different stations to facilitate your experience. Wait here for your wristband. Go here to shower. Go here for a locker. Go here for your mask. Go here for your drink. Then leave.
Soaking in warm water is inherently relaxing, but not much else about the Blue Lagoon experience is relaxing, because it is so streamlined and depersonalized. I felt like I was just a product, and the seemingly annoyed staff wasn’t super friendly, only further deepening my feeling of dissatisfaction with the overall service experience.
Maybe you have heard about this 5th point, but it is worth reiterating — the Blue Lagoon is VERY expensive. The minimum ticket on their website is listed as 49 EUR, but that is a little misleading because that price is only available for specific days and only applies to the last timeslot of the day. A majority of the tickets wind up being 84 EUR for the lowest ticket tier.
Because we were flying out the same day as our visit, Sam and I opted to go with the premium package (middle tier) which includes a few more things like a robe and slippers that we didn’t have in our carry-on bags. That ticket was 105 EUR per person. I also mentioned that we didn’t have a rental car, so we also booked the airport shuttle with a pick up in Reykavik at the beginning and a drop off at the airport at the end. That added on an extra 38 EUR per person.
Once you’re at the lagoon, all of the available services are owned by the same company so you can imagine how much the prices are marked up. If you want food or extra drinks or any massage services, all of those are highly priced. We decided to get lunch at the Lava Restaurant, where we only got one course each. That was another 85 EUR.
In total, Sam and I spent $410 USD on our 3 hour visit to the Blue Lagoon. That is a pretty steep price for two people.
Yes, we could have selected the lower tier ticket and packed our own lunch to save money, but I think it is important to be realistic about how much money this experience is really going to cost you at the end of the day. The initial sticker price that you might see in their marketing material is not fully representative of the true cost.
So what does all of this mean?
The Blue Lagoon is certainly one of the most recognizable sights in Iceland, and this blog post is not going to deter people from visiting. Nor is that the point! The reason I write this post is to encourage reasonable expectations about what the Blue Lagoon is really like, so that visitors can make an informed decision about their desire to visit.
I am a big fan of spa tourism, so I wanted to visit the Blue Lagoon regardless, but I wish I had known some of these things beforehand. I could have tailored my expectations more effectively so that I didn’t leave slightly salty with disappointment. I also didn’t know that there were other hot springs and saunas in the country, so I didn’t feel like I had a choice in where to go.
It is important to know the reality prior to your visit so that you are not surprised by your experience like I was. The Blue Lagoon will be crowded, expensive, and very touristy. You will probably leave relaxed, but you might be a little disappointed too. If you know all of that and still want to visit, that is totally fine — it is a bucketlist experience for many people!