Iceland’s Blue Lagoon – Geothermal Pleasure in an Iced Frame
Rain, rain, rain. In Reykjavik it rains a lot. Low visibility, not the suitable weather for whale watching. Roaming in town isn’t an option as well: the wind blows open the umbrellas. But the coffee shops are comfortable, studied precisely to offer refuge and warmth during the endless winter nights. They are usually furnished with wooden items, an unusual mix of IKEA furnitures and stuff collected in flea markets. Even in summer they are a good spot for coffee and thoughts. In one of these cafés we came up with the not-so-original idea: let’s go to Blue Lagoon!
Sure, we are in Iceland and the Blue Lagoon is in Rangiroa, Polynesia: not a quick trip at all! But Icelanders, who have some taste for exotic names, called Blue Lagoon a geothermal pool about 40 kilometres from Reykjavik.
The thermal pool is huge, crossed by many little bridges, framed by a desolate landscape of lava fields. The turquoise water contrasts the grey sky and the green-brownish moss covering the black lava. Temperature is about 40 Celsius degrees, which makes floating lazily – while rubbing your face with silicon paste – extremely pleasant and relaxing, even if it’s raining on your head.
But if you open your eyes in the wrong direction, instead of black and brown lava fields you will see a grey building and white vapour clouds coming from high smoking towers: it’s Svartsengi geothermal power station. Actually, the Blue Lagoon’s clear waters do not come directly from the underground source, but from the power station’s drain system. The water is diverted beside a fluid lava deposit to activate the turbines. The steaming water is also used for the town’s heating system. That’s how they do it all over Iceland: no boilers, nor fuel or fireplaces; just the geothermal energy for heatings and hot water. This system grants low pollution and the resulting water, now down to 40 degrees, fills the thermal pool.
Blue Lagoon is well organized and extremely clean. Icelanders have a strict hygienic code for all their pools, since they do not use any chemical agents to disinfect the water. A complete shower is compulsory before entering. Complete and naked, no swimsuit allowed. And if the attendants are distracted, one of your comrades will be glad to show you how to do, maybe getting rid of your shorts himself (it happened!). There are no whirlpools, but a waterfall will do as well. And there is a comfortable sauna. Along the pool’s edges are placed buckets with silicon paste to rub your skin.
Back in Reykjavik it was still raining, but after our trip to Blue Lagoon we were ready for another winter night in this wonderful island.