Iceland. It all started with a “cheap” flight to Europe requiring we stay in Iceland overnight – an extended layover. I had no plans of going to Iceland. I mean, one day, I did. But not at the time. I was in my “I need to experience Western Europe first.” I have no idea why. When I look back, I find these self-imposed ludicrous priorities laughable. I should know better! I am, by no means, a new traveler; I didn’t get “recently bit by the traveling bug.” (Plus, I hate bugs). Traveling the world has been a part of my life since I was born – literally… Thanks, Mom & Dad 😉
Anyway, let’s go back to Iceland. Oh, yes and “cheap” tickets! Flying from the US to Europe is never cheap or easy. But with a bit of research, you can still pay $700-800 (maybe less) to major European cities without suffering long layovers — which are not long enough to even leave the airport — but long enough to make you crazy… or enduring 2+ stops. Of course, the price of the airfare will depend on when you travel, where you travel, how far out you’re booking tickets, etc. Recently, though, I scored a cool Icelandair deal to Europe (flying in to Stockholm and out of Paris) for just under $780 – and I got to spend 17 hours in Iceland.
The international airport is in Keflavik, in the southwest region of Iceland. Keflavik is a small town conveniently situated just about 15 minutes from the airport. My partner-in-crime (hubby) and I arrived to Keflavik Int’l Airport from Paris (after a short 2.5-hr flight), landed in Iceland at midnight, checked into our Bed & Breakfast, crashed, and got up by 7:30 am to a delicious home-made and hearty breakfast by our B&B’s hosts at Hotel Berg (which was an awesome choice, by the way).
Our plane didn’t leave till 5 pm, so we figured we had until at least 3 pm to check out some sights, get a good local meal, and quickly make our way to the airport to catch our big smoker back home. The B&B owner set us up with a rental car (it was all so easy – the rental car company dropped it off at the B&B for us), and we set off to drive around and explore a bit.
One of the places I had researched before our trip was the Blue Lagoon. When I was a kid, all I knew about the Blue Lagoon was that it was a movie starring a young Brooke Shields – and I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Of course, years later, I learned about the Icelandic Blue Lagoon – and based on the photos I had seen, I thought it would be an amazing site to visit.
There are many opinions about this place. Some people say it’s a “not to be missed” experience, while others will tell you it’s a touristy spot and “not worth it.” I would agree that many tourists from all over the world go there. But that shouldn’t deter you from visiting the lagoon. If you’re on a long layover, like I was, the visit to the Blue Lagoon is painless – and definitely worth it, in my opinion. If your layover requires you to stay the night and you want to check out the lagoon, then try to stay close to the airport, in Keflavik. (If you want to stay in Reykjavik instead of Kevflavik, keep in mind that downtown Reykjavik is a 45-minute drive to the airport and about the same to the Blue Lagoon).
If you’re on a shorter layover, then you can leave to the lagoon straight from the airport. There are bus and tour companies specifically dedicated to taking you to/from the lagoon to Keflavik Int’l Airport (20 minutes’ drive). They are geared for the short-term visitor – and they know you don’t have a lot of time, so they are punctual, professional, and effective. Buses run regularly, but check timetables. (Reykjavik Excursions; Iceland Excursions; Bus Travel). If you think you’ll be short of time, I’d suggest hiring a taxi.
Many travelers have written tips about getting into the lagoon – you should check those out by doing an on-line search before getting there – but I think you don’t have to sink into the hot pool to experience this area. If you do not wish to soak in the mineral-rich waters, but you just want to see it and take pictures, you can still visit the spa by paying an entrance fee. For access to the viewing platform, parking and other services offered at the Blue Lagoon, you’ll pay 10 euros. A guided tour takes place 3 times per day and it’s 15 euros, a tasting menu and a drink are included. Reservations are suggested for the tour. (Prices are current as of November, 2014).
Also, if you prefer not to get wet, you can check out the lava fields surrounding the lagoon, which are awesome to photograph. The areas around the lagoon are the result of a volcanic eruption that created the other-worldly landscape nearly 800 years ago.
Cushion-like moss that looks fluorescent at times covers the ground. If you like photography, I think you can get some awesome shots of surreal landscapes in this part of Iceland.
But if you do wish to take advantage of the therapeutic waters and partake in the Icelandic experience, the very basic entrance fee is 35 Euros. There are packages available that start at 62 Euros, which include accessories like a fresh towel, bath robe, and slippers. You also get to try the Blue Lagoon’s special algae mask, which you apply while you’re in the water, plus a drink of your choice that you can drink while you’re soaking in the lagoon.
I should point out this is not a natural hot spring. The Blue Lagoon is man-made, created by run-off from the Svartsengi power plant, which pumps up the geothermally-heated water from a full mile below the surface. After being used to generate both heat and electricity, the excess water, which is perfectly clean, is pumped into the lagoon. The minerals are said to provide benefits to your skin and soaking in the waters is a great form of relaxation – the temperature averages about 104°F (40°C).
There are several spa treatments to choose from, and you can have a gourmet meal at LAVA Restaurant or grab a ready-to-go bite at Blue Café. If you are staying overnight or longer in Iceland, you can also book a room at the hotel. Make reservations with time, as space is limited.
The Blue Lagoon’s website provides all the information you will need with planning your escapade. I didn’t have time (or desire) to get into the water, as you can see from my photos – but I’m very glad I spent the time checking out this site. The landscape was completely different from anything I’ve ever seen – and there was practically no one around while we drove about – which made the whole experience even more interesting.
I left Iceland wanting to see more. I’m writing a companion post, “Exploring Iceland During a Long Layover,” where I include the other things we saw/did during our free time there, so look out for that. Next time, I’d like to spend at least 5 days and venture out to the other magnificent natural wonders Iceland has to offer. It’s on the list 😉