The best free alternatives to the Blue Lagoon on Iceland’s South Coast
I’ve just returned from my 10th trip to Iceland and I was amazed by the increasing number of visitors. I have been coming to Iceland since 2007 on an (almost) yearly base and it’s gotten so much busier than before. However, I still love Iceland a lot and will always be back for a next time. Although nothing seems to be really ‘hidden’ on Iceland’s South Coast anymore, I thought to do a write-up of the best alternatives to the Blue Lagoon, many of them free. My post about why not to go there has become one of the most read ones on We12travel ever since I published it, so I figured it was about time to give it a sequel. Here is a list with the best (free) alternatives to the Blue Lagoon on Iceland’s South Coast.
[Note: this article was first published in August 2016 and revised in March 2019 after my most recent visit to Iceland.]
Reykjadalur Hot Springs
Our favorite place to bathe in a warm stream is definitely Reykjadalur Hot Spring. You probably haven’t heard of it before but it’s actually quite close to Reykjavík, just about 45 minutes driving to the east from the city center. Take the 1 towards Hveragerði and follow the signs towards Reykjadalur. At the end of the road, you’ll park your car. Then hike up for about one hour into the valley. You will already cross the stream a few times, but it’s about an hour uphill until you reach the level where the water gets comfortably warm. Signs and a boardwalk will indicate where the bathing area is. Once here, just put on your bathing suit and jump in. As it’s a natural spring, make sure to be careful with nature and leave nothing but footprints. I you want to read more about our experiences in Reykjadalur, then read this post. I’ve visited Reykjadalur in both summer and winter and it tends to get quite crowded on these days, but still it’s free and amazing. In case you don’t have a car, you can hop on an organized tour from Reykjavík so no need to miss out on the fun if you are not driving your own vehicle.
Warning! This is not an easy hike and definitely not a stroll through the park. Unfit people should not attempt to hike here. Hiking boots are a must!
Landmannalaugar hot stream
Another favorite of mine is the hot stream at Landmannalaugar, a region in the Icelandic highlands famous for its orange and brown rhyolite mountains. You can only access this natural paradise by 4×4 or by bus, don’t even attempt to go with a regular car as you will need to cross several rivers to get there which is not covered in your insurance! You will find some simple facilities in Landmannalaugar, such as a place for cooking and some toilets and showers. Just a two minute walk from here is the hot stream where you can bathe and warm up. If you want to read more about Landmannalaugar, read my post about my solo adventures while hiking here and hiking the famous Laugavegur hike that starts right from here!
Third on my list of Blue Lagoon alternatives is Seljavallalaug. This one is a bit off the beaten path since there are no signs directing you in the right way. However, it’s not too hard, you just have to know it. When driving along the south coast, take the 242 just before Skogar (when coming from Reykjavík) and turn into the road, which shortly after becomes unpaved. Drive carefully because there are quite a few potholes and drive as far as you can. Then park your car and hike further up into the valley, it’s about a fifteen minute walk on an unclear trail and sometimes on the banks of the river. Make sure to stay to the left and eventually your will reach the Seljavallalaug pool. There are changing rooms here but they did not look ehm, very clean. The water however is nice and warm and the view is simply stunning!
Grottá Hot Pool, Reykjavík
All the way at the end of town, basically where you can go any further, is the Grottá Island (more like a peninsula) with a lighthouse. Just before this, you will find a tiny hot pool, suitable to fit three to four people. When I got here, it was already occupied by others (I came on a Sunday) but if you are early or outside of the high season, you may be able to soak up some thermal water here.
The hot pool of your accommodation
The best Blue Lagoon alternative that’s for free (more or less) is of course the hot pool in your accommoation. Quite a few hotels and guesthouses around Iceland offer hot pools for their guests, usually free of charge. If you’re looking for a great place to stay then I can definitely recommend Hjardarból Guesthouse, located in the town of Hveragerði, just a 45 minute drive from the city center of Reykjavík. It’s very quiet yet you’re just a five minute drive away bot from Hveragerði and Selfoss, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants, super marktets and more! I absolutely loved staying here during my recent visit and it’s much more affordable than actually staying in Reykjavík.
Cheaper alternatives to the Blue Lagoon
There are plenty of great cheaper alternatives to the Blue Lagoon. Icelanders love their hot pools and swimming pools and they can be found almost everywhere. My favorite place for bathing in Reykjavík is definitely the swimming pool Laugarsdalslaug in Laugardalur, next to the City Hostel and the campground. It’s a few Kronur only to get in and you can spend as much time there as you want. If you want a bit more fancy one, then head to the Fontana Spa in Laugarvatn. I’ve been here various times, both in summer and winter, and love the cosy atmosphere and especially the view. Plus it’s only about half as expensive as the Blue Lagoon.
The Secret Lagoon
Another pool I recently tried was The Secret Lagoon, located in the town of Flúðir. It’s about an hour driving from Reykjavík and I was advised by a friend to go here. I booked ahead on their website, where it states ‘We kept it unique for you’. Well … that was a bit of a disappointment as there were numerous touring buses and cars when we arrived. And at least another 60-70 people in the pool with us. The location is quite nice as it’s surrounded by geothermal activity, however you will not find any spa facilities here. You pay about one quarter of the price for the Blue Lagoon here but the water is not as blue. If you want to bathe in hot water, then the Secret Lagoon is a great option. If you want to experience the real blue water, then it’s not.
Note: it’s recommended you book your ticket for the Secret Lagoon ahead as they only sell a certain amount of tickets for each hour of the day. Since these days quite a few tour buses also include a visit, it can get quite busy. Buy your ticket online now. Don’t have a car? No problem, there are tours going to the Secret Lagoon from Reykjavík as well. Prices and options are here.
Conclusion of the best Blue Lagoon alternatives
This ends my list of best alternatives to the Blue Lagoon. I know there are much more but since most visitors stick to the South Coast anyway (just like me, most of the time) I thought this would be the best list possible. When in Iceland, it’s inevitable to head into a hot pool at least once during your visit but better, once every day. It’s what makes that trip to Iceland even a little bit more special. Enjoy!
Oh and if you still insist on going to the Blue Lagoon, note that it has to be booked in advance and you cannot buy a ticket on the stop. Go here to find tours going to the Blue Lagoon.
Plan your trip to Iceland
Going to Iceland? Awesome, you will not be disappointed, I promise. These will help you to plan your trip to Iceland:
– Order your copy of the Lonely Planet Iceland guidebook here.
– Check flight prices and schedules from anywhere in the world on Skyscanner.
– Go here for the best hotel options near The Blue Lagoon.
Where did you bathe when in Iceland? Any pools we forgot to mention here?
[Note that this post contains affiliate links and that I may earn a small commission if you book/order something through my website. Ofcourse at no extra cost to you.]