GRINDAVIK, Iceland -- It began as an obscure pool of hot water that
college kids would jump into after staying out all night at
Reykjavik bars. Now the Blue Lagoon is set to become a full-fledged
Next spring, it will open upgraded changing facilities for up to
700 people (current facilities accommodate up to 300), a conference
space for up to 150 people and a 500-seat restaurant overlooking
the aquamarine water. The facility poured $7 million into the
upgrades, said finance director Anna Sverrisdottir.
The lagoon itself will be moved away from the nearby geothermal
power plant that pours steam over it. "The plant scares some
people," Sverrisdottir said.
The new lagoon will be set in a man-made pool carved from lava
rock and flanked by a new sand beach. A new indoor section of the
pool will allow bathers to plunge in without first running outdoors
in freezing weather.
Those who would rather lounge than bathe will find a bridge
leading to a new island in the middle of the lagoon. A dramatic
walkway of lava rocks will lead visitors to the facility.
Admission will cost about $7, up from $6. By 2002, the lagoon
will add a spa and fitness center -- offering massages, facials and
other treatments -- more conference space and a high-end hotel with
at least 200 rooms.
The lagoon opened in 1986 as a public company partially owned by
the power plant, Icelandair and a gasoline station. The lagoon
water is the byproduct of the local geothermal power plant. A plant
worker found that the pool cured his skin rash, and soon the pool
acquired changing rooms and an admission charge.
As many as 2,000 people a day frequent the facilities,
Sverrisdottir said. Last year there were 152,000 visitors; 178,000
are projected for 1998. More than 21,000 visitors swamped the
lagoon in July alone. The current "primitive" changing facilities
can't handle all that traffic, she said. The new, larger changing
rooms will have lockers instead of clothes hooks.
"We don't really know what is in the water that helps skin,"
Sverrisdottir said. "A certain micro-growth -- sort-of like algae
-- makes the [aquamarine] color. This growth has not been found
The lagoon water interacts with the lava rock to create a unique
composition of minerals and algae. It has a salt concentration
equal to the sea, which seeps into the area's underground water.
The nation's health authorities funded studies that proved the
lagoon helps skin disorders and keeps skin healthy. In 1993, the
lagoon started a clinic for the treatment of psoriasis that draws
people from around the world. (Patients have their own pool, apart
from the main lagoon.)
The upcoming restaurant is already booked for New Year's Eve
1999. The German hotel chain Dorint Hotels has reserved the entire
lagoon for 500 of its frequent guests. (The restaurant will not
serve hard liquor, lest someone get drunk and pass out in the
The Blue Lagoon is a 40-minute ride from Reykjavik and 15
minutes from the international airport in Keflavik. Americans often
stop for a dip on their way to the airport. Travelers can even
visit the lagoon on a layover, hopping a free bus that shuttles
passengers between the airport and pool.
Travelers won't need to lug bathing suits and towels, as the
lagoon will rent them for about $4 each. The lagoon is open every
day of the year, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in summer, 11 a.m. to 8
p.m. in winter and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on winter weekends.
The Blue Lagoon, Phone: (011) 354 426-8800, Fax: (011) 354
426-8888, Web: www.bluelagoon.is
Warning: Pack your own shampoo
I swam in the Blue Lagoon twice, in twilight and daylight. The
clean, simple changing room had wooden hooks for clothes (valuables
can be stored behind the front desk) and wooden cubby holes to
store towels. Each day was rainy, so I never encountered
After showering, it's a shivering five-second dash to the lagoon
(it's fun to watch people do this once you're in the water). Blue
Lagoon cocktails, a secret blue mixture that tastes like a wine
cooler, were served.
The lagoon is divided into sections based on the water's warmth.
I had to swim around to find a really warm spot. (The new lagoon
will be more evenly heated.) Lava rocks stick up through the water
(no diving allowed); some below the surface make good seats. Other
parts of the lagoon are too deep to stand in.
Steam from the hissing power plant rolls over the water, making
it hard to see -- especially when combined with raindrops.
Some bathers scoop up the white silica mud from the lava floor
and use it as a facial mask. The lagoon staff claim it absorbs oil
and soothes skin rashes. Typically, the lagoon water turns skin
drier, then softer.
The lagoon is not, however, good for your hair. No one warned me
that it would turn my long hair to steel wool. After about 10
washings and bottles of conditioner it was a little better -- more
like straw. I had to wonder about the Blue Lagoon Shampoo they were