Alien experience. Patches of warm water. Beneficial silt.
27.07.2014 - 27.07.2014 15 °C
If there is just one famous place to experience in Iceland, they will tell you it is the Blue Lagoon.
Now, I am usually skeptical of the "famous tourist location" because invariably they are over-priced, over-sensationalised and generally, a bit of a let-down. But this is Iceland. I am not likely to be back and everything so far has been worthy of awe (i.e. the real meaning of "awesome"). This was the last day of planned activities, it was paid for and so off we went.
The Blue Lagoon is about an hour's drive from Reykjavik and is quite near the airport, so many people go there before boarding a plane. Um, ick? I can't imagine sitting on a plane after that, but most tourists to Iceland are from Scandinavia, Nordic Countries, England or France so they are not far away from home, like we were.
What is the Blue Lagoon? It is blue. It is a lagoon. Yes but it is more than that - it is a geothermally heated, mineral saturated, outdoor bathing area surrounded by black lava boulders in a desolate remote location, which has no equivalent anywhere in the world. The water is actually run off from a geothermal power station which sounds a bit toxic, and with the milky blue water, laden with algae, it would make one a bit cautious to get in.... but it is actually pleasant and has multiple health-giving properties.
Before even thinking about entering the water, you need to navigate the change rooms. A bit of TripAdvisor research did not go astray here. Prepare for confusion. And nudity.
The change rooms are incredibly smart, modern and posh. Everybody gets an electronic wristband to work the lockers. There is a TV monitor to tell you where the free lockers are. You choose an area (there are many and they all look the same - just like a car park - it's easy to forget where you parked your clothes), you undress, put your gear into your locker and then head to the showers where you are to shower without your togs on. Some cubicles have no doors. Some showers are not even in a cubicle. Most people disobey and shower with their togs on. Put on your togs and head out into the cold outdoors. There was a place outside to hang towels. Thank goodness because it was a bit nippy.
Despite the coachloads of tourists in the reception area and the long queues to get in, the lagoon itself was surprisingly uncrowded and the occupants were not at all rowdy. Though in fairness, this is not a place to splash, chuck a few bombies, or even yell. The mellowness of the bathers only added to the alien-feeling of the experience. People wade. People beach themselves on the edge of the lagoon and look like they are dead. In the water, people wander about looking half stunned but happy and relaxed. Does the water contain a volatile happy drug?
Dotted about are large vats of silica silt (selling for an ungodly price in the gift shop). You wade up, you get a ladle spoonful and plaster it over your face. Or bald head, if you have one. Then you find a spot and wait for it to dry pure white. Then you splash it off. I kid you not, my skin felt amazing for at least 5 days afterward. In fact, the next day, I felt as if I'd had a massage or I'd done a huge workout. So there is some truth about the beneficial minerals and blue-green algae in the lagoon.
The lagoon has pockets of warmer areas and you can wade about to find your desired temperature. Don't be afraid I told myself, it is not someone's wee, it is geothermal and natural. Nowhere was too hot or deep. It was like standing in a bath of blue milk. The "floor" is a mixture of very fine silty sand and rocks, making you constantly aware that is a natural phenomenon. But how can something natural feel so alien?
What a fabulous way to end our planned activities in Iceland.
Exit through the gift shop. Don't stop. Duty free at the airport is the way to go.