Reykjavik Spa Sensation: Iceland’s Sky Lagoon Gives You All The Feels
Written by Jaillan Yehia
Reviewing spas can be a tough job (no, really, stick with me here), for a couple of specific reasons.
Most readers, in this case you, are looking for a post about a spa, in this case Reykjavik spa newcomer Sky Lagoon, to check out plenty of photos of the facilities, as well as the concept.
But taking photos in a place where people are trying to relax, usually partially clothed (though I’ve been to a few retreats where clothes were very much optional) is a delicate business.
Luckily as my own day at Sky Lagoon is part of a hosted experience (making this a sponsored post) I’m treated to exploring and photographing the Sky Lagoon in all it’s early morning, quiet and serene glory without papping the public in the process. Meaning you’ll see plenty of photographs here of the incredible location to help you understand what your trip to Sky Lagoon will look like.
But the key challenge when reviewing spas, and it’s true of this Reykjavik spa more than most, is that it is a pure sensory experience. You’re seeking something indefinable and ephemeral from a day of wellness so you want to know how this place will make you feel.
We stump up the cash to go on a city break because we want to walk unfamiliar streets, sample new flavours, visit viewpoints, museums, art galleries, be challenged, experience something that is ‘other’ than our norm. And you’ll certainly get all that in downtown Reykjavik where Sky Lagoon is located.
But handing over the entrance fee for a spa is a little different; you want to be transported mentally, physically and spiritually, and to feel different on the way out than you did on the way in, having had every sense stimulated, and re-calibrated.
Relaxed, positive, cleansed, reflective, energised or fortified – the feeling you seek could be any, all, or none of these, depending on who you are, and where you are in your life.
I can describe the exhibits in a museum and give directions to get there but describing how you will feel when you’ve been immersed in soft, warm geothermal Icelandic water and surrounded on all sides by vast and epic Reykjavik skies, snowy mountain terrain and Atlantic Ocean expanses is quite another – and it’s far more subjective.
So here I’m going to describe how Sky Lagoon impacted my senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste – and space. And how it made me feel. Then leave you to decide how it might transport you to the feeling you were searching for when you found this post.
So, What Is Sky Lagoon?
In a nutshell, Sky Lagoon is Iceland’s newest and most upmarket spa and wellness destination. In a country synonymous with natural wonders Sky Lagoon is an opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the nature you’ve come to Iceland to seek. During your time here you will live and breathe a modern, stylish and utterly relaxing take on the concept of traditional Icelandic bathing culture.
Sky Lagoon is a luxurious yet earthy and nature-focused destination, centred on a stunning outdoor complex of geothermal pools peppered with lava rock formations and waterfalls.
The 246 ft infinity pool-edge, blurs the line between you and the ocean beyond, and the design allows you to be physically outward facing to encourage you to be mentally inward facing – or if that all sounds too intense, it lets you contemplate and photograph the amazing view from every conceivable angle.
There are a myriad of wooden-clad rooms and tranquil zones, from a rain room and a steam room to a cold plunge, plus showstoppers like a stylish swim-up bar, and the ultimate glazed sauna, which includes Iceland’s largest window.
The Seven-Step Ritual: Touch
There are many ways your sense of touch will be stimulated at Sky lagoon, but my favourite is the sensation of the sea stones that line the bed of the outdoor pools, which are perfectly textured to gently pumice your feet as you glide around the water.
But the seven-step ritual, your path through the experience, is the spa’s signature offering for full sensory stimulation including touch.
You move from one element to the next, from heat, to cold, to scrub and shower, and back to heat again.
Here touch is a defining element as the scrub is the most tactile stage; powerful, stimulating, and invigorating.
Self-administered from plentiful askur (meaning bowl-like vessels in Icelandic) which are given out by spa attendants, each handful contains a special blend of sea salt, sesame, almond and grapeseed oils, fragranced with the spa’s own scent, all of which has the power to leave you glowing.
Sky Lagoon’s Grand Design: Space
If the Sky Lagoon exterior looks like the entrance to a Bond villain’s lair, then the backstory to Sky Lagoon’s creation is packed with its own kind of espionage and has its very own M.
The Managing Director of Sky Lagoon, Dagný Pétursdóttir (and previously MD at the Blue Lagoon), worked on this ambitious architectural and conceptual undertaking as a passion project for 15 months. Initially working in secret, during the Covid lockdowns, the team did not reveal to anyone just what was being planned, but committed to a vision of a building that would totally blend into the landscape, appearing to be a giant organic rock formation.
Having seen three architects come and go she painstakingly oversaw numerous experiments in building techniques and prototype materials and helped to hand pick every piece of concrete, wood, leather and tile.
The result is a one-of-a-kind space, which is simultaneously functional, hard-wearing and minimalist while being warm, cosy, cocoon-like. It is unforgettable too. The vibe is cool yet warm, welcoming yet aspirational, luxurious yet rustic.
Sky Lagoon Sustenance: Taste
With the exception of a couple of health retreats famed for their food, including Austria’s Aqua Dome, I’ve never expected to eat especially well at a spa, and I didn’t foresee Sky Lagoon being a culinary destination.
But just as my expectations are upended when I sample Reykjavik’s other new attraction, FlyOver Iceland, I enjoy similar elevation levels when sampling the cuisine at Sky Lagoon. The thoughtfulness of the dishes, the cultural connection of the ingredients, and the curation of the menus on offer in the Sky Lagoon restaurant and bar lift the spa experience, and your palate is just as well cared for here as the rest of your senses.
There are deli-style tasting menus featuring hyper-local herbs, breads, meats and cheeses which are describes as a culinary journey through Icelandic flavours. It might which sound a bit pompous but turned out to be spot on. I discover Feykir cheese a sort of Icelandic Gruyere which is absolutely heavenly. Other memorable highlights include leaf bread, birch smoked lamb, and a delicate salmon that somehow embodies the pure Icelandic waters, and crisp air that has surrounded you all day.
Even if you don’t have time for a full meal, or the restaurant is fully booked (it’s becoming a destination for locals as well as tourists) you can still enjoy some lighter and quirkier flavours of Iceland in the cafe which has a wonderful selection of drinks and cakes, like this so-called TV cake; stories differ as to whether it’s so-called because it can be eaten while watching TV, or is simply cut into rectangles shaped like a TV. Either way it entertained me.
Sky Lagoon In Pictures: Sight
As well as the beautiful facilities it’s possible to see whales frolicking in the ocean and some guests have seen the northern lights from the pools. Unfortunately I can’t help you luck out with those natural phenomena but I can share some more photos of Sky Lagoon at its most serene.
Reykjavik Spa Products at Sky Lagoon: Smell
Sky Lagoon has a very special signature scent – and it’s no surprise to learn just how much work went into identifying the exact concoction of rarified ingredients which make up a perfume that is subtle, calming and sophisticated and quite unlike anything else.
You can buy the various products and I walk away with body lotion, body oil and pillow spray as a gift. They say that smell is the closest sense to memory, and when I spray my pillow with the comforting and clean fragrance I am immediately transported back to the lava-clad cavernous spa interior, and cocooned from the outside world again, but this time in my own bed.
Product-wise the Sky Lagoon Body Scrub is the top seller, though it’s so popular that it’s actually sold out on my visit.
Thinking of Booking Sky Lagoon? Listen Up
Despite being right in Reykjavik, there is no city noise here. There is no noise at all save the sound of the water lapping, the waterfall crashing, and as the day wears on, the gentle chatter of your fellow bathers.
The sound of water is incredibly soothing to me, so I feel very serene here. The concept of Icelandic bathing is, I’m told, based on inviting you to release your negative energy and worries out into the water, in their place drawing in the water’s warm embrace. Which I duly do.
They have a special word for that cosy, comforted and warm feeling, in Icelandic – for a total absence of anything troubling to the senses, and the word is Notalegt. It seems like the perfect word to use when I’m trying to review a unique spa like Sky Lagoon, summing up in a single word just how it will make you feel.
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