All You Need To Know About

The Secret Lagoon in Iceland

By Michael Chapman

Iceland's oldest outdoor swimming pool remains popular with its soothing geothermal water and bubbling hot springs.

All You Need To Know About

The Secret Lagoon in Iceland

Iceland's oldest outdoor swimming pool remains popular with its soothing geothermal water and bubbling hot springs.

One of South Iceland's greatest treasures is the aptly-named Secret Lagoon, or Gamla Lauginn, located in the picturesque village, Flúðir.

This hub of joy and relaxation goes well beyond the other geothermal spas dotted around the country given it was the first man-made outdoor pool ever constructed here. In this sense, the Secret Lagoon is less of a luxury spa than an institution in its own right.

What is the Secret Lagoon in Iceland?

The Secret Lagoon provides all the amenities one would expect from a bathing house. There are segregated showers for men and women, a bar and restaurant area, and snacks and drinks available to purchase for those feeling underfed before dipping in the pool. Do note that meals are not served unless requested for groups beforehand.

Towels, swimsuits and bathing suits are available to rent on-site. If you’re travelling with small children, floaties and arm-bands can also be provided, while adults can enjoy relaxing with the aid of foam floating tubes. 

A walking path around the pool lets guests take a close look at several live hot springs that enclose the water like hissing pistons. These prime examples of geothermal energy include a miniature geyser which erupts every few minutes, much to the delight of those strolling by. These small, steaming puddles are far hotter than the Secret Lagoon, so ensure you don’t stand so close as to risk injury.  

On that note, guests will be pleased to hear the Secret Lagoon’s water remains at 38 – 40 °C (100° Fahrenheit) throughout the year. Perfect for muscle relaxation and mental serenity, you and your family will find this tranquil, welcome and revitalising stop decidedly Icelandic in nature.

How deep is the Secret Lagoon?

The Secret Lagoon is only 2 – 3 feet deep (0.6 – 0.9 metres), making it more of a wading pool than what you might expect from a more modern complex. This shallow depth makes it an excellent choice for families or poor swimmers, as one can easily stand up should circumstances become uncomfortable. 

Be that as it may, lifeguards and staff members are on-hand to make sure all guests remain safe. A short set of stairs leads down into the pool, allowing for easy access, and the stone-pebble bottom is comfortable to walk on.


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Is the Secret Lagoon clean?

All guests must shower in the nude before entering the water, using soap thoroughly on all areas of the body liable to become unsanitary after a while. This rule is as valid for the Secret Lagoon as it is every other swimming pool and geothermal spa in the country. 

While such attention towards the personal hygiene of others might seem strange to those with a greater inclination for privacy, pre-pool showering is strictly enforced in Iceland. Some pools employ a specific security guard to look out for attempts at bypassing the rules, though others in the changing room will be more than happy to police your hygiene for themselves. 

Aside from mandatory showering, it is good to keep in mind that the Secret Lagoon is built atop hot springs that replenish its waters at an approximate rate of 10 litres per second, constantly cleansing and renewing the pool. Given this fact, we dare say that the Secret Lagoon’s waters are among the cleanest you’ll find in Iceland, and that really is saying something.

When is the Secret Lagoon in Iceland open? 

Currently, the Secret Lagoon is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 PM to 7 PM. These limited hours are due circumstances related to restricted travel in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the meantime, we would recommend you spend your morning checking out Þingvellir National Park before taking your lunch at Flúðir, which is closeby to both Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothermal springs. Alternatively, the Secret Lagoon makes for a fantastic stop at the very end of your Golden Circle experience, providing some respite and relief after a day spent exploring the area.

The facility is available to enjoy in summer and winter, meaning guests will always have a chance to bathe beneath the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights respectively.

History of the Secret Lagoon

The Secret Lagoon—which became known to locals as Gamla Lauginn (the old pool)—was first built on the Hverahólmi hot springs in 1891. Interestingly enough, the pool was constructed before the village school, which was erected in 1929, while the first homes in the area had begun utilising geothermal energy two years earlier in 1926. 

Historically, women used to wash the family’s clothes in the local hot spring, Vaðmálahver. When not engaged in domestic drudgery, the locals would let off steam by bathing in the warm waters of their home. Before the turn of the century, however, this island of fishermen, founded by sea-faring Vikings, did not, by enlarge, know how to swim.

That changed in 1909 when swimming lessons were first introduced at the pool for local school children, marking the first occasion in what would soon become a mandatory part of every Icelandic child’s education. 

Lessons continued there until 1947 when the authorities moved them to a new pool that had been built a year beforehand. After this change, the Secret Lagoon was left abandoned, and for a time, it seemed as though most people would forget about it.

As recently as 2014, the family of the landowners refurbished the pool before opening its doors to an entirely fresh generation. Not much has changed in the years since, save the scores of overseas visitors who have experienced the Secret Lagoon’s pleasures themselves. One can still see the moss-laden remnants of the old changing facilities sat on the banks of the lagoon.

Should I visit the Secret Lagoon or the Blue Lagoon?

Blue Lagoon Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Frank Denney)

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s best-known geothermal health spa, gracing magazines and travel documentaries for decades now. While the Secret Lagoon might no longer be much of a secret, it is undoubtedly less-visited than its larger counterpart on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

The first distinction between the two establishments is evident upon arrival; the Blue Lagoon is surrounded by black volcanic rock, gnarled into strange and lively shapes. On the other hand, the Secret Lagoon sits amidst peaceful green surroundings that, for indecipherable reasons, feels more natural. While both settings are stunning in their own right, the Secret Lagoon feels less alien, and in some ways, less hostile.

An aerial view of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Stephen Leonardi)

Another immediate contrast is the size; the Blue Lagoon is far bigger in comparison, whereas the Secret Lagoon only covers about the size of a tennis court. One would expect such a difference given the disparity between the two, with the former offering more in the way of a luxury spa, complete with steam rooms, saunas, mud-masks and mineral-rich silica.

The Blue Lagoon is catered to tourists almost entirely, providing enough amenities to keep its guests entertained for several hours. Meanwhile, the Secret Lagoon has a history of service towards local Icelanders, bolstering its reputation as a place of history, culture and authenticity.

How far is the Secret Lagoon from Reykjavík?

There are around 105 kilometres between the Secret Lagoon and Iceland’s capital city, making it an easy enough day trip for those inclined. Many guests choose to visit the Secret Lagoon as part of their Golden Circle sightseeing trip thanks to this proximity. 

Driving will take approximately 1 hour and 26 minutes. Despite the short distance, you’ll be blessed with staggering views of the southwest countryside en route, discovering windswept hills and valleys that slowly give way to rustic farmland and small patches of woodland.

What is the best way to get to the Secret Lagoon?

The most typical means of getting to the Secret Lagoon is to drive yourself. It is a simple route from Reykjavík, following Road 01 past the small town of Selfoss, before heading straight down Route 30 (likely signposted as Skeiða og Hrunamannavegur) towards Flúðir.

If you do not want to drive yourself, it is possible to utilise Iceland’s public transportation system, Straeto. Two buses leave each day from the capital, though it is a 3 and a half hour journey to the Secret Lagoon—not the best use of one’s valuable holiday time. If money is no concern, you could always opt for a private taxi, which will surely get you there faster.

Finally, you can always jump on our Golden Circle bubble tour, which aside from allowing guests to spend overnight in a transparent bubble, will also make a stop at the Secret Lagoon, among other sites. With an experienced and professional guide leading you from stop to stop, you will gain a valuable appreciation of each attraction, and will rest easy knowing that someone else is taking care of the driving.

If you are planning on driving yourself, make sure to check out the below map to see the route for yourself;

What else besides the Secret Lagoon does Flúðir have to offer?

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; Flúðir is a beautiful little village in its own right and possesses enough natural charm to make a special visit there worthwhile. Home to little more than 800 permanent residents, Flúðir has gone from strength to strength in recent years as more and more guests use it as a pitstop whilst exploring the Golden Circle. 

The hot spring Litla-Laxá runs through the settlement, letting off thick and picturesque plumes of steam that help add to this tiny locale’s character. Not only is this eccentric local landscape unique to Iceland, but there are few places in the world where people live right alongside geothermal energy so near.

Somewhat against expectations, Flúðir boasts a fantastic Ethiopian eatery that is a must for travelling foodies. Restaurant Minilik not only offers a stellar atmosphere for diners but also reasonable prices for what can only be described as delicious and authentic African finger-food. Don’t miss out on paying a visit when your time at the Secret Lagoon is over; your stomach will thank you for it! 

For those who can’t get enough of how geothermal water makes them feel, Hrunalaug natural hot pool is nearby. Hrunalaug was once used as a sheep station for passing farmers who used the pool’s heat to clean their flock of parasites. A small hut on-site stands in testament to this fact, but is today mainly used for changing and shelter from the cold. There is a small donation box for the landowners, so make sure to be charitable if you plan to visit this hidden gem.

Can you stop at the Secret Lagoon on the Golden Circle route?

Strokkur hot spring in Iceland
(Unsplash. Photo Credit: Mauro Fabio Cilurzo)

Yes, as mentioned previously, the Secret Lagoon is considered one of the top detours on the Golden Circle sightseeing route. In between Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot springs, guests can stop at the Secret Lagoon to revitalise for the adventures yet to come.

Of course, there are plenty of other sites in the area aside from the Secret Lagoon that can add value to your Golden Circle experience. Visitors should check out natural locations such as the dramatic Kerid volcanic crater, or any one of the sublime waterfalls; Faxi waterfall.   

Lovers of culture, food and the arts will also discover much on the Golden Circle trail. Friðheimar tomato farm is one of the most established and beloved restaurants in the country, offering four unique types of tomato grown in their greenhouses. You’ll dine surrounded by glass and growing vines, tucking into hot soups and pastas perfect for a cold Icelandic day. 

On the other hand, those interested in Icelanders’ outlook on conservation and sustainability, Sólheimar village is an excellent example of how environmentally-conscious residents can build homes in the heart of the countryside. Translating to “Home of the Sun,” Sólheimar is currently home to around 100 people and regularly welcomes guests with live events and art exhibitions.


Travelling to Iceland?

Check our overnight tours with a driver guide that includes a one night stay in a bubble.
See Guided Tours

*Starting from ISK 74.900 per person

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