It’s 2022. If you’re not waking up in a cold sweat shouting, “holy mother of (insert preferred deity here)” every morning, then frankly, where have you been for the last two years? Horrifying conflicts, a global pandemic, corruption, poverty, capitalistic greed – and to add insult to absolute injury, Elon Musk is inexplicably, somehow, still a thing.
Listen, I’m just saying, it’s a lot. All there is to do sometimes is to get into some extremely hot water and try, at the very least, to take care of your small, fragile, soft, human self.
It was with this goal in mind that we found ourselves rolling through gentle, snow covered hills between Borgarfjörður and Reykholt, towards Krauma. Steam rose unexpectedly from the landscape in haunting shapes. As the grit and hum of the city faded into the distance, I unclenched my fists, realising as I did so that I’d had no idea I was tensing them in the first place.
Krauma prides itself on its curative hot waters, sourced directly from Europe’s most powerful hot spring, Deildartunguhver. The spring pumps 180 litres of 100°C water per second, which is also used to provide heating for West Iceland. At Krauma they mix the boiling water with cold to create a range of pools at different temperatures. Plus, there’s a steam room, infra-red sauna and a relaxation room with a wood-burning stove. On a Sunday afternoon the place was gently busy with half-submerged bodies and murmured chatter.
The friendly receptionists welcomed us with warm smiles and handed me a soft, white robe. It took all of my self control not to don it there and then, but we were instead ushered first to the restaurant, tastefully decorated and overlooking the beautiful steam-filled valley below. The menu was simple, a few each of starters and mains, the obligatory Icelandic lamb and fish options. The difference here is Krauma’s dedication to sourcing the best quality local ingredients wherever possible. It’s a difference you can immediately taste when you try the food. In particular, the sharing platter that features cured and smoked goat and salmon – as well as the best feta cheese I have ever tasted in Iceland, from the same goat farm – is not to be missed.
Hunger thoroughly sated, and already a far cry from the frazzled versions of ourselves that had arrived an hour before, it was time to head to the pools. The changing rooms alone were a zen experience, kitted out with Sóley Organics products that smelled divine. Stepping outside into the cold air was bracing, but you soon reach the warm, inviting waters. Lying back, prosecco in hand, it was impossible not to relax.
From hot to cold
If all of that lounging sounds a little too indulgent, there is always the cold pool for the determinedly masochistic. I was dared to try it, and with my reputation on the line, I gingerly dunked myself halfway into the freezing pool. And no further could I get, instead sitting there for a minute, gasping and swearing silently. Despite the objective awfulness, I did feel incredible afterwards, all fresh and new and tingly. Most importantly, I won the dare.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a blissed-out haze, flitting between the different hot pools. The relaxation room was also well frequented, with broad, comfy loungers and gentle spa sounds that were quiet enough not to be obnoxious. Every so often I’d get chatting to one of the other guests in the pool, but people were equally happy to sit together in quiet companionship, with the sounds of the environment providing a peaceful ambiance. I quickly determined my favourite spot, right at the edge of the lowest pool. Resting my arms on the ledge I could gaze out across the landscape, spread in front of me like a pastoral painting.
Finally, happy, pink and deeply wrinkled like prehistoric prune, even I had to reluctantly admit it was time to leave. Heading to the car, I unconsciously took my phone out of my pocket and went to open Twitter before hesitating, protective of my new-found tranquillity. I returned the phone to my pocket. The world, I decided, could wait for a couple more hours.
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