The Blue Lagoon and Beyond
We awakened early on our third day in Iceland and soon found ourselves in the breakfast bar of our hotel in Reykjavik. The distinct and pleasant aroma of delicious coffee permeated the room. Halldor Laxness, in his novel Independent People (1946), writes that the smell of brewing coffe in a small Icelandic croft makes one forget the perversity of the world. We would add to that the taste of freshly baked Icelandic breakfast rolls.
Today we would go to Iceland’s world-famous Blue Lagoon for a long soak in its healing waters. After about a forty-minutes ride on the bus from our hotel, we arrived at the Blue Lagoon with its steaming hot grey-blue, mineral-rich waters. On the way we passed miles on end of lava beds covered with a light tan-colored moss that turns bright green by June. But today the air temperature remained a chilly 36 degrees F., I was anxious to get into the water fast. But oh how soothing were those waters at a piping ninety degrees F. I couldn’t believe how large the Blue Lagoon is; it is the size of a small lake lined with a black lava shoreline with small alcoves having a much hotter water for braver souls than I.
These waters at Svartsengi on the Reykjanes peninsula are a mixture of ocean and fresh hot springs with sulfur, magnesium, silicon (that forms a white mud at the bottom and along the shoreline), calcium, sodium and a number of other healthful, natural minerals. After an hour’s soaking, we felt utterly relaxed and peaceful.
Soon our tour shuttle met us at the entrance of the Blue Lagoon to take us to the nearby fishing village of Krysuvik with its cod fish boats at dock unloading tons of cod to be salt packed for shipment to Reykjavik. Icelanders consume thirty tons of fish annually, more than the entire population of U.S.A. Iceland’s population, remember, is only 320,000 people compared to 300 million people in the United States.
We proceeded inland to Pjorsardalur and its Yellowstonesque steaming hot springs, bubbling mud pots and a steam cauldron that appeared for the first time only two years ago. Our guide mentioned that early Viking settlers of Iceland in the 6th century feared such places as this, thinking them to be bits of hell. The Shoshone people had a similar reaction to the geyser basins of Yellowstone before the coming of Europeans.
We drove onward to nearby Ponisvatn Lake in the midst of a lava valley with distant glaciated mountains. All along the rocky shoreline grew the dried up remains of last summer’s crowberries that make an excellent liqueur. Our guide said that a sharp earthquake occurred here in 2006 that caused the lake to suddenly drop three meters in just an instant. That was the year that Eyafyatluljokill erupted violently causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights to and from Europe.
On our way back to Reykjavik, we stopped to watch the graceful gait of several Icelandic horses who lifted and curved their hooves as they trotted along remaining completely level. This gait is unique to Icelandic horses which were brought over to Iceland by Vikings over a thousand years ago. They have gradually developed their own unique characteristics of being multi-colored having black legs, brown bodies and tan heads. The mares can actually hold back the delivery of their foal by up to two months if the weather is too severe to give birth!
That evening, after a dinner of tasty fish and chips, Maura and I took a long walk through the streets of Reykjavik down to the harbor that overlooks coastal, ice-clad peaks in the distance. We strolled past the Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir’s residence* and stopped at a coffee shop for another fine cup of local brew. Even though it was well past ten o’clock at night, the mid-May sun still shined brightly and by 11:30 p.m. or so the sky remained very light with an orange streak on the northwestern horizon. We returned to our room and soon fell into a deep sleep.
* Johanna Sigurdardottir is Iceland’s first woman Prime Minister
Icelandair has specials on flights to Iceland just to stay at the Blue Lagoon Spa.. It is well worth exploring this island of the North that is about the size of the state of Iowa.