Amida Spa, Farnham
Bailiffscourt Spa, Climping
Barcelona Spa And Hotel Escape
Bath Spa And Hotel Escape
Top Tips For Visiting Florida
Driving in Florida
Health & Safety in Florida
Orlando - The Sight – Zumba Convention
Orlando - The Flight – Virgin Atlantic London Gatwick to Orlando
Orlando - The Hotel – Hilton Orlando
Orlando - The Shopping – Zumbawear Retail and Outlet
Orlando - The Healing – Hilton Orlando Spa Pool or Massage at the OCC
Orlando - The Food – Denny's
Orlando - The Packing
Orlando - Other Tips For Surviving Convention
Clearwater - The Sight – Dolphins – Caladesi Beach and Little Toot
Clearwater - The Hotel – Pier House 60 Marina Hotel
Clearwater - The Healing – Full Moon Fall Clearwater Beach
Clearwater - The Food – Frenchy's Saltwater Café
Clearwater - The Journey – Drive From Orlando
Clearwater - The Shopping – Caladesi Island
Clearwater - The Packing
Clearwater - Side Trip – Homosassa Springs
Key Largo Escape
Vero Beach Escape
Vero Beach - The Sight – Sunrise, Turtles, Waves
Vero Beach - The Hotel – Costa D'Este
Vero Beach - The Healing – The Spa at Costa D'Este
Vero Beach - The Food – The Wave Kitchen And Bar
Vero Beach - The Journey – Drive From Key Largo (and back to Orlando)
Vero Beach - The Shopping – Shells And Things
Vero Beach - The Packing
Vero Beach - Photos
The Glorious Spa Company Chichester
Iceland Spa And Hotel Break
About Our Trip To Iceland
Iceland - The Spa - Blue Lagoon
Iceland - The Sight - Northern Lights
Iceland - The Hotel(s) – Northern Light Inn, Grindavik and Centerhotel Arnarhvoll, Reykjavik
The Activity - The Icelandic Horse
Iceland - The Restaurant - Eldur and some more eating and drinking tips
Iceland - The Flight - Icelandair from London Heathrow to Reykjavik
Iceland - The Shopping
Iceland - The Rest
London Day Spa Retreats
Marrakech Spa And Hotel Escape
New Forest Spa And Hotel Break
New York Italian Escape
Paris Escape With Kids
Tuscany Spa And Hotel Escape
Zadar Spa And Hotel Escape (Croatia)
The best thing about Iceland.
This wasn’t a huge surprise to me, as I’d read a lot of online reviews, especially from people who’d left it until the last minute during their stay - mainly because this is a popular stop off on the way to the airport as it’s sort of on the way. But then you run out of time here, and you’d be very lucky indeed to book an in-water massage on the spot.
So we made this our first stop, taking a taxi directly from the airport to the Blue Lagoon Clinic where we spent our first night (and where they treat serious skin disorders).
Although it was after midnight by the time we arrived, and the private lagoon was closed, we could still see it, and the steam rising through the snow as we checked in. We practically drooled as we squinted through the glass and planned our morning; 7:30am breakfast, then packing, then 9am into the water the second the pool opened.
Surrounded by snow and ice, floating in hot spring water is a surreal experience. Less surreal and more earthy was the feel of the silica mud beneath our toes as we walked out into the private lagoon. It felt a lot like the kind of squelchy mud you get on a lot of British beaches, and not exotic at all... until I realised that it was the same white silica mud that was sitting in boxes all around the lagoon. The same silica mud that everyone was smearing onto their faces. Well we had to join in. My friend Marion found that it reacted uncomfortably with her skin. It didn’t feel like it was doing anything on mine but, even though there was just a gentle wind, it really felt very cold so I rinsed it off.
The view from this small lagoon is spectacular - you can see a lot of the scenery in my pictures of the Northern Light Inn which is just a few minutes away - and if you swim around to the more exposed side of the lagoon you can see even more, whereas the public Blue Lagoon is more sheltered so you’re surrounded by walls of black lava.
Add in the rubber rings and the water fountain in this lagoon and I could easily have stayed in here all day - but there is a limit of one hour for safety reasons - and you have to sign in and out at reception so they can keep an eye on you (a far cry from the public Blue Lagoon where not only can you stay in as long as you like but you can also buy cocktails from the waterside bar!)
An hour went past very quickly and we had to shower off and check out so we could walk round to the main Blue Lagoon for our 11am massages. Despite leaving in good time we had to keep stopping to take pictures, of the Blue Lagoon sign, and the blue pools of water and the arched bridge that lead us round to the main entrance. It was all so stunning and photo-worthy that we ended up running a little bit late.
When you enter the Blue Lagoon you are issued with a wrist band (it’s a system they use at Thermae Bath Spa too) and you can use this band to charge any extras from the indoor or outdoor Lagoon Bars. But be careful, if you lose the band it’ll cost you a fee of 5,000 ISK (Icelandic krona) around £25 and mine nearly floated off just after my in-water massage, so you may want to make it a little more secure. (I squeezed mine under my waterproof watch which held it nicely). You also use the band to lock your locker (which are a bit on the small side so I was glad we had left all our luggage at the Blue Lagoon Clinic). Although our towels were included in the complimentary entry to the spa (make sure you get a correctly dated ticket from the Blue Lagoon Clinic reception), robes were not - but luckily these were included with our spa treatments. Once we’d had everything explained to us and the in-water massage area pointed out on the map we had to rush to get changed and shower (without swimwear - it’s compulsory) before getting into the lagoon.
There is a small pool inside and a door that you swim through to get outside if you don’t want to step outside on a cold day. As they explained this to us we asked if we could walk round to the in-water massage area - “Well, yes” the receptionist said with a raised eyebrow, “...if you really want to.” We soon found out why it’s not recommended. The walk to the other side of the lagoon in just our bikinis was possibly the coldest I’ve ever been - and my poor little feet. Trust me, those beautiful arched bridges are not so much fun when you are running over them barefoot, especially when they’re covered in snow.
Shivering and swearing (okay, we’re only human) we reached the in-water massage area, only to realise we had no idea how to get in the water. As it’s surrounded by lava it’s not as if there is an easy slide in and I wasn’t sure if they frowned on running bombs here. Luckily one of the lifeguards (very seriously wrapped up men in yellow) pointed us to a few steps and we were back in warm water. (There are quite a lot of lifeguards considering that the whole lagoon is a pretty similar depth and most people can stand up in it - but maybe that’s to do with the bars?)
Luckily our masseurs were also running a little late as the first massages seemed to be at 11am, so we joined another lady in the waiting area. These masseurs look unlike any I’ve had before - with woolly hats and clothed in thick fleeces courtesy of 66 degrees North - a popular Icelandic brand and not looking entirely happy at being outside in the freezing weather.
Getting ready for the massage is a little odd. You hand over the numbered band given at reception and then the masseur rubs on some massage oil (which seems a bit strange as surely most of it washes straight off) and then you have to grab the sides of a floating mattress (which feels a lot like a yoga mat) and sort of jump backwards. Having said that, as soon as I’d shifted backwards and touched my head on the pillow I felt incredibly relaxed... my masseur covered me with a blanket and the massage started.
Her first touch was my lower back, a spot that is often sore for me. Having someone stroke this area while being supported in water is one of the most pleasurable experiences I’ve had during a massage. I was completely gone. The sky was grey and heavy with snow if I opened my eyes, and when I closed them I saw the same thing behind my eyelids. I imagine this is what fish feel like when people tickle them in order to catch them - I can see why it works.
The bizarre feeling I had during the massage was that even though amazing images were floating through my brain, if I opened my eyes the reality would be even more stunning. From time to time she stopped to dip my whole body back under water. I hadn’t even realised I was getting cold, but suddenly hot water was swirling all over my body mixing with the cold water that had been sitting on top of me.
The massage wasn’t technically perfect, I did have to ask her to be a bit more gentle, and I could just about feel her nails at one point, and with only 30 minutes she didn’t have time to do my legs, but still... in-water and in these surroundings it was still one of the best massage experiences I’ve ever had in my life. When she finally stopped and told me the massage was finished I wanted to say “No!” and make her carry on, but I just smiled blissfully.
This is one of the best aspects of this massage - my masseur then floated me over to a small corner of the in-water massage area, where Orla and Marion were waiting, and you can stay lying on the massage bed, floating for as long as you like. ...and then it started to snow - as if it couldn’t get more magical. Lying in the Blue Lagoon surrounded by the black lava rocks, with snow falling and buoyed up by the spring water I really felt like I was in another world.
The only downside of the in-water massage area is that despite all the many signs asking people to be quiet you are close to the waterfall area so there’s a fair amount of noise and chatter. (Not to mention the building works going on a little distance away.) But somehow I chose not to let it bother me and zoned out anyway.
After both Marion and Orla had disappeared to explore the rest of the Blue Lagoon I finally decided to let go of my snuggly bed with only a little sadness (and wishing I’d booked an hour massage).
There are still plenty of boxes of silica mud, although no rubber rings, and as I mentioned there is a small waterfall to play with, which gives a nice shoulder massage (although I pulled a muscle trying to get my legs underneath it).
There are also two steam baths - one with white silica walls and a window onto the lagoon. Orla and I quite liked this one, but it felt a little like we were missing out and went back into the lagoon. A little later I decided to try the other steam bath - this one is designed to feel like you’re inside a volcano with a little open fire. I walked inside and couldn’t see a thing - I just about felt the seat and sat down for a moment, but it felt a bit scary to be sitting in total darkness, so it was back out to the water.
There are a couple of big maps of the lagoon to help you get the lay of the land (or the lagoon) and looking at one map Orla and I realised there were seats around the lagoon and decided to find them. We saw some wooden bits by the entrance and decided to try sitting down... which is when we realised that they were actually wheelchair ramps and it wasn’t surprising that we were sliding straight down to the bottom. Laughing and only slightly embarrassed we decided to hit the outdoor Lagoon Bar. Yes, you can swim up and order a lager, a cocktail or a healthy smoothie, as well as an algae face mask or a volcano body scrub. I went for a Green Bomb - a goopy green drink full of spinach which was only slightly nauseating and a volcano body scrub. This comes as a little frozen pellet that you then have to ask someone kindly to rub you with before it defrosts. Orla was kind enough to do the honours - but then dropped it. Not wanting to be out 500 ISK (about £2.50) I managed to pick it up with my toes before it melted into nothingness. For a second I thought I was going to have dip my head underwater, but was a bit worried about what the water might do to my contact lenses. Volcano scrub safe, I got my little back scrub and, although it wasn’t life changing, it wasn’t bad for £2.50.
Then the sun came out. With the steam rising off the water it was easy to swim out and get lost. After playing a little “hunt the hot spot” with Orla which is like hide and seek when you’re a kid - “...getting hotter, hotter, oh no cold, colder, oh getting hotter again...” we drifted apart until I really did feel like I was the only person in the world. There are other people out here in the quiet bits, but they want quiet too.
It seemed like the Blue Lagoon got noisier and busier as the day goes on, maybe because people are enjoying a few drinks, maybe because tour parties start to arrive, but it didn’t bother me. Partly because I knew I could drift back out to the quiet spots, and partly because we’d already enjoyed so much peaceful time earlier in the day.
We’d lost Marion quite early on, but now I’d lost Orla too, so it was lucky that we had a table booked at the Lava Restaurant at 1pm (and I’d already checked I could wear my dressing gown).
Although I was pretty sure I was coming back in after lunch I thought I’d check out the bits I’d missed - the little grotto that I didn’t actually like that much and the seats - which I wish I’d found earlier.
I was a little disappointed in the look of the Lava Restaurant as it’s described as being cut into a volcano, but after the Blue Lagoon it’s hard to impress. There was a big black wall of rock, but the most impressive thing were still the windows on the Blue Lagoon - from which we could comfortably watch as it started to hail perfect round hailstones. Having said that, the food in the restaurant is impressive. My catch of the day was stunning although the presentation was a little scary. The two desserts we ordered were also imaginatively presented but didn’t taste quite so wonderful - the mohito ice cream we felt didn’t quite work with the chocolate ganache and the ice cream that came with the skyr dessert tasted worryingly of herbs. But by mixing and matching between the two plates we came up with some decent flavours.
Sadly lunch was too much for me to go back into the Blue Lagoon afterwards and we’d decided to try for the 3:15pm bus (which picks up from the Blue Lagoon Clinic) as there wasn’t another one until 5:15pm. So it was back to negotiating the lockers and trying to do something with my hair before a whirlwind tour of the gift shop.
We later found out that being picked up from the Blue Lagoon Clinic is much nicer than trying to get on the bus at the Blue Lagoon itself. Whereas everywhere else you get picked up from inside your hotel, at the Blue Lagoon the bus stop is outside (which seems crazy when you consider the temperature is often sub zero!) and when we were dropped off on the Saturday our bus driver decided to drive off leaving three people standing in the snow. “Wait, wait...” called one passenger from the back of the bus. “Don’t worry,” said the driver, “I’m just dropping them (us) off at the hotel (Northern Light Inn). I’ll be back.” “Oh well” said the passenger, “I can always get another wife.”
In terms of the logistics of getting here and visiting the Blue Lagoon there are buses back and forth from the airport and from Reykjavik almost hourly, and you can also take the option of staying at one of the two hotels in this area - the Blue Lagoon Clinic and the Northern Light Inn. (We tried both!) The entry packages are confusing, and many people bring their own towels as these are not included in the basic entry, but however you do it, please, please make sure you do it.
One of the best decisions we made on this trip was to arrive into the Blue Lagoon Clinic. Although it’s a lot more expensive than most Reykjavik hotels and we had to arrange a taxi to pick us up (€40 one way from Keflavik Airport) the benefits of staying here are huge. Aside from the cute rooms with comfy blankets, and the view out over the lava fields, you also get access to the private lagoon (where patients in the clinic are treated each day) outside of clinic hours (first thing in the morning and last thing at night), as well as complimentary access to the public Blue Lagoon spa on the day you arrive and the day you leave (towel included!) To give you a rough guide in Euro, for a double room we paid €180 which would have given us 4 x entry with towel (2 people x 2 days) at €35 each, which would have been around €140. Add to that we also got access to the private lagoon (priceless), the opportunity to walk from our rooms to the lagoon in our Blue Lagoon dressing gowns, and a wonderful breakfast and it’s pretty hard to beat.
One of the best pieces of advice is to slather your hair with conditioner as protection against the water. Although the salts in the water are meant to be fantastic for your skin they will wreck your hair (and your camera and your swimwear!). It’s said the water will give you a bad hair day. This is not true - it will give you a bad hair week! Normally after a few days in the sea my hair is a little dried out and wild - after being in the Blue Lagoon my hair was like straw. (I had to be very very careful of any open flames.) Next time I would definitely take a hair oil or serum with me to use straight away. I used Marion’s Redken serum a few days later and it did help, but I still needed two treatments of Moroccanoil when I got home before my hair got back to normal. Take my advice and take a hair treatment with you. You could also try a home oil treatment - I’ve used virgin olive oil in the past (although I have to put a towel on the pillow), and I was also wondering if the creamy Icelandic butter might help (hey, if you do decide to try it let me know how it goes.) Marion tried to protect her hair by using a swimming cap (kindly provided at the Blue Lagoon) but it didn’t work very well. Other people just keep their hair out of the water - but where’s the fun in that?
Oh and one more tip - you can hang your robe and towel outside - but, if it snows or rains, they’re going to get wet so you’re best off to hang them inside (no-one pinched mine thank goodness!)
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Prices and offers are varied and most offers do not include the basic entry into the lagoon unless otherwise advised:
Basic entry into the Blue Lagoon for the day is €30 (approx. £25) €15 (approx. £12.50) for disabled guests (assistants or carers get free entry),
€15 (approx. £12.50) for teenagers aged 14 or 15 and free for anyone younger. (The Blue Lagoon is one of the few spas that allows younger guests in and even offers a massage for children aged 6 - 11.)
Hire charges: towel €5, robe €9, swimwear €5 (you are welcome to bring your own.)
For more spa packages (they’re all about the same if purchased individually) visit http://www.bluelagoon.com/Geothermal-spa/Spa-packages/
We paid €50 (approx. £42) each for a 30 minute in-water massage which included use of robe (and towel if not already included) but not entry to the spa. Our entry to the spa and towel rental was included in our stay at the Blue Lagoon Clinic (as was extra time in the private lagoon). Normally the massage and entry into the spa would have cost €80 (approx. £67)
Green Bomb drink was 800 ISK (approx. £4)
Volcano scrub was 500 ISK (approx. £2.50)
One night at the Blue Lagoon Clinic was 14,900 ISK (approx. £74.50 or €89) per person for a double room including breakfast.
Lunch at Lava Restaurant was 3,100 ISK (approx. £15.50) for my catch of the day main course and 1,250 ISK (approx. £6.25) for each dessert.
Information correct as at March 2012
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(c) Pearl Howie 2013. All rights reserved.