Hot-Pot Luck

Tubing Your Way Around the World

Jun 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

Blowing off steam in one of Iceland's hot springs.

THERE IS NOTING LIKE dunking your body in 102-degree water while your head periscopes up through the steam into 48-degree mountain air. In fact, this Icelandic tradition of lolling in mineral-rich geothermal runoff, which gets its blistering temperature from subterranean volcanic activity, dates back at least a thousand years. Today's Icelanders use the "hot pots" as places to gossip, detox, and, pun intended, let off steam. Politicians and executives conduct business in the pools, and the country's daily paper Morgunbladid runs a gossip column titled "Overheard in the Hot Pots."

THE APEX OF THE HOT-POT SCENE is Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon, 53,820 square feet of opalescent turquoise waters surrounded by craggy black lava hillocks. The water's surreal hue comes from a combination of blue-green algae and soft white silica mud that forms on the rocky bottom. Forty minutes from Reykjavík, the Blue Lagoon is open year-round (entrance fee $8; 011-354-420-8800;

BUT FOR A TRUE ICELAND EXPERIENCE, try one of the downtown pools run by Spa City (entrance fee $2; The Laugardalslaug (011-354-553-4039) is an old favorite, with its steam baths, three hot pots, and a stone-walled whirlpool. The cityís newest, Arbaerjarlaug (011-354-510-7600), has pools with jet-massage seats, mini-geysers, and water slides. But don't forget to shower nude before you put your suit on and jump in, or you'll get chastised by vigilant locals for whom the baths are a sacred ritual. "Geothermal bathing is good for your heart," says Grimur S3/4mundsen, the Blue Lagoon's managing director. "It's good for your social life too—you never know who you might meet there."

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