Most of Iceland’s hot springs take hours to get to but tucked away just south of Reykjavik is Sky Lagoon. You may have heard of Blue Lagoon in Iceland, which is a touristy man-made hot spring. Sky Lagoon is a lesser known geothermal hot spring just a short taxi drive away from the city. It’s one of the quickest to get to and, in my opinion, one of the best.
Sky Lagoon is essentially a spa. After walking through the windiest and coldest of days in Iceland, Sky Lagoon is a graceful juxtaposition immediately after you walk in. Even at the front desk, there’s a serene atmosphere with dimmed lights and soft music in the background.
But what makes Sky Lagoon unmatched is their seven step ritual. This ritual is completely optional, but trust me, you need to try it. They use seven natural elements that focus on your senses from ancient Icelandic bathing traditions. These seven steps will leave you looking and feeling amazing after the experience.
Step 1: Lagoon
While this isn’t the first step, it’s common courtesy in Iceland to wash off in the shower before you enter the lagoon. At first I thought it was odd to shower before you jump in the water, but looking back on it, it’s something we probably should all be doing in America. There are locker rooms you are expected to use before you dip your toes in the lagoon.
The first step is testing out the warming waters of the lagoon. It will look like you’re walking into a cave and through volcanic rocks while you soak. You’ll be met with harsh winds and a cold atmosphere even in Iceland’s summer months, but you won’t be cold in the water.
They have a relaxing waterfall at the side of the lagoon which is refreshing to put your head under. They also have a swim-in-swim-out bar where you can order wine, beer or non-alcoholic drinks. I sipped prosecco rosé and sat near the edge of the infinity pool which overlooked the ocean. Iceland is extremely cold so there is no better feeling than to be enjoying its natural elements in the most relaxing place. That is – until the wind knocked my prosecco into the water.
Step 2: Cold Plunge
After you’ve spent time relaxing in the water, mentally prepare yourself for this next step. There is a circular tub that sits next to the lagoon. This is the cold plunge with glacier water in it. I was unaware of the second step and mistook this for a hot tub. It’s a two yard sprint from Iceland’s freezing air and into the tub. I got knee deep into the water when I realized my fatal mistake and retreated back to the warmth. From experience, you will not be judged for skipping the second step – but it is part of the ritual for a reason.
Transitioning from warm to cold wakes up your immune system while increasing your blood flow. It also tightens your skin. It is – supposedly – refreshing. Many people sit in the cold pool before moving onto the next step.
Step 3: Sauna
If I had known how dreamy this step was, I might have gone into the ice bath beforehand. After the cold pool, you enter through a wooden door and are directed into the sauna. The sauna is breathtaking. One of the four walls is a sheet of glass overlooking the ocean. The window is so clear you won’t even know it’s there. I watched the waves hit the shore while I sat on the wooden bench.
There is a hum of music playing in the background. No matter how many people are in there, it is completely silent. Within 5 to 10 minutes, the heat cleanses your skin by opening your pores and sweating out the toxins.
I recommend going into the cold pool before the sauna because I could only enjoy the view for a few minutes before I had to leave. Going from the warm lagoon to the hot sauna isn’t the best idea. Who knew?
Step 4: Cold Mist
When you step into the next room, you are met with cold mist and Iceland’s sky. The mist rinses out your sauna heat and leaves you with a refreshed and energizing mindset. While I normally hate the cold, this was my favorite step. It felt like the most rejuvenating breath of fresh air after exiting the sauna.
I didn’t last long in the mist room, but I recommend closing your eyes and looking up towards the sky. Raise your arms from your sides and take a deep breath. Then move to the next step.
Step 5: Body Scrub
Next you’ll be given a small bowl with a full body scrub in it. This is the part of the ritual that will make you glow. Apply the Icelandic salt, coconut and sesame oil to your skin. You’ll see people showering, but don’t wash it off just yet! Wait until after the next step to rinse.
Step 6: Steam
Once you enter the steam room, you can barely see your hand in front of you. Sit down in the fogged room and let the Sky Body Scrub melt onto your skin. The steam opens your pores and hydrates your body with the scrub. The warm mist helps with your breathing and leaves you feeling more open.
Step 7: Shower and Lagoon
After stepping out of the steam room, rinse off the rest of your scrub in the shower. Feel your skin while you’re rinsing off. My entire body felt as soft as a baby. This step energizes your body after the mist.
After your seven step ritual, head back to the lagoon. Some adventurous people add an eighth step and jump into the cold pool again. I was perfectly fine relaxing in the warm lagoon and rubbing my hands against my body to feel how soft it was after the ritual.
Make sure you stay hydrated after the lagoon. The heat and the alcohol took all the water out of my body.
Overall, I left the experience feeling relaxed and at peace. While you can find hidden gems all over Iceland, this spot is such a quick trip from the city. Everyone should go.
Cover Photo Maddie Rhodes
Maddie Rhodes is a graduate student at Syracuse University. She aspires to work for a travel magazine when she graduates.