Mention to anyone that you are headed to Iceland, and the first place they’ll ask about is the Blue Lagoon. They’ve been there, or they want to go there. It’s on their bucket list, or they want to know if it’s on yours. It makes sense. The Blue Lagoon has been around for decades, and it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland.
But there’s a new lagoon in town – the Sky Lagoon, which opened in 2021 and is still a bit “under the radar” for many people. We have started to get questions about this one from our clients (which one is better, is it worth visiting both, etc) so I decided to experience both lagoons, back-to-back, on consecutive days, on my recent trip to Iceland. It’s all in the name of research, right?
I’ve been to the Blue Lagoon several times before, so I was a little bit concerned that it would be unfairly disadvantaged in comparison to someplace fresh and new. But I had my daughter with me on this trip, and she’s a first-timer to Iceland, so I made sure to get her feedback too!
The Blue Lagoon is located near Keflavik airport, and most people visit it on their arrival or departure days, since it’s a little bit far from Reykjavik (about a 45-minute drive). It’s surrounded by dramatic volcanic landscapes, and the drive there really sets the scene. The lagoon was created by run-off from a geothermal power plant, and you can see the steam from that plant rising from the lava fields as you approach. There’s an (expensive) hotel onsite, so you can spend a night there if you like. We spent a bit less and stayed at the Northern Light Inn next door so that we could experience the lagoon first thing in the morning (more on that later).
The Sky Lagoon is located in an industrial/waterfront area on the outskirts of Reykjavik. It’s just ten minutes from the center of downtown, but the drive is not at all scenic. We felt like we were driving to a deserted wharf until we pulled into the parking lot and saw the pretty façade.
If you’re staying in Reykjavik and want to soak in a lagoon without taking an entire day to do it, the Sky Lagoon wins for convenience. But if you’re doing a quick stopover and don’t want to come all the way into Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon wins for convenience to the airport. We’ll call this a tie.
The Blue Lagoon is bigger, and attracts a lot more people, but there’s always enough space to spread out. The milky blue water feels otherworldly, and it’s set off nicely by the dramatic black lava rocks that surround it. But around the perimeter of the lagoon you can see trash cans, empty glasses that people didn’t return to the receptacles, and lifeguards/security guards on patrol. Those all give it a little bit of a public swimming pool vibe. As do the excited children in swim goggles and flotation devices. The minimum age for the Blue Lagoon is just two years old, so there will be families with kids.
In contrast, the Sky Lagoon, with its 12+ age limit, feels much more adult-oriented. We did not see anyone even close to that age, and the crowd was mostly couples. This lagoon has an infinity edge overlooking the sea, and the water is clear, like the ocean beyond. It’s nicely landscaped with lava rocks and waterfalls, and we appreciated the benches that are built into the lagoon among the rocks. The swim up bar is tucked into a little grotto, and the only other thing you see around the perimeter of the lagoon is a small moss-covered cottage, which is where the spa rituals take place. Behind that cottage façade is a modern and beautiful spa facility.
Conclusion: Sky Lagoon
No kids, spa vibe, and ocean views means that the Sky Lagoon wins this one.
Blue Lagoon prices start at $67 per person for their comfort package, and $86 per person for the upgraded premium package, which is the one we did. The prices vary by day/time (based on demand), and there is also a much more expensive “Retreat Spa” package you can purchase (more like $600 pp). Our premium package included entrance to the lagoon, a towel, a bathrobe, three facial masks, and a drink at the swim up bar. The masks are DIY – they plop some mud or algae in your hand and tell you how long to leave it on before you wash it off in the lagoon and come back for the next one, and there is a big mirror along the side of the pool (and a fresh water spigot) to help with that. No one wants to lounge around with some misplaced or forgotten mud on their face!
Sky Lagoon prices start at about $50 per person for their basic “Pure Lite” package, and $73 per person for the “Pure” package that we did. They also offer a more expensive ($96 per person) package that includes a private changing room. Like the Blue Lagoon, the prices vary by day/time, based on demand. Our Pure package included admission to the lagoon, a towel, and their seven-step spa ritual. This takes place in the little cottage adjacent to the lagoon. It includes a cold plunge pool, a sauna, an energizing mist, a (self-applied) body scrub, a steam room, and a refreshing shower. The spa ritual is done at your leisure, and we soaked in the lagoon, then did the spa, and then soaked in the lagoon again afterward with a mimosa from the swim-up bar.
Conclusion: Sky Lagoon
Dollar for dollar, the Sky Lagoon is a better value. The prices are lower, and you get a lot more when you compare their Pure package to the Blue Lagoon Premium package.
Overall takeaway, and our tips/advice
It’s probably clear by now that we preferred the Sky Lagoon, but the Blue Lagoon is iconic, and if you want to experience the milky, mineral-rich waters, you should absolutely do that. Or do both, like we did. But if you do both I would suggest you do the Blue Lagoon first for the visual “wow”. And the Sky Lagoon second, for the relaxing “aaaaah”.
Here are some other tips:
- For either lagoon, go first thing in the morning. Prices will be lower for the first entry times of the day, and crowds will be lighter. It makes a huge difference in the experience.
- Don’t get your hair wet at the Blue Lagoon. The minerals are really tough on hair, and it will feel dried out and rough for days.
- If you’re visiting during the winter months, when it can be cold and snowy outside, remember that the Blue Lagoon has an indoor entrance to the water. It’s to your left as you exit the building. You can walk right into the water inside, and then swim out into the cold. (much better than the dash through the outdoors in your bathing suit)
- Shower (naked) before you enter either lagoon. In Iceland, this is mandatory, and they take it seriously. There are showers in the locker rooms, and you are expected to use them before and after you swim.
- Watch out for the underwater benches at the Sky Lagoon. They’re not visible from above the water. I banged my shins on one before I figured out to check between the lava rocks for benches.
I hope this helps you plan an amazing trip to Iceland. And if you want an expert to put it all together for you, just let us know!