Group's plan to open spa picks up steam


MYVATN -- In this northeastern district of Iceland, inhabited by about 470 people around Lake Myvatn, a group known as the Lake Myvatn Bath Society plans to develop a natural spa attraction and have it up and running by July.

The group was founded in 1996 with the goal of reestablishing an ancient bath tradition in the Lake Myvatn area, among the most geologically active in Iceland.

The lake itself was declared a national conservation area in 1974 and is a popular tourist destination for trout and salmon fishing.

"People in the Lake Myvatn area have used its geothermal activity for bathing for ages," said Petur Snaebjornsson, general manager of the 41-room Hotel Reynihlid here and president of the bath society.

"They bathed in natural steam, underground lava caves, warm pools and warm sand."

The bath society's project builds upon an experimental geothermal steam bath, which it has been running for research purposes for four years.

The little-known steam bath accommodates about a dozen people. The shelter's plastic canopy top allows light to enter, and its wood-plank floor allows natural steam to pass through the cracks. Wood benches seat up to about 12 guests.

The steam bath happens to be located near a lagoon of geothermal water (similar to the Blue Lagoon, near Reykjavik) overflowed from the nearby Krafla Power Station.

A cautionary distinction is that, here, bathers can't count on the temperature of the lagoon being appropriate or even safe for bathing.

The Lake Myvatn Bath Society's plans are to relocate the lagoon and regulate the water's temperature to approximately 104 degrees Fahrenheit throughout.

"The northern wind provides for cooling," said Olga Gudrun Sigfusdottir, architect for the project.

New steam bath shelters; indoor and outdoor showers, and changing rooms also are planned to be built by July.

"We will have one or two cabins accommodating 10 people each as well as a number of small ones accommodating two to four people each," Snaebjornsson said.

The admission fee to the spa will be $8.50. Reservations will be accepted through a Web site in the works, Snaebjornsson said. The attraction will be open year-round.

Sand baths, Jacuzzis and stairway access to a natural warm-water cavern nearby are planned for future phases of development.

Based on a positive feasibility study for the project, Snaebjornsson said the bath society has decided to start the building process this winter, after finding investors.

"We are expecting every third traveler already coming to the area, which means about 42,000 guests in the first year and growth of about 5% a year," he said.

Regarding U.S. market interest, Snaebjornsson said he expects it to be especially strong from "those looking for deserted and [relatively] unknown places for recreation."

For information, contact the Lake Myvatn Bath Society at (011) 354 464-4170; fax: (011) 354 464-4371, or e-mail: [email protected].

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI