Iceland’s two blue water pools: Mývatn Nature Baths and The Blue Lagoon. While everyone knows the iconic Blue Lagoon, the Mývatn Nature Baths, on the other hand, is lesser known, despite being called “The Blue Lagoon of the North.” The two different pools have different atmospheres and experiences. So is it worth it to visit two different hot pools?
The Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 following the building of the Svartsengi power plant. According to the Blue Lagoons website, this is when people started bathing in the lagoon and noticed “that it has great effects on the skin.” It wasn’t until 1987 that the first official public bathing facilities opened at The Blue Lagoon. After years of perfected advertising campaigns, The Blue Lagoon has now become one of the iconic tourist destinations in the world, and the biggest tourist destination in Iceland.
The Mývatn Nature Baths officially opened for business in 2004, but locals have been using the baths for centuries.
The Blue Lagoon is only a short car or bus ride form the international airport and Reykjavik making it a convenient stop for people staying for a short time in Reykjavik, or even those who have a long flight layover. The convenient location is partially responsible for making the lagoon the top tourist attraction it is today.
The Mývatn Nature Baths are located in the north about one hour east of Akureryi, not in any major town. The remote-ness definitely means that you aren’t coming here unless you are planning a trip around the whole island, but it also means that the pools are significantly less crowded.
The Blue Lagoon is such a cliché tourist trap… but it’s amazing. You could easily spend an entire day here. I recommend booking your tickets in advance because we saw so many people who were on “stand by” to get in to the lagoon because they tried to just show up. We booked our time for the earliest possible we could get, which paid off because we had a very quiet morning in the lagoon before it started to become MUCH more crowded. The lagoon is very big with some little waterfalls and nooks to explore. There are also buckets full of the natural silica mud that you can put on your skin for a natural mud mask. On top of that, there are steam rooms, relaxation areas, a restaurant, and a store. One thing I wish we had done was the floating massage (they massage you while you float in the lagoon). Unfortunately it books up way in advance.
The Mývatn Nature Baths were very peaceful compared to the Blue Lagoon. Although the size of the pool was much smaller, there were significantly fewer people. While the Blue Lagoon gets over 400,000 visitors a year, the Mývatn Nature Baths see less than 100,000. It was very relaxing after coming back from a cold rainy whale watching tour in Húsavík. The Mývatn pools also have a restaurant, massages, and some nice amenities but it is no competition for The Blue Lagoon. It is also worth noting that the Mývatn pools smelled very strongly of sulfur and were not as warm as The Blue Lagoon. It was definitely warm enough to feel great for some time, but eventually the heat effect wore off. My best guess was that the Mývatn Nature Baths are more natural (which would account for the sulfur smell, and the slightly lower temperature.)
The Blue Lagoon is a must do for every person visiting Iceland, but if you have the time and are passing through the north I would definitely recommend stopping off at the Mývatn Nature Baths to get a more low key and authentic experience.