Photo: Elva Erlingsdottir/Pursuit Collection

Soak in Thermal Waters With Views of the Atlantic in Iceland’s New Sky Lagoon

Iceland Wellness Travel
by Eben Diskin Jun 15, 2022

Imagine for a minute that you’re having a conversation with a friend (maybe even the one in your head), deciding that the next excursion on your travel list is Iceland. It might sound something like this:

“Should we go to the Blue Lagoon?”

“Hmm, I don’t know. It’s supposed to be amazing, but it’s just so touristy.”

Whether or not you’ve been to Iceland before, you’ve probably had or overheard a version of this exchange. The Blue Lagoon, which opened just outside the city of Keflavik in 1987, is a geothermal spa surrounded by a lava field and one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. Conveniently located just 20 minutes from the airport, the bath complex is a common stop either at the start or end of your vacation. With a huge central pool, a steam room, sauna, mud station, and an upscale restaurant, it’s easy to see why the Blue Lagoon is so popular.

The problem is, it’s become so well-known that it’s almost too popular. Synonymous with Iceland itself in the minds of many travelers, the Blue Lagoon is undeniably a memorable experience, but also undeniably crowded.

foggy lagoon view between rocks with a couple in the middle

Photo: Elva Erlingsdottir/Pursuit Collection

Enter Sky Lagoon. Just opened in 2021 and located five minutes south of Reykjavik, Sky Lagoon is the new alternative to the Blue Lagoon that is still not on many visitors’ radars. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, situated in the heart of a lava field, Sky Lagoon extends into the North Atlantic, making it a perfect place to relax while watching the waves or even the sunset. The pool itself is manmade, but it’s surrounded by cliffs dotted with grottos, giving the place a natural, wild feel. Here’s everything you need to know about the Sky Lagoon.

Where is it?

The Sky Lagoon is located in Kársnes Harbor, just four miles from the center of Reykjavik. It’s Iceland’s only infinity pool with an ocean view. It’s suspended above the Atlantic and surrounded by rugged cliffs. If you don’t have a car, you can get there via a quick bus ride from Reykjavik.

What is it?

Photo: Elva Erlingsdottir/Pursuit Collection

The Sky Lagoon is the latest in Iceland’s long tradition of geothermal bathing, which dates at least as far back as the 12th century. Pools and hot tubs are an integral part of Icelandic culture, serving as gathering spots for communities across Iceland.

Iceland is known for its geothermal water, which is often purported to have healing properties. Geothermal water, which often bubbles to the surface of Iceland’s diverse landscape, is naturally rich with detoxifying minerals, making it perfect for treating skin conditions. Face scrubs are often paired with baths to enrich the skin. The Sky Lagoon is not a swimming pool, but rather designed for floating, soaking, and relaxing, with temperatures ranging from 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to experience Sky Lagoon

Photo: Elva Erlingsdottir/Pursuit Collection

The cornerstone of the Sky Lagoon is the “Ritual” – a seven-step process rooted in Icelandic bathing tradition. It involves soaking, sauna, scrubbing, and a cold water dip, resulting in the most restorative and holistic experience.

Here’s how the ritual works. First, you’ll take a long soak in the warm waters of the Sky Lagoon. Then, once your body is warm and relaxed, you’ll head to the cold waters of the glacial pool, the shock of which is more rejuvenating than you might think. After this, it’s back to the warm temps with 10 minutes in the sauna to open your pores and release toxins. After this, cool down with a walk through the Sky Lagoon’s fog-mist area. Now it’s time to exfoliate and cleanse your skin with the Sky Body Scrub, before heading to the steam bath to once again open your pores— really maximizing the effects of the scrub. Finally, you’ll end the ritual with a warm shower.

How long does this all take? Well, most people stay between 1.5 and three hours, though if you have the time, you can stay as long as five hours.

Where to eat

Photo: Elva Erlingsdottir/Pursuit Collection

No spa experience would be quite complete without food. The Sky Lagoon has two options – the Sky Cafe and the Smakk Bar. Sky Cafe offers simple, rustic food like sandwiches, soups, and smoked salmon designed to help you refuel after a long day in the pools. For a more upscale dining experience, head to the Smakk Bar, which serves five unique tasting platters with food from all across Iceland, complete with local cheese, cured meats, and fresh bread.

If you want some refreshments without actually leaving the pool, check out the Lagoon Bar, located on the side of a cave at the edge of the lagoon. The Lagoon Bar serves both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that you can enjoy while you soak.

When to visit

Sky Lagoon is open year-round, but the experience will be wildly different depending on which season you visit. In summer, you can bathe under a bright evening sky, under a sun that never sets, while in winter, you can enjoy the warmth of the pools while snow falls all around you. You might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights from September to April, when the skies are darkest.

In summer, the lagoon is open as early as 8 AM until 11 PM, so you can take full advantage of the long daylight hours. In winter, the lagoon is still open until 10 PM to give you the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Since the lagoon is positioned right on the Atlantic Ocean, the lights are even more dazzling as they reflect in the water. Tours are even available through Reykjavik Excursions that combine a Northern Lights search with a visit to the Sky Lagoon.

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