This entry is about my quick layover in Reykjavik back in July 2017. When I booked my return flight from the UK to the USA, I had to make a three day pit stop in NYC for a family wedding. It happened that the cheapest flight from London to NYC, with a difference of several hundred dollars, was with Icelandair. The catch was a 17-hour layover. It was an awkwardly timed layover, too. I arrived in Reykjavik at 3pm and wouldn’t depart again until the next morning. I knew I didn’t have much time to do anything but I tried to make the most of my time there. The Keflavik airport is about 45 minutes away from the city itself, so rather than try to see parts of the city during limited business hours, I opted to do the most touristy thing I have ever done in my life: I went to the Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a man-made hot water spa located just 20 minutes from the airport. This means that many tourists either go here when they first arrive, or just before they depart. Iceland’s tourist industry is a well-oiled machine and there are regular shuttle buses between the airport and the lagoon which you can book with your lagoon admission ticket. Find out more about how to get to the Lagoon here.
When I arrived at the airport I found that the Reykjavik airport is extremely clean and modern and most people are helpful and speak English. Customs was almost a pleasant experience there. Once I had my bags I headed down to the public transportation information desk and found out where to go for my Lagoon bus. At the same time I asked them what they thought about people sleeping in the airport overnight. I had read conflicting accounts online. Some blogs said it was a friendly airport and that people slept on the floors all the time because so many flights have long layovers. Other blogs said security people go around waking people up and telling them to sit up rather than lay down on the floor. Near the information desk there was one such camped-out group, with sleeping bags and everything. I realized that the pre-security terminal space available to sleep was limited and decided to book a hostel room for the night for one reason: because my layover was so long, I had to claim my checked bag and was advised not to re-check it until 2 hours before my flight to ensure it didn’t get lost.
About an hour later I boarded my bus to the lagoon. One thing I will say about Reykjavik is that it is very windy! My suitcase was nearly ripped out of my hand by a crosswind coming out of the terminal. And I happened to arrive on an overcast and drizzly day so it was quite cold. The bus ride was quick. There isn’t much to see between the airport and the lagoon. You can see Reykjavik across the bay to your left as you go, but the landscape itself is very desolate. I had never seen anything like it before. It’s a tundra with a lot of strange rock formations covered in lichens, and very few trees.
I had my luggage (suit case and backpack) with me but it wasn’t as cumbersome as I expected. The bus drops you off right in front of the luggage storage at the Lagoon entrance. Luggage storage works out to roughly $5 after currency conversion.
From the luggage drop-off you’ll walk several hundred feet through rocky landscape to get to the lagoon entrance. There is a path that winds through the landscape that you can take without having to pay admission. These photos were taken from the path:
Everything in Iceland will seem expensive. First off, the currency is in larger units, so what we see as $10 they see as 1000 Icelandic krona. But even once you get used to moving the decimal point over two places, you’ll find things are quite pricey. My ticketed entry time for the Lagoon wasn’t until 6pm and I arrived an hour early so I spent my time in the Blue Cafe next to the gift shop. While I appreciated the free wifi, I also spent $25 on “dinner” which was essentially a chicken salad and a skyr yogurt drink. I had already spent $15 on a few snacks at the airport before I boarded the bus, but knew I needed to eat because very little would be open and accessible for me after I was done at the lagoon.
Once my entry time rolled around I entered by the admission desk and found my way to the women’s locker room. At first, the set up was confusing. I had been given a wrist band that apparently was to be used for everything from locking the locker to purchasing drinks from the pool-side bar. I eventually worked my way to the back of the locker room where there were fewer people and figured out the locking system. If you are not familiar with these types of communal locker room/changing areas, you may be taken aback by your neighbor suddenly getting completely naked next to you, so fair warning. You will also be asked to shower before you enter the pools. You can do this with or without your swim suit. There are stalls with doors for those less comfortable showering naked with strangers.
The water at the lagoon gets its unique color from all the minerals in the water, particularly the silica. While it is great for your skin, it can make your hair dry and crunchy for a few days. You’ll find conditioner dispensers throughout the shower area and are encouraged to put some in your hair before you get in the water. From there, you’re ready to go!
It was cold on the day I visited so I was glad that I took my towel and flip flops with me from the locker room outside. You can enter the water from inside the building and swim out through a door, or get in at various points outside. I opted for the inside entry. The water is wonderfully warm and the temperature changes depending on which of the main connected pools you find yourself in. It also varies in depth, so don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself in only a foot of water. The floor is relatively smooth so bare feet will be fine.
Yesterday during my layover here in Iceland I did the most touristy thing I could possible do… I went to the Blue Lagoon. 😂 It was great to swim around in the hot water and the face masks and drink were included in my ticket price, but overall it was way too touristy for my taste. There's a reason locals don't go there. Haha. But, it's something to check off the list. If Mike and I come back to Iceland together in the future, I look forward to exploring the many, many other geothermal pools the country has to offer! The Blue Lagoon is actually man-made, which takes some of the authenticity away. I definitely enjoyed the geothermal pools in New Zealand far better! 😊 #travel #travelgram #keflavik #icelandlayover #bluelagoon #touristtrap #silica #thermalpool #geothermal #gopro
You will encounter Lagoon employees bobbing around the various pools and they will offer you a free silica face mask or body scrub. They’re included in your admission and you should definitely take advantage of them. See me with mine in one of the several Instragram photos above. Every employee I encountered was extremely friendly. Sometimes too friendly. I knew they knew I was alone and some were too chatty for my taste. Hah.
Overall, I spent an hour in the water. As someone who has often traveled solo, I was used to being alone, but I can definitely say a visit to the lagoon would be best with friends. I was surrounded by other groups of tourists. There were a lot of Americans, but also many from other countries. This is a selfie-Instagram ground zero though…so be prepared for people with their GoPros and waterproof iPhone cases to be doing their best to get that all important shot. I watched one group of girls posing on a rock formation in the cold wind for what seemed like an eternity… but I’m sure they got better photos than I did. If you’re not convinced, just check out any photos tagged with the Blue Lagoon location on Insta: https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/243297961/blue-lagoon-iceland/
Also included in your admission is one drink from the pool-side bar. I opted for another Skyr smoothie and didn’t regret it. I eventually decided my fingers were wrinkled enough and go out. I showered, got dressed and then headed back toward the front of the property to retrieve my stored luggage. The shuttle bus had a limited number of return times to the airport, so I was glad I chose the one I did. Once I arrived back at the airport I got a taxi to my hostel. This was an unanticipated expense, since I had planned on sleeping in the terminal, but it was money well spent. My taxi driver was such a pleasant man! Honestly, everyone in Iceland is so nice it almost feels unreal.
I checked into the Base Hotel hostel, which happened to be some converted old military barracks near the airport, and happily got into bed to sleep. I had to pull the black-out curtains shut because it never truly got dark over night. The next morning I packed up and took a shuttle bus from the hostel to the airport for 1500 krona. I checked in at the self-check kiosks and dropped off my check bag before heading through security. Security didn’t take long at all and then I sat down at one of the airport restaurants for breakfast.
Overall, I think I made the best use of my layover given the limitations of a budget and not having a rental car. If I had more money, I probably would have rented a car and booked a hotel in Reykjavik so I could see more of the city. Having the car would have given me more mobility to get to restaurants and things after my visit to the Lagoon. And really, if I had had the car, I probably wouldn’t have gone to the Lagoon. My visit to the Lagoon was based on the convenience of the existing tourist framework that is in place. Given just how many flights now pass through Iceland, I might find myself in Keflavik again soon. If I do, I’ll know what to do! 🙂