Imagine this: you are floating in opaque misty blue water surrounded by ancient lava fields while you drink a smoothie. The steam fills the air and opens up your lungs. You are totally relaxed. Looking up at a pale blue sky and you begin to daydream. Just as you close your eyes, a silhouetted figure emerges, standing above you. A man you have never seen before stands over you eating a hotdog, wearing dirty sandals. Clearly, he didn’t get the memo. Doesn’t he know there are rules and etiquette at the Blue Lagoon? This is a geothermal spa for goodness sake! He takes off his Hawaiian shirt and fanny pack, and cannonballs into the water with his food, right next to you. As he emerges from the water, he is already on the phone with someone, and he is yelling and splashing water everywhere. Your day has gone from a magical, mystical steam bath in amethyst opaque water, to hot dog hot tub water and broken dreams in a matter of moments! How did this happen?! How can we prevent these scenarios?!
The piece above is a fairly egregious over exaggeration of how it feels for Icelanders when tourist come to visit our lagoons and pools, and don’t follow our cultural norms and standard etiquette. I am sure that the story above has never happened, and more often than not tourists that come and visit are more than amicable. However, while the situation may be fiction, the feelings elicited when visitors don’t follow the rules is very real.
Pools, lagoons, and water in general play a big part in our culture. In Iceland, pools act as a conduit for the local community to come together. It is a vehicle that allows us to escape the dread of winter and relax. The most popular location for tourists to experience this pillar of our culture isn’t even a pool! It is a stunning man-made lagoon. The aptly named “Blue Lagoon” is a must-see for anyone traveling to Iceland. By knowing some helpful tips, tricks, and etiquette about our culture, in regards to bathing and pools, and more specifically The Blue Lagoon, you are sure to never inadvertently nauseate your Icelandic hosts.
Hygiene, Hygiene, Hygiene
This advice may make you feel like a middle schooler all over again, but it is of the utmost importance that you shower. Thoroughly. Also, you cannot shower with a bathing suit. You must be naked. NOW. Public nudity is a topic with which people have incredibly strong opinions. Some people couldn’t care less about it, others, on the other hand, place it in their internal pantheon of awkwardness, next to public speaking, texting someone a message that wasn’t intended for them, or responding with “you’re welcome!” when someone says “have a great day”. If you are uncomfortable, remember, we don’t want to see you naked either, we are here to relax. Joking aside, showering naked is the rule, so follow it.
If you are still curious, and cannot wrap your head around it, I’ll explain. By bathing before you get into a pool or a lagoon, you rid yourself of all the grease, germs, and other waste that linger on your body. The Blue Lagoon has relatively low levels of chlorine, so it is important to bathe before. Also, it just feels great. Now that we have addressed hygiene, we can move onto more less known etiquette of the Blue Lagoon.
Do’s and Don’ts in the Pool
The Blue Lagoon’s primary purpose is to relax. Aesthetically pleasing and healthy are also some facets of the Blue Lagoon, but always remember people travel here to relax. Being in such a magical and unique place can sometimes channel your inner child. Resist the urge to splash around and cause any unwanted disturbances. Think of it as a spa first, and a lagoon second. You wouldn’t want someone splashing water around you or yelling if you were at a day spa, would you?
Cellphones. They are everywhere. We all have them. Fun fact, some people even have two! What a world we live in! The advent of the cell phone means that not only are people connected more now than ever, but we often pay a steep social price for it. Some people cannot become untethered from their phones. Be careful if you take your phone with you into the lagoon. Water is notoriously dangerous around electronics. However, given the aforementioned high mineral content of the water, it should be mentioned that this water is essentially poison for your phone. Even if your phone has waterproofing, you still take a risk. Limit your photos and cell phone use to a minimum. Social media can wait, so try to be present in the moment. No one wants to be in the background of someone else’s live stream. I know I don’t.
Drinks and Food at the Blue Lagoon
A spa experience wouldn’t be complete without enjoying some food and beverages. There are no food options in the lagoon, to limit the possibility of swimming upon a half-eaten snickers ( à la “Caddyshack”). If you are starving, there is a restaurant near the spa area. You can, however, enjoy a refreshing beverage in the lagoon. When you first check into the Blue Lagoon, you will receive a blue waterproof bracelet. Not only does this bracelet grant you access to your locker, but it also allows you to purchase drinks in the pool. A word to the wise: the water in the Blue Lagoon is around 98 °F (37 °C). Being in a steaming pool of water will quickly dehydrate you. As such, they limit the number of alcoholic drinks to three, and that’s a good thing. Respect the rules and be safe.
Children and the Blue Lagoon
Children are allowed to be at the Blue Lagoon at any age. If your kids are under 15, then they need to be accompanied at all times. I think this rule should be applied to all aspects of life, but, alas, I believe that is wishful thinking. The rule is present to not only protect the tranquility of the Lagoon but for the safety of children. The heavy steam and mist combined with the opaque water could be treacherous for an unaccompanied child. So please, if you have a child be present with them. Have a great time at the Lagoon but be mindful of the other patrons.
Safety at the Spa
It is important to remember that the area surrounding the Lagoon can be quite slippery. Running is highly ill-advised. Enjoy the Lagoon and treat it as you would a spa. I don’t remember the last time that I saw someone sprinting around a spa, and I doubt you can either. Relax and enjoy the soothing, healing waters of the Lagoon.
Preparing to Leave
Don’t forget to square up with the front desk for your locker rental and whatever treatments or beverages you purchased during your stay. They won’t let you leave until you pay your bill. Even if you forget to pay, undoubtedly someone will kindly remind you that you need to settle your account. Important hair tip before leaving: use a ton of conditioner during your post lagoon shower. Judge what you deem is enough, then double that. The minerals in the pool have incredible health benefits for your skin, but it is likely they will destroy your hair (only for a few days though).
Ultimate Etiquette Guide for Iceland’s Blue Lagoon
By far our best etiquette tip for the Blue Lagoon is to be present. The Lagoon will give you an excellent opportunity to recharge your body and mind. Try to leave your phone and worries in the outside world. We all have enough stress in our daily lives, and the Blue Lagoon’s sole purpose is to help free us from that stress. So float, relax, get a facial, maybe even grab a bite (outside the pool), but try your best to enjoy the moment.