Chances are you’ve heard about Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. Even if you weren’t aware this was an actual place you can visit, you may have seen some of their products available for sale in spas or beauty salons. Blue Lagoon isn’t just a great place for a getaway, it’s an economic powerhouse. But that’s not the only reason Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has become the leading attraction in the island-nation. The Blue Lagoon is a must-see if you’re visiting Iceland; here are 10 things you should know about it before you go.
10. Geothermal Power
Iceland is a tiny island nation located in the north Atlantic, parallel to Greenland and between North America and Europe. The island was formed by volcanic forces and there are still active volcanoes today. That means that Iceland has abundant geothermal energy, which the nation uses to power pretty much everything. The Blue Lagoon is actually a result of those two features—the volcanic formation and the use of geothermal power—coming together. The Lagoon is actually man-made: it’s a retaining pond for “waste” water from the nearby geothermal power plant. Once the water has gone through the turbines, it can’t be reused in energy production, so it’s released into the pond. Don’t worry though—the water is anything but dirty or polluted. The unique, naturally occurring mix of minerals mean it can only be cycled through the turbines once.
9. Minerals in the Water
Iceland’s volcanic nature means that some minerals and elements occur more frequently in the soil. Volcanic ash spewed out of the volcanoes and the presence of lava contributes to high incident rates of some minerals. The water that passes through the geothermal power plant and then flows into the Blue Lagoon is also heavily mineralized; it contains high concentrates of silica, which is what gives the water its characteristic milky-blue color. The mineral content is also the reason the water can’t be recycled through the turbines in the power plant. Instead, the water is allowed to reabsorb into the ground, while the minerals are left behind as a deposit. This process eventually renders the ground impermeable, thanks to a thick layer of mineral deposits, which means the power plant has to continually dig new ponds.
8. Healing Properties
When the Svartsengi power plant opened the retaining pond that would become the Blue Lagoon in 1976, nobody envisioned it becoming the major tourist attraction it is today. Word soon got round, however, that the water in the “lagoon” had medicinal properties for people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. Since the water is rich in minerals like silica and sulfur, people still maintain that the water of the Blue Lagoon has medicinal properties, even for people who aren’t suffering from skin ailments. By 1981, people were flocking to bathe in the Blue Lagoon and reap the benefits of the richly mineralized water. In 1992, the Blue Lagoon company officially opened to the public. Today, the area has hotels and spa amenities, but the waters of the Lagoon itself remain the main draw for many people.
7. All-Inclusive Luxury
The Blue Lagoon isn’t just a thermal spa; it’s grown to become an all-inclusive luxury resort. The LAVA restaurant is built into the side of a cliff, while the Blue Café provides ready-to-go snacks and refreshments. You can order drinks from the Lagoon bar without even leaving the water. The resort also offers a range of spa services, such as an in-water massage and beauty treatments like the silica mud mask. Saunas, steam rooms and a relaxation area are all available. There’s even an exclusive lounge and the onsite Blue Lagoon Clinic Hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the main pool. The hotel has its own private pool—and you can even book a doctor’s appointment if you’re seeking relief from a skin ailment like psoriasis. With all of this, it’s little wonder why a trip to the Blue Lagoon has a hefty price tag.
6. Support for Research
Since the waters of the Blue Lagoon are purported to have healing properties, it’s not exactly surprising that the Blue Lagoon company has some research interests. The company operates a research and development facility that explores how skin disease, such as psoriasis, can be cured or helped by mineral-rich water. Of course, given Blue Lagoon’s line of spa products, it’s also likely that the company wishes to promote products it can create from the waters of the Blue Lagoon, even if the health benefits aren’t proven. The Svartsengi power plant is involved in research of a different kind: a small, nearby station monitors how quickly mineral deposits form, thus keeping a close eye on the environmental impact of geothermal energy production in Iceland. As our knowledge improves, we both better understand how mineral deposits form and how we can make geothermal energy cleaner.
5. Hot Lava Nearby
The Blue Lagoon is situated over an active lava field in Grindavik, on the Reykjanes Peninsula on the southwest of Iceland. It is about an hour’s drive outside of Reykjavik, the capital city. The Svartsengi power plant vents superheated water from the ground near a lava flow, which runs first through the turbines to generate electricity, and then through a heat exchanger to power municipal water heating. The water is then fed into the lagoon and refreshed every two days. The lava field is permeable, allowing the mineral-rich water to filter back into the earth, leaving behind its mineral deposit. The lava field ranges in thickness from about 20” to 3.3 feet. The lava is what allows for the geothermal energy plant and why the water in the Blue Lagoon stays steady at a temperature of around 38 degrees Celsius.
4. Iceland’s Most Visited
Despite not even having been around for a quarter-century yet, the Blue Lagoon spa has emerged as Iceland’s most visited attraction. It’s hard to say which came first: increasing tourism to Iceland, which then resulted in the popularity of the Blue Lagoon, or the Blue Lagoon being revered as a place to visit, thus resulting in a boom in Iceland tourism. It’s difficult to imagine that, on an island with so many natural wonders and gifts, this man-made spa would become the premier attraction, but every year, thousands upon thousands of people discover the Blue Lagoon for themselves. In fact, the spa is so popular that you need to book your tickets in advance. While you can still purchase tickets “at the door,” Blue Lagoon doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be admitted when you arrive if you haven’t pre-booked with them.
3. Tickets in All Shapes and Sizes
Speaking of tickets, in addition to pre-booking, you’ll find that there are different ticket packages available. The most popular package, according to Blue Lagoon’s website, is the “premium” package, which includes a bathrobe, a skincare trial pack, slippers and a towel, as well as a drink. The package sells online for 75 euros in the summer and 65 euros in the winter. Yes, that’s right—the package prices vary depending on the season you’re booking. Two cheaper packages—the standard visitor and the comfort package—are available, while the luxury package is the most expensive and expansive package. Walk-ins are charged an extra five euros per person. Children, aged two to 13, are admitted free, and discounted prices are available for teenagers (ages 14 and 15) and disabled persons.
2. Movie Star
Did you know the Blue Lagoon is a movie star? That might be stretching the truth a little bit—but the Lagoon has been a set location for a number of television and film productions. It has been featured in reality TV series such as the Amazing Race, when it was used as a pit stop during the first leg of the 6th season, and Britain’s Next Top Model, when it served as a photo shoot location during the 5th cycle. The film Hostel: Part II filmed all its thermal spa scenes at the Blue Lagoon, and the Lagoon was featured in the documentary Look Alive, about the band Incubus. Given the spa’s world renown, it’s little wonder that filmmakers and television producers would look to it to lend authenticity to a film or to provide an “exotic” locale for audiences to experience.
1. It’s Beautiful
Perhaps the number one reason filmmakers have picked the Blue Lagoon as a set location is the awe-inspiring beauty of the area. Nestled between outcrops of black volcanic rock, the milky-blue pool of water is picturesque. The spa has cultivated an image of luxury as well, with exclusive lounges and well-appointed hotel suites onsite. Located on the lava field, there isn’t much in the way of flora or fauna around, but the dark rocks provide a breathtaking antithesis to the blue of the pond. In the evening, the Lagoon takes on ethereal colors as the sun goes down, lights reflecting on the water’s surface and the sky mirroring the surface of the water (or perhaps vice versa). It’s not hard to see why people would flock here, medicinal benefits or no, when the landscape is just another testament to why Iceland is an amazing place to explore.