The Blue Lagoon is considered an absolute must for anyone visiting Iceland. It’s milky blue therapeutic waters certainly look inviting and photos alone show why National Geographic named it as one of the top 25 Wonders of the World. Seemingly everyone who visits Iceland works it into their itinerary, typically on the way to or from Keflavik Airport as it’s conveniently close by.
Well firstly its is extremely expensive. Kids under the age of 14 are free, but adults can expect to pay upwards of €77 per person, depending on the time you go. You also need to book your entry slot well in advance as it does sell out almost every day.
Secondly, the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland is, of course, very touristy and very busy. Expect long queues to even get into the locker room.
Thirdly, children 2-8 years of age must wear inflatable armbands so as to ‘increase their visibility in the lagoon’. Armbands are provided free to children. Now our two boys who are 4 and 6 years old are little fish and are very capable without armbands and would want to be diving under the waters. It would be a nightmare trying to make sure they kept the armbands on. Also, if you have children under the age of two, they’re not allowed in at all.
And fourthly, there are so many fantastic alternatives to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, for much cheaper and with fewer crowds.
You could argue that I shouldn’t really judge a place that I haven’t visited. But one of the reasons we can afford to travel so much with our kids is that we always make our choices based on cost/benefit. It may be the top attraction in Iceland, but I would rather try out the Blue Lagoon alternatives. And put it this way, you won’t see many Icelanders at the Blue Lagoon.
Why is the Blue Lagoon so popular?
Well it is a truly unique experience. Yes there are some cheaper but equally luxurious alternatives to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, but, bathing in that milky blue water, relaxing with a face mask on, beer in hand, and surrounded by moss-covered lava in the middle of nowhere… well it does sound idyllic! Plus there is that kudos of been able to tell people you have been to the famous Blue Lagoon.
So really it comes down to whether you are willing to suck it up and pay, or are happy to admit to your friends that you went to Iceland, but didn’t go to the Blue Lagoon. Because trust me, EVERYONE will ask.
What are the best alternatives to the Blue Lagoon?
If you do decide to give it a miss there are some fantastic Blue Lagoon alternatives, each with their unique selling point. Like the Blue Lagoon, these are all man-made, with natural water sourced from nearby geothermal springs.
As with all geothermal spas in Iceland, take a swimming costume and towels with you to avoid having to hire on arrival, and ensure you wash all your ‘bits’ thoroughly in the shower (without your swimwear) before entering. It is quite a faux pas not to do so. Also, ensure you keep hydrated with free water provided.
Pre-booking is advised for all these alternative geothermal spas in Iceland, especially in the high season, and all allow children to enter (under 12’s must be accompanied by an adult). Website addresses are provided below for online booking.
1. Secret Lagoon
Made in 1892, the Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland, and is perhaps not so secret anymore. It’s the most common suggestion when people are looking for an alternative to the Blue Lagoon and is often included in a Golden Circle tour from Reykjavik.
Despite being on the tour group agenda, The Secret Lagoon is still much quieter than the Blue Lagoon and is no where near as crowded. The naturally hot waters come from the nearby village of Fludir and stays at a temperature of 38-40°C all year round. In the surrounding area there are several geothermal spots, as well as a little geyser which erupts every five minutes to show off for guests relaxing in the hot spring.
Prices: Adults 3000 ISK, children 14 and under are free
Visit the Secret Lagoon website to book your visit online.
Krauma offers more of a spa rather than swimming pool experience. A series of hot tubs of varying temperatures invite you for a dip with water fed directly from Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring. The 100°C hot water is mixed with icy cold water from a nearby glacier (called ‘Ok’) which creates the different temperatures. There are six baths in total, from an icy cold plunge pool to a steamy 42°C pool. We felt just right in the 38°C pool.
There are also two separate steam baths and make sure you allow some time for the relaxation room for a quiet read by the fire.
Prices: Adults 3950 ISK, teenagers aged 13-16 are 2000 isk, children 12 and under are free
Visit the KRAuma website to book your visit online.
Situated on the shores of the beautiful Lake Laugarvatn and conveniently enroute to the Golden Circle, Fontana offers guests a selection of relaxing pools, steam rooms and a Finnish-style sauna.
The three steam rooms, have been built over a natural hot spring, and thanks to grids in the floor you can hear and smell the boiling natural hot spring underneath. There are also three mineral baths of varying temperature. One of these has a spurting whale feature especially for the kids.
If you need to cool off, take a walk down to the lake. The beach has warm black sand, but the lake will be rather ‘refreshing’.
Prices: Adults 3950 ISK, teenagers aged 13-16 are 2000 isk, children 12 and under are free
Visit the Fontana website to book your visit online.
4. Mývatn Nature Baths
If you’re visiting North Iceland, you will no doubt head to the starkly beautiful Mývatn region to explore it’s lunar landscape, belching mudpots, strange lava formations, and steaming fumeroles, all set around a lake. There’s a road that takes you right around the lake, and along the route you will come across Mývatn Nature Baths.
With its milky blue waters, Mývatn Nature Baths are Northern Iceland’s answer to the Blue Lagoon. Its waters are supplied straight from the National Power Company’s bore hole in Bjarnarflag. Although its much smaller, it’s also much quieter and the entrance fee is more than half than that of its counterpart. Take your jewellery off before you enter though, as the water is high in sulphur and can turn brass and silver black!
There are also two steam rooms built straight on top of a geothermal area, allowing steam to rise up through holes in the floor. Typically the temperature is around 50°C and the humidity is close to 100%.
Prices vary according to season, but start from: Adults 4500 ISK, teenagers aged 13-15 are 1800 isk, children 12 and under are free
Visit the Mývatn Nature Baths website to check prices and book your visit online.
Not many geothermal pools in Iceland can compete with Geosea in Húsavík for its incredible natural setting, which overlooks the open expanse of Skjálfandi Bay across to snow capped mountains and the Artic Circle on the horizon. If you peer very closely over the edge of the cliff, you might even see some whales also enjoying a swim. In fact a visit to Geosea combines nicely with a morning whale watching tour.
Drilling for hot water here in the mid-20th century revealed water that turned out to be hot seawater, too rich in minerals to be suitable for heating houses. Instead of letting this hot water go to waste, an old cheese barrel was installed for Húsavík residents to enjoy the health benefits of bathing in hot seawater.
The water in the GeoSea sea baths comes from two drillholes. One located by the cheese barrel and the other by Húsavík harbor. There is no need to use any cleaning agents or equipment, as the steady flow of water from the drillholes, between the three main pools and into the sea ensures that the water stays clean and hygienic. Check out our full Geosea Húsavík review.
Prices: Adults 4300 ISK, children 1800
Visit the Geosea website to book your visit online.
6. Public swimming pools
If you’re planning to travel Iceland on a budget, do as the locals do and visit a sundlaug (heated outdoor swimming pool) found in almost every town in Iceland. Most pools also offer heitir (small hot tubs for soaking), suanas, jacuzzis, and some even have a kids play area.
These are very affordable, usually only 1000 IKR per adult, and it’s perhaps the most real Icelandic experience you can have. This is where locals come to catch up and socialise, and where you’re unlikely to see any tourists. Check out Lonely Planet’s guide to the best local swimming pools in Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon is indeed a unique experience, but it’s also well marketed resulting in big crowds and inflated prices. There are some fantastic Blue Lagoon alternatives dotted around Iceland for more than half the cost and a fraction of visitors. And if you want to experience the milky blue waters of the Blue Lagoon, perhaps visit Mytvan Nature Baths instead.
But if you want to experience the real Iceland and save the kronas, get yourself to a local swimming pool. Every town has one.
So hopefully I’ve given you some ideas for some alternatives to the Blue Lagoon. Have you been to the Blue Lagoon or one of these Blue Lagoon alternatives? Or are there any alternatives to the Blue Lagoon I’ve missed out? Let me know!
Were you an intrepid backpacker in your previous life? Exploring distant and exotic lands on a budget, getting off the beaten track and feeling like you were doing something different? Now that young kids are in the picture, travel priorities may have changed. But you don’t have to get sucked into the package holiday bubble. Adventure travel with young kids is possible! Jenny x