ICELAND: THE BLUE LAGOON VS THE SECRET LAGOON
You are planning to visit the Blue Lagoon in Iceland? But you don’t know it is worth it? Here’s a comparison with a less famous yet very charming, the Secret Lagoon in Fludir.
When Denis told me that we were going to Iceland, the first thing I thought was how impatient I was to go to the Blue Lagoon. I was already imagining myself splashing about in the milky blue water in the middle of a snowy and mountainous scenery. What I did not know was that to get there, it’s a quite complicated story. First, you have to book in advance and even select a specific hour to visit. And yes, more and more tourists visit the Blue Lagoon for its thermal properties and its originality.
Second, the Blue Lagoon is located about 70km south of Reykjavik so you either need to book a tour with an agency or to rent a vehicle.
You will find an infographic comparing the two lagoons also available at the bottom of page.
The Blue Lagoon, a wonder very well exploited
Denis had planned that we would go and treat ourselves with a mud massage to celebrate our recent engagement. But he wanted to make sure of the day of our venue especially because of the weather so he didn’t book upfront. And obviously when we tried to book, we realized that the lagoon was already full for the 5 days of our stay. We had only an option at 7pm on Monday (the lagoon closes at 20h). But neither Denis nor I were particularly pleased to pay 40 euros to stay only an hour. You can imagine my disappointment …. For me it was a MUST-DO. I even told Denis that it was almost like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower! (Well I exaggerated a tiny bit but I was really upset about it).
So, we took the shot and we went on site at the Blue Lagoon itself, trying to enter without reservation. It was simply impossible. You can not soak in the blue water if you don’t have a reservation especially during the peak season. I was so desperate that I even tried to pretend that I would buy the most expensive package worth 195 euros (including massage, drink etc.) . It did not work. The lagoon was super full. And it was on a Tuesday, March 29th, not necessarily at the peak of the season. The worst part about it is that the only thing separating you from this hot and milky water is a glass, you can literally watch people enjoy the lagoon while you’re being told you can’t go … enough to drive me crazy.
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So, to calm my frustration down, Denis offered to go to another lagoon, less famous but more picturesque, the Secret Lagoon, located near Fludir (can be included in the Golden Circle tour.)
Admittedly, at first, we went there out of spite. But looking back, I do not regret, quite the opposite.
So we thought ‘why not make a detailed comparison of the pros and cons of the two places?’ Because very little information is found on the internet about Fludir ‘s Secret Lagoon, way touristy than the Blue Lagoon.
The Secret Lagoon in Fludir is the oldest icelandic swimming pool
To begin with the comparison we must go back in time. The Secret Lagoon is the oldest “pool” of Iceland. In 1891, using the geothermal properties of the Fludir region, Icelanders have built a swimming pool, continuously supplied with hot and cold water currents, creating a bath around 38-40°C. It’s the perfect temperature to relax and keep warm despite the frigid temperatures that can occur in the country. The hardest ? The moment between the locker room and the deliciously hot water. This pool has long been popular with Icelanders, and it even became a tradition to go swimming, to learn how to swim or just to share a moment with friends at the Secret Lagoon. But with time the lagoon was fell into oblivion. Recently, its owner chose to believe in this picturesque place and build new infrastructure to accommodate locals and tourists. This place is an authentic, traditional and very Icelandic bath.
“There is a soul in this peaceful place and the owner did everything to keep its magic.” Agnes from the Secret Lagoon
The story of the Blue Lagoon is very different. Established in 1976, the Blue Lagoon is the result of the geothermal plant operations nearby. The central drills the ground to over 2000 meters deep and pressurized water that emerges is a silica-rich water, giving a milky color to the water and forming this grizzled mud that lines the lake and waterproofs the bottom of the lake. The water is salty but slightly less salty than the seawater. Unlike the Secret Lagoon, the Blue Lagoon is not the result of a “natural” geothermal activity but of a human drilling operation. The blue-green color comes from a seaweed, the oldest in the world, the cyanobacteria giving to the water much of its therapeutic properties.
Today the Blue Lagoon is a machine for tourists, rather expensive and the basin is expanding to accommodate more people. There is also a gift and therapeutics shop in the center, all expensive but most of the product are indeed effective if used on the long run.
The Secret Lagoon is 2 times cheaper than the Blue Lagoon
To soak into the Blue Lagoon, if you buy your entrance ticket online, you’ll pay 40 euros. On site, the price rises to 50 euros. You can find 4 different packages, and they are all well detailed on the site, but keep in mind that you need to add 10 euros if you plan to buy the tickets on site. To make the reservations, you will need a combination of luck and planning ahead. In high season, book your tickets at least a week in advance to get the best spots. There is also the option to go on an organized tour, then the agency will take care of providing your tickets and transportation. The only catch is that you’ll have only a limited amount of time on site. This is a good option if you do not rent a car.
The Secret Lagoon costs around 20 euros for the entrance and € 3.5 for the rental of towels or swimming suits. The infrastructure in place is new and clean, but small. There are drinks and snacks, as well as a cloakroom, showers and toilets but no massages or special treatment options. You are there primarily for the bath and the mini geysers surrounding the pool. Some agencies also offer trips to Secret Lagoon Fludir but often combined with other tours like the Golden Circle. You can also easily access it by car. There is a car parking at the entrance. Beware that a GPS is recommended because the entrance is not well indicated, we almost missed it!
The Blue Lagoon has thermal & therapeutic properties but a single visit is not enough to see the effects
For those who have heard about the Blue Lagoon, you probably know its water is rich in silica and seaweed which helps to heal many skin problems. The Blue Lagoon has become famous for its effectiveness against psoriasis, this fungus which pigments some part of the skin. From what I read, it does work effectively and psoriasis does not resist. Similarly, the algae present in the water have amazing properties on the skin like preventing premature aging and certain skin diseases. BUT, a single bath will not heal anything as it take repetitive baths> But you’ll have a good skin scrub. The first results of the anti-aging action of the water appear after 4 weeks of application according to a study published by the Blue Lagoon research center itself! And it is the same for the treatment of psoriasis, it takes 3 baths per week for a month.
So if you want to really enjoy the therapeutic powers of water the Blue Lagoon, you should rather buy derivatives because if you count on having a unique bath to fix your skin issues, that will have little or no effect at all!
Regarding the Secret Lagoon, just like the Blue Lagoon, the water is at an ideal temperature, around 40°C which helps to relax the muscles and remove tensions in joints and articulations. That can help people with arthritis.
The Blue Lagoon not so “green”
The water of the blue lagoon is therapeutic thanks to its minerals and algae but in the end, this water is the waste water rejected by the Svartsengi geothermal plant. This water comes from the depths of the earth’s crust in an area with very high geothermal activity, and is used by the plant and rejected outside. The fact that there are huge amounts of silica and other minerals in the water, produces a sludge that waterproofs the bottom of the lake, making the water filtration through the ground impossible. The plant is forced to constantly expand the lake surface to allow the discharge of wastewater. You should know that a geothermal plant in general uses only 13% of the energy produced by pumping these deep waters and 87% is just wasted. We could wonder if there is not a more effective way to do that. Icelandic media have created the Blue Lagoon as a tourist attraction and found a great way to turn wastewater lake into a “wonder of the world” as it is proclaimed on their website (quoting National Geographic as a source).
In the end, the lagoons of this kind could become a problem in Iceland as drinking water could be seriously threatened not only by contamination of the wastewater released by the geothermal plants but also by the drilling. A study of Ómar Ragnarsson, an Icelandic journalist and environmentalist describes the phenomenon of geothermal energy in Iceland and its direct impact on the environment. Although the Blue Lagoon advocates sustainable development and use of green energy (like anyway 86% of Iceland), we must realize that even geothermal energy has an environmental impact. The Blue Lagoon has nothing natural and is only the result of a very well conducted marketing promotion.
What would we choose then, the Secret Lagoon or the Blue Lagoon?
Looking back, I must say I have a bit exaggerated. Of course I was disappointed not being able to splash about in the Blue Lagoon but Denis didn’t deserve become my scapegoat. We saw it, and honestly, we were happy not to have spent those 40 euros (80 to last two!) to be packed in a corner next to another group of tourists. Indeed, the place is really impressive and this milky blue water makes you want to dive in it (which is strange since we do not see the bottom and usually such color is quite suspect, but my brain was telling me “go for it!”) . The Blue Lagoon of Iceland is certainly beautiful and unique with a recent and modern infrastructure which gives its distinguished character. It’s clean, well-appointed and … full of tourists. The Secret Lagoon on the other hand is cheaper, receives much fewer tourists and is perfect for enjoying a true Icelandic bath while appreciating the qualities of thermal water. During the winter, you can even enjoy the Northern Lights from the lagoon. In the end even though we decided to go to the Fludir Secret Lagoon only becasue we couldn’t get into the Blue Lagoon, we would certainly return there willingly to enjoy the peace of its natural and authentic environment.