Iceland: Chasing Waterfalls

I don't know about you, but when I hear the word Iceland, my first word association is: WATERFALLS. Thanks to Icelandic weather conditions, mountains, plethora of glaciers, and freeze/thaw cycles there are countless waterfalls on the island.  

We only had 3 days to explore Iceland during our stopover to Norway, and you better believe we went to as many waterfalls as we possibly could! One of my favorite aspects of some of these Icelandic waterfalls is how small they make you feel. Towering above, their water falls with such force that you can visibly see how the rocks below have been shaped from the waterfall's power. 

I've compiled a list of the waterfalls that we were fortunate enough to visit during our short stay in Iceland. The majority of these waterfalls are relatively close to one another, all located on the western side of the island. Iceland's landscape offers countless more waterfalls, not to mention a wide variety of other terrains and sights to explore!  


Seljalandsfoss:

This is the first south-coast waterfall that you will hit when driving south from Reykjavik. Therefore it is highly popular and typically filled with tourists as it makes an easy day trip for those staying in Reykjavik. This was the only waterfall we visited that had a parking fee. It is 700 ISK ($7) per day. Once you get to the waterfall there is a path to walk behind it, but be warned, because everyone who did got drenched from the waterfall’s mist. 

Gljúfrafoss:

Located about a quarter mile down from Seljalandsfoss, is Gljúfrafoss. Despite being next to the most popular waterfall in Iceland, it is not well known due to being hidden behind the lush green cliffs. From the road you can see the top of the waterfall, but in order to experience the full waterfall, you will need to walk through the rock crevice, crossing a shallow river, to enter into the open topped cave. Due to the waterfall’s mist, it is extremely wet in there. So yes, you will get wet.

Kvernufoss:

Hands down this was my favorite waterfall in Iceland. Because it is a lesser known waterfall, we had it all to ourselves, which I think is why it was my favorite. Down the road from Skogafoss, it is tucked behind the hills, and you will need to walk behind some buildings in order to find the trail. But once you round the corner to see the first glimpse of the waterfall, it is breathtakingly magical. We danced and stared at the waterfall for hours, playing with our camera and drone to get the best captures possible. During those couple hours only one other group came through. After visiting some highly popular waterfalls, getting to explore a quiet waterfall, whose beauty and surrounding area are still untouched was a wonderful treat. 

Skógafoss:

This is another one of the most visited south-coast waterfalls. In order to enjoy Skogafoss without the plethora of tourists, Alex and I camped at the campsite right in front of the waterfall. Waking up really early the next morning, we had the waterfall all to ourselves, and were able to take in the beauty of the waterfall amongst the quiet, misty morning. What you don’t see in the photos is how cold it was! Even with wearing all of our layers we had a difficult time staying warm as the cold waterfall mist pelted us in the face. If you want to see the waterfall from above, there is a staircase pathway to the right that will take you to the top. 

Bruarfoss:

OMG, this was the hardest waterfall to find. Granted we were looking for the trailhead in the rain, which side note - if it is raining in Iceland, do not give up on your plans because chances are it will clear up shortly. For instance, it was pouring while we driving, but by the time we parked the car, the rain had cleared, and the sun was shining brightly. 

The logistics of getting there are challenging. Once we parked and started walking on a pathway with fellow waterfall enthusiasts we soon realized we were on the wrong path. Backtracking we found the correct one quickly. Just know that the start of the trail has you walking through a field briefly, crossing some barbed wire, and if it has rained recently, the path will be extremely muddy. Unfortunately, due to the muddiness people were walking on plants, thus widening the path and causing damage to the terrain. So please be respectful of the land and stay on the paths. The walk out to the waterfall was roughly a quarter mile.  

Now you may be wondering if the water was truly as bright blue as it looks in the pictures. No. It was even brighter! Truly it was unbelievable and absolutely amazing to see in person!!!

Kirkjufellsfoss: 

Alex and I were first introduced to the beauty of Iceland after seeing a photograph of this waterfall. We both were dying to see it in person, so we made the couple hour drive north to the Snæfellsnesvegur peninsula. Up there, there were very few tourists as it was too far for a day trip from Reykjavik. 

It was surreal seeing this waterfall. On the one hand, we had been dreaming of this spot for years, and on the other, it was completely different than what I had thought it would be like! There is a road and footpath that go between the waterfall and Kirkjufell (the mountain in the background). So in order to get the money shot, you have to walk around to the other side of the waterfall, and wait forever for someone not to be walking on the footpath in the middle of your picture lol. 

Why Lofoten Should be on Your Travel Bucketlist

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To be honest, I had never heard of Lofoten until 2 years ago. It wasn’t until photographs of its iconic scenery started showing up on my social media feed that I became enthralled with this region.

Lofoten is located off northern Norway, just within the Artic Circle. It is comprised of a granite archipelago (read: giant, pointy granite towers shooting out of the ocean). It’s pristine, untouched beauty makes it a photographer’s dream. But thanks to such photography captures, tourism in Lofoten has exploded in the last few years – faster than the narrow roads can keep up with. However, while we were there I didn’t feel like the region was overrun by tourism, though some of the footpaths of the more popular hikes are starting to erode.  

To fully experience Lofoten, we decided to road trip between the main islands. Along the way we saw inland farming towns, charming fishing villages, and countless stunning views.

Below I have outlined some of our favorite things we did while in Lofoten to help show you why Lofoten should be on YOUR bucketlist! 

Roadtripping

If I could give only one reason as to why Lofoten should be on your bucketlist it would be driving the scenic main road (the E10). We opted to drive from the mainland to Lofoten rather than take the 4 hour ferry across the Norwegian Sea. This allowed maximum driving time amongst some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The entire time I was screaming in amazement at how BEAUTIFUL everything was outside of our windows. Depending on the time of year you travel to Lofoten, you may drive past thousands upon thousands of drying cod. We weren't so lucky to see this sight (though we did manage to find one rack of drying cod), but we did see the countless number of drying racks throughout the islands. 

Festvågtind

This hike was one of the highlights during our time in Lofoten. Located near the town of Henningsvaær, this hike is a steep upward climb, taking about 3 hours round trip. The start of the hike is difficult to find – during the summer, the surrounding bushes created a slight archway over the trailhead, but you only really notice it when you are standing directly in front of it! There are 2 small parking lots along the road nearby, but most people had to park farther away.

Once you start at the trailhead the trail will put you in a large boulder field. There are some spray-painted “T”s to mark the path, but just keep heading towards the center of the hill. Once crossing the boulders, you will see the trail ahead of you more easily. From the road, this portion of the trail simply looked like people scrambling over rocks, with no clear path. However, at closer look, the trail is well marked parallel to the portion of the mountain face covered in large rocks. As you make your way up, you will begin to see a small lake below to your right. The trail will then start to wrap around the backside of the mountain until you reach the peak.

One of my favorite things about this hike were the views throughout the entire time. The view of the town of Henningsvaær, a cluster of tiny islands connected by bridges, will be unlike anything you have ever seen before. When we finally reached the top the sun’s rays warmed our faces as we emerged from the cool breezed backside of the mountain. The sun was slowly setting at this point, creating a pastel masterpiece in the sky against the mountain peaks. In the distance we could see two fellow hikers exploring a neighboring mountain – their tiny siloutte’s highlighting the grandiosity of the granite monsters. The views alone from this hike are reason enough to make a trip to Lofoten! 

Henningsvaær

Once you’ve completed Festvågtind, explore the beautifully unique town of Henningsvaær. Like I’ve mentioned before, this town is comprised of a tiny cluster of islands, the larger of which are connected to one another via bridges. The village is filled with colorful houses, art boutiques, cafes, and a beautiful fishing port. Oh, and there’s a soccer field.  

Ramberg Stranda

A large stretch of white sand beach and turquoise ocean waters – what could be better? When you have it all to yourself, that’s what! While Lofoten has been gaining more recognition over the years as a travel destination, it still does not feel crowded. This was especially obvious when we had such a beautiful beach all to ourselves. The fact that it was slowly starting to rain may have had a tiny hand in that as well ;).

For the backpacking folks: There is a campsite next to the beach that has both trailer and tent camping. The restaurant/camp reception has free wifi, which was useful when checking the ever changing Lofoten weather. 

Kvalvika Beach

Near Reine, there are a few beaches that are only accessible via hiking. Some of these beaches included: Horseid, Bunes, and Kvalvika. We only were able to make it to the latter of the three. The hike out is easy, taking about 1-2 hours. The trail can be very muddy if there was recent rainfall. However there are wooden planks to help you navigate through the muddy terrain. Eventually you reach the top of a hill and see the beach. Pristine, white sand beach, and turquoise water – I was in disbelieve that we were looking out onto the Artic Ocean.

To get an even better view of the isolated beach, hike up Ryten Mountain. If we had had more time, I would have loved to done this hike! The hike takes 2-3 hours to complete, with an elevation gain of 540 meters. When facing the ocean from Kvalvika Beach there will be a small stream coming off the mountain to the right. Next to this stream will be a trail that you can use to ascend the mountain.  

For the backpacking folks: Camping at Kvalvika Beach is a great option for you! The flat, grassy dunes at the back of the beach provides numerous spots to pitch a tent.

TIPS: There is limited parking near the trailhead, so given the popularity of this hike you will likely find yourself having to park far away (we found parking half a mile away). 

Reinebringen

While we weren’t able to do this hike ourselves, it is Lofoten’s most popular hike. It provides an iconic panoramic view from the summit, looking down on the fishing village of Reine below.

It is a 2 hour “hike”. I’m calling it a hike, but really it is a climb, with a 1400 foot elevation gain just over half a mile. The current trail is too dangerous to use due to deterioration and erosion from excessive numbers of people walking on it, causing rock fall to become a more common occurrence. The trail is extremely steep, and slippery – with some portions of the trail requiring ropes. With that it mind, it is highly advised that you do not hike if it recently rained or is forecasted to rain. Additionally, do not attempt to hike without proper hiking boots!

Due to the hike’s popularity, the Norweigan Environment Agency began building a new trail in early 2016, with expected completion time in the summer of 2018. Until that time the trail is not blocked off thanks to Norway’s "free to roam" policy, rather is it just recommended not to do this hike until the new path is done. 

Picture from https://norwaytravelguide.no/connect-with-locals/Carina/info-about-hiking-reinebringen

Picture from https://norwaytravelguide.no/connect-with-locals/Carina/info-about-hiking-reinebringen

Reine

Reine is the most picturesque fishing village that you will ever see! Seriously, it was voted one of the most scenic villages in the world by National Geographic! It is one of the few villages in Lofoten that still has a thriving fishing community. Up the road from Reine is also some INCREDIBLE photo spots: Hamnøy and Sakrisøya. 

Stay in a Rorbu

Rorbuer are brightly colored, seaside, wooden huts where fishermen used to stay. The majority of the rorbuer have been converted into accommodations for travelers – and staying in one of these huts was certainly on my bucketlist! However our original plans only accounted for camping sites because rorbuer can be pretty pricey. But when a large storm hit Lofoten, bringing half a day’s worth of rain, we thankfully were able to find a last minute affordable deal at Reinefjorden Sjøhus. Passing by the afternoon in a cozy cabin, rich with history, with my favorite person was a wonderful change of plans.  

Å

The small town of Å marks the western end of the E10 road. There is a small bakery here that was originally built over 170 years ago. (Like WHAT!) In the summer, the bakery is a “demonstration bakery”, showing customers how their beloved baked goodies were made back in the old days. We bought some cinnamon rolls, which came highly recommended by multiple people we had met during our time in Lofoten. Their cinnamon rolls took me by surprise because unlike American cinnamon rolls, drenched in sweet icing and glued together by brown sugary-buttery goodness, these rolls could be described more as a cinnamon infused bread twist. They were delicious nonetheless!  

I hope this blog post has inspired you to add Lofoten to your bucket list of travel destinations!

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Complete Hiking Guide to Trolltunga

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“Hey, Trolltunga is right up the road. Should we hike it?” A question that should not be taken lightly, but nonetheless a question that led to one of our favorite experiences from our time in Norway.

An hour and a half later, with our 30-pound packs secured, we started the 5 hour ascent. Fellow hikers who had completed the hike were making their way down the steep trail. Some had smiles of triumph on their faces, some were walking heavily with each step, and some were walking casually as if on a stroll – these were the Norweigans. But as we were the only ones going against the downward parade, all of these folks stared at us as if we were crazy. (Great, this is a promising sign). The landscape changed every couple kilometers – ranging from wide dirt paths, to rocky terrain, to reflection pools and left over snow, to mossy wetlands, to grassy outlooks, and hills of rock. Mile after mile we climbed. Faster and faster we went as we tried to beat the falling sun, eager to make it to the top before sunset. Looking ahead with each step, I desperately tried to cheat a look at Trolltunga from the distance, but no such luck. Then suddenly after 4 hours we were there. Trolltunga, the subject of thousands of pictures and the platform of numerous surprise proposals,  was finally in front of us, in the foreground of the start of a glorious sunset. My heart pounded as we walked out onto the narrow rock, 700 m (2300 ft) suspended in air.  The sun’s golden light hitting our face, with a 360 degree view, it was difficult to take in the vastness of the moment. Then, I'll admit, some slight social panic struck as we had to quickly pose for the camera in a creative way (because that’s what you do) as the small line of people waited for us – but how on Earth were we supposed to top the girl who went before us, holding her dog up like baby Simba?? 

As the sun continued downward, the colors of the sky grew and changed. Various tents were set up along the ridge, overlooking the lake below. Hungry and in search for shelter away from the windy mountain edge, we re-traced our steps until we found a secluded grassy patch protected by surrounding mounds of rocks. Sticky from sweat and still hungry after eating our “serves 2 (but not really)” backpacking meal we feel asleep in the complete silence of the mountain top.

Pitter patter as a light rain gently hit against our tent, telling us to get going. It was dawn, but no sunrise was visible thanks to the vast cloud cover. With all our gear and selves protected under their respective rain covers, we set out.

By the time we hit the last 4 km, our legs numb with soreness and our feet in physical pain, we started running. Running to cover more ground with each step so as not to prolong the pain. Remember, we had 30-pound packs on our backs – bouncing in every direction as we clumsily and noisily ran down the steep dirt slopes.

Was the hike worth the pain?

ABSOLUTELY. 


When in Norway, I HIGHLY recommend doing as the locals do, and hike. Norweigans grow up hiking in the plethora of mountains that make up the country. Some of the most beautiful scenery we saw in Norway was seen by foot.

But I’ll be honest, Trolltunga was not the #1 hike we wanted to do – in fact, we didn’t even plan to hike Trolltunga because of its length of commitment!  No, the hike we were eager to complete was Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). A relatively short hike, the trail leads you to a flat 600m high platform over looking the fjord.

However the weather had a different plan. We landed in Oslo at 6:30 AM after only sleeping 2 hours on our red eye from Reykjavik. The original plan was to get our rental car, and drive 8 hours west to Pulpit Rock AND complete the 2 hour ascent up. Anyone else see how crazily unrealistic my planning was for this day? My eager heart was making promises our future tired selves wouldn’t be able to keep. It’s no surprise then when Alex ended up pulling over to the side of the road a few hours into the drive, and we passed out from exhaustion for a couple hours.

As we made our way closer to the Atlantic Ocean, the rain started, nonstop. Realizing the rain was not going to stop, we cut our loses, and adjusted our travel route so as not to head south anymore nor waste any more hours driving. Goodbye Pulpit Rock. The next morning we traveled to the cutest town of Odda. While having a picnic lunch on the waterfront we met an English couple who were also backpacking their way through Norway. The day prior they had completed Trolltunga, the well known hike whose trailhead was just up the road. They told us the 8-10 hour hike was definitely worth the effort, and seeing as they did it in the rain, that’s saying something! Their love of the hike planted the seed in our hearts to maybe reconsider hiking Trolltunga, and thank goodness we did!

Ok, so getting down to the details…

WHAT:

I’m not going to sugar coat it, this is a very long and demanding hike. From the main starting point near Trolltunga Active, it is a 27.5 km (17 mile) roundtrip hike, taking 8-12 hours to complete. It is such a wide range of time because there are a few factors involved – level of fitness, stopping for pictures, meal breaks, waiting in line to take a picture on Trolltunga (sometimes it can be upwards of 45 minutes!), and then how tired you are coming down. If you plan to hike Trolltunga, please, be prepared. The search and rescue team is already extremely busy here, rescuing unprepared or foolish tourists.  

WHEN:

You can complete the hike on your own from Mid-June to Mid-September. Outside of this time you will either have to complete it via a guided tour (with snow shoes in the spring time), or it is simply ill-advised during the harsh winter. Check here for more information. 

If you plan to complete the hike in one day, you should begin no later than 8-9 AM, allowing yourself plenty of time to return before it gets dark. However if you plan to spend the night at the top (which I HIGHLY recommend), you should just give yourself enough time to get to the top before dark. While breaking the hike up into two days causes you to hike down with sore muscles, being at Trolltunga with minimal tourists and witnessing sunset and sunrise is well worth it!

Be sure to check the weather before hiking. Trolltunga Active has a print out of the hourly weather forecast for the next 24 hours at their front desk. When we were contemplating whether to hike, we only felt comfortable doing so when we saw there was no rain or wind for that evening, and figured we would be well on our way down the mountain by the time the light rain started the next morning. 

GETTING THERE:

We had a rental car, so I don’t have any information regarding public transportation to the trailhead. Some people stayed in the nearby town of Odda the night before or after their day hike to Trolltunga. Heading from Odda, drive north along the fjord for 6 km to reach Tyssedal. Taking a right onto Skjeggedalsvegen you will wind your way up the mountain. You will see signs for one of the parking lots for Trolltunga before you leave Tyssedal. From this parking lot it is an additional 5.5 km up a single lane road to Trolltunga Active in Skjeggedal. The lane has a few widen areas for passing cars, but be careful driving this road as there are a lot of blind curves.

PARKING:

There are a couple of different parking options. The main parking lot is located next to the Trolltunga Active center. There is a fee of 300 NOK for 12 hours and 600 NOK for 24 hours hours. The second option is farther from the trailhead, located in Tyssedal, and costs 150 NOK for 24 hours. Most folks we saw who parked here paid a taxi to transport them to and from the car. The third option is limited – a small parking lot located at the top of the trail's most difficult incline. The dirt road leading to the lot opens at 7 AM, and there is only room for 30 cars. The fee is 500 NOK for 12 hours, and operates on a first come, first serve basis. 

There are two trailheads: #1 the red dotted line. These shorter switchbacks result in steeper inclines, over a less distance. #2 the white solid road leading to the upper parking lot. (Remember this parking lot is not only more expensive, but also limited in size, only able to hold 30 cars. The lot is first come, first serve.) This second option, while still steep, is less steep than #1 due to the longer switchbacks. Clearly #2 is longer than #1. At the top of #2, there will be a trailhead sign (the red dotted line). This trail will soon join the #1 option trail.   Click  here  for original image source

There are two trailheads: #1 the red dotted line. These shorter switchbacks result in steeper inclines, over a less distance. #2 the white solid road leading to the upper parking lot. (Remember this parking lot is not only more expensive, but also limited in size, only able to hold 30 cars. The lot is first come, first serve.) This second option, while still steep, is less steep than #1 due to the longer switchbacks. Clearly #2 is longer than #1. At the top of #2, there will be a trailhead sign (the red dotted line). This trail will soon join the #1 option trail. 

Click here for original image source

THE TRAIL:

There are a two different starting points from the base that eventually come together after a steep incline. The first is located west of Trolltunga Active. It is essentially a vertical stairmaster with a 450 m elevation gain over 1 km. This route is made up of stone steps, as well as ropes in places of steep incline for added support. The second option is using the dirt road behind Trolltunga Active. The road was recently built leading to the top parking lot. This option is longer in length (~2.5km) due to minimizing the gradient via switchbacks. But this is still steep as well. With 17 hair pin turns, it has upwards of a 17% grade. Once you reach the top of this road, you will see signs for the Trolltunga trailhead. This is where you will start if you opted to park at the top (you’ll just have fresh legs relative to those who hiked to get to this starting point).

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The entire trail is marked with red, spray-painted ‘T”s on the rocks or tall, skinny poles with red tape on the top. These markings are frequent, but if you are not looking ahead to find the next “T” you may get a little off track. Additionally, there are a signs every 1-2 kilometers, indicating the number of kilometers hiked, and the amount remaining. 

The initial incline is the worst, so don’t get too discouraged from it! From here the trail levels out as you make your way through the “valley of cabins.” There are numerous glacial streams and wooden bridges to make your path through the marshy area easier. After a km you will come to the second worse incline (about 300m). The incline starts with large stone steps, and eventually turns into an enormous rock face – which looks slippery, but we had no trouble feeling secure with our steps. Once you reach the top of the rock face you will see the 4 km sign.

The next few kilometers will be relatively easy. The terrain starts to change frequently, ranging from large reflection pools, to left over snow from winter, to mossy wetlands. Eventually you will come to the first outlook of Lake Ringedalsvatnet, the body of water you see in the infamous Trolltunga pictures. Looking out you can see how high you have climbed, the lake’s shore looking unbelievably small. 

Continuing another couple kilometers through more mossy wetlands, you will make your way along the lake. Soon the terrain will turn into hills of rocks. Climbing up and down these rocks, you may eventually start to hear buzzing. Where there are drones, there is trolltunga! Then after many, many tiring hours, you finally see Trolltunga.

WHAT TO BRING:

Even if you don’t plan on spending the night at the top of the mountain, you should still bring a small pack of essentials.

  • Sturdy hiking boots (even better if they are waterproof)
  • Rain/wind resistant jacket
  • Clothing layers – the weather can change very quickly
  • Fresh pair of socks - because changing into fresh socks at the top feels so good! 
  • Hiking pants - these are advised by all the Norwegian sites, but I wore athletic leggings and was fine
  • Water – we took with us one hydration pack and one large water bottle. A lot of other websites will tell you there are frequent safe water sources along the path, including ponds, small lakes, streams, and trickling waterfalls. However we didn’t feel comfortable with most of these sources seeing as some were stagnant bodies of water, and others were streams with an easily accessible upstream where an animal could have peed in. We waited until we were at the top of the mountain – there were a few trickling waterfalls from the glacier runoff – to fill up on water, because this had less of a chance of contamination.
  • A map and/or compass
  • Sunglasses
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Biodegradable toilet paper
  • Protein bars
  • Plastic bags/small trash bag – please respect nature and save all of your trash to be disposed of properly when you return to the base.

Trolltunga Active has a few of these essentials for purchase should you have forgotten them. They carry clothing, hiking poles, energy bars, water, maps, and of course, souvenirs. They also have vaffels (Norweigan waffles) for purchase. There is a bathroom at the start, located in the parking lot, so be sure to utilize it because on the trail, it’s all natural.

SAFETY:

Apparently there is limited cell service on the mountain – though we watched a couple at the top face time their family in the US after getting engaged, so not sure about that...?  

Don’t hike if there is strong wind, heavy rain or fog. If you are doing the hike in 1 day and reach the 4km sign after 1 pm, STOP, and turn around because you will not have enough sunlight to make it to the top and back.

There are a few “survival cabins” located throughout the trail. These cabins are small, but provide shelter from the elements and supposedly are equipped with blankets.

If possible let someone know that you are doing the hike. We foolishly didn’t do this as it was a last minute decision for us, and the itineraries we had sent to our parents didn’t even include this hike as a potential plan.

WHERE TO CAMP:  

Norway’s “right to roam” allows you to freely camp in the open country (with a few exceptions of course). But that means it is free to camp on Trolltunga. You can camp anywhere except between the 1 km to 3 km markers. This area is clearly marked as a no-camping zone as it is an environmentally protected area. As I mentioned before, a decent portion of the people camping overnight choose to camp on the cliffs next to Trolltunga. Keep in mind though that camping anywhere along the ridge can be cold and windy. There are PLENTY of camping locations throughout the entire hike. With the “right to roam” law also comes the expectation to LEAVE NO TRACE. Again, take an extra plastic bag or trash bag with you to collect all of your waste so you can dispose of it properly once you complete the hike. 


This hike was one of the top highlights from our entire trip in Norway, and therefore I highly recommend it. If you are considering completing this hike and have additional questions regarding our experience, please feel free to comment below or send me a private message! 

 

Is the Blue Lagoon Worth It?

Driving to the Blue Lagoon was anything but what I had expected. It was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by moss covered lava rocks. In the distance we could see large, billowing clouds of steam rising into the air. That must be it, we thought. But as we drove closer, we saw to our surprise, that the source of the steam was actually a geothermal power plant. And there, next door, was a large parking lot packed with cars and buses.

With our bathing suits in hand, we walked along the lava rock lined pathway. Finally we saw the Blue Lagoon facility – a drastic contrast to its surroundings, it was a large, modern, and white building. We walked through its tall, elegant, glass doors, then BOOM, saw a line winding back and forth, resembling a line for a Disneyland ride. Except, that rather than a Disneyland themed area, the inside was just as modern and minimalistic as its exterior. I looked to the right and saw a large gift shop that everyone exiting the facility had to walk through. Alright, I thought, let’s see if this is worth the money. 

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Ten minutes later, after having great difficulty figuring out how to work the lockers, I was getting ready to shower off before heading out to the lagoon. I don’t know if there was something extraordinary about this shower, or if it was the fact that it was my first shower in 3 days (when camping through Iceland, am I right?), but I almost didn’t want to leave the shower, I was so in love!  

With there being so many pictures on the internet, my first glance of the Blue Lagoon was exactly what I had expected. Wanting to be cool like all the travel bloggers whose sites I had meticulously combed through when researching for our trip, we obviously wanted to get some cool shots of us in the water. But still wet from the shower, we started getting very cold in the 55 degree F weather. My sweet, sweet husband knew by eagerness to pose in the water, so standing in the cold as I got into position, he took some quick pictures then ran to put the camera away in the locker before he joined me in the perfectly warm water. Something I was surprised about was how BIG the lagoon actually it. Despite it being crowded with tourists, we were able to meander away from the “shore” and found a few quiet spots to ourselves. After 3 days of nonstop driving, hiking, exploring, and minimal sleep it was such a treat to just float in the milky water, giving our feet and legs a much needed break!

Two and a half hours later we emerged from the Blue Lagoon, and drove to the airport, completely relaxed and thankful we had decided to give the Blue Lagoon a try. 

Below is a guide of everything that you need to know when planning a trip to the Blue Lagoon. 

WHAT:

I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical about the Blue Lagoon. I had read that it is basically an over-priced, crowded tourist trap. Traveling on a budget for 2 weeks across 2 of the 5 most expensive countries in the world, we certainly didn’t want to waste our money if it wasn’t worth it. Thankfully one of my best friends had traveled to Iceland the year before, and she told us, that while she may not go back, it was definitely worth the money and going at least once. Ok, we were sold.

The Blue Lagoon is not naturally occurring, but instead is the runoff from a geothermal power plant next door. Don’t worry, it’s safe. The water is rich in silica, algae, and other minerals the first being the main cause for the water’s milky, turquoise coloration. There is also sulfur in the water, thereby creating a slight sulfur smell in the air. Honestly, the smell isn’t horrendous, and you quickly get used to it. 

PRE-BOOKING:

Roughly 80% of the tourists that travel to Iceland visit the Blue Lagoon. Therefore you are required to pre-book a ticket with a specific time slot before arrival. There is no time limit to the ticket, so you can stay as long as you like. For this reason, the afternoon (particularly after 12 PM) and evenings can be highly crowded. If you want to avoid some of the crowds, go early in the morning. The cheapest, standard ticket costs anywhere from 6100 ISK ($60) to 8000 ISK ($77), depending on the time of day you go. This standard ticket only includes admission and a free silicon mud mask.

If you are looking to go at a specific time of day, be sure to book EARLY as the popular slots sell out. For our 6 PM visit, we purchased the ticket 2 weeks in advance, and at this time a decent portion of the tickets were already sold out.

When you check in at your pre-selected time, you will be handed a wristband. The chip on the wristband is used to open your locker and charge any additional fees (ie drinks from the bar, special facial masks, or renting a towel ($6)) directly to your bill. You then settle the bill before leaving. Be sure to not lose the wristband in the water as that will be an additional fee! Upon exiting, you will scan your bracelet, the exit turnstile will open, and a small compartment will open, where you will return your bracelet. If the exit does not open for you, that just means you many need to still settle your bill. 

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LOCATION:

Many people are surprised to find that the Blue Lagoon is far from Reykjavik, with little to nothing surrounding it. It is 24 miles from Reykjavik (about a 40 minute drive), and 12 miles from the Keflavik international airport (20 minute drive), making it a popular stop right before or after a flight.

If you have luggage with you, there is a small building next to the parking lot where you can rent a locker to store your luggage. The cost is 550 ISK ($5.30) per bag. You will need to store anything larger than a backpack here, because the lockers in the locker room are not very large. Our rental car had a covered trunk, so we felt comfortable leaving our luggage in the car, and simply taking our valuables with us to place in our locker with our clothes. 

LOCKER ROOMS:

Their locker rooms were a little too modern and high tech for us! There are multiple locker rooms for men and women. When you enter the locker room you will see a large TV monitor indicating which lockers are occupied and which are available. Underneath the monitor are shoe racks. When you find an open locker, look for the instructional sheet about how to program the lock to open to your specific wristband. (I didn’t see this sheet at first, so as a millennial, who normally has no trouble figuring out technology, I was not used to asking someone older than me how to work the technology. A frustrating, yet humbling experience!)

Before getting into the water you are required to shower naked. In the locker room there are a few communal shower heads, but most of the women opted for the private showers. Each private shower has a rain shower head and is supplied with the Blue Lagoon’s special hair conditioner and body wash. It’s recommended to use the conditioner before and after bathing in the lagoon, especially if you have long hair, because the geothermal mineral water is extremely drying to your hair. (I took the advice of many travel bloggers and avoided this issue by not getting my hair wet in the lagoon). When exiting the men and women’s locker rooms, there will be a common area (designated as a relaxation area) where you can meet up with the rest of your group before heading out to the lagoon. 

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THINGS TO DO:

Due to its increasing popularity, the Blue Lagoon has expanded a lot over the years. There is a swim up bar, a swim up Silica bar, a sauna and steam room next to the lagoon, and a swim under waterfall.  Inside there is a restaurant and a relaxation area.

At the swim up Silica bar, you will be given a complementary white silica mask. The mud mask can be applied to your face and skin. Leave it on for 10 minutes before washing it off. We can personally attest that your skin will feel significantly refreshed, cleansed, and softened afterwards. 

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EXTRA TIPS:

  • If you are like us and going to the Blue Lagoon before you fly, I would recommend bringing a plastic bag for your wet bathing suit. The facility does not have a bathing suit dryer. Don’t worry about having to fly with wet hair because the locker rooms are equipped with hair dryers.
  • Due to the water’s chemical composition they recommend you not wear any jewelry in the water.
  • If you have room in your bag, bring a pair of cheap flip flops to wear in the showers and out to the lagoon (because the ground is COLD).
  • Don’t dry off with your towel after completing your pre-shower. Safe that dry towel for when you are done and exiting the lagoon!
  • Bring a water bottle if possible. The warm water will certainly have you feeling a bit dehydrated.