Last month my wife and I were chasing down the Northern Lights in Iceland. I have visited hot springs before – both natural streams such as in Yellowstone National Park and structured bathing pool places like Hot Springs National Park (Arkansas). However, never have I seen a country so focussed and appreciative of the activity of Bathing.
People around the country, locals and tourists alike, head to the local Thermal Pool after work on their way home. Like some might hit happy hour – Icelanders end the day with a soak at the town pool to meet up with friends and gossip about the days activity. These outdoor Thermal Pools range in style and size. We saw everything from Town Pools used for high school swim meets to luxury spas that rival the finest hotels in the world. The catch being they were all outdoors in an arctic climate with air temperatures averaging 30F to 40F.
DO NOT READ BELOW!!!
As anyone in the pool business will tell you – commercial pools are gross. Hot tubs are even worse. Honestly – I avoid going into more pools than I actually use. Two reasons: (1) people are gross and don’t know to shower before going in & (2) the chemical levels are rarely accurate. Iceland has solved these two issues. The changing rooms are very clear on the rules and even provide bathing instructions for tourists to follow. Some of the changing rooms I visited even put the soap / shampoo outside the individual showers so that everyone can see if you are soaping up or not. If that was not satisfying enough – the pools’ water is fully replaced every 40 hours or so. Thus eliminating a lot of the chemistry concerns.
While many hot springs have a strong sulfur smell. This Ísland Nation is blessed with unlimited, mineral rich, low odor, near boiling water. They also have clear fresh cold water from the glacier run off … the perfect combination for bathing!!!
The bathing crown jewel and the nation’s most famous attraction is the Blue Lagoon. This is an amazing 2.5 million gallon anomaly. Set in the center of an enormous Lava Field – the Blue Lagoon started as a small waste water holding area for the nearby Thermal Water Steam Generation facility. The usually porous lava eventually gets sealed or glazed over by the silica rich water and the man made excavated areas fill up with both heated fresh water from the ground and nearby algae rich sea water – making the perfect bathing liquid. The appealing color is the combination of white silica glazed surface and the blue green algae sea water. Many soak in the Blue Lagoon for is legendary skin healing properties – most are there for the hot water socializing.
For me the Blue Lagoon was elegant simplicity. Rough, course, black lava water sealed, smoothed and colored white by silica. Warm mineral rich ground water mixed with algae rich salted sea water. Presto – an unique oasis.
How can you not love a country with standardized street signs for the local Thermal Pool?