If ever there were a symbol of tourism, it's The Blue Lagoon in Iceland.
When I asked people for sightseeing recommendations in advance of my trip, The Blue Lagoon was always mentioned.
A visit is all but compulsory for every tourist to step off the plane, and I had no plan to be the exception.
The tourism industry in Iceland is so efficient, they've even made it possible to visit the lagoon en route to/from the airport. This allows you to save money on transportation, though you'll also have to wheel your luggage around (large lockers are available for storage).
Watch the promo video above, and you might get the impression The Blue Lagoon is a relaxing, almost mythical place, with beautiful bikini-clad women drifting through the misty waters.
In reality, the experience is far from a swim in the grotto of the Playboy Mansion.
Upon paying a 35 Euro ($45) entrance fee, you're given a towel, and plastic bracelet which is used to control the lockers, and track your food and drink tab.
The men's locker room was clean, and well-designed. There were shower stalls both with and without doors, depending on your tolerance for nudity. Everyone must wash before entering the lagoon. Soap and shampoo are provided.
According to Adventurous Kate, none of the women's showers have doors (sorry ladies).
Once you leave the locker room, you pass through a small cafe before stepping outside to the lagoon.
My visit occurred on an early September afternoon. The first thing I noticed was the people, there were tons of them.
It was a diverse crowd, too, with people of all ages, races, and sexual orientations. There were visitors on their own like me, amorous couples, and tour groups as well.
The second thing I noticed was the water, which really is a milky blue, and unlike anything I've seen before.
I hung up my towel on the number coinciding with my locker, and stepped into the water. The temperatures vary, with some areas being hotter than others. Overall, I found it comfortable, especially given the cooler Autumn air, and lack of sun.
I waded around the lagoon, eventually smearing my face with the silica mud, available from buckets placed around the perimeter. The mud is supposed to act as a natural exfoliant.
It's wet when you first put it on, but after a few minutes, it dries. A few minutes after that, you wash it off with the lagoon water.
One section of the lagoon (pictured above) is dedicated to in-water massages, which take place on foam rafts or wooden benches.
I don't see how that could be any more relaxing than a massage table in a private room, but there were plenty of people getting them done.
Before going to the lagoon, I'd read that the water is heated not from the ground, but the excess energy from a nearby geothermal power plant.
Judging by the number of people there, nobody cares, but the looming plant does remove any pretense that you're in a naturally occurring, hot water lagoon.
After 20 to 30 minutes in the water, I was feeling a little woozy, so I grabbed a bite to eat in the cafe, along with a free cup of cold Icelandic spring water.
Checking out was as easy as approaching the cashier's counter, and paying my tab.
Before leaving, I highly recommend visiting the observation decks on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the main building. Doing so gives you the best view of the lagoon and surrounding scenery.
What You Need to Know
How Much: $45 to enter
Where to Book: Any hostel or hotel, and most travel companies. Half day trips to the Blue Lagoon can be combined with other activities, like the Golden Circle. If you're renting a car, you can go on your own. Otherwise, roundtrip transport on a bus costs about $18.
What to Bring: A bathing suit, sunglasses, flip-flops. Bring waterproof sunscreen if it's sunny and you plan to spend an extended time in the lagoon.