I’ve said it many times on this blog before and I’ll say it again: You are not doing Iceland “wrong” if you don’t go to the Blue Lagoon. Love it or hate it, the Blue Lagoon is just one of many options offered by Iceland where you can soak your worries away and tend to those sore muscles. You know from sitting in a vehicle all day taking in Iceland’s spectacular natural wonders and all.
There are many reasons why people choose to forego the Blue Lagoon. Some find it too expensive while others find it too touristy. Others are just looking for something a bit different. Whatever the reason, often when people have decided that they don’t want to go there they come to us and ask what they should do instead.
So I’m happy to offer some alternatives in this post. I want to put forth a disclaimer though and say that none of the options on this list are exactly like the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is unique not only in Iceland but the world. However, for some people, these Blue Lagoon alternatives may be equally nice and relaxing.
If you’re determined to do the Blue Lagoon and the Blue Lagoon alone and you don’t know how you ended up here, allow me to direct you to this post I wrote about all you need to know about visiting the Blue Lagoon (and then some).
By the way, many people go to one of the places on this list and the Blue Lagoon. There are no rules, you can do whatever you want!
1) The Secret Lagoon
The Secret Lagoon is located in a small town called Flúðir and is about 1.5 hours away from Reykjavík. Due to its proximity to Gullfoss and Geysir (20-30 minutes drive), it’s a popular stop on day tours around the Golden Circle. Although the water for the pool comes from a nearby geothermal area, the pool itself is man-made. It’s the oldest pool in Iceland and was constructed in 1891.
The Secret Lagoon is much more rustic than the Blue Lagoon and has a charm about it that I appreciate. What’s unique about the Secret Lagoon is that it’s right next to the geothermal area where you’ll find boiling spouting hot springs or geysers and you can see them from the pool.
Despite its name, the Secret Lagoon has become very popular since it opened a few years ago and several tour operators now include it in their excursions around the Golden Circle. Like the ever-popular Hot Golden Circle tour and this small-group Golden Circle tour that includes both the Secret Lagoon and lunch at Friðheimar (mmm Friðheimar!). Because of that, it can be busy at times but if you visit early in the morning or later in the day, you avoid most of the tour buses.
It may be a good idea to make a reservation in advance during the day in June, July and August in particular.
Bonus tip: I have it on good authority that the Fish and Chips stand outside of the Secret Lagoon is both good and fair in prices even though I’ve not tried it myself.
2) Laugarvatn Fontana
Laugarvatn Fontana, like the Secret Lagoon, is located on the Golden Circle route in a small town called Laugarvatn. It’s about a 1.5-hour drive from Reykjavík and 30 minutes from Geysir. Like in Flúðir, there’s some geothermal activity in Laugarvatn and parts of Fontana are actually built on top of it.
The facilities at Fontana are a lot slicker than at the Secret Lagoon but it’s maybe not quite as charming. It has multiple little pools though that vary in temperature and you can go from the pools and cool off in the nearby lake like the locals have done for decades. The most unique thing about Fontana, in my view, is their steambath that is built on top of a geyser so when you sit inside of it you hear the geyser bubbling below you. It’s kind of cool.
Fontana also has a restaurant where they offer lunch and dinner buffets (never been, don’t know whether it’s good) and they offer an experience a few times a day that you can book separately where you go with them to collect rye bread they bake in the ground using the geothermal energy. You, of course, then get to taste the rye bread and some additional local treats.
Like the Secret Lagoon, Fontana is included in many tours around the Golden Circle, like the Golden Circle and Magical Nights – a minibus tour focusing on culinary experiences in the area. However, Hrannar and I sometimes go camping and to a cabin close by and we’ve been to Fontana really early in the morning and practically got it all to ourselves.
Krauma is the newest addition to this list of Blue Lagoon alternatives and one of my favorites on it. It’s located in Borgarfjörður, next to Europe’s most powerful hot spring Deildartunguhver but that’s where Krauma gets its hot water from. Driving from Reykjavík to Krauma takes about an hour and fourty-five minutes.
Like Fontana, Krauma has a few different pools that all have different temperatures including a cold pool which is all the rage in Iceland at the moment. They also have a couple of steam baths and a relaxation room which has a cozy fireplace.
Out of all of the pools mention on this list, Krauma is probably the one where I would go to relax with Hrannar. It has a spa-like quality to it and it feels like a place where you can lounge for a while. Like Fontana, they have a restaurant onsite with locally sourced ingredients. I had the burger when I ate there, which was quite good, and the a tad bit fancier options that the people around me were having all looked really good.
My only complaint about Krauma is that lockers in the womens changing room are strangely small. Granted, I was coming from a glacier so I had a lot of bulky clothing but if they haven’t changed it since I was there, I’d recommend you only bring what you need inside. Oddly, the lockers in the men changing rooms were bigger, according to my friend I went there with.
Finally, the Borgarfjörður area is not nearly as popular as the Golden Circle so by default you won’t have as many people there. There are not many scheduled tours that stop there (although I’m sure some privately organized tours do) but generally speaking, it’s best to go a little later in the day or early evening if you want to avoid the crowds.
4) The Public Pools
Although some might argue that the local pools are not of the same caliber as these other places and therefore should not be on this list, I respectfully disagree. The public pools are hands-down one of the most amazing things about living in Iceland and some of them are nicer than many spas that I’ve been around the world. They’re even nicer than some spas here in Iceland.
If we talk about amenities Laugardalslaug, for example, has three big pools (two of which are Olympic size), massage hot tub, four regular hot tubs, a wading pool, a sea water hot tub, a cold tub and a steam bath. Not to mention two slides and a beach volleyball court. All that for less than 1/10 of the price at the Blue Lagoon and that’s just one of them!
Just remember that our public pools are not tourist attractions so you will need to respect the rules and the locals and follow a certain pool etiquette when you visit.