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The Blue Lagoon is one of Icelandís most popular tourist attractions Itís a manmade outdoor bathing pool (I hesitate to call it a swimming pool because even at its deepest itís still fairly shallow) and spa which uses the water from the nearby geothermal power plant at Svartsengi. Visiting the Blue Lagoon was top of my list of things I wanted to do in Iceland and there was no way I was going to travel to almost the top of the world and not go there.
Getting to the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon is situated about twenty minutes drive from Keflavik Airport (Icelandís main international airport) and forty minutes from the capital, Reykjavik. There are lots of tour companies offering trips to the Blue Lagoon and as the location is not served by public transport, you either need to hire a car or book a coach tour. We used Gray Line but there are lots of options and permutations. Some companies will pick you up in Reykjavik with all your luggage, take you to the Blue Lagoon and allow you to join a bus going to the airport after bathing in the Lagoon. We booked a morning trip which arrived at the Blue Lagoon around 9.30am and left to return to the city at noon; we were able to get a slightly better price because we booked online and followed our excursion with an afternoon tour to Gullfoss and other natural sights.
Most tours donít include the entrance fee which I imagine is because some people might want to see the Blue Lagoon but donít want to swim, and because there are lots of add-ons that you might need or be persuaded to buy once you get there.
I was a little sceptical about the timing of our visit because Gray Line has been refreshingly honest in showing even negative comments about the tours on the company website. Some previous tourists said that there were already queues when they arrived at the Blue Lagoon and that the slow movement of the queues meant they had less time than theyíd have liked there. We arrived at about 9.30am and we were the first to get in meaning that we had about fifteen minutes in an almost deserted pool. By the time we left the pool at around 11.30am it was quite busy and not as enjoyable.
Whatís on offer?
Most visitors, I think, go to the Blue Lagoon just for the experience of bathing in the hot pool. Additionally you can choose different spa treatments and therapies though I think youíd need to be staying longer than we did. The water is reputed to have various benefits such as being helpful to people suffering from skin conditions such psoriasis.
We opted for the basic package which was just entry to the pool and the adjoining saunas and steam rooms. As we knew weíd be going
Pictures of The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The colour of the water against the black volcanic rocks is dramatic
in the pool we took our swimming gear and our own towels; if you arenít as well prepared, you can hire swimming gear and towels as well as fluffy robes and flip flops. As the admission alone is the equivalent of Ä30 per adult the costs soon start to mount up so it is worth coming prepared. Once youíve paid youíre given a plastic wristband which operates the lockers and which can be used for buying any drinks in the swim up bar. If youíre staying all day or want to eat after bathing (or even before) thereís a cafť on the ground floor overlooking the pool, and the Lava Restaurant which specialises in traditional Icelandic food.
Iíve paid, what next?
There are separate changing areas for men and women. Although you must wearing swimming gear in the pool, you will have to get naked at some point but that seems to me a feeble reason for not visiting the Blue Lagoon. You can pay for one of the more expensive packages and get yourself a private changing room but you do pay significantly more for that.
First you need to take your shoes/boots off. As people come back from the pool the floor in the changing area becomes wet and if people are going in to the area wearing shoes the floor will soon be very dirty. Then you need to find a free locker. The changing areas are divided into small clusters with seating in the centre and lockers on either side. As it gets busier it becomes more difficult to find a locker but the staff may open up further changing space. When you are stripped you need to stash everything in your locker and get it locked; you need to close the door and pass your wristband in front of the control panel (thereís one per group of lockers). The door locks and the number of your locker flashes up on the display. The numbers of the lockers in each area is displayed on the wall that runs along the changing area so you can find your locker easily.
Strictly speaking you are meant to shower without clothing before getting into the pool and there are showers at the end of the changing area, just before you go outdoors to the pool. I and all the other early visitors did this but when I came out of the pool I noticed that many were not and were showering in their swimwear. Mostly the showers are divided by a screen but there are no doors on all but a couple. An algae and mineral hair and body wash is provided as well as a conditioner which is recommended for use before going into the pool. (I would certainly advise anyone going into the pool to use plenty of this as the silica in the water does have a drying effect.
Thereís approximately ten metres of decking from the doors to the water; itís really not enough time to be really struck by the cold and when we entered the water it was actually snowing (which made the experience even more fun). There are racks on which to hang your towels/robes.
Bathing in the Blue Lagoon
Iíve bathed in a few unusual places on my travels (the sulphur baths in Tbilisi, Georgia; a traditional women only hammam in northern Turkey; a frog packed lake in a park in Moldova) but the Blue Lagoon jumped straight to the number one spot. On photographs the water often appears quite strikingly blue but to me it was much more of a lighter blue, almost like a milky opal with a blue tint. The weirdest thing is that when you gave a handful of the very fine gravel from the bottom of the pool youíll see that itís black Ė itís volcanic stone of course Ė but the water is so opaque that you canít see the bottom at all, even though itís shallow.
The water in the Lagoon averages 37Ė39 įC (98Ė102 įF); as you move round the pool you find that some parts suddenly get really hot and you have to move elsewhere quite quickly. On one side of the pool there are cascades of hot water that you can stand under; these are next to the doors to the little sauna and steam room cabins. The sauna was one of the hottest Iíve experienced Ė I donít think Iíll be entering any sauna endurance challenges in Finland! Thermal pool practice is to alternate between bathing, cooling down (perhaps with a drink), a spot in the sauna or steam room and back to the pool. There are some areas around the edge of the pool where seating has been built in but you can also sit on the bottom of the pool in the shallowest areas. There was no point where I could not touch the bottom of the pool with my toes, and I am only five feet and two inches tall.
Iíd probably not have bothered with a beer had I not noticed a boisterous bunch of Czechs toasting each other but somehow it seemed like the right thing to do. Thereís also wine (including sparkling Asti) or soft drinks, the latter including a selection of freshly made healthy shakes and smoothies. It was good to see that a beer here was no more expensive than an average bar in downtown Reykjavik; Iíd have expected them to be cashing in at the Blue Lagoon.
Dotted around the edge of the pool there are wooden chests containing silica which you apply to your skin like a face pack and allow it to dry for five to ten minutes before washing it off. This cool thick mixture also contains tiny pieces of volcanic pumice which helps with exfoliation.
Once youíve paid you can stay all day (though youíll get very wrinkly) which makes a whole day visit better value. I think itís a shame you canít pay a bit less for a shorter visit but I canít think of a practical way they could police this. You should shower thoroughly when leaving the pool and rinse your hair several times because the silica in the water has a tendency to cling to your hair. There are hair driers in the changing areas.
After bathing my skin felt quite soft and I felt refreshed and relaxed. It would have been nice to have done a bit more actual swimming but itís not easy given the differing depths of the pool and the number of visitors. What is good about the Blue Lagoon is that you donít actually need to be able to swim to go into the water and enjoy it; itís perfectly possible to stay in the shallowest parts and simply sit in the water.
After changing you need to pay for any extras credited to your wristband and then use the band to activate the exit barrier. A box opens up for you to place the wristband into and the barrier opens once youíve done so. You canít physically leave the area until youíve paid for any extras. The gift shop is located past the barrier so you pay for any items bought there in the conventional manner.
The Science Bit
Not everyone on our bus went into the water and itís still worth a trip to the Blue Lagoon to see what itís all about even if you donít want to go in. You can stand on the volcanic rocks around the edge on one side of the Lagoon and look down at the pool and a few people were doing this. Iceland is, of course, famous for its geothermal springs and if youíre interested in the science its worth coming down to this part of the island to see how it has been harnessed for pleasure. Itís possible to view a 40 minute presentation to learn exactly how it works but the potted version is that the power plant vents super-heated water from the ground near a lava flow and this water is used to run turbines that produce electricity. After this the water and the steam pass through a heat exchanger which provides heat for a municipal heating system. What is left is used to fill the Blue Lagoon.
Add to the Itinerary?
Most definitely! A trip to the Blue Lagoon should really be a part of any trip to Iceland and itís proximity to Keflavik means that even business travellers not stopping long could squeeze in a visit. The fairly shallow nature of the pool makes it suitable for non-swimmers but children might find that it isnít as much fun (or as practical for swimming and splashing) as the thermal pools in Reykjavik (these are more like a conventional outdoor pools but still heated; they also have the advantage of costing only about Ä3 for admission).
When adding together the costs of getting to the Blue Lagoon and the entry charge (even if you bring your own gear and spend nothing else) itís admittedly not cheap but itís an experience that is unique to Iceland and one I highly recommend.
Opening hours are listed here http://www.bluelagoon.com/blue-lagoon-spa/opening-hours/
Note: although it states that the pool opens at 10.00am in April, we were in before that time