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Swimming in the hot almost-fluorescent aquamarine waters of the Blue Lagoon surrounded by black basalt lava rocks in icy temperatures of minus six degrees pelted with sporadic bursts of freezing rain is a unique experience and one I will remember for some time.
The Blue Lagoon is a pool of geothermal sea water created by an unexpected consequence to the massive Svartsengi power plant. The power plant was built in the late 70s, and together with four other geothermal power plants in Iceland, produces around 26% of the country's electricity as well as around 87% of the country's hot water requirements. The power plant uses geothermally heated sea water from as deep as 2000 meters / 6000 feet below ground to transfer heat to fresh water for consumer use. The surplus brine waters are allowed to pour over onto the surrounding lava fields where they were originally intended to drain away back through the lava. Instead the lagoon filled with this incredible milky-blue hot water. People began to bathe in it extolling its beneficial qualities on skin complaints such as psoriasis and eczema. Iceland officially opened bathing facilities here in 1987 and have been continuously improving it since then.
The Blue Lagoon has developed into one of Iceland's most visited tourist place as well as remaining very popular among the Icelandic population. Several excursions run daily to the Blue Lagoon including trips designed to fit conveniently with inward and outgoing flights. We took opportunity of using one of these well tuned excursions fitting perfectly with our return flight home to Manchester airport. We were collected from our hotel at 10 a.m. and collected from the Blue Lagoon at 2.30 p.m. for a 5 p.m. flight.
The coach headed through the strange desolate landscape of the lava fields. The tall silver towers of the power plant eventually spring into view. The lava fields at the road sides are filled with small pools of sparkling
bright blue foreshadowing the Blue Lagoon itself providing a tantalising glimpse of the aquamarine waters. A number of cars were parked at the road sides, their drivers washing them with the mineral-rich water. Now I know that the water is reputed to have a beneficial effect on skin but I wonder what benefits there is for cars?
The coach pulled into a large car park with a tall silver sign marked with the simple wording Blue Lagoon announcing our arrival. From the car park a short walk (about 100m) along a meandering brick paved pathway, carved into the lava rocks rising 2m on either side on the path, leads to a modern building.
Automatic doors open onto a large foyer which serves a multipurpose function with shop, café and reception area. A rather clinical reception welcomes visitors with receptionists smartly dressed in crisp white uniforms. The entry price is included in the cost of excursions which at the time of writing is 3800 Icelandic Krona. However entry fees can be paid at arrival: 1800 Icelandic Krona for adults, 900 ISK for children 12-15 and 1200 ISK for senior citizens. Children under 11 are free if accompanied by an adult.
On payment you are provided with an electronic arm band which very cleverly not only enables you to gain entry through the revolving gate but also locks and unlocks your locker and allows you to spend up to 2000 ISK when in the pool thereby making it unnecessary to carry money for refreshments. Your bill must be paid on exit when the arm band is surrendered and scanned.
When I visited the spa I was somewhat overwhelmed and missed out on some information I would have found useful but which was not immediately forthcoming either from the published information or indeed given by the staff. Chats with staff and regular users of the facility were to give me some useful tips if I ever return!
Towels, bathing suits and bath robes are all available to hire from reception for a fee of course (350 ISK, 400 ISK and 800 ISK respectively). I hired a towel but on reflection a bathrobe would have been very useful.
The changing facilities are pristine. They are section into small open areas with a central changing area with a singe private changing cubicle in each area for the modest (which included me!). Large lockers line the area to secure clothing and any valuables. Mirrors and hairdryers are located in the corridor in front of the changing rooms which seating. Changing mats, high chairs, and baby baths can be found in the changing area. All very impressive!
Before entering into the lagoon itself, attendants insist that you shower in the communal wet area. You also use this area to shower and dry on exit - you are not allowed to enter the changing rooms whilst wet. Shower gel is provided.
You enter the lagoon indoors via a short set of stairs and first experience the unique rich feel of the waters. A small door opens to the large outdoor pool. Here I must have learned several different expletives in various languages as the icy cold comes as a shock. Everyone immediately sinks down fro standing to emerge themselves as much as possible in the warm water. The depth of the lagoon is 2½, - 4½ ft with no warning signs so is therefore important to watch children closely. Swim armbands can be borrowed at the indoor lagoon area and it is highly recommended that all children under 10 years use these. The lagoon is advertised as accessible for disabled but I have to confess to not knowing how.
The temperature of the water is between 37' and 40' C. There are hot spots of higher temperature around the lagoon but you can feel the temperature rising as you approach them - but you do need to be careful especially with young children.
There are lifeguards walking around the lagoon for safety and one situated in a tower overlooking the area. The Blue Flag has been awarded the Blue Flag award for the highest quality in water, facilities and safety.
The Blue Lagoon holds approximately 6,000,000 litres of sea-water which is renewed every 40 hours. The colour of blue is unique - the best description I can give is a milky aquamarine. The colour is as a result of the silica, blue algae and minerals in the water. Visitors are encouraged to us the silica mud to cleanse and revitalise the skin - I can't particularly say if this is beneficial or not as thankfully I don't have any skin problems.
In addition to the main lagoon are a large artificially constructed waterfall said to provide an energizing massage which I personally found a little disappointing and a steam bath within a lava cave (my favourite spot). A variety of treatments are available at a cost including full massage all completed in the openair lagoon. I can't comment on these as I didn't book any treatments and none (as far as I could see) was being completed during our visit.
Blue Lagoon manufactures and sells geothermal skin care products which all include some or many of the unique ingredients found in Blue Lagoon. These are available online as well as in the Blue Lagoon shop. They are not cheap! I bought some small bath bombs to take back as gifts (600 ISK each).
In the café various drinks and snacks are available - nothing too exciting! But if you have time (and money) try the restaurant. High glass windows look out onto the lagoon. It was amusing watching people pop up for photographs and then sink back into the water for warmth! The food is sensational! As this was our last day in Iceland - we pushed the boat out. It was well worth it. Excellent service as well!
The Blue Lagoon is open daily (even Christmas Day) of-season from 10 a.m. and high season 7.30 a.m. It is only half an hour from Reykjavík and about 20 minutes from Keflavík airport. It is well signposted if you are driving and as I mentioned previously there are numerous excursions available.
You simply cannot visit Iceland without going to the Blue Lagoon!