Polar lights and thermal baths

China Daily 2006-02-03 07:12

REYKJAVIK: Polar lights offer a grandiose spectacle especially when observed from a 37 degree thermal bath at air temperatures of below zero.

Iceland's Blue Lagoon has no artificial light to spoil the show. Polar light activity is best seen on clear nights during autumn and winter.

The "moon landscape" in which the thermal bath is situated evokes a surreal atmosphere. The lava rocks are covered with a mossy undergrowth with an icy coating, making the landscape reminiscent of something from a fairytale.

Many of the swimmers have covered their faces and upper bodies with white clay. The milky blue colour of the water stems from the pebble acid.

The spa also features a steam bath, sauna and waterfall. Massages are also offered in the warm water. The Blue Lagoon's thermal water is popular among tourists and especially with people suffering from skin ailments such as psoriasis.

Reykjavik is only an hour's drive and has much to offer. Small shops sell unusual outfits. Icelandic designers are well known for their combinations of different styles and colours. But the Icelandic Krone is a high value currency and services and goods are at least a third cheaper in the eurozone.

Several cafes, bars and restaurants are thronged. In a country with a maximum of only five hours of daylight in winter, people seek comfortable meeting places.

And it is far from cold. The temperature in Reykjavik in January is 0.4 degrees Celsius about the same as in Milan thanks to the warm Gulf Stream and ocean climate.

Visitors avoid most of the popular sightseeing points such as the geysers during spring and autumn. The Strokkur or butter cask spits a 20-metre fountain into the air every five minutes.

In close proximity to Geysir, Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) white water thunders 32 metres down into a narrow canyon 70 metres deep and 2.5 kilometres long. By the end of October, many ice pillars have formed and rainbows are visible in the sunshine.

Don't forget to stop at the Pingvellir National Park on the return trip to Reykjavik. It is a United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. One of the world's oldest parliaments, the Althing, was established there in the year 930.

The North American and European continental plates drift apart there making Iceland grow by several centimetres every year.


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