Of Geysirs and Secret Lagoons
I’m not a hot tub person. There, I’ve said it.
My late wife, Connie, on the other hand, loved them. When we found ourselves in a hotel with a hot tub it was not at all unusual for her to go down for an hour to enjoy it, alone.
They’re not relaxing to me. In fact, they are very much the opposite. I spend my entire time in one wanting to get out and DO SOMETHING. Anything but sit there.
I can do that in the bathtub at home and it’s been years since I took anything but a shower.
At least in the tub I can play with rubber duckies. For some reason that seems to be frowned upon by other adults in a hot tub. I can’t understand why.
It should come as no surprise that, when learning Secret Lagoon was the final stop on my Golden Circle tour of Iceland, I was less than excited.
None-the-less, I’m a believer in trying new things, being open to new places, and it was a part of the package so I ordered a swimsuit online (the stores don’t have an abundance of those around in the middle of a Midwest winter) and ventured forth.
Golden Circle Tour
Iceland’s Golden Circle tour is an all-day excursion covering 154 miles, including Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Cheothermal Area and Gullfoss waterfall.
The highlight is Gullfoss, at least for me, a beautiful place I wrote about in my previous post.
It’s pretty much a must-do tour if you’re planning an Iceland trip. It provides you the opportunity to really get out and see the landscape of the country.
I’m sure you noticed I did not mention the Secret Lagoon as part of the Golden Circle tour. There’s a simple reason, it’s not technically part of the tour.
The three sites above comprise the actual Golden Circle, with tour operators adding a fourth stop of their choosing to round out the tour. For me that fourth stop happened to be Secret Lagoon.
A little background: The lagoon is known locally in Iceland as Gamla Laugin (Old Lagoon). It is the oldest swimming pool in the country, dating back to 1891.
Located near the tiny town of Flúðir, 65 miles west of Reykjavik, it is a natural hot spring. There are active geysers, Vaðmálahver, Básahver and Litli Geysir, within just a few yards of the lagoon that shoot into the area every few minutes.
The water in the pool flows continuously through the geysers, though you don’t really notice it when you’re in it, completely cycling the water through every 24 hours and keeping it around 102 degree F.
A century ago it was a popular location, serving as the meeting place for the local council, the spot where people washed their clothes and is where the first swimming lessons were ever held in Iceland.
Here’s what you need to know about entering an Icelandic lagoon, you’re going to get naked.
No, not in the lagoon, before you get in. They’re very strict about requiring people to shower, naked, before putting on their swimsuit and entering the pool. Before even entering the locker room, you take off your shoes and socks and leave them on shelving in the entry room just outside the lockers and showers.
This video tells you everything you need to know:
As I mentioned, Secret Lagoon just happened to be included in my tour but, if I were to choose a lagoon to visit, this would be the one.
Secret Lagoon is much smaller than others, such as Blue Lagoon, which can be more touristy. You’ll see signs and advertisements for Blue Lagoon everywhere when you visit Iceland.
Not to take anything away from the others, that’s ok if that’s what you’re into, but Secret Lagoon feels much more like a natural spot. The area around it has been upgraded to provide for safety and some present-day conveniences but it takes little imagination to visualize how the lagoon looked way back in 1891.
The water is maybe four-feet deep at its deepest spots. The bottom is covered with pebbles, roughly the size of a nickel.
Temperature in the majority of the pool is pretty consistent but it can get hotter at some points around the edges, where the water is flowing more directly from the geysir area. An area near the front of the lagoon, just to the side of the steps, is hot enough you only want to be there for a few seconds.
We spent more than an hour in the lagoon and, while I’m quite happy I can say I did it, sorry, no, I am not a convert to hot tubs. Too much just floating around for me.
If you’re interested in more, here’s a short video with the Secret Lagoon’s owner:
P.S. If you find yourself in Iceland and not part of a tour that includes Secret Lagoon, you can rent a vehicle and drive out to it yourself. The cost is 3,300 Icelandic Krona, roughly $23 US.
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is a big deal for a couple of reasons.
One, it was the site of the first meeting of Iceland’s parliament, Althingi. Established in 930, Althingi is the world’s oldest parliament. When first began, representatives and citizens would gather each summer to meet in the open air here.
Thingvellir, Þingvellir in Icelandic, translates to “the fields of parliament.”
Thingvellir was named as Iceland’s first national park in 1928 and, because of its historic significance, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re into geology then the other reason the park is so significant will excite you. It is the only place in the world where two tectonic plates, two continents, can be seen meeting each other.
I won’t even claim to be anything close to a geologist but, as I understand it, there’s this thing called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge that divides the North America continent from the Eurasian. It’s entirely hidden under billions and trillions of gallons of water under something called the Atlantic Ocean.
Except for this one spot in Iceland.
Unfortunately, we only had a short time there so we didn’t really get to explore much during our tour but, as you enter, you drive into a valley and are looking at the very edge of North America. People driving through the park to the other side are then next to Eurasia.
For a deeper dive into the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with a far better explanation than I ever will provide, here’s a link to good ol’ Wikipedia.
Quick sidenote, various scenes for the show, Game of Thrones, were filmed around the park.
Geysir Cheothermal Area
Here’s a little trivia tip for you, our word geyser, as in Old Faithful geyser, comes from the Icelandic word geysir.
There are many such areas in Iceland, including the geysirs forming Secret Lagoon. The most popular geysir stop on the Golden Circle tour includes Strokkur and Litli-Strokkur (or in English, Cylinder and Little Cylinder.)
The area leading up to, and around, the two geysirs is scattered with hot springs bubbling up out of the ground.
he link I provided above to Strokkur says it erupts about every five to ten minutes but it was longer than that when I was there. When it does erupt it reaches heights of around 60 – 70 feet and you’ll want to be ready for it when it does because it’s a very short blast up and done.
Litli-Strokkur is, as the name implies, much smaller than it’s big brother. It doesn’t really explode upward and, instead, is more what might be described as large bubbling up out of the ground.
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