The Blue Lagoon of Iceland: Wading In Wastewater at a World Wonder

Have you ever gone swimming in wastewater? I have….. at the famous and beautiful Blue Lagoon. If you have heard of Iceland, you more than likely have heard of the Blue Lagoon, the incredible geothermal spa with intensely blue water. It’s on many a person’s bucket list, and now I finally have the chance to check it off mine…..

It’s a natural hotspring – unrivaled……wait a minute! Natural? Maybe not. From what I understand it is all man-made! And worse yet….it contains industrial wastewater! Well, what does it matter? Let’s see what this place is all about! 

First things first. If you plan to go to the Blue Lagoon make sure you have reservations! It gets pretty busy, and if you don’t have a reservation you may not get in. Fortunately I have reservations! The only problem is that I forgot to print them out……so I spend some time this morning going through my email, and finding my booking, and taking a snapshot of all five tickets…..I hope this is good enough. On the website it does say quite specifically to print them out….

When I purchased the spa tickets I also paid for a ridiculously expensive bus ride from the airport for all 5 of us, but then last night I couldn’t figure out if my bus tickets were just one way because there was no specific return time noted anywhere. Plus we have the problem with all our luggage, since we are returning our Landcruiser and trailer first thing this morning. Our flight back to the U.S. leaves today at 5 p.m. There are storage lockers for luggage at the Blue Lagoon, but it seems very tedious and cumbersome to haul all our stuff over there for no reason. Luckily the Atak car rental agency will keep all our bags for the day (for free) and they are located within walking distance of the airport. I don’t think Atak regularly stores luggage, mind you. I think the agent agreed to store them for me because they didn’t have the Land Rover available for our rental. 

Anyway, the whole plan for getting to the Blue Lagoon is all quite convoluted, so I say “screw it”, and I just book us a small rental car from SiXT for the day. I am going to lose the money that I already paid for the bus tickets, I know. Car rentals are expensive here. I pay $127 USD just to rent a Yaris for 5 hours, just to drive 20 km down the road…..but it’s well worth the decreased hassle factor… be darned! 

And so it is that we drop Jasmine and Tristan off at the airport, return the Landcruiser, pick up a little rattletrap from SiXT…

…and here we are…..bright and early… the famous Blue Lagoon!

It’s a little chilly this morning! Another beautiful August day in Iceland! There’s no funny smell here… need to plug your nose like we did at the Viti Crater! I wonder what they have done to the water to make it unsmelly…..
The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Right away you may notice the big cranes. There is a lot of construction and expansion going on at the Blue Lagoon. There is a hotel here, if you’re interested, but it is frightfully expensive to spend the night. The hotel guests have access to a private part of the lagoon. 

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon has many lockers and a huge changing room….and showers……I feel like I am waiting outside for quite a while for the boys before they emerge from the men’s locker room….aaaaaaah… they are…..finally! 

David looks like he is cold! That’s like the worst thing when you go swimming and you have to take a shower first, isn’t it? 

The water is hard to describe. Depending on how the light strikes the water it looks like a milky pale blue, or almost even green. It’s toasty warm, though, which is perfect! I allow the water to soothe away all my aches and pains – aaaahhh the healing powers of wastewater!

The Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The pool is big. It kind of goes on and on…..around the corner…..behind these rocks…..over this bridge or two….so even though it’s commercialized and there are a lot of people, it doesn’t feel that crowded! Just think! There’s 9 million liters of water in here!

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The waterfall feels great on my back. To the left you can see a steam sauna…..the steam from an underground hotspring seeps up through the floorboards to create a really awesome sauna experience. If I ever live in Iceland and have a hotspring in my yard…..I am going to make a hotspring steam sauna…..just like this one…..

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

I can’t get a photo inside the sauna because my camera lens fogs up immediately, but this is the door that leads into a cave-like sauna that has hot steam seeping into the room through cracks in the floorboards. 

There is a swim up bar on the other side of the pool. This bar has silica mud mask that you can lather on your face. It makes your face feel 50 years younger, and soon your skin feels as smooth as a baby’s butt, or so I have heard.   

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
I go and grab my big camera from the locker room to take some photos. Unfortunately I have to be out of the water freezing to death while I take pictures….. but I do get some cute shots of my hubba hubba husband, and kiddos!

The Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, IcelandThe Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
After a bit we head over to the swim up mud bar and start plastering the silica mud on our faces… really is as hilarious as it looks!

Silica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, IcelandSilica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

You leave it on for like 15 minutes. It starts to dry and harden a little. Silica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, IcelandSilica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

And then it erases away all your wrinkles and blemishes. 

Silica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, IcelandSilica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, IcelandSilica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The mud actually does make your skin feel tighter and all my wrinkles are now gone…..I hope it lasts forever! 

Oops! I read the sign after the fact. It says to leave the mud on for only 5-10 minutes. My face is so dry it is cracking. 

Silica mud mask at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

So that was all fun and cute and everything, but I can’t help but think about the Blue Lagoon website, which claims that the lagoon is one of the 25 wonders of the world. I do believe that claim, by the way. I “wonder” how on earth swimming in wastewater makes sense. 

If you click on the Blue Lagoon website you will find a page called “psoriasis”. Now, I will tell you that one of my less favorite things as a nurse is dealing with skin issues… skin flakes, and weeping wounds…….eeeek!  Every nurse seems to have one thing that gets to them…..and mine is skin……  for instance when you’re changing bed linens and the nurse across the bed helping you suddenly fluffs the blanket in your direction and you get a shower of skin flakes……..makes me gag!

Of course I feel terribly for anyone who suffers with chronic skin conditions, for it must be a horrible experience. I can’t even begin to imagine the struggles. 

The Blue Lagoon has a photo on their website of a woman with psoriasis sores on her arm, and she is in the pool for psoriasis treatment……which kind of gives me the heebie jeebies. 

It reminds me of a story when we were in Sweden at a big indoor pool and spa. We had just arrived and David clambered into a hot tub with about 8 people in it. I was too far away to warn him not to get in, because I had seen an elderly woman get into the tub earlier. David sits next to the woman. A few minutes later the woman is helped out of the tub, and lo and behold…… her legs were completely covered with weeping scabby sores! It was so awful! 

…..I hope that they use a separate pool if they are treating infectious or contagious skin conditions! Oh well…..this pool is big enough that no skin flakes should get on me…… although I am probably sharing plenty of my own with the other bathers after the silica mud mask and the steam sauna! 
Blue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, Iceland

You can pay an arm and a leg to get a massage in the pool. It looks very enticing, but we are budget travelers, so this is one thing I can definitely cut out. Maybe I can get my husband to massage my shoulders for a minute instead. 

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

I risk my iPhone to take some photos in the water. It’s harder than I expect to get cute shots without wetting the phone….oh well…..

Blue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, Iceland

Oh well. It’s time to go. In all we spent about 3 hours here. That seems like enough for me. David is waiting for me in the restaurant area when I am done with my extreme beauty routine and admiring my new wrinkle-free skin in the mirror. 

We step outside to take one more peek at the pools. 

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
And some parting shots…..bragging rights, you know…..”been there, done that”…..bucket list gets a HUGE  check mark!!
Blue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, Iceland

Awwwww…..what a cute couple……lol! Have you been to the Blue Lagoon……You’d better believe it…..I even have proof!

Blue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, Iceland

When we exit the main building we take a little detour around the building along a walkway. There is a huge pool out here that is not yet commercialized! I wonder if they have plans to incorporate this into the lagoon someday? Could a person go swimming here for free?

Off in the distance you can see the Svartsengi power plant. Power plant? What is this place? A waste dump for the power plant? Scary!

So, I have to tell you the truth! This beautiful Blue Lagoon is not a natural hotsprings pool after all! It’s all man-made, fed by (waste) water output from the Svartsengi geothermal power plant. The power plant uses superheated water (mixture of fresh water and seawater) that is vented from far beneath the ground near a lava flow. The steam from superheated water turns turbines that generate electricity. Once the water passes through the turbines, the steam and hot water makes its way through a heat exchanger, and that in turn provides hot water for municipal use. The remaining hot water is then pumped into the lagoon for recreational use by you and me…..

The water contains high levels of minerals, primarily silicate which causes the milky blueness to the water. In the summer there is a higher algae content in the water, which causes the greenish hue. Because the water is so high in minerals it can’t be recycled, so it gets disposed of in the nearby landscape, which is a permeable lava field….which I guess is what these big pools are that are outside the main lagoon area. I guess after a while these dumping pools become impermeable from the silica, so they have to dig up new dumping ponds in the lava field. The water in the lagoon gets renewed every two days, so no worries about skin flake accumulations, I guess! 

Svartsengi Geothermal Plant at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

I stole this photo off the internet. It is a great shot that shows the area surrounding the Blue Lagoon. The ocean is not far away to the south. There are a few mountains scattered here and there. There are immense lava fields. And, most importantly, there are all the incredible forces of nature that collude here to create the perfect place to have this fantastic geothermal spa…..volcanic lava flows, superheated freshwater and seawater pumped out of the ground to create an eco-concious sustainable source of electricity as well as hot water for nearby inhabitants, silica deposits that rush out of the ground with the superheated water…… lava rocks that serve as a porous permeable field to filter the water as it seeps back into the earth. Yes, the Blue Lagoon is man-made, but it’s only possible here….in this fantastic place…..where all these great forces of nature join in one masterful symphony. 

So yes, we did swim in industrial wastewater, I guess one can say. However, it’s as clean as any water can be expected to be. It’s warm and delightful and beautiful and amazing. 

That’s it folks……time to head out of here! The pathway back to the parking lot goes through this interesting volcanic rock. 

Blue Lagoon, IcelandBlue Lagoon, Iceland

And we drive away……goodbye Blue Lagoon. It is pretty neat. Would I go again? Yes. I would love to go in the winter! Was it expensive? You’d better believe it. I think I paid like $60 USD per adult ticket, which doesn’t even give you a towel…..oh, but you can put mud on your face and you can take a shower coming and going. 

Yep…..the landscape in Iceland is surreal….and beautiful…..and interesting…..

Svartsengi Geothermal Plant at Blue Lagoon, Iceland

On our way to the airport we stop at a Bonus grocery store to pick up some lunch and snacks for the flight home. Dumb me…..I buy some delicious Icelandic geyser bread, and cheese and cold cuts, and a couple tubs of delicious Skyr……and I put them into my little cooler……I am going to take the cooler on board the Icelandair flight on our way back to Arizona. Icelandair is kind of funny, because they allow you to check two free bags, but they don’t give you any food. That’s why I am packing a lunch, in case you are wondering. 

Since the car is too small for 5 people and all our luggage, we drop the kids off at the airport while David and I go back to pick up all our luggage from the Atak car rental office. Then I drop off David and the luggage, including my nice little rainbow colored lunch cooler bag that contains my delicious lunch items.

I return the dinky car. I walk back to the airport…..there is a shuttle but I can walk it faster. After applying for a sales tax refund we enter the long security line. 

We are almost at the front of the security line when I realize that I have these huge tubs of Skyr in my little cooler bag. I don’t know if you have ever eaten Skyr, but I will tell you it is a super delicious and nutritious protein rich dairy product. David tells me that I have to throw the Skyr in the garbage, because we can’t get through security with it. I refuse. Nope…..dude…..I am not wasting these good healthy calories and nutrition……

So we duck under the ropes and exit the security area. So far so good… security people come after us. We duck behind the wall and pull out some spoons….. and dig in! 

Once we pass security we sit awhile, and while we sit awhile I head over to a restaurant and ask them to fill my ziplock bag with ice, which they do willingly enough……and now my lunchmeat will stay cool for the entire trip home! I think I shouldn’t share this travel tip with others, because if everyone goes to airport restaurants to ask for ice then pretty soon they will start refusing to give any!

Keflavik International Airport, Iceland
We pass through one more passport check station. And that’s when we find out that there are no water fountains to be seen! What a joke! That is one huge problem with the Keflavik International Airport. No water fountains!? Even the bathrooms don’t have cold water at the faucets…’s all geothermally heated water that is not drinkable.  We are all thirsty, and don’t want to spend a fortune on water bottles! Finally we find a pizza shop that fills up our bottles. 

And the other problem with Iceland’s international airport? This place is literally wall to wall with people! Clearly this airport is way undersized to deal with all the travelers here! The entire gate area of the airport is so full of people that it is standing room only. You literally have to push your way through crowds to get through to your gate! It is horribly inefficient and extremely dangerous! If there ever was an emergency in here I have no idea how you could get away. You can’t exit through the doors to the tarmac because of course they are locked to prevent people from doing just that. And there’s NO WAY that these thousands of people could ever get out of here the way we just entered this chaotic zoo if there was an unforeseen disaster unfolding. You would be a sitting duck here in the case of an emergency!!

“David, this place would be crazy in an emergency! What if there was a terr….” I say.

“Shhhhhhushhhh,” says David emphatically. 

My skin crawls just with the thought. I can’t get on the plane soon enough. I breathe a sigh of relief when we finally board a bus and it takes us way……way……way….down the way over the lava fields to our plane that is sitting on the tarmac. I know why we have to take such a long bus ride to the plane…’s because there are not nearly enough gates to accomodate all the planes that fly in and out of here. 

And we are homeward bound. Everyone is dialed in for a long journey overseas. Goodbye Iceland!

When we land in Boston we are very close to missing our connection to Arizona. We have to go through U.S. customs, which inevitably is a cumbersome and inefficient prospect…..and of course I have forgotten about the meat in my cooler……and as you may know you are not allowed to bring meat into the U.S. from overseas. You can get huge fines for bringing meat into the U.S. from abroad! When they ask me if I have any meat or fruit I answer no…..and then later realize that indeed I have a whole package in my stupid lunch cooler. Maybe the agent didn’t dare to ask me what I have in my rainbow bag…..

As we buzz high above the U.S. on our JetBlue flight I open up my lunch cooler…..out comes some delicious Icelandic smoked lamb cuts…..and salami…..and fresh cheese….and sweet rye bread cooked in a steamy Icelandic geysir…… such contraband…… and I make some sandwiches and pass them out to my little ones….. and we savor the moment, the delicious Icelandic delicacies one last time! The strong scent of smoked lamb wafts about the cabin of the airplane. I wonder if anyone recognizes the smell? I know I will if I am ever lucky enough to smell it again…..mmmmmm……

It is with great regret that we return back to our humdrum work and school, work and school, work and school……..I have only one day to get the kids ready for going back to school after their long summer of travels. I hope the jet lag doesn’t cause them too much trouble.

Maybe someday we can just travel around and around……someday soon……please!

And they are off to school….Kristoff to high school, and the twins to middle school, their weeklong camping trip to Iceland already fading in their memories…… and that’s why I write these stories….. to keep the memories alive….. and perhaps to inspire others to allow their wanderlust to take them to places far away….. whether for real or just vicariously….