The 10 Best Hot Springs in Iceland [2021]

Hot springs are a major tourist attraction in Iceland. Aside from offering absolutely breathtaking views, hot springs also have a multitude of health benefits including helping those who suffer from psoriasis, acne, and eczema, and it can soften dry and rough skin.

Hot springs are also known to boost blood circulation, reduce stress, promote better sleep, and relieve skin problems. There are a variety of different experiences you can have while visiting hot springs in Iceland.

On one end, there is the luxurious experience that is akin to visiting a spa, and on the other is a more rustic and adventurous experience. Below are some of the best hot springs you should add to your list if you are planning on visiting Iceland.

The Blue Lagoon

Location: Nordurljosavegur 9, Grindavik 240 Iceland


Price: There are a variety of different booking options for those looking to visit The Blue Lagoon. Below are a few of the common package options guests can choose from:

Comfort $45 USD: Entrance, silica mud mask, use of towel, 1st drink of your choice.

Premium $68 USD: Entrance, silica mud mask, use of towel, 1st drink of choice, second mask of choice, slippers, bathrobe, table reservation at Lava Restaurant, 1 glass of sparkling wine at the restaurant

Luxury $372 USD: Four hours at the Retreat Spa, private changing suite and unlimited access to the Retreat Lagoon (subterranean spaces) and the Blue Lagoon

Why Visit: The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions. As a result, be prepared to enjoy the lagoon with other visitors present and don’t expect to see a lot of locals during your trip.

While it is more touristy than some of the other options on this list, it is still definitely worth a visit. The milky blue water stands at around 102°F year round and at only 30 minutes from the capital, it is an excellent and easy first stop for your trip to Iceland.

In addition to offering visitors the hot spring experience, The Blue Lagoon also offers a full spa experience for those who are looking to indulge. With hotels, banquet halls and restaurants all on site, The Blue Lagoon is truly a full experience. After all, where else can you experience a full blown massage in the water? Whether you are looking for a basic experience, or a luxury experience, The Blue Lagoon offers it all to visitors.

Related: The Blue Lagoon in Iceland: 9 Tips for Having a Great Experience

Man enjoying The Blue Lagoon

Myvatn Nature Baths

Location: Jarðbaðshólar, 660 Mývatn, Iceland


Price: Entrance to the Myvatn Nature Baths are around $45 USD. However, if you want a towel ($7 USD), swimsuit ($7 USD) or bathrobe ($15 USD) they will be at an extra cost. Unlike The Blue Lagoon, Myvatn Nature Baths doesn’t have a variety of different packages to choose from and gives visitors a more intimate experience.

Why Visit: If you are not one that enjoys crowds, the Myvatn Nature Baths are a great way to enjoy the beautiful experience hot springs offer without having to deal with the crowds at other more popular destinations. While these hot springs are smaller than The Blue Lagoon, they do still have a restaurant on site for those seeking to enjoy a full experience.

Myvatn Nature Baths are absolutely beautiful and offer a scenic yet rustic surrounding for guests to enjoy. The water here is high in sulfur, which is excellent for those suffering from respiratory and skin problems.

Whether you are interested in seeing a hot spring cave, bubbling mud pits or simply enjoy the serenity of the hot spring, you will not regret your trip to Myvatn.

People relaxing at Myvatn Nature Baths
Photo by Pieter Morlion via Flickr

Secret Lagoon

Location: Hvammsvegur, Flúðir, Iceland


Price: Entrance to the Secret Lagoon is around $25 with swimsuit rental ($6) and towel rental ($6) paid for separately.

Why Visit: The Secret Lagoon is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Made in 1891, the Secret Lagoon features an active geyser which guests can witness every few minutes. With water that stays around 104°F year round, this is the perfect place to enjoy the benefits of hot springs.

The Secret Lagoon is simple and traditional which is perfect for those seeking true tranquility. In addition, the buildings in the area around the Secret Lagoon have been kept natural and historical for those interested in seeing traditional Iceland. Smaller hot springs surround the main pool which offers visitors multiple experiences in one.

Stone building at Secret Lagoon
Photo by Chris Goldberg via Flickr

GeoSea Sea Baths

Location: Vitaslóð 1, 640 Húsavík, Iceland


Price: Entrance at GeoSea Sea Baths is $35 USD for adults. However, if you bring your student ID, you will be offered the discounted admission of $22 USD. Towels cost $7 USD to rent, swimsuits are $6 USD and bathrobes are $12 USD.

Why Visit: The hot seawater of GeoSea Sea Baths is kept just above 100°F year round. The mineral rich seawater has been known to help visitors who suffer from psoriasis and other skin ailments.

GeoSea is perched along the western-facing cliffside which allows visitors to overlook the Skjálfandi Bay and the Arctic Circle. Whether you are interested in whale watching or viewing the northern lights, GeoSea is the perfect place to view all the beauty in Iceland.

The GeoSea Sea Baths have been featured in Vogue and Time Magazine. However, they still tend to be less crowded than The Blue Lagoon, offering visitors the best of both worlds. In addition, guests are able to enjoy some light snacks and drinks at the restaurant located on site. Geosea Sea Baths are the perfect place for an intimate and beautiful hot spring experience.


Location: Skogar, Vik and Myrdalsjokull, Iceland

Price: Free entrance and free parking.

Why Visit: For those travelers looking for a hot spring experience at no charge, Seljavallalaug is the place for you! There is an easy 20 minute hike required to reach the hot spring, but is worth the time and energy. Fortunately, there will likely be other people on the hike so the route is easy to follow.

One thing to be aware of is the temperature of the water. It is closer to 68 to 86°F, which is much cooler than other hot springs, and the pool is not kept as clean as other options on this list. However, for a free experience, you cannot expect the same level of care that is shown in paid experiences. Regardless, Seljavalla is worth a visit for the beautiful hike and rustic experience.

Reykjadalur Steam Valley

Location: Near Reykjakoti 2, 816 Olfus, Iceland

Price: Free. Extra cost if you are interested in doing a guided tour.

Why Visit: This is another hot spring that requires a bit of a hike. The hike is typically done leisurely in 45-60 minutes with plenty of time to stop and take photos. If you don’t feel like walking, there are a variety of guided horse tours that can take you to Reykjadalur Steam Valley instead.

Once you reach the steam valley, you will look over vast hills and grass with pots of steam coming out. There is even a hot spring that is similar in color to the Blue Lagoon. The stream of hot water is located in the middle of beautiful Icelandic mountains and is every nature lover’s dream.

Reykjadalur Steam Valley is an excellent option for those looking for a little extra adventure. Whether you are interested in taking a guided tour, or exploring the hiking trail on your own, this is an amazing stop for those looking to see an authentic hot spring that has not been heavily influenced by mankind.

Related: Iceland: Quick Tips for a Great Experience

Viti Geothermal Lake

Location: Skútustaðahreppur, Northeastern, Iceland (N65° 43′ 2.750″ W16° 45′ 13.668”)

Price: Free. Extra cost if you are interested in doing a guided tour.

Why Visit: Viti Geothermal Lake is a big crater filled with opaque blue water that sits around 86°F. While absolutely stunning, conditions do not always allow visitors to go for a swim in the lake. Keep your fingers crossed the crater is swimmable, with manageable water levels when you plan your trip. This massive crater was created by a large volcanic explosion in 1875. The hike around the crater takes about 1 hour and the hike down to the lake is about 2 hours.

Due to the remote nature of where Viti Geothermal Lake is located, you will likely not experience many people in the area. Summer is the best time to visit if you want a chance of swimming in the lake. The views at Viti Geothermal Lake are also too surreal to put into words.

While it can be difficult to find, this hot spring is worth the effort. If you are worried about the rugged terrain, there are plenty of paid tours visitors can join to make the experience more pleasant.

Viti Geothermal Lake
Photo by Jared Yeh via Flickr

Grjotagja Geothermal Spring

Location: Reykjahlíð, Iceland

101 Reykjavík

Price: Free

Why Visit: Grjotagja is a small lava cave with natural thermal springs inside. The water in the cave is typically around 109°F, which is hotter than most of the other hot springs on this list.

If you’re lucky you may experience a period of time with the cave all to yourself. Even when other visitors are present, it typically is not an overwhelming amount like you may see at some of the more popular hot springs. Don’t forget to bring your own towel and flashlight or headlight as Grjotagia isn’t built to be a tourist attraction.

If you are planning to visit this lava cave, be sure to check whether or not it is open prior to going. While this cave still isn’t known by all tourists, too many tourists visiting would cause problems and were beginning to lead to the deterioration of the site.

As a result the cave does close down at certain points to avoid any more damage. In addition, keep in mind the cave does not allow for bathing. While you may see some people bathe during your visit, please respect the rules so Grjotagja remains a place for all to enjoy.

Cavernous pool at Grjotagja Geothermal Spring
Photo by Ron Kroetz via Flickr

Fontana Geothermal Baths

Location: Hverabraut 1, 840 Laugarvatn, Iceland


Price: Entrance costs $20 USD for 2 hours. $12 USD for a bathrobe, $7 USD for a towel and $7 USD for a swimsuit. For an additional $12 USD you can add on a Geothermal Bakery Tour.

Why Visit: Fontana Geothermal Baths offers guests a luxury hot spring experience. In addition to hot springs, guests can enjoy traditional steam rooms that are heated from the ground through grids in the cabin floors. The steam is typically between 104°F and 122°F.

In addition to traditional steam rooms, hot outdoor mineral baths are available for guests to enjoy. With panoramic views of the scenic surrounds, visitors can have a true mind and body wellness experience. Next to the steam room is a Finnish-style sauna. The temperature is between between 176°F and 194°F, but has less humidity than the steam room.

For guests that want even more adventure, the lake is available for visitors to experience during their stay. Coupled by a walk on the black sandy beach, Fontana is an all around invigorating experience.

A cool dip in this lake will make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. In addition to the healthy water you’ll be bathing in, there is a geothermal bakery on site as well. In this unique bakery, fresh bread is baked in the black sand. At the end of the tour, guests are offered a taste of this uniquely baked bread. Fontana Geothermal Baths is a place you won’t want to miss.

Vok Baths

Location: 8H33+G5 Fellabær, Urriðavatn, Iceland


Price: There are a variety of different booking options for those looking to visit. Below are some of the common options.

Standard $45 USD: includes a tisane brewed from the spring water and local herbs at the infusion bar

Comfort $52 USD: includes a tisane brewed from the spring water and local herbs at the infusion bar and a drink at the outdoor pool bar

Premium $72 USD: includes a tisane brewed from the spring water and local herbs at the infusion bar, a drink at the outdoor pool bar and tasters from the restaurant.

Swimsuit and Towel Rental: $7 USD

Why Visit: Vok Baths are Iceland’s only “floating pools” which are surrounded by the lake. Created with a deep respect for the environment, you can be assured the beautiful wooden features at Vok are made from ethically sourced trees which help to uphold sustainability in the business.

In addition to the natural luxury that is Vok, there is also a restaurant onsite for guests to enjoy. Be sure to enjoy a tea made from the lake water and locally sourced organic bites at the restaurant. Don’t forget to try Vokvi and Vaka, craft beers that are brewed using hot water from the lake.

Vok offers guests private indoor changing rooms with showers and a reception area. For those guests who are on the more reserved side, this is a great alternative to some of the other hot spring options that are more rustic in nature. The Vok Baths are not filled with the same minerals found in other hot springs. However, the baths are unique in that for this same reason, the water is actually drinkable.

There are a variety of different hot spring options when visiting Iceland. Some people are ultra adventurous and are interested in experiencing a hot spring off the beaten path, and more rugged in nature. These types of hot springs are often free, but can be difficult to find or require an extra hike. But, if you are interested in visiting these hot springs with a little more security, there are often tours available to help guide you along the way.

Conversely, some visitors prefer a more luxurious visit to the hot springs when they are in Iceland. For these visitors, there are a variety of options that allow for not only an easy time finding the hot spring, but also the option of other spa treatments, food and even lodging options for those wanting a multi-day experience.

When it comes to visiting the hot springs in Iceland, there truly is something for everyone. No two trips will look identical and it would take many trips before you can see all the hot springs.

The best advice when planning a trip to Icelandic hot springs is to first decide on the type of trip you are interested in, then decide what area will be most convenient, then make your decision on which hot spring to visit.

Some people enjoy tacking on the hot springs to a day long excursion, while others enjoy spending an entire day or two at the hot springs. Regardless of what your preference is, this list of the best hot springs in Iceland has something for everyone.

The Best Ways to Use Miles and Points to Get to Scandinavia

There are a number of options for getting to Scandinavia (or northern Europe) with points and miles. What’s more, you can often find booking options with little to no fees so that you’ll be able to book roundtrip  business class tickets and pay as little as $90! But you’ve got to know which partners are best to utilize in order to make such a booking. Here’s an overview of some of the best ways to use to miles and points to get to Scandinavia. 

Aeroplan (Air Canada)

  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 60,000
  • Business class: 110,000 miles roundtrip

This is one of the best ways to get to Scandinavia from North America if you think that you might be flying business class on a Star Alliance flight.

The following airlines do not carry surcharges when you book them through Aeroplan:

  • Air China
  • Brussels
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Scandinavian
  • Singapore
  • Swiss
  • Turkish
  • United
  • LOT (has small surcharges)*

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)

One of the best ways to use Aeroplan is book with alliance partner Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).

SAS is the flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and the largest airline in Scandinavia. The have direct routes to different airpots in Scandinavia from Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Washington.

It shouldn’t be difficult for you to find routes to Copenhagen (CPH), Stockholm (ARN), or Oslo (OSL). In fact, SAS availability in my experience is pretty exceptional and far outnumbers the availability from other airlines that flight into the region.

And the great thing about SAS is that if you’re wanting to catch a connecting flight to smaller Scandinavian cities they’ve got you covered. For example, for routes to places like Tromsø, Norway (one of the top places in the world to catch the northern lights), SAS offers many flights. A lot of times the only other airline offering flights to those cities is Norwegian Air, which is not a partner to any of the big three alliances. This is a great advantage to going with Star Alliance partners over booking with another alliance since you would have to pay out of pocket for your flight from a place like Oslo to Tromsø and those flights can be a bit pricey sometimes.

Another major reason to book with SAS is that just rolled out a fantastic new business class product. Check out a review of the newly launched business class cabin here.

And finally, when you book SAS with Aeroplan the fees are very low. You might pay up to $80-90 for a roundtrip business class with SAS! Other partners listed above and discussed below will offer you very small fees as well, but none of them can compete with the availability that SAS offers, in my experience. Therefore, SAS is my preferred option to getting to Scandinavia. 

Swiss Airlines

Swiss Airlines is a solid second option for using Aeroplan miles to get to Scandinavia. They fly out of the following cities: Boston, Chicago, Newark, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco. Fees might be a little bit more than SAS but they are still very reasonable, often around $130. When I searched for flights for my Norway trip I didn’t find a lot of Swiss Airlines flights so you might have to do some extra work if you want to fly with Swiss.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines flies out of the following cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington. I’ve found more award availability with Turkish Airlines than Swiss, but still pretty limited overall.

United Airlines

United flights directly to Scandinavia are few and far between, and I definitely did not see much if any availability when searching. If you do end up finding a transatlantic route with United, you’ll most likely land somewhere in Europe and then connect to Scandinavia with SAS or some other Star Alliance partner. That’s not a bad way to do it, but if you can swing the straight shot with SAS (which should be much easier to find), I see no reason to not go with them instead.


  • Alliance: Star Alliance
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 55,000
  • Business class: 88,000 miles roundtrip

ANA is very tempting with its ridiculously low 88,000 miles requirement for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe (with stopover allowed). The issue with ANA is that it will pass on pretty significant fuel surcharges if you book with partners, such as SAS. These fees for a roundtrip ticket will be about $500 or more.

ANA will not pass on heavy fuel surcharges if you book with United but it’s going to take some extra effort to get to Scandinavia since you’ll likely have to connect with a Star Alliance partner that passes on more expensive fees, such as Lufthansa or Brussels Airlines. If you end booking a United flight through a city like Amsterdam and then connecting to a city like Oslo, you can expect to pay around $300 to $500 in fees for business class.

Thus, in some instances it may be worth it to book a business class United flight from the US to a random city in Europe, such as Amsterdam and pay the small fees incurred (usually less than $90). And then, you could pay for a budget airline to take where you want to get in Scandinavia for as little as $150-$175 round trip. Such a routing could end up saving you a couple of hundred bucks and allow to capitalize with points by booking such a low fare to Europe.

American Airlines

  • Alliance: OneWorld
  • Ways to earn miles:  SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 45,000
  • Business class: 115,000 miles roundtrip

If you’re not able to make it to Scandinavia with Star Alliance partners, OneWorld does offer a few decent redemptions to get there. The issues I ran into with One World partners were limited availability and the fact they they didn’t offer many connecting flights to smaller Scandinavian towns like Tromsø. Still, even with some limitations, the redemptions to get there at 115,000 miles roundtrip is very competitive.


One obvious choice to go with when trying to get to Scandinavia is Finnair (I’m just gonna roll with Finland being considered a part of Scandinavia). They have flights out of Miami, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, though flights do not depart everyday of the week. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find open seats on the direct flights to HEL and the awesome thing is that you can redeem these routes for less than $80 in total fees! Thus, if your final destination is within Finland, this is a great option.

If you’re wanting to get somewhere else in Scandinavia like Norway, Sweden, or Denmark, Finnair can still be a solid choice. The issue is just that your routing options are going to be a bit limited. You’ll find fewer flights to fewer locations than you would with SAS but it’s still a smart way to get your connecting flights covered with miles and points and although there are fewer flights, the availability can be great. 

American Airlines

American Airlines is a great way to get to Scandinavia if you can find SAAver availability. Most of the options found searching the American Airlines website will probably be British Airways flights routing through London but if you look hard enough you can also find American Airlines flights to other destinations in Europe. Try to find connecting flights to Scandinavian destinations with Finnair or Air Berlin to avoid going through London and you can minimizes the fees. 

Air Berlin

The fees for booking with Air Berlin are very reasonable and can be under $100. Air Berlin flies directly from its German hubs to and from New York, Ft. Meyers, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Find out more about their routes here. I found the availability from North America to Europe very poor for business class but very good for economy. If you want to book with Air Berlin, it might take some extra effort but it will likely be worth it.

British Airways

Of course, there’s always British Airways to get you where you need to be. Availability for British Airways usually outnumbers every other airline when searching on sites like the American Airlines site. The issue with BA is always the fuel surcharges. In my experience, you can sometimes mitigate the damage by only booking BA to get back to the US from Europe. However, if you book a round trip business ticket you’re likely looking at over $1,000 in fees.

Korean Air 

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: Chase Ultimate Rewards,  SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 50,000
  • Business class: 80,000 miles roundtrip

Korean Air’s 80,000 mile redemption to Europe (roundtrip) is an absolute steal. Korean Air will slap you with some decent fuel surcharges unless you’re able to book with Delta. Thus, I highly recommend trying to find Delta over any of the other partner airlines to Europe because you will likely be forced to pay hefty fees that make that great redemption rate of 80,000 less appealing.

The major issue with Korean Air is that it’s a logistical headache to book award flights with partners. You have to call in to make the bookings and submit special applications for your tickets. You can read more about booking award tickets with Korean Air here. If you’re willing to deal with the extra legwork, however, the 80,000 business class redemption is very hard to compete with. 

Flying Blue

  • Alliance: SkyTeam
  • Ways to earn miles: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi Thankyou points, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 50,000
  • Business class: 125,000 miles roundtrip

Flying Blue is a very solid option for getting to and sometimes even getting around Scandinavia. If you can find availability with Delta to get to Europe, the fees will be very manageable, and maybe around $130. I was able to find Delta availability getting back to the States in business class but struggled to find open spots for getting to Europe. If you fly over the Atlantic with an airline like KLM, you’re going to pay significant fees totaling close to $500, so be aware of that.

The strategy for Flying Blue is the same for the previous airlines in terms of avoiding fuel surcharges. That strategy is to find availability to Europe with the low-fee airline (in this instance Delta) and then focus on finding your connecting flights.

Alaskan Airlines

  • Alliance: Partners include American Airlines, Iceland Air, Air France
  • Ways to earn miles: Alaskan Airlines credit cards, SPG

Miles needed:

  • Economy: 40,000 (off peak) to 65,000
  • Business class: 100,000 to 125,000 miles roundtrip

American Airlines

Alaskan Airlines is one of the best ways to book American Airlines flights since you can get to Europe in business class for as low as 100,000 miles and in economy for as low as 40,000 miles.

The issue with using Alaskan miles to book American when getting to Scandinavia is that you can’t book multiple partners together (American gateway cities aside). Because American Airlines doesn’t fly to Scandinavia, you’d be left with the option of hopping over to Europe and then finding a budget airline to get to Scandinavia, which isn’t a horrible option considering the low fees and mileage requirement but it is an extra hassle. 


I found a lot of availability with Icelandair and it’s a lower redemption rate of only 110,000. The biggest knock is that its business class seats are not on the same level of quality that you could get when you book with other airlines to Scandinavia and most Icelandair routes found on Alaskan depart from the west coast (Seattle). Moreover, many of the itineraries are mixed-class, meaning that you might be flying in economy from Seattle to Scandinavia! Thus, the comfort factor may come into play and may not make this option for business class as appealing as it appears to be at first.

Final Word

Overall, my favorite way to get to Scandinavia is to book SAS business class through Aeroplan. The availability is great and the fees are non-existent. My next favorite option would be using ANA miles to book a United flight to Europe and then connecting to my desired city in Scandinavia. American Airlines, Korean, Flying Blue, and Alaskan all also offer decent options but they don’t seem to offer quite as many attractive (and practical) options for getting to a bunch of locations throughout Scandinavia.  

Cover photo by Mariusz Kluzniak via Flickr

Iceland: Quick Tips for a Great Experience

Brad and I recently took a week-long trip to Iceland in late August 2014. The trip didn’t go as expected to the say the least. We both came down with severe flu-like sicknesses and it pretty much kept us from being able to see everything we had listed on out itineraries. After looking forward to visiting Iceland for so long, it was a huge bummer to say the least. However, we were still able to see some of the attractions and  even though we weren’t able to make it out to every site we wanted to, we got a good feel of the layout of Iceland. So here are a few pointers for planning an amazing trip to Iceland.

Like snow? Want to see the northern lights and still have some daylight? Visit in March.

Maybe you’ve already decided on the time of year you will be heading to Iceland but if you haven’t then there are a few things to keep in mind. My personal recommendation is to go in the spring. Here’s why: if you go in March you can see the northern lights above beautiful glistening snow, still have enough daylight to explore some of the terrain during the day, and you’ll be able to see some of the ice caves (not available in the fall).

Other seasons do have their advantages, though. Summer has endless daylight and so there is plenty of time for you to explore and the weather is very mild, though it is also peak tourist season. Winter will likely give you the clear dark skies that are perfect for northern lights viewing but that comes at the the price of having almost no daylight and blistering cold winter temperatures. As you can see, there will obviously be pros and cons for each time of year, but if you’re interested in the northern lights and like the idea of being around snow then late February or March is probably best time of year for you to visit Iceland. (For the record, a March visit just didn’t fit into our schedule and that’s why we chose to visit in Aug/Sept.)

Northern lights from plane

Tip: Use WalletFlo for all your credit card needs. It’s free and will help you optimize your rewards and savings!

Golden Circle is an easy day trip

The Golden Circle can be easily seen in one day. If you’ve begun researching things to do in Iceland you’ve inevitably come across the “Golden Circle.” If you haven’t heard of it, the Golden Circle is an area just outside of Reykjavik that consists of Gulfoss, the Geysir hotsprings, and Þingvellir National Park.  There are a few other locations that sometimes make the list as well. These “big three” locations can easily be seen within a half day and if you get an early start out to the area, you should definitely have enough time to see them all, relax for lunch and still get back to Reykjavik or another nearby city in time for your evening meal or check-in.


My favorite attraction out of the three would have to the geysirs. Although this area is home to the “original Geysir,” the geysir that you’ll actually see erupt is “Strokkur.” It seems to go off about every five minutes. It was my first geysir to ever see in person and it was pretty impressive. Unlike many other geysir areas, you are allowed to get right up next to it and even get sprayed a bit so be careful if you don’t want to get wet. One of the coolest things to try is to get a photo of the bulge just as the geysir is erupting as seen below. You can really make your Geysir experience into your own as well, as there are some trails that will you take you up on a hillside for some great views of the surrounding area.

Strokkur Geysir erupting

Þingvellir National Park

Þingvellir National Park was an interesting place. Personally, it didn’t really blow me away but it did offer some fantastic photo opportunities and also offers you the opportunity to say that you’ve stood between the two continents. On that latter point I was somewhat disappointed to hear that you can’t actually stand in between the ridge and touch the Eurasian plates and the North American plates. From what I researched, the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is so deep and vast that you can’t actually pinpoint any specific points where you could actually touch each side. Still, even if that’ true, the experience of knowing that you’re standing (somewhere) between these two vast tectonic plates is something I won’t forget and makes Þingvellir National Park worth the visit.



Finally, there’s also Gulfoss. It’s one of the most famous waterfalls in the world and is worth a visit. Because the weather was so bad we pretty much just ran out from the car, took a look at it, and then scurried back in to the car. Hopefully, you’ll run into great weather there and will be able to linger there for some time.

The Jökulsárlón (The Glacier Lagoon) is a must-see attraction

Glacier Lagoon

I find Jökulsárlón a little difficult to pronounce and even read so I’ll just refer to it as “The Glacier Lagoon.” The Glacier Lagoon is one of the most awe-inspiring sights I’ve seen and is probably the main reason why I wanted to visit Iceland in the first place. It’s the deepest lake in Iceland and giant icebergs slowly bob around the lake as they break off from a giant glacier. Between guided boat rides and walking along the black sand beaches, one could easily spend an entire day admiring the lagoon. One of the cool things about the lagoon is that your experience of the icebergs can be completely different depending on whether or not the sun is shining on them or not.

Glacier Lagoon

At the Glacier Lagoon, there’s a couple of parking lots that you can pull into just after you pass the bridge. When we arrived in early September around noon, there were hardly any cars in sight. However, I’ve heard that during peak season the traffic can pick up here. If weather permits, many people enjoy walking along the black sand banks that lead to the parking lot. And one thing you absolutely cannot forget to do is to visit the black sand beach on the ocean-side of the bridge. All you have to do it park on the opposite side of the bridge from where you are parked to see the lagoon and you’ll walk up on the beach. Sometimes the tidal conditions aren’t quite right but if you catch it at the right time you’ll see tons of ice chunks (some the size of automobiles) washed up on the beach.

If you’re making the drive from Reykjavik to Jökulsárlón the ETA on driving is 4.5 hours. But keep in mind that there are several amazing things to stop by and see along the way. These include the cliffs overlooking the black sands at Dyrholaey and the waterfalls of Selijalandfoss and Skógafoss, among many other interesting viewpoints. With that in mind, you may want to plan on that trip to the glacier lagoon taking closer to 6 or 7 hours. I recommend starting that drive early in the morning to maximize your daylight.

In addition to planning enough to time to get there and see other sites, I suggest booking at least one night in a nearby hotel, such as those in Höfn (see my hotel reviews below). If you spend at least one night in that area, then you’ll have the opportunity to catch at least one sunrise and/or sunset at the glacier lagoon, which will make for remarkable photographs. If you can’t spend a full night there then don’t worry; you can still fully appreciate the Glacier Lagoon just by stopping by and checking it out.

The Blue Lagoon is the ultimate experience in relaxation

See my tips for visiting the Blue Lagoon for more information about the Blue Lagoon. Right now, I’ll just say that the Blue Lagoon was the most relaxing experience I ever had in my entire life! You don’t have to indulge in the premium package that comes with a robe and meal to the Lava Cafe either; just taking a dip in it is an almost hypnotic experience. The water is the perfect temperature and you can easily stay in there for hours.

Man in Blue Lagoon

As far as what to consider when planning, I think that visiting this at the end of your trip, after you’re exhausted, is perfect. Also, if you wait toward the end of your trip you’ll have a better sense of where you stand financially and you can decide if you want to splurge at the Blue Lagoon with some of the premium packages, massages, etc.

So those are a few quick notes on these destinations. Here are a few general words of advice that will hopefully make your trip a lot smoother.

Getting around Iceland: I recommend choosing a rental car

Iceland is the perfect place for jumping in a rental car and making your way around the island. There are plenty of rental car companies to choose from and some of them are pretty reasonably priced, though you will have to book them well in advance if you want to catch those rates for the cheaper vehicles. We went with RED Rentals and they had great service and provided us with a great running car. They even will pick you up from the airport (though we missed that memo and took a shuttle to their office downtown).

There’s always an option to get around the country by bus as well. However, this option can still get a little pricey and some of the busses don’t run very frequently so you will have to plenty of research to make sure that you don’t leave yourself stranded for a few days in a less-frequented part of Iceland.

One option for the traveller willing to deal with the risks is hitch-hiking. Iceland has some of the safest hitch-hiking around and there are a lot of travelers doing it in the south area of the country. Of course, this always comes with a risk, but if you are on a shoestring budget then perhaps you could look into this.

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Phone Service

Upon arriving, we bought a Vodafone SIM card for our unlocked iPhones. Overall, the service was okay when we were near urban areas. However, it gave me a lot of trouble when I tried to pull up my internet browser outside of the major cities. In fact, the lack of service rendered my iPhone GPS maps useless. If it weren’t for my GPS in the rental car we would have struggled to find our way around. My suggestion: get a Vodafone if you feel you will need to use data around cities but don’t rely on your cell phone service to get you around the country.

Lodging: When to book

I suggest for those people looking to pursue the northern lights to await making their bookings until they arrive. I’ll post more on the northern lights at a later point, but the reason is I state for making last-minute bookings is that the weather can be so fickle and one side of the island may be cloudless while the other side is completely overcast. Waiting until the day-of to book hotels can be nerve-racking, however and so if that is the sort of thing that you’re not comfortable then perhaps just go ahead and play the odds and book ahead. But if you’re visiting in late August as we did, you’ll find there is no difficulty in finding available hotels on the day of or day before your planned booking (this would be less doable in the summer but the northern lights won’t be out so that’s not an issue).

Where to stay in Iceland?

If you’re not like us and you don’t mind sharing bathroom facilities then you will have a much easier time finding more affordable lodging across the country. However, if you are like us and you prefer to have private bathroom facilities in a hotel with decent reviews you should expect to pay around €125-150 per night and expect the options to be somewhat limited. We stayed at four different hotels and I am going to recommend two of them. Here are the two that I recommend:

  • Thoristun Apartments (Selfoss) (€126 per night) — The town of Selfoss is a good place if you are wanting to stay somewhere outside of Reykjavik after seeing the Golden Circle and perhaps want to get a jump start on your next day trip to the Glacier Lagoon or any other destination on the eastern side of the country. There are plenty of restaurants and I really loved that their traffic lights had smiley faces on the green lights. : ) As for our hotel, we really enjoyed our night at Thoristun Apartments. The customer service was exceptional and they will even let you check in early if you contact them ahead of time.
  • Seljavellir Guesthouse (Glacier Lagoon) (€168 per night) – Finding an affordable place near the Glacier Lagoon with private bathrooms is difficult. There are limited number of places to choose from but this place was pretty great. It’s a small hotel with probably only eight or ten rooms but it is very new and very clean. Because tidiness is a big thing for me I give this hotel an A+. The hotel is also close enough to Hofn that you’ll have no trouble heading into town for lunch and/or dinner. (Though breakfast is available at the hotel we didn’t try it so I can’t comment on that.)
Outside of Seljavellir Guesthouse
A view from outside of Seljavellir Guesthouse

The food is pricey and not exactly overwhelmingly delicious

I’ve got to be honest, overall, I wasn’t too impressed with the food in Iceland. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that I was so sick but I think some of it is just the way it is. I’ll say this, there are plenty of restaurants where you can find some quality lamb dishes and seafood like lobster. You can’t really go wrong with those dishes. I also tried some other American foods that I heard good things about in Iceland like hotdogs and pizza. I wasn’t too impressed with either of those but I did have a couple of great burgers during my stay in Iceland. Finally, there are some of the local dishes like cured shark and Puffin… I was a little too sick during my stay to even contemplate trying to stomach those so my take on those foods will have to wait until next time.

One last thing about the food, if you plan on eating out at a decent restaurant you should plan on paying $40 to $50 USD for a meal for two. The one drawback to Iceland is that eating out is so expensive and you don’t always feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. For that reason, try to load up on sandwiches or some other cheaper food during the day or save them for dinner to keep the costs from getting too high. One thing that you can do is rent an apartment that comes equipped with a kitchen and cook your own meals. That will cut down on your costs a lot.

This is only the tip of the iceberg

Remember that I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do in Iceland. I almost didn’t want to make this post because I felt like my Iceland experience was so cheated from being so sick. Just remember that there are a million more things to see and do in Iceland and that it is a unique landscape that you will never forget upon your visit.

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland: 9 Tips for Having a Great Experience

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland was one of the most unforgettably relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. As soon as I stepped into the Lagoon, I instantly felt an odd combination of tranquility, excitement, and even a bit of mesmerization. The water in the Lagoon has just the perfect amount of “hotness” and because not all areas are the same temperature, you can easily wander to other areas to suit your body’s need for the right temperature. Between the black lava rock hills, the soothing blue water, and the bit of beer and champagne we downed, I found myself in a little slice of heaven in Iceland.

Simply put, the Blue Lagoon was my favorite experience in Iceland and that is saying a lot considering that I almost knocked it off the itinerary because I thought it might be too “touristy.”

Here’s what you need to know to prepare for a great visit to the Blue Lagoon:

The famous "Blue Lagoon"
The famous “Blue Lagoon”

1. Book in advance

The first thing you want to do is book your ticket online before you arrive. There is a long line at the entrance for those purchasing their tickets at the site. And I’ve heard this line gets reallly long in the summer. When you book online you get to bypass that long line and will gain entrance quickly. Just make sure that you print out your ticket or have a smart phone device that can pull up the PDF file for them to scan at the entrance.

NLs 1

2. Getting There

There are a number of busses that run from Reykjavik and other locations to the Lagoon so transportation by bus is easy. Here is the bus schedule that runs from Reykjavik to the Blue Lagoon. If you are driving on your own just be sure that you arrive at the Blue Lagoon and not the Blue Lagoon Hotel. We pulled up at the hotel and waited for several minutes (along with others) until we realized that the actual lagoon was on the other side. Also, keep an eye out for the Lagoon signs as you approach it. We accidentally took the back way to the lagoon and were basically driving nervously through power plant facilities for a few minutes until arriving at the back entrance to the hotel.

Path to the Blue Lagoon
Photo by Bryan Allison

3. Prices

Basic admission is €35-40 (depending on peak season or not). Other packages range from €60-172 and offer special amenities. Brad and I went with the “Premium Experience” at the price of €80 per person. It offered us admission, use of a bathrobe (you can’t keep it), a drink coupon, skin care trial pack, slippers (actually flip-flops), and a meal at the LAVA restaurant.

Update May 17, 2016: The Blue Lagoon no longer includes packages where the meal is included — you only get a table reservation and a glass of sparkling wine, so please be sure to keep this in mind.  

Lava restaurant 1
A fish dish at the LAVA restaurant.

Lava restaurant 1
Bread and butter on a lava rock!

What I’m sure you’d like to know is whether or not upgrading to the premium package was worth it. I think that if you’re planning on eating at the LAVA restaurant then it is definitely worth it (a two course meal by itself is $44USD/€35). They allow you to choose two courses for your meal and the food at the restaurant is pretty good; not blow-you-away delicious, but okay. I went with a lamb dish and ended up pretty satisfied.

Lava Restaurant, Blue Lagoon, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland, 2013
Photo by Terry Feuerborn

My only complaint with the restaurant is that they took almost 2 1/2 hours to serve us and bring us our bill. We saw many others arrive after us and leave before us so it got a little frustrating and worse it took away from our time we could have spent at the Lagoon.

Tip: Regardless of what time you make your reservations for you can always arrive early to the restaurant.

The robe that they give you is nice, especially because they allow you to wear it to the LAVA restaurant for lunch (but not dinner). The sample products that also came along were okay but very small. Overall, I was happy with our purchase and will next time even consider one of the massages that they offer on-site.

4. Getting in

But we go to the Blue Lagoon!
Photo by Michael Labrecque-Jessen

First, before you even enter the entrance there’s a hut for you to store your luggage if you’re arriving with plenty of bags so consider that (€3 per bag). After you pass that you’ll walk up to the main desk to collect your bracelet and any other items, such as robes.

Key To the Lagoon
Photo by Alan Levine

Once you present your ticket and get your bracelet you can then proceed to the locker rooms. The lock mechanism can be a little confusing. You will first load up all your stuff in the locker then after you shut your locker immediately press your bracelet up against the sensor and your locker will be locked. It’s a cool system but often doesn’t work. If your locker doesn’t work then don’t worry; just find an employee lurking around the locker room (kind of odd, I know) dressed in black pants and a black shirt and they will help you out.

And yes, they do ask that you shower (naked) before you enter the Lagoon. This may make some uncomfortable but don’t worry because they have shower and changing stalls that allow you plenty of privacy. The primary concern in the showers should be your hair! Use all the conditioner that they provide and then some both before and after when you get out the Lagoon. This is because the algae and the minerals in the salt water will turn your hair to stone once you get out… I think it took a couple of days for me to get my hair back to normal so I could only imagine what it would do to someone with long hair. So be sure to condition!

Also, if you want, after you get changed into your swimwear you can bring your bathrobe outside and place it on a hook (with your same locker number) and then enter into the lagoon.

Iceland – Blue Lagoon
Photo by Dileep Kaluaratchie

5. Enjoying the Lagoon

This is the easiest part, of course. Like I mentioned before, I’ve never felt so relaxed and excited at the same time as I did in that lagoon. The water is a perfect temperature and I never felt over-heated like I typically get in a hottub. Even if you get hot, just move around to a cooler spot and you’ll find your body coming to a perfect temperature. Make sure you make yourself a mudmask, too! There are a number of buckets in the Lagoon that you simply scoop out some mud from and apply to your face. It’s recommended that you leave it on your face for about 15 minutes and then wash it off. Personally, I don’t recall any substantial change in the skin in my face but it was still a fun experience to apply my first “mud mask.”

Warning: if you wear contact lenses then watch out. The saltwater seemed to be especially potent (due to the high mineral content?) and really messed with Brad’s eyes and his contacts. So be extra careful or just try to wear glasses.

Blue Lagoon Iceland
Contacts in the Blue Lagoon? No bueno.

Once you begin to get a little thirsty then head to the bar. The bar serves pink champagne, beer, slushies (I think), and water and juices. The beer and champagne added a nice touch to the relaxation and I recommend you getting one while inside the Lagoon (there’s a bar indoors as well). You’ll use your bracelet to electronically build up a balance and then pay it upon exiting so it’s an extremely convenient and efficient process when ordering.

Beer Blue Lagoon

6. What to do about a camera?

When it comes to a camera, there are a couple of options for you to choose from. Personally, I used a GoPro for all of these shots at the Lagoon. I also had a waterproof case for my iPhone but opted not to bring that just in case something happened to it. I saw at least one person with a DSLR who set it up on a tripod outside the water and took photos of himself and his friends as they enjoyed their time. If you do not have a waterproof case or GoPro I would not recommend you bringing your unprotected phone or camera out there for more than a few minutes, so that you can wander freely without worrying about it.

Photo by Moyan Brenn

If I could go back and do it all again I would have brought my DSLR. It would have been safe in my locker while I was out and I could’ve at least brought it out for a few minutes to get some shots. Also, I recommend going atop the viewing deck to get a great view of the place. You have to pay to get up there but if you bought admission into the Lagoon I suspect that they will allow you to go up there without paying anything additional.

7. Body issues? No worries.

One of the coolest things about the Blue Lagoon is just the overall vibe. I got the sense that everyone out there, tourists, locals, etc. just had a desire to relax and enjoy the beautiful warm waters of the lagoon. I saw people of all different shapes and sizes enjoying themselves. I guess it helps that for the most part you are submerged up to your shoulders, but even still, I don’t think others are there to worry about what you look like in a bathing suit. So if you happen to be on the self-conscious side, don’t worry about that at all.

Blue Lagoon
Photo by Diamond Geezer

8. Plan your visit to the Blue Lagoon for the end of your trip

This is my personal suggestion. For me, it worked out perfectly to visit the Lagoon at the end of my trip due to the fact that I had battled the flu for about four days straight. The opportunity to finally immerse myself in pure relaxation was priceless after that tortuous battle with being so sick.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of amazing tours in Iceland and hitting up all the hot spots, and especially if you’re planning on doing some strenuous hiking or glacier climbing, then what better way to wind down then book your trip to the Blue Lagoon at the end of your visit. Also, the lagoon is only about 30 minutes from Reykjavik and near both airports so it shouldn’t pose any kind of lodging problem for your last night of stay in Iceland.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Photo by Damien Mórka

9. Visit right at opening or near closing

To beat the crowds plan on visiting right when the Blue Lagoon opens (usually 9am or 10am) or a couple of hours before they close. If you go towards closing you won’t have to worry about the crowds at all. If you arrive as soon as they open, the crowds will start building up about an hour after it opens. The Lagoon gets very crowded during the summer but when we visited in late September (on a weekday) the crowds were at all times very tolerable and I never felt overwhelmed (though it does get very busy in the locker rooms).

NLs 5
A very blurry photo of us enjoying the lagoon.

That’s all for the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. I hope that you have as great of time as I did and if you’re looking for a good guide on other things to do in Iceland check out this this Lonely Planet guide


Northern Lights… from a plane!?

My recent trip to Iceland to see the northern lights did not go as planned in many more ways than one. One of those failures was not being able to see the northern lights because of crazy overcast clouds. However, on my way flying into Iceland, I was able to capture the northern lights from our plane and thus at least partially fulfilled my wish of seeing the northern lights! Here’s how I did it.

Iceland Air Map

I first noticed the flight path as we were on the ground getting ready to take off. I knew that we would be in the “zone” for seeing the northern lights and that we would be above the clouds so that if the northern lights were actually showing I would be in good shape to see them. When I checked the kp Index I saw that they were predicting a “3” which is a relatively strong indicator that the lights would be out. With that information, I decided that I would stay up all night on the flight.

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About three hours into the flight, everyone on the plane just about was asleep. That’s when I started to focus intensely outside my plane window. After squinting pretty hard for hours, I noticed that there was something outside the window in the distance. It resembled a cloud but seemed to have a different texture and also extended far beyond where I remembered the clouds being. It was difficult to see because of the light pollution coming from the cabin and the light on the wing. I then grabbed a blanket and a jacket and essentially suction-cupped myself to the window, blocking out all stray light. That’s when I was sure I was looking at the northern lights!

I got pretty excited and knew I had to grab my camera. I positioned it on top of my camera bag in an attempt to make myself a make-shift tripod. I then turned up the ISO and put the shutter speed on about 10 seconds. After a couple of trial and error shots, I got the below shot.

Northern Lights from plane

Amazingly, the picture turned out much better than I had imagined. You can see the sky full of stars and can barely see the clouds near the bottom. The color of the lights were not that green in real-life but the camera sensor certainly did its job in picking up the light. I took about 20 or 30 shots of this until the light began to fade as dusk approached. It really was a somewhat magical experience and what was interesting was that everyone on the plane seemed to be asleep and missing out on this awesome sight. I wondered to myself how many other passengers would have gladly stayed up to see the sights and how many other people may have seen the same thing on this flight or another flight. Overall, I still hope to see the northern lights one day from the ground but for now I will treasure this experience — truly unforgettable.