Standing in a locker room of naked women, it is a startling realization to learn that you are, in fact, a prudish, American tourist.
Iceland is known for its geothermal pools, an activity Icelanders particularly enjoy, so of course my visit to Iceland wasn't complete without partaking in the geothermal waters myself.
At the first pool we visited, in Reykjavik, this involved at least five minutes of working up the courage to strip down. And then, when I did manage to strip like the other women around me, I quickly wrapped myself in a towel and managed to find an unoccupied area of the public showers that I could have all to myself. (Keeping your head down until you take off your glasses and become almost blind could also be an indication that you were never forced to take showers in P.E.)
The famous Blue Lagoon, however, provided a different experience. I am unsure whether the first pool was filled with more locals than tourists, but many women in the Blue Lagoon locker rooms kept their undergarments on until getting in the shower area, or wrapped themselves in their towels. I took my underwear off under my towel, but kept my bra on, and walked to the shower covered by my towel. This time, unlike the open showers at the pool, there were individual shower stalls, which were very nice, as they also provided an area for me to change into my swimsuit before entering the pool.
A standard ticket for the Blue Lagoon runs about $40.00 (43 euros, 35.7 pounds.) The standard includes entrance fee and silica mud mask. The next ticket up, Comfort, includes entrance fee, silica mud mask, use of towel, first drink of choice and an algae mask for $60.00 (55 euros, 49 pounds.)
I bought the standard ticket and brought my own towel and sandals. We opted out of a bus ticket and instead rented a car (entrance fee with bus ticket is $82.00 on Reykjavik Excursions; our car rental is $55.00 a day, split between the three of us.) Upon entering, you're given a bracelet that will open and close your locker and functions similarly to a Magic Band. Losing the bracelet will result in a fee, so make certain to tighten and secure it!
The Blue Lagoon was founded around the 1970s, when locals built a geothermal plant above a large source of hot water they had discovered under a lava field. They used the scalding hot water to create electricity and heat up the towns, which left them wondering what to do with the cooled, muddy water. An Icelander with psoriasis bathed in the pool and found his condition was clearing up, which led to the popularity and eventual 1990s commercialization of the Blue Lagoon. (Source: Blue Lagoon.) And, speaking from experience, the water does wonders for a sore throat.
While the water has healing powers, it can be very damaging to hair. Be sure to pay attention to the screens in the Blue Lagoon lobby, as they suggest conditioning your hair in the shower and leaving the conditioner in while in the pool. Another option is to tie your hair up or protect it with a swim cap. The geothermal water can also be damaging to glasses lenses, so if you decide to wear your glasses in the pool (as I did,) be sure to keep them as dry as you can.
According to the Lagoon's website, the water temperature is typically between 98 degrees Fahrenheit and 104 degrees Fahrenheit (37-40 degrees Celsius.) One particular part of the pool is 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius,) but once you're able to walk through it, the water cools down slightly and feels fantastic. Drinks can be purchased by swimming up to the refreshment stand and charging the drink to your entrance bracelet, the same way you would charge snacks in Disney to your Magic Band.
There is a lovely cave in the pool that details the history of the Lagoon in English, French, Spanish, German and Icelandic. On this particular day, the French and Spanish buttons were mixed up, so once I discovered this, I helped the French and Spaniards decipher which one was which. While in the cave, I heard all of the above languages, and there was even a couple that tried to find Italian. (There is not a button for Italian.)
If you're in Iceland, visiting the Blue Lagoon at least once is a must. You can easily get by with a standard pass, and there's really no need to upgrade unless you want a more leisurely visit. But with spa-like waters, the pool is already quite leisurely.
However, if you're trying to save money for the Ring Road, then there are a variety of other places where you can have a similar experience (Hot Springs.) But make sure you try out a geothermal pool on your visit to the country, whether it's the Blue Lagoon, a World Class geothermal pool in Reykjavik, or a free geothermal pool. You won't have truly experienced Iceland until you have swum in her waters.