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The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most famous and most popular attractions. And for good reason, who wouldn’t want to soak in the lagoon’s luminous-blue, rejuvenating geothermic water? But, despite the lagoon’s health benefits and impressive lava-covered terrain, few visit the lagoon for more than a day. That’s because, being centrally located between the capital-city Reykjavik and the international airport, the Blue Lagoon is the perfect stop on either the way into Iceland, when you are jet-lagged and in need of some revitalization, or on your way back to the airport, when a relaxing soak in the lagoon is the perfect way to prep for a long flight. Either option makes the Blue Lagoon an essential stop on your Iceland itinerary. What I discovered during my long weekend stay at the incredible Silica Hotel in the Blue Lagoon, however, is the only thing better than a quick stop through the Blue Lagoon, is staying there for an entire weekend and enjoying your very own private pool of the silica-enriched waters. During my stay, I also discovered the impressive history of the site, which, while man-made, is a testament to Iceland’s innovative spirit and commitment to zero waste.

So, what is the Blue Lagoon? You have probably seen pictures of tourists slathered in some sort of white paste, posing in impossibly blue water, surrounded by steam, and framed by snow dusted mountains. It’s an idyllic scene and let me assure you, even better in real life. That white stuff you see on tourists faces and bodies? That is white silica–dissolved primary rock, brought directly from the earth’s mantle. Beyond being famous for its ability to cleanse and renew your skin, it is what gives the water its signature blue glow. The water is geothermal seawater that originates 2000 meters within the earth where ocean water and freshwater converge. Propelled by high pressure and extreme temperatures, the water ascends through geothermal extraction to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with not only silica, but algae and other minerals, which give the lagoon its healing properties.

Interestingly, the healing properties of this geothermic water was discovered by accident. In the 1980s local residents began bathing in pools of the warm blue waters that formed beside the Svartsengi geothermal power plant. Now, I know what you are thinking – bathing in run off from a power plant?! But power in Iceland is different. They are committed to clean, zero-waste energy (a novel concept for us Americans). The pools of water were the byproduct of the plant’s geothermal energy production (meaning they converted the heat, power, and steam of water heated and propelled to the earth’s surface by lava into energy). Once the energy was harvested, the geothermic waters were pumped back into the surrounding 800-year-old lava field, where it was expected to seep through the lava and return to the earth’s volcanic aquifers. Thanks to the water’s naturally high concentrate of silica, however, it pooled, and the Blue Lagoon was born.

Eventually, local bathers took note of the water’s healing properties, especially for those suffering from psoriasis. Scientific study of the water produced a renowned line of skin care and a clinic for the treatment of psoriasis. My favorite fact about the water? Fresh geothermic water is pumped into the lagoon every 40 hours, meaning that the lagoon’s naturally warm water was, 40 hours ago, 2000 meters within the earth!

Soaking in this water is quite the experience. You arrive to a massive, well-organized, and modern complex. You receive a robe, slippers, and a locker. Once changed, you rinse, slather your hair in conditioner (while the silica is good for your skin, it dries out your hair), and make your way into the opaque, warm water. In the water you can enjoy a face mask, prosecco, and even an in-water massage! You can bob in the warm water as long as you like and emerge for snacks or lunch at the in-house cafes.

While I loved the vibrant energy of the main lagoon, I really enjoyed my private lagoon at the Silica Hotel. The Silica Hotel sits on the main property of the Blue Lagoon but feels like a world away. It is connected to the main lagoon by a path through moss-covered lava fields. Staying at the Silica gives you daily access to the main lagoon as well as their private lagoon and spa. We loved spending our mornings in the main lagoon and having a pre-dinner sunset or a post-dinner night soak at the Silica.

The Silica Hotel was designed to become one with its volcanic surroundings. Large windows in your room and throughout the property seamlessly merge the hygge-style interiors with the enveloping natural terrain. A sumptuous breakfast buffet is served overlooking the Silica Lagoon. For dinner you can choose from a casual gourmet meal at Lava, overlooking the main lagoon, or an exquisite 7-course tasting menu at the exclusive Moss Restaurant (located at Silica’s sister hotel, The Retreat).

In addition to the Blue Lagoon, the Reykjanes peninsula on which the lagoon sits also offers some fun, off-the-beaten-path sightseeing. We did a day tour that included the Reykjanes Lighthouse, the Bridge Between Two Continents (this is where the European and North American tectonic plates converge!), the rugged lava carved coastline, the charming town of Grindavik, and a stop to say hello to Iceland’s most famous residents, Icelandic horses!

Basically, what I learned is that you don’t want to miss the Blue Lagoon, but there is a better way than your standard stop-over. Take the time to spend a couple days enjoying the privacy and comforts of the Silica Hotel and lagoon. I was also surprised by how easy a three-day weekend trip to Iceland was! If you are on the east coast, the well-timed flights and convenient location of the Blue Lagoon make it a do-able and enjoyable three-day getaway!