Feeling blue? Shake off winter and step into spring…
Our Spa and Wellness correspondent, Claire Simmons, enjoys an other-worldly experience in Iceland
Approaching the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s most iconic tourist attractions, is extraordinary. Not least because Iceland isn’t the sort of place to evoke hot, arid landscapes with oases surrounded by gently swaying palm trees.
For this is a lunar landscape touching the arctic circle and here in the Reykjanes peninsula sits a renowned spa and wellness centre. As I draw nearer, billows of steam spurt from cracks in the volcanic field, suggesting this is going to be a unique geothermal experience.
Angling my huge Nissan Patrol into a thankfully wide parking space (because there isn’t any call for dinky, sweet Fiat 500s in this country), the rocky terrain surrounding the site is covered in a vivid green moss. It’s all very surreal.
I follow the steam trails towards a futuristic low building made of perfect pumice stone rectangles. A short walk to the entrance is welcome as it’s below zero and turning dark even though the sun has barely grazed the horizon at 1pm.
I have pre-booked a standard day ticket and there is a 15-minute queue as each of us are signed in, given a towel and offered an extra package for a small fee, of flip flops and towelling robe. I decline the extras (seemed indulgent at the time) and pass through a turnstile towards the prospect of dipping my toes into a lovely, hot pool.
In the smart changing rooms there are communal areas where many women don’t seem to mind baring all, but as a British woman at a certain stage of skin gravity, I prefer to scuttle into the modesty changing cubicles.
I’m not too sure of the drill, but notice everyone else is wearing flip flops or similar and are wrapped in the bath towels I declined at reception. They all look snuggly and warm.
My one-piece bathing suit is appropriate and a notice to shower before entering the pool is as I would expect at any spa. Only here, you are advised to use the special conditioner provided to work into your hair. The silicon in the clay on the bed of the lagoon is what gives the water its gorgeous colour of cloudy baby blue. It also has drying properties that mean getting the silicon off your locks afterwards can be a trial if you haven’t coated them first.
Opening the glass doors to the lagoon is a shock to all your senses. The cold is biting and I hastily put my towel on one of the many racks outside and hop quickly over to the handrails to get into the steaming water.
THE BLUE LAGOON
The water is actually a lot hotter than I was expecting and it’s hard to adjust to the heat when my feet are so cold. I bend my knees, sink down and sigh with absolute bliss. There is nothing like it, there really isn’t.
After a while, I go for a smoothie – I don’t need to get out of the lagoon – the entrance wristband puts the bill on my account and I relax and look around. One of the best known applications here is the DIY clay face-masks that you put on while you wallow. I scrape some of the white silicon clay out of a wooden pail and put it onto my face. The instruction board says to leave it for twenty minutes until it dries and then gently wash it off. I obey, of course. This is one of the signature joys of the Blue Lagoon and many people with skin complaints come here to heal. For psoriasis, the properties of the clay are legendary.
After soaking in the hot water and washing off my clay mask, my skin feels wonderfully smooth. I’ve been enjoying the soporific water for two hours now and the only downside is that my fingers and toes resemble walnuts.
I brave getting out and wrap myself quickly in my towel. Unfortunately, it has become very damp in the icy cold, steamy air and the bathrobe deal I declined is wistfully lingering.
I rush into the shower area to wash my hair which has gathered into strange, stiff clumps. A copious amount of shampoo and conditioner helps to smooth out the residue.
Lunch in the café was fair but functional. You choose what you want from an open fridge – sandwiches and cakes – and pay at the counter. A set lunch in comfort is available in the main Lava restaurant for those making a day of it.
The gift shop is excellent and expensive, but then, Iceland has never been cheap even in the depths of its banking crisis. And if the economy is rebalancing well then, so am I, albeit more in terms of isometrics than ISAs.
There are three main packages: standard, comfort and premium. There is also an exclusive lounge experience which is personally tailored and starts at 195 euros per person (correct at time of writing). The difference between them all varies around free use of towels and robes, free slippers, use of exclusive areas and expert advice on treatments, skincare and lunch at the Lava restaurant (separately priced).
For most, the standard or comfort packages are popular, along with the demand for massages and treatments. There is also a growing interest in the luxury facilities for those who are used to more space and privacy, with champagne on ice for special events. But whichever package you choose, the number of people in the pool is regulated to ensure there is enough room for everyone.
With the centre being significantly expanded for 2016 and a new hotel nearing completion, there is every reason to believe this will remain a special place in the land of extraordinary.
Prices and packages: www.bluelagoon.com/blue-lagoon-spa/prices-and-packages/
Plan your visit: www.bluelagoon.com/plan-your-visit/opening-hours/
Development plans: www.bluelagoon.com/plan-your-visit/we-are-growing/