During my recent visit to Iceland I enjoyed a few hours at the Blue Lagoon, listed as one of National Geographic’s 25 wonders of the world. Many may say it is a tourist trap, but it is is an oasis of relaxation nevertheless.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, approximately 12 miles (20 km) from the Keflavík International Airport and 24 miles (39 km) from the center of Reykjavík, (roughly a 21-minute drive from the airport and a 50-minute drive from Reykjavík).
The spa is based around the unique properties of the geothermal seawater in the lagoon.
The geothermal water originates 6561 feet (2,000 meters) below the surface, where freshwater and seawater combine at extreme temperatures. It is then harnessed via drilling holes at a nearby geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, to create electricity and hot water for nearby communities.
On its way to the surface, the water picks up silica and minerals. When the water emerges, its temperature is usually between 98-104°F (37°C and 40°C).
The geothermal water has a unique composition, featuring three active ingredients – Silica, Algae & Minerals. The reason the water has a light blue milky color is that the silica reflects sunlight. During summer there can also be a hint of green in the water. This is the result of the algae, which multiplies quickly when exposed to direct sunlight.
The geothermal water has many benefits. But there are a few things that you should keep in mind. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. The Blue Lagoon also operates a research and development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water.
The lagoon is a man-made lagoon which is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every two days. It is the largest in the World. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.
Iceland has a strict code of hygiene and guests are required to shower prior to enjoying the geothermal spa.
Children age 8 and under are only allowed entry with the use of arm floaters, provided free of charge. The lagoon is not suitable for children under the age of 2 years.
The Blue Lagoon is accessible for wheelchair users with a ramp that extends into the water and a shower chair. There is also a private changing room available for those with special needs, complete with a roll-in shower.
Blue Lagoon is going through a phase of expansion. Construction is ongoing spring 2018, when a new resort complex will open.
A few interesting facts:
The lagoon contains 2377548 gallons or 9000000 liters of water.
The water is self-cleansing – it renews itself every 40 hours.
Blue Lagoon is mostly 2.6 - 3.9 feet (ca. 0.8-1.2 meters) deep. Its deepest point is 4.59 feet (1.4 meters).
If you would like to visit Reykjavik it is recommended to plan well ahead. Hotels in Iceland have not been able to keep up with demand so to avoid disappointments it is recommended to book early
Once in a while you read an article that you just can’t get out of your head. I just had such an experience with an article written by Arnie Weissmann, Editor in Chief of a trade magazine I receive called Travel Weekly.
The article discusses the impact that the impact that digital connectivity has on our lives, comparing cell phone use by millennials to the cigarettes of the babyboomers. It certainly is an addiction, and any addiction comes at a price.
Researching this a bit further I listened to a speech given by Patrick Marsden, a 33 year old director of Travel for MaCher who has taken academic research to better understand the importance of taking a hiatus from digital connectivity.
Mr. Marsden says that half of millennials check their phones between 150 to 250 times per day, and that this behavior is a big reason for why millennials are 25% more likely to be depressed than babyboomers, and about 36% of babyboomers were so depressed during this past year that they were unable to function. 61% of college students have signs of anxiety and the average high school student in the US has the same levels of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950’s.
Why have this occurred? Mr. Marsden says there are numerous reasons - educational pressure, achievement pressure, being over educated in entry level positions, poor economy, achievement pressure, outrageous housing market, and the realization that they may never achieve the same quality of life that their parents had - even though they were brought up being told that they could be anything they wanted to, and feel entitled.
Mr. Marsden goes on to talk about a research program where a group of travelers were were invited to a trip to Morocco. The group were observed first in a hotel setting where they were all connected to their devices, then taken into a desert without them. It was remarkable how the dynamics of the group changed dramatically as soon as the members in the group were disconnected from the internet. Posture improved, there was more eye contact and people engaged in conversation at much greater rates.
The conclusion was that travel and a break from all digital media has profound mental health benefits and that spending money on experiences provides more lasting pleasures than purchasing material goods.