We went to the Blue Lagoon. We pulled in behind 3 tour buses. We parked among 17 more as well as with around a hundred cars. We walked the gorgeous path lined with lava rocks, electric blue water and slight smell. We walked through the automatic double doors into a Disney World type atmosphere and starred at the long line.
At that point we smiled at each other, knowing our secret and turned around. We walked to the parking lot down a different path, seeing more of the water and lava rocks and drove away in our car. Yes, we went to the Blue Lagoon, but did not stay. We can say we have seen it. We can say that it is beautiful. But we cannot say that we have swam in the Blue Lagoon. But that is OK, because we have our secret.
Our secret: Mývatn Nature Baths. OK, so it is not really that secret; but it is an perfect alternative to the Blue Lagoon.
The city of Mývatn is in northern Iceland. It’s a blip of the map when it comes to population, but it is big on things to do. Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe, is a short drive from town. The smelly, bubbling sulfur “mud pots” of Namafjall Hverir are raw earth at its finest. But, our favorite was the geothermal pools. Identical to the Blue Lagoon, just smaller, cheaper and less crowded.
Like all pools in Iceland, you must shower before entering. A staff member turned Mike around when he tried to skip this step; it was funny, but slightly embarrassing! Just walk to the pool really quickly because it is may cold and you will be submerged in the warm waters soon enough!
Bring towels, a change of clothes and spending money for food and drinks if you’d like. You will not need underwater cameras or goggles since there is no underwater visibility. Be careful with your sunglasses too. If they fall in the water they are probably goners; the water visibility is inches. If you do wear them, just make sure they’re strapped on. Take all of your jewelry off too; the water damages all metals. You also want to put your long hair up so that it does get wet for two reasons. First, it is cold, even in summer and having wet hair in the cold is not comfortable. Secondly, the water makes your hair extremely dry; like disgustingly dry!
Once you’ve changed and showered, get ready to enjoy the milky water. The “active” water is milky and almost neon in color due to the silica, algae and minerals in the water. Contrary to popular belief, the water is not a natural phenomenon. In contrast, it is completely man-made. It is the product of the geothermal plant next door; the same as the Blue Lagoon. So, basically, we are all swimming in run off water. But the warm water is so relaxing and even if it is not a natural hot spring, it is definitely a uniquely Icelandic experience to have.
Here are some comparisons for Mývatn Nature Baths and Blue Lagoon:
|Mývatn Nature Baths||The Blue Lagoon|
|Distance from Reykjavik||489 km||47.5 km|
|Ticket Price||Base Price: $28 USD||Base Price: $51 USD|
|Water Temperatures||96.8 – 104° F||98.6 – 102.2° F|
|Annual Number of Visitors||100,000||400,000|
If you are driving the Ring Route, stopping at Mývatn Nature Baths should be a no-brainer. If you are staying on the southern side of the island, 487 milometers is a long way to drive, so you will just have to pay the extra money, wait in the lines and “suffer” through the Blue Lagoon experience.