Geothermal Iceland

After a long journey to Iceland, I was desperate for a hot shower. But when I turned on the faucet I was overwhelmed by an egg-like stench. The odor came from silica impregnated with hydrogen sulfide, which is present in Iceland’s hot water due to the island’s immense geothermal activity. The water was perfectly clean and safe for a shower. The sulfuric smell only streams from the tap when the water is hot — the same tap provides perfectly potable cold drinking water.

Sulfur-rich silica has many skin benefits. “Hydrogen sulfide improves hydration which can make skin look plumper, reduces inflammation which can soothe irritated skin, enhances skin-cell turnover which can improve skin’s texture, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles by stimulating collagen production,” says Dr. Asmi Sanghvi, a board-certified dermatologist at PFRANKMD.

According to Dr. Sanghvi, silica is beneficial for various skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and acne. Learning that silica may be beneficial to my eczema, my first stop in Reykjavík (Iceland’s capital city, a name which means “steamy bay”) was Nauthólsvik Beach to take a dip in the free geothermal dipping pool.

The next day, I joined Trafalgar’s Iceland Including the Blue Lagoon tour and my education in Iceland’s geothermal activity began. Iceland’s geothermal tourism circuit goes beyond volcanoes, geysers, steam plumes, and hot springs to  include visits to geothermal power plants. With Trafalgar, I visited the Hellisheiði ON Power Plant — the largest single-site geothermal power plant on Earth.

Iceland is positioned along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where heat generated from underground volcanic activity affords clean energy. “Iceland is located above a volcanic hotspot with more than 200 volcanoes,” explains Dr. Birol Dindoruk, a petroleum engineering professor at the University of Houston. “Magma underneath Iceland heats underground water which can be used for geothermal energy.”

The island nation is a pioneer in utilizing this energy from the Earth’s interior for heating. The development of geothermal heating for residences began after World War II to reduce dependence on costly and environmentally hazardous fossil fuels.

“Geothermal energy is a renewable and sustainable source of energy, as it’s continuously replenished by the Earth’s heat, making it an eco-friendly substitute for fossil fuels,” says Laufey Guðmundsdóttir, manager of the Geothermal Exhibition at Hellisheiði. “Iceland’s geothermal resources offer an uninterrupted supply of clean energy, enabling the country to.…

By Lola Mendéz


This is an excerpt from the latest issue of Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine. To continue reading, click above for a digital or print subscription.


Lola Méndez is an Uruguayan-American freelance journalist. She writes about sustainability, travel, culture, and wellness for many print and digital publications such as CNN Travel, Lonely Planet, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, SELF, and more.