As if I could resist the lure of the Blue Lagoon… one of the 25 Wonders of the World! What better way to edge closer to 40 than to have a night at a magical spa, and see if the promises of the miraculous effects of its waters are true! I had a cunning plan- to marinate in the sulfur baths and emerge looking 10 years younger… the trick was to convince the native I was travelling with that this was a good plan- luckily there is a small hotel across from the Blue Lagoon, and a very nice restaurant within the Lagoon- so compromises were reached and off we went.
The Blue Lagoon (Bláa lónið) geothermal spa is supposedly one of the most visited attractions in Iceland – just not by locals! The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. The warm waters (water temperature averages 37– 39°) are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases – and hopefully hagged Australian sun skin.
The lagoon contains 6 million litres of water and is man-made, fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. 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 water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.
Iceland has a strict code of hygiene and guests are required to shower/ remove serval layers of epidermis before bathing, which practically being a local these days I am old hat with. So enough facts…. the blue lagoon itself was awful!! So many people!!! Every second person had a selfie stick, you were only allowed three beers/wines at a bargain price of about $20 each. We dutifully threw back our 3 mandatory drinks and after enough amusement people watching, fled to the hotel… heaven. I refused to take one photo of the actual Blue Lagoon, so any photos here are from the hotels lagoon. The “clinic” is a boutique hotel, an off shoot of the Blue Lagoon- with its own private, smaller lagoon – perfect for a gentle simmer! There were a few other guests milling in the area closest to where you enter the pool, but there was a large expanse totally empty!! So the Viking and I spent a great amount of time stewing nicely lathered in the silica mud, (me fervently hoping I would come out looking dashing and youthful!). The hotel was literally amongst the Lava fields and there were even areas left which emerged into the hotel. We enjoyed a delicious meal at the restaurant, and the native was almost placated by visiting such a tourist trap, and I was happy to tick something off my list!
After a morning poaching in the turquoise depths, it was time to don the adventure pants and let Iceland’s Stig loose on some unchartered roads…. we headed off into the lava fields to find a little visited geyser/ high geothermal activity area… it was incredibly beautiful and other-worldly. The power/pressure coming out of the bore hole was crazy!!!
After a couple of hours on unmapped roads, Iceland’s Stig safely navigated us back to a number of interesting and more accessible points of interest. Unlike the actual Stig, the Icelandic one is very informative and took great pains to try and explain the history, geography, geology and many other anecdotal pieces of information about where we went. Unfortunately, I was too busy gazing at the scenery (… his chiselled good looks and sparkling blue eyes) or pretending I understood the name of where we were…. to remember everything.
We went to the Reykjanes bridge between the Eurasian and North American plates- Iceland is probably the only place in the world where the effects of two major tectonic plates drifting apart can easily be observed above sea level – which is why they have volcanoes and a lot of activity, but their earthquakes tend not to be too wild.
Iceland’s plates are classified as Divergent… there are four types of plate boundaries:
- Divergent boundaries — where new crust is generated as the plates pull away from each other.
- Convergent boundaries — where crust is destroyed as one plate dives under another.
- Transform boundaries — where crust is neither produced nor destroyed as the plates slide horizontally past each other.
- Plate boundary zones — broad belts in which boundaries are not well defined and the effects of plate interaction are unclear.
(Sorry got carried away reading about the plates- any of you science nuts out there – here is a very interesting link on Plate boundaries, rifts and transforms in Iceland http://earthice.hi.is/sites/jardvis.hi.is/files/Pdf_skjol/Jokull58_pdf/jokull58-einarsson.pdf )
After this we headed just out of Grindavík to Reykjanes Lighthouse and an amazing view of Eldey Island – a steep rock island (approx 77 meters) 8 miles south of Reykjanes, with the biggest population of gannets (bird) in the world- which at most times cover the island. There is a live feed camera on it- so for all you Gannet fans- you can check out : http://www.gannetlive.com
We then headed to Selatangar beach in the Krisuvik peninsula, Selatangar was a fishing village between Grindavik and Krysuvik, where fisherman came for 2 months of the year, to row out in open boats to fish, it was abolished after 1880, there are many stone ruins of the small houses still littered about. We climbed up a sort of cliff, and Jón showed me this incredible area of huge strange forms, made by lava. Just amazing- it was about now my camera battery died and my memory card filled up…. After a wonderful weekend exploring we then headed back to Reyjkavik along one of the most scenic roads I have ever been on.