Chris and I have just returned from our longed-for visit to Iceland, and what an incredible week we had. The country was everything we’d hoped for and more: otherworldly, elemental, strikingly beautiful, and completely and utterly magical. Our travels took us across the south and east, to mountains, volcanoes, black-sand beaches and glaciers, before we headed to Reykjavik for a couple of days in the city. More on all that to follow over the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to start with a post about our first day, which turned out to be one of the best of the trip.
After a crack-of-dawn flight, we descended towards Keflavik airport just as the morning sun popped above the horizon, casting a rosy glow over the frozen landscape spread out beneath us. As soon as we’d collected our bags and our hire car, we headed off to the Blue Lagoon, which is only 20 minutes from the terminal. Worried that it would be over-hyped and crowded, we’d toyed with skipping Iceland’s most famous tourist attraction, but I’m so glad we didn’t: floating around in its milky-blue, bathwater-warm water, less than four hours after leaving Bristol, was a real treat.
The lagoon is actually manmade and was built to hold the run-off from the neighbouring geothermal power plant, but the ever-creative Icelanders decided to use the by-product to their advantage and create a spa. It’s surrounded by a craggy lava field and naturally heated to 37°C, although you occasionally come across cooler spots as you meander around.
Visitor numbers are carefully managed but, as we’d booked a slot in advance, we didn’t need to join the rather lengthy queue for entry. There are several packages to choose from, and we opted for one that included towels but no robes or slippers (you dash from the changing rooms to the water so quickly that you don’t really need them).
After showering (a heavily enforced rule – there are even rather hilarious signs in the cubicles depicting which bits of your body to focus on…), we spent a wonderful couple of hours bobbing around. Golden sunlight filtering through the rising steam created a hushed, dream-like atmosphere, and every now and then the silhouettes of other visitors would briefly emerge before vanishing back into the mist.
The water contains a mix of silica, algae and minerals that’s said to work wonders on the skin, and we found pots of nourishing face masks dotted around the edge of the lagoon. There’s also a swim-up bar, and a drink was included in the price of our ticket. I was very tempted to treat myself to some wine, but in the end I opted for a creamy banana smoothie made from Icelandic skyr.
We could have stayed for the whole day but, conscious that we had a long drive ahead, we eventually hauled ourselves out of the water and set out for our first base. I’ll post a bit about that soon, but in the meantime here are some tips that might come in handy if you’re planning to visit the Blue Lagoon yourself:
- Stop off at the lagoon on your way to or from the airport, as it makes a wonderful start or end to a trip. We left our cases in the back of our hire car, but there’s a left-luggage room for those coming by bus.
- Book in advance, as there’s no guarantee you’ll get in otherwise. We were worried that we’d miss our slot if our flight was delayed, but we were assured they’d do their best to accommodate us.
- The minerals in the water can play havoc with your hair, so slather it with conditioner (provided for free in the changing rooms) and tie it up on top of your head before entering the water.
- For the same reason, it’s worth covering your lips in balm. I didn’t, and they felt dry for days afterwards.
- Don’t wear any items that you could easily lose, such as glasses or jewellery – the water is opaque, so it would be almost impossible to find them.
- If you want to take photos, buy a waterproof pouch for your camera or phone. I used this one from Go Travel and it survived a full dunking without any problems.
All photography by Abi Dare