111813 Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik, Iceland

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On November 18th, 2013 I was near the end of an amazing week-long solo stopover in Iceland.  I had seen the sights in Reykjavik, ate a Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog (or two), rented a car and drove myself around to the original geyser at Geyser, chessman Bobby Fisher’s final house, and all the other tourist sites that tugged on my interest and now it was time to take in what is said to be the highlight of them all, Iceland’s famous semi-natural hotspring, the Blue Lagoon.

I took a bus from Reykjavik’s downtown to the Blue Lagoon, a ride of about forty-five minutes into the barren countryside well beyond the outskirts of the already isolated capital city.  If I’m not mistaken it’s even shorter to get to the Blue Lagoon from the Reykjavik airport, making the spa a popular excursion for travellers stuck waiting for connecting flights out of the busy hub.

The bus was heading down an empty road, the stout mountain range sitting not far in the distance.  There is basically no vegetation in Iceland and here was no exception.  There was nary a tree to be seen in any direction, just rocky, lava-like tundra leading all the way to the dark hills.  Finally the bus swung around and I saw the Blue Lagoon complex, a large, oh-so-European wood and glass structure that seemed out of place against the lunar backdrop.  No matter, the twenty or so of us got off the bus and rushed towards the front door, holding our jackets tight against the cold and inevitably strong Icelandic wind.

Inside I paid my fee and was given a waterproof wristband, which would prove to be all I needed for anything.  I used the wristband to scan open the automatic glass door into the spa, I used it to enter the men’s change area and I used the wristband to open and close the locker of my choosing.  I changed into my bathing suit and went downstairs to the glassed-in lobby that led outside to the water.  There was a pool inside where one could swim under-and-out to the Blue Lagoon outside, but I opted to walk through the frosted-over automatic doors and into the chilly air.

Simultaneously shocked by the near-zero temperature on my near-naked body and flabbergasted by my first glimpse at the stunningly beautiful Blue Lagoon I gasped and immediately lost my breath.  The huge hot-tub forged out of a lava field and filled with glittering, emerald-blue water absolutely sweltered in front of me, with steamy, dreamy mist drifting through mood lighting and enveloping the swim-up bars and blissed-out bathers, many of which were covered in brown mineral mud.

I slid into the water in a frantic, Zen-like rush and relaxed as hard as I could, with little effort at all.

The water was more than just hot; it had something tangible to it that was not at all icky.  It lubricated my skin from the outside in and back again as the considerable heat cooked me into a lull.  The hot tub is vast – it must cover an acre or more, with little fjords and bridges, waterfalls and rocky outcrops, and everywhere steam, steam, steam.  The tub itself is man-made but it was built on a natural hot spring that feeds it and keeps it very, very hot.  The spots where the hot water spouts in from below are clearly marked, and it’s almost impossible to get near them.  Get too close and you’d swear your skin was starting to cook.

I got out and walked around, going over a bridge or two and discovering a bank of saunas.  I gave one a shot but saunas really aren’t my thing so I moved on and found a boiling hot waterfall which, it turns out, is very much my thing.  Back in the tub itself I drifted along the perimeter and after nearly an hour in and around the water I was ready to get out and go back to the city.  

As I was lifting myself out of the pool something in my head stopped me.  “Are you crazy?” something asked me, incredulous.  “This is awesome and you’ll probably never be here again,” it reasoned.  “Stay in the water!”

“Yeah, well,” I stammered back, “I’m a bit tired, and it’s probably going to get dark soon.”  Even I wasn’t convinced, so lame was my excuse.

“Tired?!?  Tired?!?!  What’s wrong with being tired at a spa!” the voice raged.  “Plus, this place would probably look quite amazing at night!”

That was it…I convinced me, and we were both glad for it.

I turned my pruned body around and got back in the water.  I swam over to the bar and got a beer by merely scanning my nifty waterproof bracelet.  I sat and lounged and swam and had another beer.  I closed my eyes in bliss and even tried a little of that mineral mud, spreading it lackadaisically over much of my head, face and torso and floating on top of the water until it all washed away.  

I sat as close to a heat vent as I could and watched the sun set over the mountains and yes, the place looked even more magical at night, the mist floating on the massive glowing pool like dry ice on a Broadway stage.  It looked like a dream, a Cirque du Soleil set, or maybe a scene out of Avatar. 

Finally, finally I pulled myself out of the pool and dragged my softened bones up to the change room.  I was so relaxed I felt like I was living in a lava lamp.  I showered and got dressed and went down to the exit.  Here I handed over my wristband and my credit card and settled the bill so the electronic door could be convinced to eject me to my waiting bus.

On the ride back to the city I drifted in and out of a numbing slumber that felt almost as pleasant as the day that tired me so, and I arrived back at the city rested up enough to spend a surprising evening spinning a wheel-for-drinks in a bar called Lebowski’s.

Which (if you’re ever in Reykjavik and need to rid yourself of sobriety in a hurry) I highly recommend.

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