Welcome to the Land of the Ice and Snow…

… from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.

I’m in Iceland right now, enjoying a beer on the deck outside the pub in the late evening light with a cosy blanket tucked round my shoulders.  It doesn’t get more rock-and-roll that this.

I touched down at Keflavik airport on Sunday, after a 3hour or so flight from the drizzly grey UK, just in time for a breakfast.   Basking in the glorious sunshine with coffee and a pastry seemed the perfect way to start my holiday.  Could it be any more relaxing?

Of course!  My first stop was the famous Blue Lagoon geothermal baths, midway between the airport and Reykjavík; top of many “must-do” lists and destination for some serious relaxation.  The baths and spa have a rather incongruous setting, in a fissure running through the centre of a lava moonscape, against the backdrop of a steaming power station.  But the same steam and hot water that powers the nearby town of Grindavík, is said to have numerous health and healing benefits.

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s top tourist attraction, receiving many more visitors per year than the population of Reykjavík.  Most people visiting Iceland will work this into their itinerary, and its location is perfect to be your first or last stop between Reykjavík and the airport.  Entrance costs around £24/ 30EUR, so combining it in a packaage trip can save you a bit of cash.

The geothermally heated seawater is between 37 and 39°C, about that of a warm bath, and not completely uniform throughout.  You’ll swim (or float, as it’s saltwater and the Blue Lagoon is all about taking it easy) through plumes of warmer or cooler water that give delicious sensations, as will taking a break from the water to laze in the cool air.  I can really see the appeal of a winter visit, when there’s snow on the ground.

At the edge of the pool are some tubs containing a squidgy white silica mud mask which you’re encouraged to treat your skin with.  It does make you feel lovely and smooth afterwards, but it also seems tremendous fun for children to paint each other with stripes or leave big white hand prints on the top of Dad’s bald head.

However there are a few things that you should be prepared for when you arrive:

  • Naked showers, and communal naked showers at that.  Get over any traditional British (or any other nationality) prudishness and scrub your bits in public before your swim!  Actually, wearing a bathing suit in the showers makes you stand out like a sore thumb, so you feel much less inconspicuous once you strip off.  Then you can put your bathers back on and head into the pool.
  • Your hair will not love you after visiting the Blue Lagoon.  Signs warn you that the combination of saline and silica doesn’t do your hair any good, and there are conditioner dispensers in the showers to give it some protection and treatment after your swim.  However, it took several days of washing and conditioning to make it feel normal again.
  • Sunburn!  I’m in a land named for it’s frozen water, my face is covered in thick silica mud and the only exposed skin I’m showing is from my shoulders upward.  Nevertheless, for the few days after my visit Reykjavik is treated to the sight of my scarlet face and enormous frizzy hair.  Gorgeous!

I booked my visit to the Blue Lagoon through Reykjavik Excursions, which included transport from the airport, entry to the baths and spa, safe luggage storage and onward transport to Reykjavik, with a drop off at my accommodation for 8000ISK (about £38/ 46EUR).

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