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Good water: Iceland's thermal pools
Angela Alexander loves Iceland. She loves it so much that she has been going every year for the past 15 years. Here she tells us why …
There are two things I love about Iceland: the swimming and the bookshops. People think this strange, but Iceland has some great places to swim, and fantastic bookshops.
Swimming is perhaps not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Iceland, but I can assure you that it is a wonderful place to take the plunge. Everyone in Iceland swims, it seems to me, every day. The pools are all heated naturally by geothermal springs, even the indoor ones, and entry is very reasonably priced. It’s not unusual to find grannies, parents, and children all sitting around in the hot tubs connected to the pools, chatting and putting the world to rights. I think it’s just wonderful.
The most famous geothermal pool in Iceland is the Blue Lagoon, which is a very popular stop off on the way to Iceland’s airport at Keflavik and about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik. Surrounded by black lava, covered, at the water’s edge, with white silica deposits. It is a quite stunning sight with its bright blue water, coloured, I think, by a harmless microalgae that lives in the water.
I’ve been going to the Blue Lagoon since I first went to Iceland, and in the early days there was just a hut for showering and changing. Now it is part of an upmarket spa and in recent years the pool floor has been smoothed which is kinder on your feet than it used to be – rough lava is not forgiving to the feet or knees. The pool itself is pretty big: 5000 m2 (about the size of a football pitch) filled with 6 million litres of geothermal seawater which is renewed every 40 hours. So it never seems crowded even though it is one of Iceland’s top tourist destinations. The pool temperature is in the upper 30s, usually between 37 and 39º c so it is not great for swimming in. When I go I spend most of my time just floating, a pastime made very easy by the presence of salt in the water. As you can imagine it is unbelievably relaxing and I can stay in quite happily for half a day, whatever the weather. I’ve been at all times of the year and the most magical is when snow is falling on the water’s surface. A unique experience.
Emerging from the water I feel absolutely invigorated and my skin is soft, though after a few hours of immersion in need of some moisturiser. The spa supplies showers and their own Blue Lagoon brand of toiletries for you to use on leaving (and entering) the pool. I should say though, that no amount of washing will get rid of the faint smell of sulphur, the other main mineral present in the water: like the smell of chlorine that you get from swimming in a UK pool, it lingers!
I’d say that no trip to Iceland would be complete without a trip to the Blue Lagoon, but there are many more geothermal pools to choose from. Some are off the beaten track and only accessible in summer, but all are well worth a visit. For swimmers, I think, Iceland is the ultimate holiday destination.
Find out more about swimming in Iceland
Find out more about the Blue Lagoon
Photo supplied by Visit Iceland
Steven Shaw is leading a swimming holiday in Iceland in May 2012. Find out more here, or call 020 8446 9442.