diamond geezer

 Friday, July 01, 2011

The Blue Lagoon

It takes a lot to get me into a swimming pool. This geothermal mineral spa succeeded. It's the Blue Lagoon, or Bláa lónið as the locals would say. An artificial lake in the southwestern lava fields, filled with milky blue waters rich in silica and sulphur. The water's heated to body temperature via pipes from the power station nextdoor, whose belching steam provides an ever-present backdrop to bathing activities. An outdoor all-weather attraction open to the ravages of the Atlantic doesn't sound especially alluring, especially when you have to strip down to your swimming costume to experience it. But the Blue Lagoon spa has attracted millions since opening in 1999, not least because it's located close to Iceland's main airport so most tourists stop by either on their journey in or journey out.

Blue Lagoon, Grindavik
[three levels of zoom] [live webcam]

It's expensive for a swimming pool - admittance €30 (plus another five for a towel assuming you forgot to bring your own). But they do love their heated swimming pools on this island, as you would when there's an unlimited supply of boiling water beneath the ground, so come on in. Guests have to follow Icelandic custom when preparing to enter the pool, which requires showering naked as public proof of personal cleanliness. Red blobs on a sign by the shower show the six necessary zones to wash - two armpits, two feet, one head and 'that bit between the legs'. Then it's out to the poolside and time to lower yourself into the therapeutic waters. It's warm but nowhere near scalding, and sufficiently enticing to protect you from whatever unpleasant weather Iceland might be hurling down from above. Don't worry if you can't swim, the water never gets any deeper than shallow-ish, although the bottom's invisible through the milky blue haze. Go recline in the deep end by the geothermal vents, or stand beneath the waterfall for a top-down soak, or head to the bar for an in-pool beverage, or just float around in the middle and enjoy the experience.

This being a spa with a difference, there are pots of white silica mud located all around the perimeter of the pool. Dole some out, slap it all over your face (or elsewhere) and leave to dry for a few minutes. Ignore how stupid you look - everyone else looks like a failed zombie too. Once washed off the gloop leaves your skin exfoliated and smooth (and is, of course, available in the gift shop for you to take home if bank balances permit). Even better the water in the pool appears to have much the same effect, and my skin's still feeling the benefits umpteen hours afterwards. I was lucky - the sky was blue and the outside temperature 12 degrees, so there was no need to rush between the water and the changing rooms. There were even people lounging in bathrobes (and less) on the poolside terraces, and there can't be many Icelandic days a year they get full use. It's not so amenable at the Blue Lagoon today, all gloom and drizzle, but the water's still busy because once submerged, hell, who cares? Get in.

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