I had made a bit of a mistake here because to get to Blue Lagoon we had to drive back in the direction of Reyjkavik so it would have made a lot more sense to have gone there on the way rather than doubling back for the twenty minute journey. And we were beginning to get low on fuel so I started to panic about that although the others all stayed surprisingly calm. I don’t know why because I imagine that running out of fuel in Iceland, miles from anywhere might be a bit of a problem.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The steamy waters are part of a landscape constructed by lava formation with warm waters that are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and are used as a skin exfoliant. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages a very comfortable 40° centigrade all year round and bathing in the relaxing water is reputed to help many people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis.
The lagoon is fed by the water output of a nearby geothermal power plant because in Iceland, renewable energy provides over 70% of the nation’s primary energy and over 99% of the country’s electricity is produced from hydropower and geothermal energy. At the Blue Lagoon as part of the power generation process superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal hot water heating system and then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.
The signs to the attraction were a bit confusing but as we approached we could see the plumes of steam rising into the atmosphere and finally it was impossible to miss the huge structure of the power station looking like a set from a James Bond movie. Soon after the power plant was opened and the pools began to fill people started to bathe here and some made claims about magic healing properties so eventually the company seeing this as a commercially viable venture developed it as leisure centre/tourist attraction, put a fence around it to prevent people getting in for free, hastily erected a rather ugly looking concrete building and started to charge admission fees. They market it in the promotional literature in this rather extravagant way:
‘Guests enjoy bathing and relaxing in Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater, known for its positive effects on the skin. A visit to the spa promotes harmony between body, mind and spirit, and enables one to soak away the stresses of modern life. The spa’s guests rekindle their relationship with nature, soak up the scenic beauty and enjoy breathing the clean, fresh air.’
We parked the car and went inside and at the reception desk I was in for rather a nasty shock. Since our last visit to Iceland in 2007 the cost of everything seemed to have become more reasonable but the entrance fee here had rocketed from €20 to €34 and that was only for the standard winter entrance that rises to €40 in the summer and which includes no more than an hour or so in the water. At the premium end of the scale of charges is the luxury experience which costs a whopping €430 – EACH! The Blue Lagoon boasts about four hundred thousand visitors a year so this place is making serious money.
After recovering from the financial shock and then changing and showering the only way to the open air pool was to leave the building and as the temperature was only slightly above freezing it was a short but brisk walk to the luxuriously blue water which was warm and welcoming and once safely submerged we made immediately for the hot spots. Soon these became too hot to sit around in and we had to swim off to explore.
The bottom of the pool was soft and silty with a pale brownish mud that you definitely wouldn’t want to slap on your face or anywhere else for that matter. Even though the water is changed every forty-eight hours (or so they say) a handful revealed a scoop of human hair and it was unnerving to think that we were swimming about and walking in the dead psoriatic skin cells of nearly half a million visitors a year.
Put this on your face and as the mud dries I can guarantee an unusual beard of multi coloured pubic miscellany that would not be terribly attractive. Having made this unpleasant discovery we hastily left the soft silty bits and stayed for the rest of our visit in the parts with the rocky lava bottom.
I suppose the Blue Lagoon is a ‘must visit’ place when travelling to Iceland but it is a seriously expensive experience bordering I would suggest on the ‘rip-off’ especially when there are a number of alternative geothermal heated pools in Reyjkavik without the marketing hype for only a fraction of the price. I for one wouldn’t waste my money and go there again.
So we returned to Keflavik and left Kim and Margaret at the hotel while Mike and I returned the hire car. At the office we completed the paperwork and then the clerk checked the car for paint stripping volcano damage and having satisfied himself that there was none signed the paperwork to release us from our contract.
We had expected a shuttle service lift back to the hotel but the clerk explained that he couldn’t do this on account of being the only one on duty and so to avoid a taxi fare we walked the five kilometres back instead which seemed to surprise Kim and Margaret when we eventually got back in the gathering gloom of early evening.