My Icelandic break was nearly over and 2010 was just around the corner, so what better way to spend the last day of the year than relaxing in the sulphuric waters of the country’s most famous bathing spot? Having often gazed wondrously over pictures of the Blue Lagoon, I never thought I’d visit as Iceland has always been out of my price range – until now. One of the positive things to emerge from the recession is that the collapse of Iceland’s economy has made it a lot more affordable for people to travel there.
The Blue Lagoon sits in a vast area of barren terrain which looks remarkably like the surface of the moon, 39 km outside of Reykjavik. I was surprised to discover that the lagoon is man-made. It’ s an immense stretch of black lava blocks, dug out in the middle and fed by an output of water from Svartsengi, a geothermal power station. Not wanting to sound like an Open University presenter; piping hot water is vented from the ground near a lava flow to generate electricity, before it is fed into the Blue Lagoon at a comfortable temperature of 38C.
Tones of chocolate and charcoal coupled with wood panelled ceilings make up the Blue Lagoon’s interior giving it a very modern feel. The cleanliness of the changing room is impressive, as is the complimentary algae and sulphur shampoo and conditioner (it’s a British thing). Hairdryers are provided too which gets an extra tick in my book, though rental of towels and dressing gowns are extra at the eye-watering price of £10 a pair. Another slight criticism is that there aren’t enough changing cubicles; I like to have my privacy.
The most daunting thing about the Blue Lagoon is getting into the water without freezing to death in the process; tiptoeing barefoot through snow in a dressing gown in minus 10 wasn’t one of the highlights of my Icelandic experience. Once I’d made it in though, it was all worth it. It was like sinking into a hot bath, and because it’s hot you don’t feel the freezing temperature of the air on your face, although if your hair’s wet it will eventually start to freeze.
I floated in the warm, milky blue water and started planning my New Year’s resolutions; fog swirled around me as faces covered with white silica mud drifted in and out of vision. Snippets of Italian, French and other languages filled the air, coupled with the odd burst of laughter. I swam over to an old wooden water bucket filled with silica mud and covered my face and neck with the gooey stuff. Drifting on my back, I captured the occasional glimpse through the haze of an orange sun setting behind the mountains, saying its final farewell to 2009. Bliss!
A word of warning; although the lagoon’s water is said to have beneficial effects on your skin, it likes to turn hair into straw so make sure you put plenty of conditioner on before you get in.
If you fancy a change of scenery you can pop back inside for a sauna followed by a beer in the café, or take a nap in one of the reclining deckchairs in the rest area upstairs which offers a great view (weather permitting) across the lagoon.
The restaurant and any additional treatments and massages have to be pre-booked well in advance and are quite costly. The café is overpriced too, but don’t forget this is Iceland, and before the recession prices were at least two or three times higher than they are now. A pint of Viking (Iceland’s most famous home-brewed beer and highly recommended) cost a bearable £4.70, and a rather bland-looking cheese and ham sandwich set me back £4.00.
I had a few minutes to kill before leaving, so I popped into the gift shop which has its own range of skin care products along with the usual assortment of touristy stuff you’d expect to find, including a plastic puffin glued onto a piece of volcanic rock (a tasteful fridge magnet), and an assortment of t-shirts depicting Viking Norse symbols.
As I headed back to Reykjavik, I felt fully revitalised and positively glowing. I was ready to take on the year ahead. The Blue Lagoon is a truly magical experience and the perfect way to say goodbye to the end of another decade.
The Blue Lagoon, 240 Grindavík, Iceland. Tel: +354 420 8800. Website: www.bluelagoon.com