Iceland is known for its dramatic landscapes and harsh weather, but people may not know about its centuries-old wellness practice.
Icelanders have developed bathing rituals that alternate between hot geothermal natural hot springs and cold ocean dips that improve circulation and promote health.
At the newly opened luxury spa, Sky Lagoon, the ancient tradition gets a modern seven-step update that lets you bathe your way to wellness while taking in views of the Northern Atlantic Ocean.
I visited the spa shortly after its launch opening so I could experience the bathing ritual first-hand.
The first step is to enter the lagoon. I was impressed by the dramatic entrance with natural stone formations creating a corridor to navigate through.
The passageway opened up to a stunning view of the ocean and I couldn’t tell where the infinity pool ended and the ocean began.
Half-submerged in the warm geothermal water, despite the cold wind, I could have comfortably stayed wading in the lagoon.
I braced myself for the second step, the cold dip pool. Inspired by the medieval pool, Snorralaug, the cold dip pool is circular, ringed in stones, and kept at around 10 degrees.
Coming out of the warm water, the cold shocked my system, but I braced myself and breathed slowly until my body adjusted to the temperature.
The third step was my favorite—the sauna. Coming from the cold dip pool, my skin started tingling from the warmth. With floor-to-ceiling views of the ocean, the Sky Lagoon’s sauna contains the largest window in Iceland.
The sauna’s window overlooking the ocean made it feel like a meditation space. As soon as I started getting too warm, I knew it was time to move on to the next step.
Following the pattern of moving from hot to cold, the fourth step was a cold mist. I stepped inside the room, which was open with no roof and misters on the wall that created a fine mist. It felt refreshing to step outside and cool down.
The fifth step was to scrub down with the Sky Body scrub which consisted of natural salt and essential oils. The coarse salt flakes did a wonderful job exfoliating and the fragrance was subtle and relaxing. This signature concoction is available for purchase in the Sky Lagoon gift store.
From here I went directly into the steam room for the sixth step. The steam opened up my pores and I could feel the oil settling in, making my skin feel soft. I took deep breaths allowing the steam to open up my lungs.
The last step was to wash off the scrub in the strong showers and go back into the lagoon.
After I finished with the ritual, I felt energized. I enjoyed it so much that I went back a second time and did the ritual again, skipping the body scrub step since I didn’t want to over-exfoliate.
Going back a second time, and knowing what to expect, I was able to stay longer in the cold dip pool and spent more time in the sauna.
Overall, the changes in temperature from hot to cold, and the changes from dry to wet heat, gave me a boost of energy.
Relaxing in the lagoon after experiencing the ritual, I realized there was one element that wasn’t included in the ritual—people.
I noticed Icelanders congregating with their friends in the lagoon, laughing and chatting as they relaxed together in the sauna and the steam room.
It made me think of the bathing customs of Iceland, how the pools have historically been places to gather and talk.
The Sky Lagoon is an impressive spa, but perhaps when visiting, it’s best to do like the Icelanders and take your friends with you so you can experience the healing bathing tradition together.
All images copyright Sky Lagoon by Pursuit.