The elements, for me, are living poetry: Wind, Earth, Fire and Water. I want to focus on WATER/ VATN in Icelandic, the most fluid of these, that adapts to change, that flows and often takes us on a journey with it, something that every living being needs to survive. Water tells a different tale depending on the form in which it reveals itself: river, rain, mist, sea/ocean, Waterfall (which you can read all about in my previous article), and in some parts of the world in GEOTHERMAL varieties. In Iceland, experiencing geothermal waters is downright otherworldly.
We have almost all heard of the BLUE LAGOON by now, which gets all the credit and praise in the country, but I’d love to share my other Healing experiences in Iceland by highlighting:
The MYVATN NATURE BATHS
The hour hike (one-way) to the GEOTHERMAL RIVER
& Iceland’s first natural GEOTHERMAL SWIMMING POOL
Ancient people considered Water a cleansing force, and often associated it with the words purifying, regenerating, rejuvenating, life-giving, and healing, and it is said to relate to our Emotions, always moving within us.
Mývatn Nature Baths
The Northeastern region of ÍSLAND boasts of some pretty incredible landmarks, including an extensive Geothermal Region. Home to lots of Volcanic activity (and volcanic craters from past eruptions), the Magic that is bubbling under the surface warming the Earth and waters blows my mind. Earth, like us, has something bubbling inside. In this region you will encounter a man-made lagoon, the Mývatn Nature Baths, a must see stop if you venture up North or very East during your Icelandic holiday. With my student ID, I paid a whopping 2700 ISK (in June), which cost me 26 US dollars (about 23 euros) for unlimited time in the baths. **Of course your conversion rate determines the price you’ll pay, these are just to give you a general idea. Bring your own towel or they’ll provide you with one for an extra charge. Now I’ve already mentioned the acclaim of the Blue Lagoon, pride and joy of the country to many, but with that reputation also comes an inflated price. The “standard” entrance to the Blue Lagoon at 6100 ISK costs closer to 50 euros, second tier entrance “comfort” costs 8100 ISK or about 66 euros, and the prices go up from there. If you want a detailed and up to date price list prior to your visit, check the Mývatn Nature Baths website here.
A late night arrival (around 8:30pm) gave me access to the lagoon until the closing hour at 11pm. Ahhhhh SUMMER IN ICELAND and the Midnight Sun never failed me on this trip. The night felt like late afternoon when I entered the water. Later clouds painted the sky in pastel hues akin to icing on a cupcake. The stark contrast of deep blue water with red and orange Mars-like mountains in the distance is enough to shut you up, to bring you completely into your present. I love when Nature silences us with its beauty. The landscapes just kept changing throughout my visit; it was like witnessing a live painting, no two moments were quite the same.
Have you ever floated on your back in a natural bathtub until time was irrelevant and thoughts ceased? If you answered no, what are you waiting for? We have a natural connection to Water, ever since we floated in our mother’s womb.
Mineral-rich and alkaline, with the smell of sulfur, feeling of home, enveloping me in its magical touch; VATN the great healer took me on an endless float, a permanent smile adopted til the end of my Icelandic days was the only side effect. Don’t forget that it’s freakin cold outside even during an Icelandic Summer, which makes the 36-40 Celsius (96.8-104 F) waters that much more appreciated, relaxing every part of your weathered body (if you are the active type) and especially soothing any aching souls (if you are looking for internal healing). In terms of the crowd, it was busy but not too busy. You could still find little nooks to spend some time all to yourself. It’s definitely a perk that you aren’t shoulder to shoulder with other visitors (which I heard happens often in the busy Blue Lagoon seasons), plenty of swimming/floating room. I will admit, I bought one of those Waterproof Phone Cases online prior to this trip so that I could take pictures and videos of these once in a lifetime firsts in Iceland. It was really fun capturing the changing tones of the water and sky and the curious and blissful selfies of a QU-EEN in her element.
Geothermal River: Reykjadalur
If you didn’t know, my last name del Río means of the River, so you could probably understand my excitement when I discovered Iceland is home to a Geothermal River, or Á in Icelandic. Located 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik (in the Southwestern region of Iceland) and deep in the mountains, DEEP and HIGH, getting here is half the fun. I felt like Frodo on some mission, minus a chubby sidekick and all that doom and gloom. A completely overcast night with the chance of rain (ok some gloom afterall), I took on the path to Reykjadalur tired from an entire day’s excitement. How does one get up and over many mountains after a full day of activity? I had traveled the Golden Circle earlier & completed the trio of sights most people visit in Iceland, and had spent a good part of my evening mesmerized at Gullfoss, but something told me to drive just a little bit further. Something told me that a dip in thermal waters could make the mind and body reach nirvana and complete my EPIC SOLO JOURNEY THROUGH ÍSLAND. The following day I would be meeting up with another solo female traveler and we’d spend 5 days hopping around the Southern Region of the country and the Westman Islands, which will be featured in my upcoming Volcanos and Hikes Part 2 post (stay tuned).
So where did I leave off? Chance of rain, a darker night’s sky than most others during Summer, it was almost midnight when I parked my car at the designated parking lot. Nearly 3 km stood in my way from those magical flowing waters. The problem wasn’t the distance, but THE CLIMB. Yet all the returning hikers beamed with assurance that it would be worth it. A good and solid hour hike mostly uphill, it was more mentally difficult than physically tough, but what was waiting for me on the other side was the purest motivation. Walking with caution. Breathing the fresh night’s air high up in those hills. Witnessing steam spouting out from Earth. The Natural World never ceases to amaze me. Time was irrelevant up here, and then the best thing happened. A momma sheep with her two little lambs appeared in the hillside and weren’t threatened by me in the slightest.
“What I love most about rivers is, you can’t step in the same river twice. The water is always changing always flowing.”
And so the four of us continued the hike for some time, me following behind the cutest black bottoms that I ever did see. I couldn’t believe where I was. This hike. . . this atmosphere. . . I could reflect on how many incredible gifts Iceland had given me already. I was so filled with gratitude for my body which endured every challenge and took me everywhere I wanted to go, for safe passage wherever I dared go in Nature, to see waterfalls, volcanos, craters, geysirs and the active geothermal regions, on wet roads and wrong roads, all over the country. I had grown in heart from being present and aware of the immense beauty at every turn. When I reached the top, I finally spotted people again and couldn’t wait to get my cold body into the water. ***Tip: the temperature of the water varies depending on where in the river you enter, so dip a foot in before you decide to swan dive in. Some parts of the river are even TOO HOT initially, so test the waters and find a spot that works for you. I sprawled out over some rocks and let Vatn do its work. My muscles relaxed. My body felt at home and my spirit soared absorbing all the energy of this surely sacred place. I thought for certain I’d spend my time alone up there, as every so often I’d see a group pack up and leave. Understandable as it was nearly 1:30am. But Iceland had a different plan for my night.
I decided to move to another hotter part of the river, and happened to join a pair of friendly guys, one Frenchman and one TRUE ICELANDIC VIKING! No but for real, he was a Magical Icelandic Viking, tall and robust, hair as long as mine, full beard and mustache, eyes full of secrets from the SAGAS days. We all ended up chatting on that mountain, bodies submerged, heat and minerals working wonders, for hours. I kick myself for not being able to remember their names, and specifically that of The Viking. I think his name was either Olin, or Odin, but that’s not so important now. The important thing was that strangers in good company shared stories of travel, and the Viking shared some insight into what Iceland was like even just 10 or 20 years ago. For instance, did you know that Icelandic telephone numbers used to be just 3 Digits? Imagine a country where there are so few people that to call someone you’d just dial 3-4-5, or 3-5-7. How easy it was back then to memorize some cute Viking’s phone number!!! He also said that 10 years ago, most Icelanders didn’t travel within their own country. Roads were either non-existent, or poor quality to get you from North to South. Or South to West. So there is a good chance generations of Icelanders never saw Reykjavik, or The Fjords, or 1845093405 thousand other incredible spots on the island if it wasn’t their home town or village.
At midnight, The Viking celebrated a birthday, up there in the Thermal River, so his friends a good Frenchman and French woman had prepared Crêpes, and they invited me to share with them. They were kind Bretons afterall, from the heavenly Crêpe region (Bretagne). The Viking was a Cancer sign like me, and naturally I felt at home with him. He even knew some Spanish and said he was fluent in at least 4 languages, putting my 2.5 languages to shame. When we noticed the light changing slightly, the day becoming ever so slightly brighter, we knew it was time to begin the grueling hour hike back to civilization. It was after 4am by the time we arrived at our cars and said goodbye.
That night will forever be the night that I met AN ICELANDIC VIKING!
Geothermal Swimming Pool: Seljavallalaug
Sometimes the most unexpected stops are the most worthwhile. Being that we were really near to Sejlandsfoss, my now traveling partner and pilot of the rental car suggested we hike to the Thermal Swimming Pool, or Seljavallalaug Zwembad. It was highly spoken of at the camping spot from the night before. I had recalled vaguely seeing it on some Iceland list, but didn’t expect we’d have time for all of the gifts of Iceland. This afternoon turned out to be one of my favorite moments in the rain, hiking (more like walking, it’s no Reykjadalur) just 30 minutes to reach the oldest swimming pool in the country. Best part was swimming with a bunch of strangers/fellow travelers in the great outdoors. Perks of going in early June on a rainy day, people came and went, no one staying for too long. Calmer vibes. You’ll have to be okay with lots of green and furry stuff underneath your feet, beware. Algae can be found in nearly all the geothermal pools, lakes, lagoons, etc. Here it’s the algae that gives this pool it’s deep green color. This is bare bones minimalism here. Just a small building with two rooms for changing into your swimsuit/storing anything you don’t want to get wet. No bathrooms. No spas. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll meet some travelers and enjoy this place for what it is, the only specimen of its kind. Wondering where the hot thermal water comes from? They have attached a few pipes that feed geothermal water from the mountain to the pool. In addition, some water also flows directly down the mountainside into the pool. My advice, move around as much as you can here because it’s not one of the warmer geothermal baths I experienced in Iceland, since the thermal water is only gradually released.
Bláa lónið / Blue Lagoon
Ah yes, Bláa lónið makes an appearance in this post for the simple fact that I enjoyed the hell out of my time here, the last hours of my entire trip. I pre-booked my slot a few weeks in advance for July 6th. I purchased the second tier “comfort” entrance, so I paid 10000 ISK which cost me 96 US dollars. If you want a detailed and up to date price list prior to your visit, and to pre-book which is a MUST, here is the Blue Lagoon website. You get unlimited time in the baths, but you are not allowed to enter before the hour booked, mine was early morning. No need to bring your own towel, or soap for bathing, they provide you with everything (all included in the price). What else is included. . . In the comfort tier I was give a free drink of my choice, and I highly recommend the BERRY SKYR SMOOTHIE!!!!! If you haven’t fallen in love with Skyr Yogurt after a few days or weeks in Iceland, we couldn’t be friends. The smoothie was nice and cold and a deliciously refreshing contrast to the hottest geothermal waters. I was a QU-EEN in her element. Add a Free Silica Mud Mask and later a Free Algae Mask, and you’re looking at a bona-fide GODDESS!
Iceland had taken such good care of me in these days, always knowing exactly what I needed. . . Sharing with me its greatest beauty. Opening its arms to me and saying come and stay, you are welcome. Always showing me that time spent in Nature was not time spent alone. There was love. There was truth. Sometimes there was silence, other times the sounds of Mother Nature’s Earthly sounds to keep me company. I WAS NEVER ALONE. I WAS ALWAYS HOME. In the Blue Lagoon, I swam far and away from humans, to spend some of my final hours in Iceland connected to her, Mama Tierra. I floated. I submerged. I meditated. I basked in this natural wonder made possible for us to enjoy because in the end, I am the water and the water is me. And as we are one in the same, from the same energy, I could never harm water. I could only share my bliss here, my reflections after 11 days in Iceland, my eternal gratitude for every moment, and flow into the next moment, or journey. Good thing Iceland taught me how. Good thing my Cancer ways accept the movement and flow of this life.
“Life is flowing all the time, you couldn’t stop it if you tried. Perhaps you have tried in the past. How did that turn out for you?”
All photos taken JUN/JULY 2017- ARIANA DEL RÍO