Iceland is a country renowned for its geothermal activity. Spurting geysers, bubbling mud pools and steaming rivers hint at the activity occurring just beneath the surface of the earth, and these canny Icelanders have harnessed this power not simply for power, but for leisure as well.
The Blue Lagoon and the Sky Lagoon are two geothermal spas set amongst the spectacular Icelandic landscape, both within easy reach of the centre of Reykjavik. But which is better?
On a short weekend trip to Reykjavik, when you need to fit in a northern lights cruise, a whale watching excursion and a trip around the Golden Circle, you want to make the most of every minute you spend in Iceland. So, to help you pick, here is our lowdown of the Blue Lagoon and the Sky Lagoon, which will hopefully allow you to weigh up which to visit on your Icelandic adventure.
What are the lagoons?
The Blue Lagoon is probably one of the most famous tourist attractions in Iceland. An expanse of iridescently blue waters, heated to perfect bathing temperatures thanks to the hot, pressurised water found deep in the earth’s crust.
It now attracts hundreds of visitors every day, who come to bathe in the mineral rich waters situated in the otherworldly location of a rocky lava field.
It’s been around since the 1980s, when a geothermal power plant extracted this highly-pressurised water in order to power their steam turbines, with the run off creating the luxurious lagoon you can visit today (don’t worry, the water is incredibly clean and full of beneficial minerals!).
The Sky Lagoon is the newer baby brother to the Blue Lagoon, opened as recently as 2021. It is built into the dark grey and black volcanic rock on the edge of the ocean, with its waters warmed to a pleasant 38 degrees by geothermal energy.
Built into a coastal cliff, it offers wonderful views of the surrounding ocean and feels incredibly sheltered, with nods to traditional Icelandic heritage evident in the design of the classic torfbaeir, or turf house, that you will find on site.
Where are the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon?
Both lagoons are within easy reach of Reykjavik’s city centre, and on a trip with Not In The Guidebooks, you would receive a private transfer from your hotel for either.
On your own however, it’s useful for you to know exactly how much time to factor in to your day for travel.
The Blue Lagoon is around a 50 minute drive from Reykjavik city centre, closer to Keflavik International Airport. There is parking if you choose to drive yourself, where out of Reykjavik you simply follow Highway 41 to Highway 43, before following the signs to the Blue Lagoon.
There is a reliable and frequent shuttle bus service to the Blue Lagoon from this point in Reykjavik, which will set you back around £45 per head for a return journey, but you can also select from many other pick up points on the Blue Lagoon’s official public transport partner’s website.
A taxi is the most expensive option, and will cost you anywhere from £100-£130 for one journey.
Like the Blue Lagoon, there is free parking at the Sky Lagoon, but the driving journey differs in that it only takes 15 minutes to arrive from central Reykjavik. Situated much closer to the city, your journey merely involves taking route 40 to Vesturvör, where you will find the car park.
You can also take a couple of local bus services, totalling around 20 minutes plus a few minutes of walking at the end of your journey, or you can take a taxi which will cost you around £10-£15.
Lagoon Holidays in Iceland
A visit to either the Blue Lagoon or the Sky Lagoon is an essential experience on a holiday in Iceland. At both, the surreal feeling of floating in beautifully warm waters, in the knowledge that the heat is entirely natural as you look out at the cold Atlantic Ocean, rugged lava fields, or if you’re incredibly lucky the Northern Lights over Iceland, is truly memorable.
But which is the better overall experience? To answer this, we’ll break down a day at each lagoon to give you an idea of which one you might want to work into your itinerary.
When to visit the Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon
As we mentioned already, the Blue Lagoon is certainly the larger, and the busier, of the two. We would probably recommend avoiding visiting outside of weekends and local school holidays, as you will find the entire day a quieter, more relaxing experience.
If you do catch the Blue Lagoon on a quiet day however, you are free to enjoy a huge lagoon with plenty of space, views of the surrounding lava field and a sauna that provides views over the steaming waters.
The Sky Lagoon is a lot smaller, but as it’s new and a little less famous, it currently attracts fewer visitors, although this may change as its reputation grows.
We would still recommend visiting on a weekday if possible, but in all fairness the lagoon is still large enough to accommodate hundreds of people with plenty of room to explore the sheltered coves, the cascading waterfall or to brave the plunge pool.
What to do when you’re there
Once you’re checked in, changed and showered at the Blue Lagoon, you are free to explore the warm waters as you please. Head to the bar, exfoliate your skin with a silica mud mask, and sweat of in the sauna on a cleansing, relaxing experience.
If you fancy it, you can opt for extras like float therapy and in-water massages, to leave feeling truly invigorated.
At the Sky Lagoon the experience begins much the same. Check yourself in, get changed and have a quick rinse off before sinking into the beautifully warm waters of the lagoon. Again, head to the bar, go for a shower under the waterfall or just lean over the seaward facing edge of the lagoon and drink in the views.
A point of difference however, is in the ‘Seven Step Ritual’ on offer at the Sky Lagoon. The wellness ritual is rooted in Iceland culture, and involves a soak in the lagoon, a freezing dip in the plunge pool, a moment to slow down in the beautiful sauna that overlooks the ocean, a blast in a cold mist room, a mineral rich scrub to apply, a sit down in the steam room, and then a shower to rinse off at the end.
You can visit the spa at the Blue Lagoon as well, but you need to buy a separate package in order to do so.
Blue Lagoon vs Sky Lagoon Packages
Of course, a big part of knowing whether to visit the Blue Lagoon or the Sky Lagoon is knowing which is better value for money. In this section, we will break down the packages they offer so that you can be more informed on your Iceland holiday.
The Blue Lagoon’s basic package is called the ‘Comfort’, and costs around £53. It includes entrance to the lagoon, a silica mud mask, use of a towel and your first drink from the bar.
The Sky Lagoon’s cheapest package, which it names the ‘Pure Lite Pass’, includes your entrance and a towel for you to use, but neither of the little benefits like a complimentary drink or mud mask. It is however slightly cheaper, even if only by a few pounds at around £49.
The basic package at the Sky Lagoon however is really the ‘Pure’ package, which includes a journey through the seven step ritual. This costs about £62 per head.
If you’re looking to make your time in the Blue Lagoon a little more special, and if you’re looking to dine at the on-site restaurant, then you might want to go for the ‘Premium’ package. For £68 you get everything from the Comfort package, as well as two more face masks of your choice, a bathrobe, and a glass of sparkling wine (only if you are dining at the Blue Lagoon).
Over at the Sky Lagoon, their ‘Sky’ package goes at a rate of £85 per person, and gets you private changing with complimentary body lotion, as well as everything you get in the Pure package.
For those travelling with a partner or a friend, they also provide a ‘Sky Lagoon for Two’ package, which costs a total of £185 and gives you either two Pure or two Sky packages, as well as a complimentary drink and a platter of food for you to enjoy at the bar after your experience.
At the super-luxurious end of the spectrum, the Blue Lagoon does offer their ‘Retreat Spa’ experience, for £365 per person. It includes access to the Blue Lagoon, the Retreat Spa, the Retreat Lagoon, and eight different subterranean spaces. You’ll also get to enjoy a private changing room, the Blue Lagoon ritual, and a complimentary drink.
Which Lagoon is Better?
Where the Blue Lagoon may seem better value for money, there’s no doubting that the Sky Lagoon is in the more spectacular setting, and when you consider transfer times and costs for getting to each lagoon, the odds are you won’t spend much more on a day visiting the Sky Lagoon than you would on visiting the Blue Lagoon.
For us, your best option is the Pure package offered by the Sky Lagoon, where you’ll get to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Sky Lagoon, as well as the wonderful seven step ritual.
That said, both the Blue Lagoon and the Sky Lagoon are extremely popular for a reason. A day spent at either of these ‘natural’ wonders is a day well spent, and one you’re sure to remember on your Icelandic holiday.
Here at Not In The Guidebooks, we are always on the hunt for the very best travel experiences we can so that you can experience the very best of each destination you visit. We do this by sourcing local, responsible and sustainable experiences that get you under the skin of a destination, thanks to the local people we put you in touch with.
These local hosts are hugely passionate about showing off the very best of their home, meaning you get an experience way beyond that of an average tourist, and come away having not just seen a place, but experienced it like a local.