By Caroline Tapp-McDougall
Soaking in the Blue Lagoon
Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a surprisingly mild, albeit damp climate, which manifests in cool summers and relatively temperate (for the latitude) winters. However, we had been forewarned and had our sweaters and raincoats ready for rain, overcast skies and unpredictable weather that could change from one hour to the next. But daunted we weren’t. After all, we were in Iceland for but a few days, so had to make the most of it.
Given the official status of a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2015, the Reykjanes Peninsula straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge—the tectonic boundary where the North American and Eurasian plates converge. Owing to its volcanic provenance, the south coast of the peninsula has an 800-year-old lava plain and is a geothermal wonderland alive with craters, fissures, mud pools, steam vents, hot springs and moss-covered lava flows. But, in truth, it’s the building of the Blue Lagoon in the region, a mere 20 minutes from Keflavik International Airport, that’s opened up this previously obscure area and helped put modern-day Iceland on the tourist map.
Aside from its majestic design by Sigríður Sigþórsdóttir, which is a harmonious interplay of manmade and natural materials, the Blue Lagoon’s magic lies 2,000 metres within the earth at a subterranean frontier where porous lava, searing heat, seawater and groundwater converge. Under pressure, these elements gives rise to a hybrid warm fluid that rises to the Earth’s surface. Says Sigþórsdóttir of his one-of-a-kind facility: “I attempted to capture the mystery of the location with the ever-changing play of light and shadow across the lava, the steam from the lagoon and the special light that characterizes the northern part of the world.”
Everyone into the pool
It’s tour-bus heaven but we set off early, curious to explore along with hundreds of “bucket-list” tourists being herded into check-in lines. Towels and slippers in hand, we’re escorted to the locker and shower rooms and invited for our anticipated soak and complimentary face mask in the lagoon’s steaming, milky-blue seawater.
With an average depth of 1.2 metres, the lagoon holds nine million litres of geothermal seawater (sourced directly from the Svartsengi geothermal field) that recirculates every 40 hours and covers an area of 8,700 square metres. In addition to the sublime pleasures of the water, the lagoon also offers a sauna, steam room, waterfall, café, in-water silica bar, in-water beverage bar and a menu of in-water massages and treatments.
Among the best
Thankfully, we’ve opted for one of the more private experiences, which comes complete with a lava cove in-water massage, lunch and a few other treats. Still a little over-peopled, it’s certainly a more enjoyable way to experience this luxuriously warm wellspring that National Geographic has named one of the “25 wonders of the world.”
Leaving the crowds behind
This year the Blue Lagoon has added an impressive 62-suite hotel called the Retreat, which is encircled by its own geothermal waters and a subterranean spa. A more private place because of its limited occupancy and handsome overnight fees, it’s a tranquil spot where guests enter a timeless realm of relaxation, rejuvenation and exploration. Well worth booking!
An additional sanctuary of healing, the Silica Hotel also has its own accommodations with more than 30 rooms, a private geothermal lagoon and complete spa facilities. Its claim to fame—the profound healing potential of the mineral and microbial elements that are contained in the water. It’s a mecca for psoriasis sufferers and offers a range skincare treatments, with a number of Blue Lagoon proprietary products available to help you continue the experience at home.
Wow-ed by “big seats”
Founded by Skuli Mogensen and based at Keflavik International, WOW Air calls itself the “happy long-haul airline.” Big, comfortable and convenient, its young fleet includes an airbus that flies daily from Toronto and offers WOW premium fares with no change fees and hop-on hop-off options on the way to Europe.