Iceland's Blue Lagoon

The spa's geothermal bathing area.
  • The spa's geothermal bathing area.

One of the strangest tourist traps in the world has to be the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, located 50 kilometers from Reykjavik en route to the airport.

Milky water of the Blue Lagoon.

Milky water of the Blue Lagoon.

At a latitude equivalent to Siberia and Alaska on the Arctic Circle, this geothermal spa of bluish-white seawater feels like sitting in a warm pool of milk of magnesia. The spa uses geothermal power to heat the facilities and provide electricity, which comes from boiling saltwater pumped from deep underground wells. It's one of the few spas in the world that relies solely on renewable energy.

Icelanders have put on quite the display of man harnessing nature's power, in fact: Next to the Blue Lagoon is a power plant that generates energy by pumping seawater into the ground. The resulting steam turns the turbines that produce electricity for the island’s inhabitants. The hot water, containing beneficial minerals and a high silica content, then ends up in the lagoon, and visitors from all over the world flock to experience its benefits.

Clean energy: it's a hit with spa-goers.

Clean energy: it's a hit with spa-goers.

In Iceland, clean energy is producing huge revenues. People pay to bathe in water from its power plants – and the water's also good for making expensive beauty products.

Even more alien than this idea is the feeling you get from a massage with your body covered by a warm wet blanket as you sit on top of a floating raft in the pool, bobbing around on the milky water full of steam.

The mud baths offered at the Blue Lagoon aren't just a spa treatment; they’re designed by a national health institute to cure ailments. Once the bathtub is filled with hot, slippery brown mud, you slip completely naked into the tub and the attendant piles heaps of mud on top of your body from the waist down.

There are several health restaurants on site after you’ve had the treatments. And all the veggies are grown from the on-site greenhouses supplied by the plant.

Lagoon from a distance.

Lagoon from a distance.

Many visitors find the Icelandic climate among the strangest in their travels. One day while I was hiking, it suddenly started raining with fog rolling in and out. We were inundated with sleet and blowing wind, and just as quickly the sun appeared, all in a period of 30 minutes. Few Icelanders carry an umbrella, but most wear a waterproof coat with hood as the rain appears randomly without notice.

Reykjavik has 17 public swimming pools heated by geothermal water, and they are open all year long.

If you’ve been to Iceland prior to the currency devaluation that occurred several years ago, you’d feel like a pauper with your middle-class salary. But now the Icelandic kroner has declined like a submerging whale, you can afford to buy a meal at New York City prices rather than Copenhagen prices (which are double or triple New York City prices). So now a once-$10 beer will cost you around $7.00.

The cheapest time to visit a somewhat expensive country as Iceland is the beginning of April to the middle of June. Days are longer, prices for everything from accommodation to airfare are lower than the summer tourist season, and you’ll avoid too many tourists.

Many travelers like myself chose to visit the Blue Lagoon en route to the airport. Just add additional travel time for a stopover.

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