Our trip to the Blue Lagoon went, well, swimmingly. Iceland’s premier geothermal spa, a naturally milky blue hot mineral pool sunk into black basaltic rock in the middle of a stark landscape of lava fields, promised the ultimate in mind/body refreshment. We had heard mixed reviews about the lagoon, that it was clinical-looking, overpriced and touristy, but “like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris and Disney World is to Florida, the Blue Lagoon is to Iceland, and you will be missing something special if you didn’t go.” After reading this statement in my trusty Lonely Planet guide, and then experiencing the lagoon firsthand, I have to agree. Whenever you watch a documentary about Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is almost always featured, complete with attractive people blissfully floating in the blue-white water and nourishing their skin with the white silica mud the lagoon is so famous for. Critics sometimes complain about the severity of the atmosphere surrounding the lagoon, that the geothermal power plant puffing away in the background (which feeds off the same underground steam that gives the lagoon its perfect 102 degree temperatures) disturbs the serenity. The reality is that if they didn’t harness geothermal energy at such a prized hot spot, Icelanders wouldn’t be operating as efficiently as I’ve come to expect them to, so good for them. The power plant has become such a staple next to the lagoon, that to see it almost makes you more happy to be there, knowing you are at the real Blue Lagoon, and not some dinky imposter. More likely to ruin the view are the throngs of European tourists with little to no regard for swimsuit style, size, or ability to cover cellulite. On the positive side, their exhibitionism led to a significant decrease in my own self-consciousness. Who was I to worry about a little muffin top in my skirted tankini when a large German grandma is parading around in a thong whilst shouting at her equally rotund husband in budgie-smugglers (banana-hammock for Americans) to swim over to the Icelandic tiki bar and get her another pint of Viking beer.
Once we’d tackled the challenges of tourists (crowds aren’t bad if you go in the morning) and the view (power plant decorating the horizon) the final score had to be settled by Lily, over how much time we could spend enjoying the hot water. Up until very recently, our normally brave two-year old was happy to splash on a lake shoreline or dawdle on the top step of a pool, but when it came to actual swimming, where her body was submerged and her feet couldn’t touch, she had a tendency to panic, refusing to go in above her knees. The past few months in the sweltering heat of Tennessee has allowed Lily to upgrade her swimming skills, if for no other reason than sheer comfort. Not being in the water on a 95 degree day with 100 % humidity is impossible. So after a few visits to my friend Abby’s pool and some jumps off the back of the boat on Fort Loudon Lake, she was prepared for the swimming. We knew we still ran the risk of her crying and refusing to get in, but it was worth the chance. I first tested her a bit by putting her under the overhead shower in the ladies’ locker room. Whether she truly didn’t mind the mandatory pre-dip shower (Icelanders are very protective of the cleanliness of their hot pools) or was simply shocked by all the wobbly-bodied, European old ladies walking around in the nude, she was encouragingly cooperative. To encourage her further, we told her it was a WARM pool, and not a HOT pool (HOT of course, means ouch, danger, don’t touch) and she leapt in, completely happy! We swam around with her for about 20 minutes before a frantic employee flagged us down and presented her with a complimentary pair of Blue Lagoon Iceland water wings. We found out later the water wings were mandatory for kids her age and I’m still not sure if they were truly complimentary or just a loaner pair, but I can tell you they will be reappearing at pools and beaches across Europe in the next few months.
So thank you Lily, for letting us bask in the warm water until we got all pruny. We even took advantage of the hot massaging waterfall and natural jets coming out of the rocks, but missed the steam cave (I’d like to say it was too scary for Lily, but honestly, I was a bit worried about running into a group of nude Scandinavian man cleaning one anothers privates in the dark). Although it would have been nice to enjoy a $9 beer from the tiki bar, it was completely unnecessary for a full experience. The supreme sense of well-being that took over after a dip in the warm, salty water seriously accelerated our zest for life. After a post-swim rinse (or better yet, scrub) to remove the thin film of salt and minerals on our skin, we exited feeling more relaxed than ever. Afterwards, we took a walk around the outside of the grounds and saw the blue-white water extending outside of the facility and into little rivers. Lily took a lot of pleasure in throwing pebbles of pockmarked basalt into these white streams, while the warm water trickled through the surrounding lava fields and off into the landscape, inevitably sinking back into the fire-bearing Earth from whence it came. I could very easily get into a lengthy and boring geology lesson here, but I’ll refrain for the sake of time, your sanity, and my current unwillingness to cover the necessary research involved. My general attitude on the Blue Lagoon was a combination of true hot-tub comfort and sheer excitement for being in Iceland, a place of friendly people and beautiful, mysterious, (and geologically significant) land that not enough people get to experience, and considering its proximity to the US, definitely should. I can tell you, I’ve been to Disney World and the Eiffel Tower, and this was definitely better.