Travelling to Iceland with my best friend was one of the greatest times of my life. We arrived in a new country, not knowing exactly what to expect. Well, there was one thing we knew: Iceland is a geothermal hotspot. This means that all the volcanic activity leads to hot springs and warm sulfur waters. It also means renewable and clean energy for the rest of Iceland too. It was the start of an eight day adventure, one that included checking out these famous hotsprings.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous hot springs, however nowadays overrun by tourists and thus had lost its authentic charm. The story a local man told me was that before the blue lagoon was in a different location. It was naturally blue and attracted a lot of attention for being near a factory. Now, the blue colour is not natural and the original location is gone. We still had to see the blue waters for ourselves, especially with all of the hype. Arriving there the blue waters were beautiful, but it did not contain the unique and homely aspects of the public pools we had previously gone to.
Watching the steam rising up towards sky from all the out public pools probably helps gives Reykjavik its name: Smokey Bay. My friend and I went to two public pools during our stay. At the pools, there is a lot to do: you can swim some laps, soak in the hot springs, or just relax and hang out in the warm water. Some of the public pools even have water slides, hooray! Of course, in Iceland, before anyone can enter a public pool, they need to have a shower to be clean.
The first pool we went to was Sundhöll Reykjavíkur, one of the older ones in the city of Reykjavik. My friend and I entered the pool and bought the entrance to the pool and a key for a locker. I got a locker to stuff my clothes in and then tied the key around my wrist so I wouldn’t lose it. The change rooms and showers are obviously segregated by gender and it’s necessary to shower naked before entering the pool to be clean. It’s hygienic. Soap and shampoo were provided in the showers, and they were public. I walked naked and carried my swimsuit to the cubbies beside the showers, which do not have a curtain; I just hopped in beside all the others who want to enjoy the pool.
If you’ve never been naked in front of others before, it can be a little nerve-wracking. It’s a little odd for people who aren’t used to such openness, especially from North American cultures where nudity is uncommon among peers. I am pretty comfortable in my body, so I didn’t give a care. I’ve been to nude beaches before and I have learned to flaunt it if you’ve got it. (This was practice for my later trip to Korea where I went to another public bathhouse called a jimjilbang.) We’re all human, everyone mostly is the same: bigger or smaller, hairier or not. Maybe I’m too easygoing… Anyways, but some of the thoughts that still enter my mind are: “Do I look odd? Do I have back acne? Oh, my armpits are a little stubbly and missed shaving some parts of my leg… I wonder if my friend feels awkward.”
After showering, and feeling exceptionally clean, we entered the pools which had the welcoming smell of sulfur and angelic warmth. The hot tubs were outdoors, but the main pool was indoors. Outdoors in April in Iceland was around 10C, but the waters were in the low 30Cs. It was incredibly relaxing, feeling the cold breeze hit my face, and then dipping right under the clear warm waters. It was an exhilarating feeling to be outdoors under the setting sun (yet still very bright at 8pm) and relaxing in warm, natural sulfur water. My friend and I swam a few laps in the pool indoors, I did 10 and she did 16. Gotta get that heart rate up to truly enjoy relaxing.
To end the trip to the public pools, we had to shower again. Getting dressed with our skin all rosy because of the hot waters. Walking home in the colder night weather was refreshing, especially on our red skin. Seeing the mountains and ocean view with the orange skies was a perfect end to a great evening in the public pools. The majesty of the Iceland’s nature will never be lost on me. The joy of swimming in their mineral rich waters with my best friend will be an experience I’ll always treasure.
Later on in our Icelandic adventures, we went to another public pool called Laugardalslaug. This one appeared to be newer, had more facilities, but overall the motions were the same. Shower, change, enjoy the water, shower, change, and go home. Except this one was entirely outdoors and had waterslides! We went on the slide a couple of times, having fun like children, and then played with a few floaties that were in the pools. We swam laps again, this time under the setting sun. We ended our stay at by lying down in the hot tubs. The first one we went to was 37C. The second one we went to was 43C, and sat boiling and happy with a few older people who also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the heat. I never felt so clean and relaxed in my whole life!