live slow, love nature, be adventurous

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Iceland | The Blue Lagoon

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I figured it was high time that I finally start writing about my trip to Iceland earlier this year! Over Easter, a couple of friends and me flew over to Reykjavik from Bergen, rented a car and drove along the south coast of Iceland for a week. Iceland is a country like no other – it’s wild, deserted, lonely and incredibly beautiful and sometimes I wasn’t quite sure if I was still on Earth. If Iceland has been on your travel list then make a point of traveling there as soon as possible: You won’t regret it! If you love nature, wilderness and epic movies (hello Game of Thrones!), you’ll love Iceland!

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Renting a car and going on a road trip is probably the best way to discover Iceland. The beauty of this country doesn’t lie in its cities and towns, but in its vast, unspoiled nature and having your own set of four wheels is the easiest way to see as much as possible of the landscape that make Iceland so special. There are not a whole lot of roads in Iceland (just check out the map above!), so navigation is easy, but it's important to know that there are some streets (they are called F-Streets) that rental companies only allow you drive on with a 4wd.

We went with a regular car which worked out fine for us since many of those roads are closed for a good chunk of the year because of bad weather conditions - and April may as well still be winter - and we never regretted that decision. We rented our car from Hertz (if you access their page via the Keflavik Airport website you receive a great discount code!) and I would definitely recommend them.

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The sun was shining beautifully when we left the airport, but it was deceptive: It was freezing! I had checked the weather forecast before and the temperatures didn't seem to be much lower than in Norway, but I forgot to factor in one thing: Wind. I honestly have never been to a country with wind as strong and cold as in Iceland. If you haven't been to Iceland, you probably have never encountered true wind! Thankfully, we were heading to a great place to warm up though:

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The Blue Lagoon is a large geothermal pool and spa conveniently located just between the airport and Reykjavik and is probably the most cliché Icelandic travel experience. Just as a visit to Paris isn't quite complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower, so is a trip to Iceland not whole without taking a swim in the Blue Lagoon. We had bought our tickets  online and opted for the standard package that only included the entrance fee and no other amenities such as towels or bathrobes (we brought our own), but it still came in at a whopping 35€ per person. When in Iceland, right?

But aside from being the most expensive bathing experience I'll probably ever have in my life, the Blue Lagoon was also a perfect way to realize that we had officially landed in a country that is very, very different from most other places in the world. Formed by the influence of tectonics and volcanism, Iceland's landscape is constantly changing and evolving and also occasionally stopping all air traffic between Europe and North America - remember the chaos caused by the erupting Eyjafjallajökull in 2010?

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If you think that the insanely blue water of the Blue Lagoon looks absolutely unreal - then it's because you're right. One advantage of the (let's face it sort of inhumane) surroundings in Iceland is that the country gets most of its energy from power plants that use renewable energy sources and it is one of these power plants that feeds the Blue Lagoon. The water does get its beautiful color by the minerals that are found in the soil and that are said to be incredibly good for your skin, but the lagoon itself is the result of a nearby power plant that uses superheated water to create energy.

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When you enter the front building of the Blue Lagoon, you receive a bracelet on which any services that you take advantage of during your visit are charged on (namely: the bar) and are then ushered to the changing rooms. From what I can gather from reading other blogs, this seems to be a major point of concern for North American visitors because the changing rooms are communal. Reading blogs has also taught me that German people apparently love being naked (I have trouble believing that), so you have to take my words with a grain of salt, but the whole changing-room-situation really isn't as bad as people make it out to be.

Yes, the changing rooms are communal (separate for men and women, though). And yes, you have to take a shower with your bathing suit off. But there are ways to change clothes without anyone noticing you're naked and there are shower rooms with doors, so nobody has to see you naked unless you want to. Besides, people honestly don't pay attention to each other in the changing room - that would be way too creepy to be common practice.

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The water of the lagoon is wonderfully warm, but not super hot. Even when a hail storm comes in (only happened twice during our visit…), the water temperature is warm enough to stay comfortable. I wish I could have taken some pictures in the water, but unfortunately none of us owned a water-proof camera… one of the workers of the Blue Lagoon goes around at the edge of the lagoon taking pictures with a tablet, though, but we only caught sight of him once we were safely out of the water and dressed again.

All around the lagoon there are pots that contain mud of the lagoon that is said to be super good for the skin. We kept on slathering the stuff on our faces and I could swear that my skin looked better the next day! I would have bought a face mask in their store, if it hadn't been so expensive!But while the minerals may be great for your skin, they're not all that great for your hair. I had to show my hair lots of love in the form of conditioner for a couple of days until it looked really nice again - so be prepared on your Iceland journey!

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There's even a bar! Once we felt sufficiently soaked (and remembered that we still had more plans for the day), we got out of the water again, got dressed and started to snap some pictures. I nearly froze my toes off taking the pictures above (no shoes allowed), but luckily there is also a viewing platform from which you can catch a lovely glimpse of the sheer size of the lagoon:

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Iceland may have greeted us with strong winds and cold temperatures, but our trip did have a stellar beginning thanks to the Blue Lagoon!

linking up with Nicole


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