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A dip in one of Iceland’s famous geothermal pools provides a delicious contrast to the country’s chilly climes. The two most popular geothermal spas, Blue Lagoon and Sky Lagoon, invite swimmers to soak up Icelandic bathing culture in mineral-rich waters. Which is best? Read on to find out which geothermal pool reigns supreme in this detailed analysis of Sky Lagoon vs. Blue Lagoon. I compare the two unique experiences according to water and ambiance, locker rooms, spa offerings, swim-up bars, dining options, locations, and pricing. (And, yes, I do pick a winner!)
Thank you to Pursuit Collection for hosting my visit to Iceland. All opinions are mine, as always.
Hot Springs vs. Geothermal Pools
The Land of Fire and Ice earns its nickname. One of the most volcanically active places on the planet, Iceland’s magma lies close to the Earth’s crust. This creates naturally heated waters just below the ground perfect for hot springs and geothermal pools.
Humans can take a dip in Iceland’s natural hot springs, which are basically hot tubs created by mother nature. But be careful because geothermal waters can reach temperatures way beyond boiling.
You can also experience warm Icelandic waters in manmade pools created for swimming and bathing. Volcanic activity heats the water, which is then cooled to a toasty but safe temperature. Let’s jump into the two most renowned geothermal pools in Iceland, Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon.
Water and Ambiance
Opened in the spring of 2021, Sky Lagoon is one of Iceland’s newest and hottest attractions (literally!). The bathing facilities at the Blue Lagoon opened to the public in 1987 and are heated by run-off waters from a nearby geothermal power plant. The water is typically kept at 98.6 to 104°F (37 to 40°C), with slight variations caused by outdoor temps.
The mineral-rich water at both Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon is purportedly good for your skin. But keep in mind that you mustn’t get your head wet at the Blue Lagoon because the silicon-rich waters will dry out your hair and give it a strawlike consistency. I wore a knit cap not only to keep warm but also to protect my hair and remind me not to put my head underwater.
Sky Lagoon’s Upscale Spa Atmosphere
The vibe at the new Sky Lagoon is that of an upscale spa. It offers a luxurious place to experience Iceland’s beauty, both visually and physically.
This outdoor pool was designed to feel at one with nature, boasting an infinity edge that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The man-made lagoon was built into volcanic rock formations with waterfalls and tunnels for exploring.
Guests must be aged 12+ at Sky Lagoon, contributing to a mature and elegant atmosphere. The 50,000-square-foot pool is significantly smaller than Blue Lagoon, but plans are in the works to expand the facility in 2024 to meet demand.
A pair of flip-flops is loaned to all guests and is required to be worn at Sky Lagoon. Swim towels and cubbies to store them are also provided.
Blue Lagoon’s Playful Aquamarine Pools
The Blue Lagoon’s pools feature the milky blue color you know and love from Instagram photos and bucket lists in glossy travel magazines. This iconic swimming spot is much bigger than Sky Lagoon. Containing nearly 2.4 million gallons (9 million liters) of warm blue water, there is plenty of space to float and explore.
National Geographic named Blue Lagoon among the wonders of the world in 2012 for its geothermal water, which is comprised of 70% ocean water and 30% freshwater, enriched with silica, algae, and minerals.
Despite this esteemed designation, Blue Lagoon felt more like a pretty public pool than a luxury spa to me. Expect a casual, playful atmosphere with footbridges, a waterfall, and lots of chatting among guests. Visitors age 2+ are welcome to swim at the Blue Lagoon, making it a fun pick for young families and multigenerational groups.
A Blue Lagoon attendant hands out towels as guests step back indoors. This can lead to chilly walks in the fresh air but this practice presumably keeps the pool area tidy and cuts down on wasted laundry water.
Locker Rooms and Showers
Wristbands are used to secure and unlock lockers to store personal belongings at both Sky Lagoon and Blue Lagoon. These bands may also be used to make additional purchases at the facilities, like food and drinks.
Since the geothermal pools are not chlorinated, bathing in gender-separated locker rooms beforehand is mandatory at Sky Lagoon as well as Blue Lagoon. And, yes, you are expected to bathe completely naked and wash your private parts. Chlorine is used to thoroughly clean the pools at Sky Lagoon each night whereas Blue Lagoon relies on its water’s high mineral count, which prevents bacteria from growing.
Tiered Changing Rooms at Sky Lagoon
There are two tiers of locker rooms at Sky Lagoon. The Pure Pass includes shower cubicles and private showers. Meanwhile, the Sky Pass, which I experienced, provides both private changing rooms and private rain showers. The shower stalls are large and include shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner for guest use.
Dressing tables with mirrors and hair dryers may be used for primping after soaking at Sky Lagoon. There are no brushes or deodorant, though, so bring your own.
Blue Lagoon’s Changing Rooms
When I visited Blue Lagoon, there was an attendant barking at guests to get in the shower stalls. It felt…dare I say…disconcerting.
The shower stalls are cramped but private, with bathers entering, scrubbing, and exiting as if on an assembly line. Complimentary shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner are provided.
There are both private and communal changing rooms at Blue Lagoon. The cramped shared sink area at Blue Lagoon offers hair dryers. I actually saw one tween girl drying her hair with an electric handheld dryer while standing in a puddle of water. Yikes!
Sky Lagoon’s Seven-Step Ritual
The rejuvenating 7-Step Ritual at Sky Lagoon embraces the tradition of Icelandic bathing. Also referred to as Nordic bathing, Scandinavian bathing, or contrast bath therapy, this process of alternating cold and hot water exposure has proven health benefits. These include reduced inflammation, decreased stress, boosted immunity, and improved circulation.
Start by entering the warm geothermal lagoon. Swim to the infinity pool edge and enjoy the beauty of the north Atlantic Ocean expanding in the near distance. Float around a bit and take your turn bathing under the manmade waterfall.
2. Cold Plunge
Next, take a dip in the cold plunge pool. It’s kept at a bracing 50° F (10° C). Experts advise spending three to 15 minutes in a cold water plunge for maximum immune system boost and other health benefits.
Beginners, however, will need to build up to this length of time. (A quick dunk was all I could handle.) Plus, with currently just one cold pool at Sky Lagoon, it’s important to be mindful of others waiting for their turn in the cold bath.
Then it’s time to heat up in the oceanfront dry sauna. I don’t know how Sky Lagoon keeps the giant picture window crystal clear, but the view is phenomenal.
Five to 10 minutes in the sauna is the maximum time recommended for health benefits, especially for those new to heat therapy. Sky Lagoon’s sauna is kept at 176° to 194° F (80° to 90° C).
4. Cold Mist
You will walk through a cold fog mist as you depart the sauna. Pause here for a moment to cool down your body temperature before moving on to the next step.
5. Body Scrub
After that, grab a dish of the Sky Body Scrub. Rub it into your skin using a circular motion. Afterward, you’ll feel silky smooth and reinvigorated. Leave the mineral scrub on until the final step.
6. Steam Room
Time to heat things up again in the steam bath. Kept at a lower temperature than the sauna, things do get very steamy nonetheless at about 115° F (46° C). Steam bathing not only relaxes sore muscles and can help with heart health, but also it clears nasal and chest congestion from allergies and opens your pores for better skincare.
Finally, end the Sky Lagoon Seven-Step Treatment with a rinse in a shower perfect for Goldy Locks — not too hot and not too cold. These are public group showers shared with men, women, and children so swimsuits stay in place, of course.
Once you’ve completed the 7-Step circuit, get back in the lagoon for more relaxation.
Blue Lagoon’s Spa Offerings
Although Blue Lagoon felt more like a public pool than a secluded spa experience, it does present some noteworthy spa offerings.
Swim up to the Mask Bar at Blue Lagoon to select your cleanser of choice, available at no extra charge. The anti-aging algae mask is formulated to nourish, moisturize, and give skin a healthy glow. Meanwhile, the silica mud mask gives a deeper clean to clear skin of impurities. You can also buy Blue Lagoon facial care products at the onsite store or online.
Steam Room and Sauna
Look for a steam room and sauna in the many inlets at Blue Lagoon. And let me know if you find them! They are not marked on Blue Lagoon’s map and I wasn’t successful but I didn’t look very hard, either.
In reading other Blue Lagoon reviews, however, the consensus seems to be that the steam room and sauna are very small for a facility this size. Only eight people are allowed in either space at one time. Plus, with a constant influx and outflow of bathers, cold air enters the steam room and sauna, disallowing a truly heated experience.
Paid Spa Treatments
Up your Blue Lagoon game with a spa treatment for an additional fee. Book a relaxing, in-water massage for 30, 60, or 90 minutes. Guided solo, couples, and group weightless float therapy sessions are available, too. If you’d prefer a land-based option, then make reservations at the Blue Lagoon’s Retreat Spa for a traditional skin treatment or massage session.
Swim-Up Bar at Sky Lagoon vs. Blue Lagoon
Both of these famous geothermal lagoons serve a complimentary drink from a swim-up bar with the purchase of regular admission.
Lagoon Bar at Sky Lagoon
Sky Lagoon’s swim-up bar is aptly named Lagoon Bar. Those seeking alcoholic libations can select from beers, cider, white and rosé wines, sparkling wines, and cocktails. As a wine drinker, I appreciated that Sky Lagoon serves its bubbly in plastic flutes and its wine in stemmed plastic glasses.
Teetotalers choose from sodas, juices, a non-alcoholic beer, and a caffeinated Icelandic beverage called Collab, which contains collagen.
In-Water Bar at Blue Lagoon
Toast your good fortune at Blue Lagoon’s In-Water Bar with a glass of beer, cider, red or white wine, or sparkling wine (including a strawberry-flavored fizzer).
Blue Lagoon offers fewer drink options containing alcohol than Sky Lagoon but makes up for it with an array of zero-proof drinks. Expect several fruit smoothies, like the Green Is Good made with banana, mango, spinach, ginger, and orange juice. You can also order a raspberry or cherry slushy, Gatorade, or soda pop.
Dining Options at Sky Lagoon
Sky Lagoon focuses on serving fresh, simple but hearty Icelandic cuisine at a pair of eateries. The sit-down Smakk Bar restaurant is located in the same area as the counter service Sky Café, with a roaring fire in the center of the two. If you are a less adventurous eater, then Sky Café probably makes the best choice.
Fresh-baked bread, bagels, and pastries are delivered to Sky Café daily from Sandholt, one of Iceland’s oldest bakeries. A variety of coffee drinks here will perk up any diner. Order simple foods like daily soup, toasted sandwiches, and granola, too.
Order Icelandic charcuterie-style platters from Smakk Bar, meant for sharing. The Sky Platter presents a bit of everything: local blue cheese, Icelandic gruyere, wild goose pâté with red onion jam, and cured reindeer meat. Also on the platter, Gravlax is a sweet and salty cured salmon, beloved by Icelanders. I preferred the Happy Marriage Cake, made with rhubarb, blueberries, or other seasonal fruit.
Restaurants at Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon has casual as well as fine-dining venues with fantastic views of the steamy pools. There are not one, not two, but four different places to eat at Blue Lagoon Iceland.
Grab a quick bite to eat at the Blue Café. Think simple sandwiches, soups, and snacks. This is the most affordable and casual eatery at Blue Lagoon.
Specifically for guests of the Retreat Spa, diners may eat in spa robes or fully clothed at the Spa Restaurant. Advanced reservations are not necessary. Expect simple but elegant items on the menu like burrata with gazpacho, chicken Caesar salad, sushi, and three types of caviar.
Reservations are recommended at Lava Restaurant, especially if you want a table next to the floor-to-ceiling windows with enviable views of the Blue Lagoon’s azure water. Give it a shot even if you didn’t plan in advance. I was surprised to be seated right away in the bar area for an early dinner when I inquired if any tables were available.
Menu items vary from their signature Icelandic Cod to Lamb Filet served with rutabaga, carrot, and mushroom sauce. Vegan dishes are available, too. Kids aged 12 and younger may order from a children’s menu. To enjoy the beautiful views without breaking the bank, I recommend ordering the Langoustine Soup from the Starters Menu for spoonfuls of velvety decadence served with hearty brown bread and butter.
For a memorable splurge, make reservations at Moss Restaurant at the Blue Lagoon. It’s one of the few restaurants in the country that has been awarded a Michelin star for its quality menu and consistently high standards. It’s open for dinner only, Wednesday through Sunday.
Michelin Guide says, “The tasting menu (also available in vegan form) showcases the best of Iceland’s produce in a series of exacting and visually stunning dishes. The moss-covered rocks and lava fields visible outside add to the character and atmosphere, whilst a chef’s table is available if you want to watch the team in action.”
Geothermal Lagoon Locations
Although there is no Uber or Lyft in Iceland, you can take a rental car or taxi to Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon. Your hotel can help arrange transportation, or you can download the Hreyfill app to call a taxi using your smartphone.
Sky Lagoon is less than 15 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, making it convenient for a day trip when staying in Iceland’s capital city. Sky Lagoon offers prearranged shuttle service for an additional charge. You can also book Sky Lagoon admission with transfer from your Reykjavik hotel with GetYourGuide.
Blue Lagoon is in Grindavík, close to the Keflavík International Airport. About 45 minutes from Reykjavik, this location makes Blue Lagoon a good choice for a long layover in Iceland or a stop before your flight home. There’s even an area to store luggage at Blue Lagoon for an additional fee. Reserve private roundtrip transfers for up to four people to and from the airport and/or your hotel in Reykjavik with GetYourGuide.
Sky Lagoon Pricing
Sky Lagoon presents three primary pricing packages ranging from about $64 to $110 USD, all of which include a free drink of choice. The luxury package is Sky, which includes the Seven-Step Ritual and private changing facilities. Pure is the most popular option, which also includes the ritual along with a slightly less premium locker room. Most affordable is the Pure Lite Pass, which skips the signature ritual and might work best if you don’t have much time to spend in Sky Lagoon’s water.
Blue Lagoon Pricing
Blue Lagoon also offers three different packages, but they range from a reasonable $67 to a whopping $589 USD. The Comfort Package includes entrance, a mud mask, towel use, and one complimentary drink. Upgrade to Premium for $86 USD total to get two more mud face masks, the use of a bathrobe, and a glass of sparkling wine at Lava Restaurant.
If you’re a real baller, go for broke at Blue Lagoon with the Luxury: Retreat Spa package. The 5-hour experience includes access to the Blue Lagoon, the private Retreat Lagoon, the Retreat Spa, the Retreat Restaurant, and eight subterranean spaces. With this premium package, you’ll also receive a drink of your choice, Blue Lagoon skincare amenities, and use of a private changing room.
Hotels at Blue Lagoon
For an even more immersive experience, you can spend the night at one of two Blue Lagoon hotels. Silica Hotel is a 10-minute walk from Blue Lagoon and has its own private lagoon for overnight guests.
The 60-suite Retreat Hotel is the most luxurious option with access to the private Retreat Lagoon and Retreat Spa. Also, enjoy included gourmet breakfast, Icelandic coffee time in the hotel lobby, morning yoga, and a selection of Blue Lagoon skincare. Guests must be age 12+.
Which is better, Sky Lagoon or Blue Lagoon?
If you can choose only one geothermal pool in Iceland, I recommend Sky Lagoon for its elegant atmosphere, beautiful natural surroundings, 7-Step Ritual, gentler water, and convenient location near Reykjavik.
Book a Sky Lagoon package directly or enjoy this luxury geothermal bath experience with other Icelandic wonders like a Golden Circle tour or volcano hike with our trusted provider, GetYourGuide.
For those who have more time to soak up Iceland’s bathing culture, however, I suggest booking both. The milky blue warm water, lava field setting, and delicious dining options are something to behold at Blue Lagoon.
Buy your entrance ticket from Blue Lagoon or pair this playful geothermal pool with a Northern Lights tour or other exciting sights in Iceland via GetYourGuide.
More Spas and Pools
If Iceland’s geothermal lagoons float your boat, then you’ll love this collection of the best Nordic spas in Canada.
Cold plunge pools, saunas, and dreamy treatments abound in this ranked list of the best spas in Scottsdale, Arizona.
For the ultimate in relaxation and self-discovery, read my Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa review. (Oprah’s favorite wellness resort!)
No matter the time of year or weather outside, your family will love these incredible hotels with indoor pools around the world.
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A Note from The Travel Mama: My Sky Lagoon experience was hosted by Pursuit Collection but I paid to visit Blue Lagoon myself. I did not receive any monetary compensation related to this analysis of Sky Lagoon vs. Blue Lagoon. Regardless of who’s paying, I always share the truth with readers.
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