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I have just come back from a fantastic trip during which we spent some of our time in Iceland. One of the highlights of the trip was the obilgatory dip at the warm therapeutic waters of the Blue Lagoon, probably Iceland's most famous and most visited tourist stop.
IN A NUTSHELL
The blue lagoon is actually an artificial lake, formed by the outflow of a local geothermal power station. Yes, I agree it sounds unappealing, but it is fantastic! It is set around the beautiful black rocks of an old lava flow and forms a large irregular shaped pond, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. The water is hot (around 40 degrees centigrade), which is fortunate, as even in summer when I went, the outside temp was 8 degrees centigrade - not your usual outdoor swimming temp! The water is enriched with silica and other minerals, which are claimed to be therapeutic. Believe it if you want! There is a silica salts on the bottom of the lagoon which you are encouraged to use as a mud pack.
ABOUT THE WATER
So yes, the water is from a power station, which you can actually see in the distance. However, its a geothermal power station. It takes local natural hot spring water (of which there is lots in Iceland!) and uses it to create power. It is a green and clean process with minimal pollution. Anyway, the water is very very hot when it enters the power station, but it has cooled a bit by the time it leaves. This remaining cooler (but still hot) water is channeled into the blue lagoon. The steam from the water creates energy, so the water its self isnt polluted at all by the power station (so they say, but I do believe them!). The water is blue tinged as a particular (safe) type of blue-green algae lives in the lagoon. You cant see the algae floating, and there are no fish!
WHERE IS IT?
The Blue Lagoon is situated about a 10 min drive from Keflavik, which is a small town but also the site of Iceland's main international airport. It is about a 30 minute drive from Reykjavik, Iceland's tiny capital, where most tourists are based.
WHAT CAN I DO THERE?
It is essentially
a hot lagoon to swim in. When I say swim, I should say 'dip' as it is pretty shallow and swimming isnt that easy. This is compounded by the fact that you will proabably bump into the many (German and English) tourists! It is very relaxing, and I spent most of my time (about 3 hours) just happily standing in the hot water. Parts of the lagoon are hotter than others but it is all hot enough to tolerate even on the coldest of days. Some parts are boiling! It is a fantastic sensation being surrounded by warm water in the great outdoors on a chilly day. It was actually pouring with rain when i was there, which only made the experience better. Using the silica mud masks is fun, and there is also a large steam room (which is hidden - you have to explore to find it - I wont give its location away!) and sauna. Numerous fun footbridges criss cross the lagoon and there is a large artificial waterfall which is great to go under.
The blue lagoon is easily accessible by car if you can afford to rent one (Iceland is EXPENSIVE!!) If not, the best option is to get one of the tour busses which goes there. Many companies offer excursions there (try Iceland Explorer or Reykjavik Excursions). I actually took the Blue Lagoon's own bus which runs between Reykjavik - Blue Lagoon - Airport. This is great for those with an afternoon flight. They will pick you up from your hotel in Reykjavik and drop you off at the lagoon. Another bus will take you on to the airpot later. The best part is that they will keep your luggage so you dont need to lug it in (we were a bit unsure about leaving our bags on the bus but it was all fine!) They sell an 'all-in-one' ticket which includes the exorberant entry fee.
The entrance is impressive. You walk down a funky path flanked by stark grey rocks. You get glimpses of small pools of blue water to whet your appetite. The entrance is housed in a large modern building. You pay the entrance fee, get an electronic wristband, and go through to the changing rooms. You can hire towels and even swimming costumes (for a fee!)
There are male and female changing rooms. They are modern and clean, but a bit crampt (more are being built at present). You use your wristband to open and lock the lockers. You have to shower before entering the pool and its best to leave your towel on the special racks by the showers, as you are supposed to dry off beofre entering the changing area.
Kiddies are allowed, but the under 8's need to use bright orange armbands. This is because the lagoon is steamy from the hot water, and it is difficult for the lifeguards to see all the way across. A small price to pay for safety I think.
Icelandair is Iceland's main airline and a lot of its traffic consists of passengers travelling from Europe to the US via its hub in Reykjavik. They have cheap fares, and sometimes offer free quick trips to the Blue Lagoon between flights! Fantastic I think! Look on their website (www.icelandair.co.uk / www.icelandair.com) for latest deals. They have pretty cheap fares to the US and with this as a freebie, I'd defo use them again.
RESTAURANT / SNACK BAR
The Blue Lagoon has a restaurant which, in typical Iceland form is VERY VERY EXPENSIVE. You probably wont be able to afford to eat there. I couldnt, and therefore cant comment on the food. But it looks decent. Nearer the actual lagoon there is a snack bar where you can get coffee and cake (no bargains to be found, but cheaper). You actually swipe your wristband to pay and then pay on your way out by cash or credit card.
Of course there is a souvenier shop selling all the usual postacrds, keyrings and also a selection of blue lagoon branded health products. You can even buy a blue lagoon CD soundtrack!! Not one of the highlights of the visit!
My glasses kept steaming up which was very annyoing! I opted not to wear my contact lenses as Im not sure they would appreciate the mineral-rich water. Fellow spectacled readers will appreciate how annoying this is.
There is a spa offering all sorts of hydrotherapy and massage. Of course they cost more and are expensive. We had a look and opted not to go for it. But the spa area looked pretty relaxing and tranquil. They have a dedicated centre for psoriasis treatments.
Ok it aint cheap at all.
Here are the prices as of Aug 06. The Icelandic currency has recently been quite unstable (their economy has taken a rare turn for the worse) so I have given the prices in Icelandic Krona and you can convert them to pounds on xe.com ( a fantastic online currency convertor).
But as a guide, £1 currently equals 128Isk. This could change considerably though.
Entrance.... Adults - Isk 1400 Children <11y - Free when accompanied by an adult Children 12-15y - Isk 700 Senior Citizens (randomly over 67y!) Isk 990
The combined transport and entrance ticket (see above) cost us about £20 per person.
Despite these steep prices, it did feel as if it was worth every penny!
The Lagoon is open every day of the week. September 1 to May 14 - 10:00 - 20:00 (every day) May 15 to August 31 - 09:00 - 21:00 (every day)
You are allowed to stay in the lagoon for 45 minutes after the stated closing time!
There is no need to book in advance, although it does get quite busy.
The blue lagoon is unique. It is terribly expensive, artificial and yes, from a power station. However, it was a great way to unwind before my flight to the USA and a thoroughtly unique experience. It is a tourist trap and if you want a real Icelandic geothermal pool experience, I suggest you head to one of the many municipal pools in Reykjavik or indeed almost every village in the country. They are excellent value for money and great fun, but the setting of the blue lagoon makes it a must. Id certainly blow my dosh and go again. It loses a star for (1) the price and (2) being a phoney lagoon!
Websites : http://www.icelandtouristboard.com/bluelagoon.html http://www.bluelagoon.com/ (not as helpful as it should be but has great pics!)
A pic I took whilst I was there! Note that despite being summertime it was cloudy and cold, but once you are in the lush warm water it doesnt matter!