The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is as cool as you want it to be. Plus three more hot springs to visit


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On the 50-minute drive from Keflavik International Airport in Iceland to downtown Reykjavik, the scenery changed from long, flat stretches of land to patches of grass strewn with boulders.

It was early August and it was chilly – 40 degrees, that’s chilly for a native Angeleno – and looking around I couldn’t quite understand why this place was on the top of my friends’ travel wish lists. .

For memory :

12:43 23 August 2019An earlier version of this article indicated that the 35-room Silica Hotel at the Blue Lagoon would close for renovations and reopen as a 60-room hotel. A new 60-room hotel will open in addition to the Silica hotel.

One thing is clear: Iceland is all the rage. The number of people traveling here has more than doubled in the past six years, according to the Icelandic Tourism Board, and that number continues to grow by more than 20% per year.

For that we can probably thank, in part, Wow Airlines, the Icelandic super low cost carrier who tries with the one-way fare of less than $ 100. And I would also credit social media, which is full of selfies taken in and around the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s best-known hot spring.

But Iceland wasn’t really on my list. A story about low cost airlines (I flew with Wow) landed me in the capital, which I was able to use as a base to explore the hot springs. It’s not my idea of ​​heaven, but it helped me when my sister Jessica, who needed a vacation, volunteered to explore with me.

The plan was to stay in Reykjavik and then get to as many hot springs as possible without having to join a tour group or get on a bus.

Of course, plans are being made to change, which happened when the car rental company failed to produce the four-wheel drive I had booked and paid for.

This meant we had to ignore some of the sources on our list that were off the main roads.

But our little red Toyota Yaris made it to the Blue Lagoon and three other memorable geothermal sites, all within driving distance of Reykjavik.

Blue lagoon

The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa the size of two football fields, sits in the middle of an 800-year-old lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula, a 50-minute drive southwest of Reykjavik.

It’s popular, so reservations are required as space is limited, ensuring enough sparkling water for everyone. (The lagoon can hold hundreds of people.)

The water, a combination of fresh water and seawater from the nearby geothermal power plant, is about 98 degrees, slightly cooler than your average spa.

Tourists sit in the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik. The blue and green waters of the Blue Lagoon come from natural hot springs that flow through a lava field.

(Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty Images)

Ticket packages range from around $ 48 to $ 200. The premium package, around $ 85, is all you’ll need to feel like a king or queen. It includes mud and seaweed masks, a towel, a drink of your choice, a bathrobe, slippers and a reservation and a free glass of sparkling wine at Lava, a restaurant at the Blue Lagoon.

Silica, the 35-room Blue Lagoon hotel, is a 10-minute walk away. (It closes for renovation in April and will reopen later this year, in addition to a new 60-room luxury hotel with a new restaurant.)

Jessica and I spent hours walking on the smooth rocky ground of the lagoon. We eventually relaxed, although we had to dodge the tourists wading through the water in search of the perfect backdrop for the selfies.

One of the best features of the lagoon is its swim-up bar, where you can buy smoothies, wine, beer, and water. We also tried the water massage (around $ 80 for 30 minutes, but you can skip it unless you like the feeling of sinking), had lunch at Lava (one of the best dishes in Iceland ) and returned to the lagoon for several more hours.

Hot water is addictive so we were happy to have allotted an entire day for the tour.

Info: Blue Lagoon, 011-354-420-8800

Hvalfjardarlaug

Hvalfjardarlaug geothermal pool in Iceland.

The Hvalfjardarlaug geothermal pool in Iceland.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

A 42-minute drive north of Reykjavik, we crossed lush green valleys, bridges over rocky streams and a dirt road riddled with potholes to one of the most magical places I have ever seen. have never visited.

We were sure we were in the wrong place, so we parked our car so it wouldn’t block the road, and then we took a dirt road.

When we reached the pebble-lined shore of the Hvalfjordur fjord, we turned left and walked about eight minutes (our hotel concierge provided directions) until we came to a small man-made pool. surrounded by rocks. Hot water comes from a nearby spring.

The deep blue water of the fjord and the verdant mountains provide the backdrop for the small hot tub, which comfortably seats two. The chirping of birds and the sound of water lapping lazily on the shore served as the soundtrack for the afternoon.

As we sat alone in the hot pool, we felt like we had stumbled upon someone’s “Wish you were here” postcard. We alone enjoyed solitude; we hadn’t seen another human being for miles.

But isolation is not guaranteed. If someone is in the pool when you arrive, you will have to wait your turn.

Info: Enter the GPS coordinates 64.373948, -21.563774 into Google Maps for directions, then write them down before starting the trip. Google Maps does not work once you leave Reykjavik and there is no internet connection. To free

Secret Lagoon

The secret lagoon in Iceland.

The secret lagoon in Iceland.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

The name may come from the difficulty in finding this place. After our map application failed us, we had to stop at a gas station for directions.

The Secret Lagoon, established in 1891, is one of Iceland’s oldest swimming pools. It’s in the small town of Fludir, just over an hour’s drive east of Reykjavik.

It’s a popular stop on the 186 mile Golden Circle tour, which also includes Geysir Geyser, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Kerid Crater Lake.

We arrived in the morning which was smart as access is limited to control crowds. (The website lists designated times for tour groups, so plan to arrive before or after them.)

The lagoon is behind a small building, where you check in and pay around $ 25 to enter. The Secret Lagoon is about the size of a large backyard pool and is surrounded by dense forest on one side and lush green hills on the other.

Steam rose from the ground, creating a thick mist over the water. A walking trail allowed us to explore the gushing and bubbling hot springs without getting too close. We spent a few hours in the lagoon which was plenty of time to relax and whet your appetite for lunch.

Info: 845 Hvammsvegur, Fludir; 011-354 853-3033

Laugarvatn Fontana

The thermal baths of Laugarvatn Fontana in Iceland.

The thermal baths of Laugarvatn Fontana in Iceland.

(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Laugarvatn Fontana looks more like a heated public swimming pool than a hot spring, with Shallow geothermal baths with tiled walls and floors.

Not only is geothermal heat used to heat the baths, it is also used to bake bread underground. The rye created in his geothermal bakery is delicious. You may want to stop for lunch rather than taking a dip in the pool.

Info: 1 Hverabraut, Laugarbraut, 840 Laugarvatn; 011-354-486-1400

If you are going to

THE BEST WAY IN REYKJAVIK, ICELAND

From LAX, Wow Airlines offers non-stop service to Reykjavik on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and Alaska, American, Delta, Jet Blue and United offer a connecting service (change of plane). Restricted round-trip fares starting at $ 655, taxes and fees included.

TELEPHONES

To call the numbers below from the United States, dial 011 (the international code), 354 (the country code for Iceland), the area code and the local number.

MOVE

If you plan to visit only the mentioned hot springs, you won’t need a 4×4. Cars can be hired from Europcar to Keflavik airport; 425-0300. From $ 120 per day with unlimited mileage.

GET NAKED

The only thing you need to know before visiting an artificial hot spring in Iceland is that you will be naked in public showers. At the Blue Lagoon, you must shower naked in gender-separated showers before entering the water. And yes there is someone monitor you.

After the public shower, you can put on your swimsuit and step into the water. You must also shower naked before entering Laugarvatn Fontana and the Secret Lagoon.

WHERE TO STAY

Skuggi Hotel, 103 Hverfisgata, Reykjavik; 590-7000. Doubles starting at $ 267, breakfast included.

Icelandair Hotel Reyjkavik Marina, 2 Myrargata, Reykjavik; 444-4000. Doubles starting at $ 246.

WHERE TO EAT

Sandholt, 36 Laugavegur, Reykjavik; 551-3524. Bakery with excellent breads, pastries, sandwiches, soups and yogurts, as well as coffee drinks. Dinner will cost around $ 30.

Fridheimar, Blaskogabyggd, Selfoss; 486-8894. Eat in a tomato greenhouse that serves pasta, unlimited tomato soup with fresh bread and cocktails. $ 19 for unlimited pasta or tomato soup.

Valdis, 21 Grandagardur, Reykjavik; 586-8088. An ice cream shop that serves large scoops of licorice ice cream in waffle cones. $ 2.19 for a ball.

Burid, 35 Grandagardur, Reykjavik; 551-8400. A cheese dairy and a snack bar with everything you need for a picnic by the marina.

Omnom Chocolate, 4 Holmaslod, Reykjavik; 519-5959. Stop for a free chocolate tasting and to collect bars to take home.

TO LEARN MORE

Icelandic Tourist Board, 9 Geirsgata, Reykjavík

[email protected]

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