As I eased into the warm water, steam swirled around me and drifted up the canyon-like rock walls like old legends, disappearing into the heavy rain-fat cloudy sky. Atop those rock walls, grass peeked over, and I waded chest-deep through the welcoming warm waters of Iceland’s new Sky Lagoon.
The scene was both dramatic and soothing. After traveling hours by plane from Dallas to Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik, my body needed the healing heat and the comforting embrace of a hot spring. But as dramatic as this steamy, mist-swirled pool was, it is just one of many dramatic scenes in Iceland.
This Nordic island nation is one eye-watering and breathtaking landscape after another with its volcanoes, hot springs, massive glaciers, thundering waterfalls, multicolored northern lights, and lava fields. It’s a wild, untamed country with most of its population living in the capital, Reykjavik, which celebrates the country’s Viking history.
Underneath Reykjavic is a massive geo-heated aquifer, and thanks to the abundant naturally-heated water source, the entire city runs on geothermal power. That same geothermal power heated my tired body at Reykjavic’s newest hot spring lagoon spa, Sky Lagoon, which opened in April 2021 to great fanfare. As part of a hosted trip to experience Sky Lagoon, it was also my first time visiting the country.
From its infinity pool views to its soul-enriching 7-Step Ritual, here are seven ways to enjoy Iceland’s gorgeous new Sky Lagoon.
1. The New Luxury Escape
The Sky Lagoon, owned by Pursuit, isn’t just Reykjavic’s newest luxury destination, but it’s so easy to get to as well. Located roughly 7 miles south of downtown Reykjavic, getting to the Lagoon is as easy as calling a cab. In fact, it’s so close that you can even squeeze in a visit if you have a long layover at the Keflavik Airport, though the airport is roughly an hour away.
Sky Lagoon was designed to be an authentic experience in Icelandic bathing culture, said Dagný Pétursdóttir, managing director.
“When we started this project, we knew we wanted to celebrate this rich heritage of bathing culture. The hot springs and bathing culture were probably the only reasons the Vikings stayed in this country,” she said. “They used the hot water to bathe, and it was fantastic therapy for different things like arthritis… Today, the pools and geothermal spas are what we do to connect, and it is so socially important.”
The new $31 million dollar spa lagoon was built during COVID, beginning construction in early 2020. Pétursdóttir said the design pays homage to Icelandic geography, nature, and heritage, incorporating the slate grey blues of the Icelandic skies, the deep greens of the turf, and the creams and blacks of Iceland’s volcanic landscape. Following the Icelandic theme, the lagoon spa includes a traditional turf house that houses the 7-Step Ritual, turf walls, and a cold plunge pool.
In addition to the bathing lagoon, the Sky Lagoon has large changing and shower facilities — including private changing rooms for those who may be too shy for the open facilities — a cafe and bakery, a small restaurant, and a gift shop with all the wonderful skincare goodies offered at the spa.
Sky Lagoon’s huge 246-foot infinity-edge pool and the large windows of the designer sauna give visitors a unique view of the Icelandic president’s residence at Bessastaðir, a sometimes erupting volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula, and the vast Skerjafjörður fjord that Sky Lagoon sits in.
The easiest way to get from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavic is by bus. You can take the FlyBus from Reykjavic Excursions to the main bus terminal at the capital and then take a cab to the spa, or you can opt for Reykjavic Excursions Sky Lagoon Pure Pass with Transfer. The Pure Pass includes transport to Sky Lagoon from Reykjavic and entrance for a 2-hour experience at the spa. You can also opt for a private transfer.
Icelandic Air also offers a Sky Lagoon Pure Pass with transfers!
2. Take The (Cold) Plunge
Besides the mysterious Viking-era views and the geothermal 100–104 degree Fahrenheit waters, the true magic of Sky Lagoon is its signature “7-Step Ritual.”
The 7-Step Ritual begins in the hot lagoon. As you relax in the Sky Lagoon, let your body start to release its tension before moving on to step two.
Step two of the ritual starts with a dip into the Cold Plunge, a small pool inspired by the cold pool found in Snorralaug in West Iceland. The Snorralaug Pool is thought to have been used since the 12th century based on accounts by 12th-century author Snorri Sturluson, who authored parts of the Prose Edda, which inspired what we know today as Norse mythology.
Although Snorri’s pool was hot, the stone-ringed circular Cold Plunge at Sky Lagoon is set at a skin-awakening 10 degrees. Slipping into that cold water definitely feels like a shock at first, but if you can handle the cold, it’s worth staying a few minutes before heading to step two.
3. Step Into The Sauna
Step three of Sky Lagoon’s 7-Step Ritual is the sauna with its large, expansive viewing window across the fjord. As the dry heat warms the skin after the cold plunge, the pores open and sweat, cleansing your body of impurities. As you enjoy that heat, the views from what Pétursdóttir claims is the largest picture window in Iceland will also soothe your spirit.
4. Play In The Rain
The 7-Step Ritual continues with a cold mist room, just the thing to bring down your body heat from the sauna experience. As light mist rains down from above in this stone room, you feel like a child again, spinning and giggling with the feeling of gentle raindrops. Covered benches let you rest with shelter from the mist, but the sensation of turning your face skyward to kiss the rain is a singularly magical experience.
5. Scrub, Steam, And Rinse
After your pores close up again from the cooling effects of the cold mist room, attendants will hand you a small bowl of body scrub. Use this fourth step body scrub all over your body, avoiding the face, and feel the old skin soak up the salt scrub like a sponge. The scent is a field of Icelandic wildflowers, and before rinsing off, you’re directed to a steam room to allow the scrub to truly soak into your skin.
The sixth step, the steam room, is like a dream when you first enter. The steam is so thick that you can barely see what’s in front of you, but as the tickling droplets river down your body, it’s a nice time to just reflect on how you are feeling and how your body is responding.
Step seven is to rinse the scrub off in a shower before returning to the lagoon. After all seven steps, your skin feels like silk and your mind is at ease and rest.
Pro Tip: Sky Lagoon offers two packages, with the more expensive Sky Pass package including private changing rooms. But both entries, including the cheaper Pure Pass, grant lagoon admission and access to the 7-Step Ritual. If you don’t mind changing in front of others, the Pure Pass is all you need.
6. Have A Taste Of Iceland
If you need a warm cup of coffee or some of that famous Icelandic hot chocolate, or if you are feeling a bit hungry from all that relaxation, The Sky Lagoon has three Icelandic taste experiences that connect you to the flavors of this Nordic country.
The Sky Cafe is a bakery and coffee shop that includes pastries, rustic breads, soups (we had the cauliflower bisque, and it was to die for), and light sandwiches. You can also purchase snacks here like the locals-favorite OmNom Chocolate.
For a more sophisticated taste of Iceland, Smakk Bar offers small tasting plates that include Icelandic cheeses and sausages, artisan breads and crackers, and other tapas-style tasty treats.
“Smakk in Icelandic means ‘taste.’ This is a taste bar where you can just try Icelandic ingredients, whether it’s game, seafood or food from a farm to table concept,” said Pétursdóttir.
The third taste experience is the Lagoon Bar, tucked away in a “cave” at the far edge of the lagoon itself. Just swim on up for an Icelandic beer or local drink while you relax in the waters.
Note: There is a three-drink max on alcoholic beverages, but the bar also has non-alcoholic drinks and even non-alcoholic beers.
7. Relax Before Or After a Flight
Whether you just landed after a long flight or are about to squeeze into a seat for a long flight home, The Sky Lagoon is just what you need to shake off that airplane funk. With its relatively close proximity to Kefvalik Airport and ease of transportation, it’s a great place to either start your Icelandic adventure or prepare for the journey home.
“We wanted to have Sky Lagoon as the grand finale of your journey, and we have our products for sale in house,” said Pétursdóttir. “We have 40 products, and the most famous is the body scrub, which you will experience in the 7-Step Ritual.”
In addition to the body scrub, Sky Lagoon also sells other skin-care products, like organic body oil and body lotion.
No matter when you visit, you’re sure to leave being cleansed, relaxed, and shrouded in Icelandic bathing culture.
Pro Tip: You’ll need to make an appointment to visit Sky Lagoon. Appointments can be made here.