There's a famous spa in Reykjavik: the Blue Lagoon. It's so well-known that some people fly to Reykjavik just for a day at the Lagoon, not bothering with the rest of the country. We know this because we met such people at the airport.
But what do those foolish travellers know? Here's what the bitter guidebook says about the Blue Lagoon:
"The Blue Lagoon is Iceland's most trumpeted bathing spot. As popular with locals as it is with tourists, it's absurdly expensive but worth every krona, especially on cold days, when thick fog swirls over the warm, milky-blue water while your hair, dampened by vapour, freezes solid.
"The Blue Lagoon is actually artificial, dug into the middle of a flat expanse of black lava blocks and filled by outflow from the nearby Svartsengi thermal power station, whose glowing lights and organic loops of silver piping are sadly no longer within sight of the waters. "
He goes on to note that the water gives your hair "a real battering" and the cafe and restaurant are both "expensive."
Despite being put off by the idea of having our hair freeze into a solid mass as we paid top dollar to sit in outflow from a power plant, we did visit the Blue Lagoon. A picture of it is above.
It was an amazing experience: paddling in translucent blue-white water surrounded by rocks of deep volcanic black.
The water was about chest deep in most places, and though the surrounding volcanic rock was rough, the bottom of the pool was smooth. In places hot like a hot tub, in other spots merely warm. The air around us was chilly, making the lagoon and its rising vapors even more deliciously comfortable. At the edge of the lagoon you could swim under waterfalls of the (reputedly) health-giving water and at another spot people had piled stones into small artful cairns -- rock-balancing is an art form in Iceland, as it is in Santa Cruz.
A table in the middle of the lagoon has a ladle attached to it, and you scoop up white sandy gooey mud and spread it all over yourself for a beauty treatment. We all did this with gusto.
All in all, a wonderful day's excursion The kind of memorable, one-of-a-kind experience you definitely want to have while traveling. Why so grumpy about it, guidebook?
That isn't the only bitter entry. Everywhere we went, the guidebook indicated serious flaws and often recommended we skip altogether. Next, against advice, we travel north to Akureyri.