40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Not a Pool: Blue Lagoon

on June 1, 2012
Blue Lagoon

Photo from the Blue Lagoon website, because the picture is far better than any I took. Click through to their site and scroll part-way down for more images of this amazing place.

Imagine traveling for an hour on desolate roads, then walking down a path through the middle of a lava field and finding yourself at the most amazing party ever–with a disco soundtrack, dozens of your favorite people, and hundreds of other swim tourists from around the world. That was the IGLA opening party at the Blue Lagoon on Wednesday night, after the first day of competition. It was so. much. fun.

The setting was Iceland’s #1 tourist attraction, which we had all to ourselves for a few hours starting around 9:00 p.m. This being Iceland, it was bright and sunny out the whole time, and even the 1:00 a.m. walk back to our apartment after the return trip was in light you could read in, although the moon was also hovering over the city.

Blue Lagoon pop

Thanks to Kozo for capturing my ice cream moment.

The lagoon is a milky, steamy blue with a salty taste, and the temperature is comfortable enough to lounge in for hours on end. You wear a bathing suit and go through the pre-swim cleansing routine the same as at the pools, but this is not a swim destination. Rather, it is for soaking and relaxation. Sure, you can scoop white mud out of a tub and smear it onto your skin, or you could go hang out under a hard-pounding waterfall, but mostly you are just supposed to lounge here. When you need nourishment, wade on over to the bar for drinks, fruit smoothies, or ice cream. You can guess which one I chose.

power plant steampiping hot water into the capitalThe lagoon is an accidental industrial by-product. To understand why it’s here, it helps to understand geothermal energy generation, which Amanda and I learned about on our Golden Circle tour the previous day (and which I may or may not be explaining here correctly). Iceland, you see, is at the meeting point of two continental plates: North America and Eurasia. This gives warmth from deep inside the earth room to make its way to the surface, resulting in things like geysers, volcanoes, and hot springs. Enterprising sorts can drill down to the warmth in order to harness it. The bore-holes go down a couple kilometers in order to bring up steam, which is used to turn turbines and cooled down to a hospitable temperature by mixing with cold water from lakes. On our bus tour out of the city, we saw a power plant and the well-insulated pipes that feed hot water all the way into Reykjavik, where it heats homes, sidewalks, parking lots, hot pots, and pools. The leftover water is discharged near the power plants and usually soaks back into the ground.

The plant out by what became the Blue Lagoon was constructed for the nearby international airport area in the 1970s. The discharged water soon took on a life of its own, as the naturally occurring white silica caused a pool to form rather than letting the water soak back into the earth. Add naturally occurring algae for the pleasant blue color, and lo and behold you have the right mix for a tourist sensation. The power company wised up to this and built a bath house in the 1980s and added a spa more recently. Because of its proximity to the airport, it is all some travelers with quick layovers see of Iceland. I guarantee they enjoy their visits.

Danny, Janet, Hannah basking

One response to “Not a Pool: Blue Lagoon

  1. […] body of freshwater seemed otherworldly. In fact, something about the water reminded me of the Blue Lagoon (and it wasn’t the temperature!) — a slight opacity that nevertheless felt really […]

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