Which Icelandic hot spring should you visit?

Which Icelandic hot spring should you visit?

Blue Lagoon vs. Myvatn Nature Bath vs. Secret Lagoon

After the aurora borealis Iceland may be best known for its spas and hot springs. Most people know about the ever popular Blue Lagoon, but today I’m reviewing and comparing the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, and Myvatn Nature Bath.

So, let's jump right in. 

 Panoramic shot of the Blue Lagoon, and me with a blue icee from the swim-up bar. 

Panoramic shot of the Blue Lagoon, and me with a blue icee from the swim-up bar. 

BLUE LAGOON

With its proximity to Reykjavik and Keflavik Airport, Blue Lagoon is the largest and most well known of the three baths I visited. This popularity comes with bigger crowds and a heftier price tag. We visited in October, during the off-season, and it wasn't as crowded as some of the articles I've read, but there were still plenty of lines and waiting. Unlike the other two pools, Blue Lagoon offers more of a resort-like experience. Visitors get to choose from a series of packages, all of which include a silica mud mask and other amenities based on which package you select. Everyone wears a bracelet that acts as their ticket and way to pay. A fancy restaurant, in-pool bar, expensive gift shop, and on-site resort, the Silica Hotel with it’s own private lagoon, all offer an air of luxury and fun, but it doesn’t quite offer the authentic experience of an Icelandic spa.

Many people believe the Blue Lagoon is a naturally occurring hot spring, but the water that fills the lagoon is actually from a nearby geothermal power plant. When the plant was built, it was believed that the run-off water would soak back into the earth. However, the silica in the water forms a bottom layer on the ground that prevents it from being absorbed back into the ground fast enough. The hot water is used to create electricity for Reykjavik and comes from over 6,000 feet below the ground. Despite its industrial purpose it was decided since the hot water is still pure spring water from the ground it could be utilized for a spa and bathing area. So, taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon means you’re actually floating in an entire city’s source of electricity.

The water’s blue color comes from the rich minerals and sulfur contents. As you move around the pool you’ll find varying temperatures and depths. There are small ledges and caves as well as a sauna and steam bath just outside the pool.


MYVATN NATURE BATH

Located in the North, Myvatn isn’t nearly as crowded as the Blue Lagoon, but it has drawn more attention than the recently re-opened Secret Lagoon. Part of a designated nature reserve, the entire Myvatn area has been designed to disrupt the delicate ecosystem as little as possible.  During our fall visit, the Myvatn Nature Baths were set on a backdrop of gold and yellow autumn colors. The beauty of the vast and open surrounding area was amazing, and it’s said that in the dark winter days you get a dazzling show from the Northern Lights.

Opened in June 2004, the bath conjures up a natural and relaxing experience. Of the three pools, Myvatn had the blue-est water and the best view, with Lake Myvatn and the rolling mountains in its backyard. Similar to the Blue Lagoon, Myvatn’s water comes from the National Power Company in Bjarnarflag and is a man-made hot spring. This pool seemed to have the lowest saltwater content and also made my skin feel the smoothest. While most geothermal water in Iceland contains some sulfur, it’s particularly strong in this area. Which means, you should remove any silver or brass jewelry unless you want it to turn black and tarnished.

There were two large pools with small areas to sit and far less visitors than Blue Lagoon. At one point, we had one of the two pools all to ourselves. And while there are less amenities, Myvatn has all the essentials including two steam baths sitting on top of a geothermal area and a small counter service restaurant. But really, it’s the surrounding nature and view that make this pool breathtaking.

SECRET LAGOON

The Secret Lagoon is the smallest of the three baths, but unlike the first two it is in fact a natural hot spring. About an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, you’ll find the Secret Lagoon located in Fludir, a small village on the Golden Circle. Although the Secret Lagoon was originally built in 1891 and could be considered the oldest swimming pool in the country, it was largely forgotten and neglected for years until a local man, Björn “Bjössi” Kjartansson, renovated and reopened it in 2014. Bjossi kept the area as natural and authentic as possible giving his pool a historic and rustic feeling.

Despite not being much of a secret, the Secret Lagoon was the least crowded and most relaxing in my opinion. Yes, it was only one smaller pool, but there was less hustle and an air of calm. Tour buses arrive at the pool between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. so it's best to go early or late in the day just before closing. A ring of bubbling water pits surround the pool and you can walk along their path to take a look and listen to their rumbling. The steam these pits and the swimming pool give off are part of what makes the atmosphere so incredible. So while the water isn't as blue as the other two pools and it doesn't have all the bells and whistles there's something subtly spectacular about it all.  Large rocks are scattered around the edges of the pool, and even in the middle, which are great for sitting on, but if you’re not careful you can run right into them so be wary (I know from experience).

And while we weren’t able to see this, in the wintertime when most of the day is dark and the air is cold, you float in the toasty water while the aurora borealis dances overhead making the entire lagoon feel magical. That alone seems like reason enough to give the area a visit.

If you get the chance I would suggest stopping in and visiting all three. Each one is special and unique in its own way, and who doesn’t like a dip in a big warm bath?

Blue Lagoon

Water

  • Manmade hot spring fed from a geothermal power plant

  • 1 large pool with many different sections; 1 private pool for resort guests only

  • Most luxurious, but also crowded and touristy

Adult Price

  • Pre-booking is required
  • 4 packages available (see what each includes)

    • Standard: 5.400 ISK (~$46.46)
    • Comfort: 7.400 ISK (~$63.67)

    • Premium: 9.500 ISK (~$81.74)

    • Luxury: 26.500 ISK (~$228) 

 

Rental Prices

  • If you choose a package without one of these items you can rent them that day for:
  • Towel: 700 ISK (~$6.02)

  • Swimsuit: 700 ISK (~$6.02)

  • Bathrobe: 1.400 ISK (~$12.05)

  • Slippers: 1.400 ISK (~$12.05)
 

Average temperature

  • 99-102°F

 

Extra Amenities

  • Silica mud mask

  • Sauna

  • Steam bath

  • In-pool bar

  • Sit down restaurant

  • Counter-service restaurant

  • 4-Star Resort, the Silica Hotel

  • Gift shop with spa products

Locker Rooms

  • Long lines for the showers, which are private and have curtains

  • Blow dryers available, as well as vanities and a place to do makeup in the women’s locker room

  • Lockers are electronic and can be opened with your bracelet. There are also TVs showing which locker numbers are still available
 

Food

LAVA Restaurant:

  • Gourmet restaurant with contemporary food and a view of the lagoon

Blue Cafe: 

  • Ready-to-go sandwiches, salads, and more

      Secret Lagoon

      Water

      • Natural hot spring

      • 1 pool  

      • Most authentic & quiet
       

      Adult Price

      • Pre-booking is NOT required, but available

      • Only one package

        • 2.800 ISK (~$24.09)

       

      Rental Prices

      • Not listed on the website, but I remember it being similar to the other two pools' prices

       

      Average temperature 

      • 100-104°F

       

      Extra Amenities

      • N/A
       

      Locker Rooms

      • No line for the showers which are public and open

      • Blow dryers available

      • Given a traditional locker key

       

      Food

      • No restaurant, but they do sell a few snacks and beverages

      Myvatn

      Water

      • Manmade hot spring fed from a geothermal power plant

      • 2 pools

      • Bluest water  
       

      Adult Price

      • Pre-booking is suggested, but NOT required

      • One package, but seasonal prices:

        • 1/1-5/14: 3.800 ISK (~$32.70)

        • 5/15-9/30: 4.300 ISK (~$37.00)

        • 10/1-12/31: 3800 ISK (~$32.70)

       

      Rental Prices 

      • Towel: 700 ISK (~$6.02)

      • Swimsuit: 700 ISK (~$6.02)

      • Bathrobe: 1.500 ISK (~$12.90)

       

      Average temperature 

      • 96.8-104°F

       

      Extra Amenities

      • Steam bath

      • Counter-service restaurant
       

      Locker Rooms

      • No line for the showers which are public and open

      • Blow dryers available

      • Given a traditional locker key

       

      Food

      Kvika Restaurant:

      • Counter service and seasonal menu with things like:
        • soup of the day
        • freshly baked bread
        • fresh salad bar
        • spring bread with smoked arctic char
        • hot beverages
        • cakes and cookies
        • Soda, beer, wine
      Gjáin, the Most Mystical Place in Iceland

      Gjáin, the Most Mystical Place in Iceland