How the Blue Lagoon in Iceland Became a Beloved Tourist Attraction

Photo of Camille Buckley
22 April 2018

The famously milky blue waters of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has captivated travelers and contributed to Iceland’s tourism boom in recent years with its otherworldliness. Since its opening in 1976, the lagoon, while still being a buzzing tourist hotspot, remains a worthwhile place to visit, living up to its hype for its healthful properties as well as tranquil beauty. But how did it come to be so renowned? The answer lies with dermatologists.

Blue Lagoon Iceland | © Heather R/Flickr

The waters of the Blue Lagoon are full of mineral salts, healthy algae and a kind of silica mud that contributes to its cloudy blue color as well as being a nourishing tonic for the human skin. A little known and surprising fact is that the lagoon was actually the accidental result of drilling by the Svartsengi Geothermal Plant. Shortly after its genesis, people were curious and began to bathe in the waters and noticed how great their skin felt after a dip. Word got around, as it does very easily on the small island, and attracted the attention of Icelandic dermatologists and biologists who wanted to explore the water’s effect in treating skin conditions.

Blue Lagoon Iceland | © Patrick Nouhailler/Flickr

Beginning in the late 80s, the first bathing facilities opened to the public at the Blue Lagoon with a special clinic for psoriasis patients. Results found that the geothermal seawater greatly improved the condition of patients’ psoriasis. The surrounding Reykjanes peninsula soon became a hotbed of research on the health benefits of the Blue Lagoon’s waters and subsequently, there came into development a line of skincare products and treatments based on the water. The lagoon’s harnessing of natural resources while maintaining environmental sustainability was also a huge draw in the attraction’s popularity.

The Blue Lagoon | © Helgi Halldorsson/Flickr

Iceland’s location on the volcanic Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the meeting place of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, creates steady tectonic action, contributing to Iceland’s volcanic activity. Part of this volcanic network is its hot springs and boiling geysers. Although an accident, the Blue Lagoon is also a result of Iceland’s placement on the tectonic ridge that creates the hot springs that keep the lagoon at a comfortable temperature. Not to mention, the lagoon’s reservoir provides clean, sustainable heating for some residencies in the surroundings and generates electricity for 45,000 people.

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