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Iceland Recap: The Blue Lagoon & Silica Hotel

Since we were celebrating a milestone wedding anniversary, we decided to end our trip in a pretty big way and go out with a bang. We knew during our Iceland adventures, we would definitely make it a point to visit the Blue Lagoon, but we decided to splurge and spend our last night at one of the lagoon's two on-site hotels: the Silica Hotel. And guys, it was was a pretty magical experience.

The Blue Lagoon might be the most popular thing to do in all of Iceland. We read so many reports online that were conflicted: many people said that they loved it and thought it was amazing, and others said that it had become so popular and overrun with people that it wasn't relaxing at all. We're both happy to report that we enjoyed every second of it, and felt the experience was worth our time and the cost.

So, what is the Blue Lagoon? For starters, it was named one of the 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic. It's a man-made outdoor lagoon in the middle of a lava field, filled with water heated by a local geothermal power plant. The milky blue waters are infused with silica (found at the bottom of the lagoon), which is healing and soothing to the skin. The waters reach about 100°, making it a perfect experience regardless of the season.

The Blue Lagoon offers a few different admission packages from basic to luxury, and once in the lagoon, there's a swim-up bar area that offers smoothies and alcoholic drinks, and a separate face mask bar where you can try out whichever masks you want (some come with a price, depending on the package you choose). So, there's a basic break down for you.

We chose to stay at the Silica Hotel because we wanted our last day to be relaxing and pampering. We had just spent four days packing in as many things as possible all over the island, and this was our time to slow down and enjoy a unique, spa-like experience. When you stay at the Silica Hotel, two premium admission tickets to the main lagoon are included in your stay, and the hotel also has its own private mini lagoon that is only for hotel guests (and the hotel only has 35 rooms, so it will never be crowded). The latter is kind of what sealed the deal for us.

Our room at the Silica Hotel.

We (read: I) decided to splurge just a bit more and went for a room with a lagoon view. I'm glad we did it just this once for a special occasion, but with the amount of time you'll be in the actual lagoon waters, it probably wouldn't be necessary if we ever make our way here again. Most rooms come with a lava-field or mountain view, which are still pretty incredible. The bed was the most comfortable we experienced during our trip (and most of our travels in general), there were complimentary drinks and chocolates inside the room, and the bathroom had heated floors and a heated towel rack. The blue quilt on the bed was one of the softest velvets I have ever felt, and it was so nice to curl up into bed with it after being outside in the cold. They also provide the most amazing breakfast buffet in the mornings, and we definitely loaded up on food before leaving. Their dining area, where breakfast is served, overlooks the hotel's private lagoon, and the entire ambience was just so serene and relaxing. We felt like we were in another world.  It was everything we wanted it to be, and we were so sad to leave the next morning.

The door leading to our patio at the Silica Hotel.

During our stay here, we planned to arrive right around 11a to really maximize our day, thinking we would just have them hold our luggage and make our way to the main lagoon until our room was ready. As luck would have it, our room was ready when we arrived, so we had some time to settle in before heading to the main lagoon.

The walkway that connects the Silica Hotel to the main lagoon was amazing - it's a trail right through the lava field, making the short 5-minute walk completely scenic.

The walk from Silica Hotel to the main lagoon. 

The entire lagoon experience was so fun, even Josh loved it (and he's not really a spa guy). But the waters felt so good and were super warm, but not burning hot. The swim-up bar was awesome and our premium entrance got us one free drink included in our admission. I got the strawberry smoothie, and Josh got a hard cider - both were wonderful. The smoothies were pre-made so I didn't have to wait for it to be blended, which was nice. It still tasted really fresh.

With our premium admission, we also got two face masks included in the price. We tried out the silica mask and the algae mask, and while I don't think they were life-changing for my skin, our faces both felt nice and soft after we washed them off (you can wash off the masks right in the lagoon waters). Everyone was walking around the lagoon with face masks on and a drink in their hand, and it was really such a great time.

Entering the main lagoon. 

Even though so many people visit every day, we had no problem finding empty corners. 

After applying the silica face masks. 

After we got out of the main lagoon, we decided to change back into our clothes (even though you can wear your robe around the grounds if you want) and visit the on-site cafe. We read online that the little grab-and-go cafe was really outrageously priced and with poor-quality food, but we didn't find that to be the case. Yes, it's more on par with Starbucks food, but the prices weren't horrible (maybe a bit more than Starbucks, but it's Iceland after all), and everything we got was very good for what it was. They had a few different vegetarian sandwich options, fruit cups, yogurts, drinks (alcohol included), chips, cookies, salads, etc. Plenty of options to choose from, and you eat at tables overlooking the lagoon.

After lunch, we made our way back to our room at the Silica and changed back into our swimsuits, threw on our robes and walked over to the hotel's private lagoon. It's definitely much smaller, but still feels really big because less people are in it. We had one whole area to ourselves for quite some time before others started to wander in. And even then, we still felt like we had plenty of space, and this was a nice perk for hotel guests.

At the Silica's Hotel private lagoon. We took these photos by setting my camera on one of the ledges,
and allowing the interval timer to snap away for a minute or so. 

The lagoon at the Silica Hotel isn't any less ambient. 

That layer of white in the middle is the silica. In some areas, it feels squishy on your feet as you walk around. 

I want to visit the Lagoon in the winter - imagine all the lava rocks covered in snow!

After spending the whole day lagoon-ing, we went back to our room and relaxed for a couple of hours. We were able to squeeze in a nap (which felt amazing because we were averaging 5-6 hours of sleep each night). We also had some time to relax, and enjoy our little patio with our lagoon view.

Josh and I are still laughing over our dinner that night, but in a very good way. The Silica Hotel has a restaurant on site called Lava, which serves lunch and dinner. The Retreat Hotel, also on the Lagoon grounds, which is the more luxury of the two hotels, is home to Moss Restaurant. We were debating where to go to dinner quite a bit the week before we left, but decided to book a table at Moss because it just seemed to be a very unique and luxury experience. We're not ones to spend a lot of money on food - we maybe do one dinner out every 2-3 months because we're just really simple people when it comes to food. So we planned to try to cut corners when we could, even at this meal, and decided ahead of time we would do the 5-course tasting menu (the restaurant only offers a 5-course and a 7-course) and get one drink each. When we arrived, Josh noticed that the 7-course really wasn't much more per person than the 5-course, so we just went for it (I blame being super mellow from lagoon-ing). Then, they brought over a cart of champagne once we were seated and asked if we wanted to start our experience off with a glass of champagne and Josh was like, "Sure!" thinking it was included in the price or something. Friends, it was not. And it was very expensive, and we were giggling about it the whole time because our planned budget for our basic 5-course and glass of wine each at dinner quickly went out the window. And we both still think it's rather hilarious, but we're happy it took that turn.

Our view from our table at Moss Restaurant. 

All that considered, this was still an incredible meal and worth what we paid. All the tables face the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lava fields. And after the sun goes down, they shine spotlights on the lava rocks so you can still see them while you dine, creating a really lovely ambience. The restaurant is also Michelin-rated, so service was beyond impeccable, warm and friendly, and the food - oh my god the food, it was amazing, as expected. The presentation during each course was special and perfectly tied in with the aesthetic of the restaurant, and our glasses of wine were just excellent. They even had a vegan menu, so I didn't have to feel guilty that Josh wouldn't be able to eat as much, which can sometimes be the case when we eat out together. Every minute of the experience, over the three hours we were there, was memorable, and it was such a great way to celebrate 10 years of marriage.

One of the vegan dishes at Moss Restaurant. 

I loved that the butter was served on a lava rock, and that they offered lava salt as well. 

The second dessert course during the meal. 50 stars for presentation, right?

After dinner, we chose to walk back through the lava fields, and guess what? We saw more Northern Lights. Josh kept calling me the Aurora Whisperer because I could spot them in the sky even when they were super faint and he couldn't see them just yet. We saw them the entire walk back to our room, and once we were back, we sat out on our little patio because they got even more intense, and started to dance in the sky. I want to cry thinking about that whole day and night because everything about it was incredible, and I can't believe something like that happened to us. I'm so filled with gratitude for the whole trip, but especially that night.

Our Northern Lights show outside our patio on our last night. These suckers are so hard to photograph!

The next morning, we had to leave for the airport, and tried to soak up as much of our room and the Silica Hotel as possible. The hotel put on the best breakfast spread we had during our entire trip, and the seating area overlooks the lagoon, which was just perfect. It was so hard to say goodbye to not only this destination, but the entire country.

Before we arrived at the Blue Lagoon, I had so many questions about what our experience would be like. I found a lot of answers online, but also had trouble finding answers to a few logistical questions I had. Hopefully this will help someone in the future.

Blue Lagoon

- Unless you plan to really spend a large chunk of time at the lagoon (as in, all day), you'll be fine getting the most basic admission, which is called Comfort. The next one up, Premium, offers a robe, flip flops and complimentary champagne at Lava Restaurant if you choose to dine there. So, if your main goal is to just experience the actual lagoon for a few hours, the Comfort package is the way to go to keep costs down. If you want to spend all day or afternoon there, the robe and flip flops come in handy because you can wear them at Lava restaurant (during lunch service only), cafe and lounging areas. The Comfort package will provide you with a towel to use, but if you want to stay all day, you'll likely find the robe useful. The Premium admission also has a separate entrance lane during check-in, which is supposedly faster and shorter. We didn't see any lines in either lane when we checked in, but if you're concerned about wait times in the normal line, this may be something to consider.

- When you visit the lagoon, just bring one small-ish bag with you if you can, or know you'll need to pay to store your luggage. My advice would be to keep your luggage in your cart if you drive. The lockers in the changing area aren't huge. I had a backpack, as well as the boots and clothes I was wearing, and it felt tight in my locker space. They do offer luggage storage for a small fee.

- You're given an electronic wristband when you check in, and this is how you secure your locker, and also, pay for any additional drinks or face masks once you're in the lagoon. To use the lockers, take note! Because I was super confused when I tried them for the first time. Choose any open locker to store your belongings. Close the locker you've chosen when ready, and then scan your wristband at the nearest scanning area on the same wall as the lockers. Go back and check that your locker is now locked (which it should be). To open it back up, scan your wristband again, and then your locker will pop open.

- There are separate changing areas for men and women, and yes, you're required to strip down naked and shower. Both showering areas for men and women seem to have added quite a few extra stalls with doors for privacy (from doing research, even a few years ago, it looks as though most had to shower naked in front of others and there were only a handful of privacy stalls back then). But I counted about 12 privacy stalls, possibly more, in the women's showering area and never had a problem scoring one versus using the open showers (I honestly can't remember now if there were even open showers). I had also read online that bathroom attendants watched to make sure everyone showered - cleanliness is taken seriously as the waters in the lagoon aren't treated with chemicals to sanitize them. So please do your part and be courteous to the lagoon as well as the other guests, and shower naked. However, I will say, I didn't see many bathroom attendants while I was there, and they certainly weren't watching or inspecting people to make sure they were showering before and after using the lagoon. The showering naked in front of others didn't stress me out as much as the worry that people would be staring at me the whole time making sure I was clean enough. So take comfort in that. And honestly, once you're there, even if attendants were checking up on people, there was no need to worry. Everyone was walking around naked (except for most of the Americans) and even I didn't think it was a big deal once I was there.

- The men's and women's changing/showering areas meet up in the same place once you exit to the lagoon, so if you're traveling with someone of the opposite gender, you won't have a hard time finding them once you're both done.

- The lagoon isn't very deep. At it's deepest, the water was just below my collar bone (and I'm about 5'5). But usually, it was up to my chest or lower.

- I had read online that the silica will ruin your  jewelry, including silver, gold and white gold. I didn't take my wedding rings off, and after using both the main lagoon and the lagoon at the Silica Hotel, they looked the same.

- If you've done any research on the Blue Lagoon at all, you've probably heard horror stories about people's hair getting ruined by the silica. Having an extreme affect on hair seems to be rare, but it seemed to be common for people to experience varying levels of dryness on their locks after visiting.  Josh and I both took the advice of others and put the conditioner that's provided in the shower stalls in our hair before entering the lagoon to prevent the dryness. I will say, I didn't slather it in as much as they suggested, and while we didn't really go under the water a lot, we did go under the waterfall at the lagoon (which soak our hair) and neither of us experienced any dryness or issues with our hair once we rinsed the conditioner out. I would still use the conditioner before getting in in case you decide to experience the waterfall, but I don't think it'll ruin your hair as much as people online say, (unless you plan to keep it under water for extended periods of time).

- Your swimsuit will be affected by the waters, but it won't ruin it. Both our swimsuits felt a little stiff after swimming in the lagoon for hours, but it washed right out in the washing machine once we got home, and there was no residual smell or weird textures.

- You can use cameras in the main lagoon. I took a big risk and brought my DSLR camera in the water with me to set up on a ledge somewhere and use the timer function to snap a few photos. I wrapped the strap around my wrist several times to make sure it was secure to my body in case I accidentally let my death grip on it go, and it was fine the whole time. Once I was done with it, I got out of the lagoon, and ran it back to my locker for safe keeping the rest of my time. I also brought a GoPro with me for extra photos and video clips, and just tucked it into the top part of my swimsuit while we were relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. Pretty much everyone had some kind of camera with them, whether it was a phone is a waterproof bag or a GoPro. Attendants walking around will take your photo if you ask (and some of them even offer). I was able to set my camera on a flat ledge around the lagoon and it was the perfect height to take photos ourselves.

- Because the lagoon only offers a certain number of admissions per time slot, we never really felt like it was super crowded. Once we were in the lagoon, the main area where everyone enters and exists is a little crowded, but there are so many nooks and crannies throughout the whole thing that we often found we had entire areas to ourselves. For some reason, most people seem to want to hang out right at the start of it, which seemed silly (but worked out well for us!). The only time I thought it felt a little chaotic was when we were leaving the main lagoon. The women's changing area was pretty packed, and I had a hard time access my locker because a group had just wandered in and were trying to get settled. So I had to wait for a few minutes. Honestly though, if you have reasonable expectations going into it, you should find your experience to be relaxing and enjoyable.

- Keep in mind that there really isn't a great system for keeping your same towel, robe and flip flops. You exit the changing area with your towel and robe, and then hang them on racks outside just before you enter the lagoon. Everyone's towels and robes look the same, and no one ever remembers where they put theirs, resulting in a very high possibility someone will take your robe. So, don't put any valuables in your robe pockets, and know it's not a big deal if yours is taken. You can just get a new one (partner with an attendant). Looking back, keeping your towel in your locker is actually a good idea if you can part with it. You don't really need your towel with you at the lagoon, especially if you have a robe, and that will prevent anything from happening to it in the first place. I also had my flip flops taken, so I'll be honest and admit that I just grabbed someone else's next to me.

- The flip flops are yours to take home with you after you check out, but the robes and towels have to be returned.

- The lagoon does offer a shuttle service from Reykjavik, and this information can be found online. The airport is about a 20-minute drive from the lagoon.

- There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to planning which day you visit the lagoon: either when you first arrive in Iceland or on your last day. We obviously chose our last day and whole-heartedly think this is the way to go. When we landed after our flight, even though we barely slept on the plane, we were so ready to get on the road and begin exploring. Ending our trip with all this relaxation made for a really nice way to reflect on our adventures from the week, and also, for a really calming flight home (I even passed out on the plane for a few hours on our way home, and do think our lagoon-ing the day prior helped with that). Of course, do what's best for you, but if you're torn, plan it for your last day.

Silica Hotel Lagoon
- The private lagoon at the Silica Hotel is for hotel guests only, is pretty much the same deal, but on a smaller scale. There are separate changing/showering areas for men and women, and both had private showering stalls with curtains and the same amenities (conditioner, shower gel, hair dryers). And even if you've just been to the main lagoon and want to jump right into the Silica lagoon, you still need to strip down and shower naked again.

- You can change into your robe (which is provided in your hotel room) in your room, grab your swimsuit and then walk to the private lagoon changing/shower areas in your robe.

- The Silica changing areas do have lockers, but they're very small. I have a small DSLR camera, and it just barely fit in one, and they're mainly meant for storing small valuables like phones, hotel key cards and wallets. They will definitely not fit a bag/backpack.

- We thought the face masks would only be available at the main lagoon, but the Silica lagoon had them sitting out for guests to use as well. While the masks were rationed at the main lagoon, the masks here were just a help-yourself system, so you could use as much as you wanted. I don't think they had all the varieties, but they had 2-3 different options.

- The Silica lagoon doesn't have a swim-up bar.

- If you get a lagoon-view room, the lagoon waters are not overlooking the swimming area. They created a mini lagoon amongst the lava rock fields to enhance your view when staying in these rooms. You can't swim in rooms with a lagoon view, but that also makes them very peaceful and calming because they don't attract people.

- We both felt that it was worth it to visit both the main lagoon and the Silica lagoon, just because each had something to offer. The main lagoon was so large and expansive, and you know, also has the bar with drinks. It also had the waterfall area and so many little corners to explore, and since two admissions are included in your hotel room rate, it makes sense to visit. The Silica hotel lagoon is still a good size with different corners to explore, but it was also a lot more relaxed because there were fewer people. It's worth it to check out both for different experiences.

- The main lagoon requires reservations for the most part. They do accept walk-in's, but the chances you'll get in is pretty much non-existent since it's so popular. But when you're a guest at either Silica or Retreat hotels, you can get admission to the main lagoon for any time you want, and you just let the hotel front desk staff know when you check in, even if you want to visit same-day. When we checked in around 11a, we asked if we could visit the main lagoon around 12p, and they said no problem, we would get any time we wanted, and to just swing by the front desk when we were on your way to the main lagoon.

- If you stay at either the Silica or Retreat hotel, Josh and I both agreed to try and maximize your time as much as possible since it's quite an investment. Arrive as early as you can, even if your room won't be ready (they will store your luggage for you), and start your lagoon-ing as soon as possible. You just ask for your admission tickets to the main lagoon at the hotel front desk, and you're also able to visit the hotels' private lagoons if your room isn't ready. We did all our lagoon-ing during the first part of our day, so we could enjoy our hotel room a bit for a few hours during the late afternoon before dinner, and we both felt like that was a good call. We wished, however, we had taken a later flight out the next morning so we could have stayed until check out time (we had to leave a little before 9a to catch our flight). All we had time for was the breakfast buffet, and packing up to leave. We wished we could have stayed in the lounging areas to relax a bit (the Silica hotel lounging chairs had the coziest blankets on them to curl up with), or just go for one more swim before our flight. If you can time it to be there a full 24 hours to stretch your investment, I would highly recommend it (or better yet, stay two nights!).

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