Is the Blue Lagoon always a must-stop when visiting Iceland? Not really. There are far cheaper and equally as beautiful alternatives in the south of the country.
Conveniently situated between the airport and Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon used to be a perfect first or last stop when visiting the country. You’d spend a couple of hours there before your flight back home, reflecting on the beautiful sights you’ve seen in Iceland. That’s what I did on my trips there between 2012 and 2015. Then, as tourism grew, the place got more and more crowded. It became mandatory to book your visit. And the entrance fees skyrocketed. Back in 2012, I wrote in my diary that “even though it’s pricey (25 euros), it’s well worth a visit”. In 2017, it was 65 euros and I refused to pay that amount. In 2023? You’ll be lucky if you get a ticket under 90 euros.
Thankfully, there are several alternatives to the Blue Lagoon. Here are three that are easily accessible from Reykjavik: you will easily find others everywhere in Iceland, whether it is the springs of Landmannalaugar, those of the western fjords, the Myvatn Nature Baths, etc.
The most magical: Seljavallalau
Five kilometers from Skogar, Seljavallalaug is one of the former “hidden gems” of the country. It used to be known only by the locals, but it became popular with the rise of social medias and their “10 hidden spots you need to visit” posts.
Built in 1923, the pool can be reached in 15 minutes by a short trail along a river, between two mountains. It is located in the heart of a valley, where several small waterfalls flow. Rain or shine, the setting is exceptional and worth the trip, even if you don’t want to take a dip. The water is warm, around 25°C, but not very clean: after all, we are in the wild, hence the presence of algae in the basin. Just take a shower back at your hotel, you’ll be fine.
Reykjadalur is perfect for hikers
The most remote: Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
Not a swimming pool per se, the Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, 45 km from Reykjavik, is actually a junction between two rivers, hot and cold. The mix between the two flows brings the temperature of the water at around 40°C. But to experience it, you need to deserve it: to get there, you have to walk for three kilometers on a steep mountain path. The hike starts in Hveragerði and takes about an hour. The effort is well worth it, especially since the path itself is particularly beautiful. When I first went there, it was a simple river, with little traffic. The place has since been upgraded with a walkway and changing cabins.
There’s nothing like swimming in hot water when the air is chilly.
The most classic: the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir
The only paid alternative in our selection (24 dollars in March 2023), the Secret Lagoon in Flúðir makes a perfect stop on the way to Gullfoss and Geysir, while visiting the Golden Circle.
Built in 1945, the pool is large and surrounded by boiling springs, and even a tiny geyser. It is less wild than the two options above, but the landscape remains particularly pleasant to observe, in a 40° water (even more if you approach the hot springs). It has changing rooms, showers and even a little cafeteria.
Want to have a splash? The Iceland pre-tour extension of our Greenland Cruise will bring us to two of those locations!