Sure, glacier hiking and snorkeling are must do Icelandic activities, but no one goes to Iceland without visiting the hot springs and lagoons. From the most famous to the most authentic, I’ve got the three best hot springs and lagoons along the Golden Circle. Let me preface this by saying I was enjoying the lagoons far too much to take any good photographs. They are so much better sin iPhone in hand! So get ready to relax and enjoy a little Icelandic pampering.
The Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon near the small town of Flúðir is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. It was originally built in 1891 and swimming lessons began in 1909. In 1947, they opened a new swimming pool in town and the Secret Lagoon was forgotten. Recent renovations and improvements have restored the pool back to its former glory.
The pool sits beside a little geysir that erupts every 5 minutes like clockwork. Surrounding the area are small hot springs with walking paths. These pools are too hot to swim in themselves. The water from the main pool stays a consistent 100-104°F (38-40°C) no matter the season. The closer you go to the geysir, the hotter it gets.
The Secret Lagoon is much less touristy and crowded than its famous cousin, Blue. As the name suggests, the geothermal pool is secluded in the wilderness. We spent an evening here after a busy day traveling along the Golden Circle. Though it wasn’t clear enough to see the Northern Lights that evening, the light snowfall made the experience absolutely heavenly. Of the three pools we visited, this one is certainly the most authentic.
There are newly renovated changing rooms in an old greenhouse and a single fridge stocked with wine and beer and a few snacks. You can rent a towel and a swimsuit, but I suggest you bring your own.
The Secret Lagoon, Open 11 am – 8 pm in winter and 11 am – 10 pm in summer, 1 adult about $25
Laugarvatn Fontana and Hot Springs
Laugarvatn Fontana is the ultimate relaxation center. The warm geothermal pools, saunas and steam rooms are built over natural hot springs and have been a favorite Icelandic tradition since 1929. From the sauna and the pool you can look out over the icy cold lake Laugarvatn and if you’re as lucky as we were you can see the Northern Lights dance across the sky.
The steam rooms were my favorite part. They are built over a natural hot spring so the temperatures vary depending on the time of year and the temperature of the spring itself. The coolest room is kept at 104°F (38°C) and the warmest is 122°F (50°C). Hella hot! You can’t see anything through the mist and fog but you can hear the gentle bubbling of the hot springs below. It’s such a unique experience, don’t miss it.
In addition to the steam rooms there is a traditional Finnish-style sauna and three outdoor geothermal mineral baths similar to those at the Blue Lagoon. You can take a dip in the icy lake just beyond the saunas for a refreshing and totally body numbing experience.
Laugarvatn Fontana also has its own restaurant. They offer a lunch and dinner buffet daily with various healthy and local dishes. In the wintertime, most Icelandic restaurants close before 10, so this is a great option if you are planning to stay late. The food was delicious and the variety was much appreciated.
One of the highlights is the homemade rye bread they bake on site. They use the hot sand by the lake to make the bread. Guests can learn more about the rye bread and bake their own batch onsite. This is something I really would’ve liked to do, but we arrived in the evening. I did get a chance to taste it though, definitely an A+.
Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths, Open 11 am – 10 pm daily, 1 adult about $35
The Blue Lagoon
Alas, the most well known lagoon and be default the most touristy pool on the planet. Though the secret is out, this place remains very special and shockingly unique. The milky blue warm water greets millions of guests from all over the world each year.
Despite what you may have been told, the Blue Lagoon is not completely natural. The lagoon was formed in 1976 by the nearby geothermal power plant. In the following years, people started bathing in the water and noticed that the silica mud was doing wonders for their skin. Today, the heated water is pumped in and vented out constantly to remain fresh and pleasant for visitors. It is by far the most visually stunning lagoon of the three.
In addition to the pools themselves, you can enjoy spa treatments, an Exclusive Lounge, a gourmet meal at the restaurant and tours of the grounds.
To visit the Blue Lagoon you must pre-book your tickets online. It’s ok if you arrive a little later or a little early, just estimate! Their hours vary depending on the time of year and there are different packages to choose from. I chose the Comfort Package. I think this one is worth it just for the free drink. That way when you are exiting the facilities you don’t have to wait in line to pay for anything, you can just walk right out. The algae mask is a slight rip off since the silica mud mask is included in all entrance packages. If you don’t care about the free drink or the towel, stick with the Standard Package and enjoy!
Blue Lagoon, Hours vary with the season, packages start at about $45