No trip to Iceland is complete without experiencing one of the country’s many majestic geothermal swimming pools. Undoubtedly the most popular, the Blue Lagoon is an Icelandic staple and easily the country’s most recognizable attraction, welcoming hundreds of thousands to its impossibly blue, mineral-rich waters each year.
In March of 2021, however, a new player entered the game: the Sky Lagoon. One of Iceland’s most significant tourism developments of the past decade, the oceanside geothermal lagoon backed by Canada’s Pursuit Collection cost over $50 million to mount and has generated plenty of buzz. Constructed entirely during the height of the recent pandemic, its sweeping views of the Kàrsnes Harbour, a luxurious spa, and brand new amenities have been luring travelers to its waters since last spring.
I got to experience the Blue Lagoon on my first trip to Iceland back in 2019, and on a recent return to the country, I decided it was time to investigate what the new Sky Lagoon had to offer. Here’s why I fell in love with it.
The Sky Lagoon’s location couldn’t be more convenient if it tried. Just under five miles from Reykjavik, the ride to the lagoon takes about 15 minutes from the downtown area. This makes it a perfect spot for those already staying in Reykjavik; you can easily spend the day at the lagoon, then head back to your hotel to refresh before dinner. The Blue Lagoon, located in Grindavik, is about 50 minutes away from Reykjavik, which makes it a better choice for those who are either just arriving from or about to head to nearby Keflavik Airport.
Another significant benefit of the Sky Lagoon is its oceanside setting. You can sip a glass of Champagne from the swim-up bar while taking in views of the North Atlantic from a 230-foot infinity-edge pool. If you’re lucky, you might even see a whale swim by as you’re having a soak.
Like the Blue Lagoon, the Sky Lagoon offers three package tiers: Pure Lite, Pure, and Sky Pass (the Blue Lagoon’s tiers are Comfort, Premium, and Retreat). I experienced both the Premium and Retreat level packages at the Blue Lagoon—more on that later—but found that my Sky Pass package at the Sky Lagoon was far more comprehensive within the actual lagoon. The private changing rooms at the Sky Lagoon are next level. Featuring modern Nordic design alongside rainfall showerheads and stacks of fluffy towels, toiletries, and everything else I could think of. I particularly enjoyed the woodsy smell of the lagoon’s chosen Vor body care line.
The Sky Lagoon is set up in a way that accentuates its natural surroundings but still feels ultra-luxurious. Its showstopper infinity-edge pool spills onto the ocean below, creating the illusion that the two are merged. I loved looking up to the hills of moss that surrounded the lagoon and delighted in swimming under its warm, artificial waterfall. Even better? The Sky Lagoon’s water is less mineral-heavy than the Blue Lagoon, famously known to be brutal on your hair.1 I felt glee in enjoying my thermal dips under the waterfall without guilt.
The crown jewel of the Sky Lagoon experience was The Ritual, a true testament to Icelandic bathing culture. While entry into the Blue Lagoon includes a silica mud mask and an in-water massage. Depending on your tier level, nothing comes close to the seven-step thermal ceremony you can experience at the Sky Lagoon. After enjoying the lagoon, it’s time for a teeth-chattering plunge in freezing water.
Followed by a trip to a stunning, glass-paned heated sauna overlooking endless views of the Atlantic. After you’re doused in sweat, you walk into a room where you’re sprayed with a cold mist to tighten your pores. You then rub yourself down with an Icelandic body scrub, bake in a steam room so that your body can absorb the minerals. And finally, rinse off in a shower. After following all six steps, I felt like my skin had reverted to my first day of life; I couldn’t believe how soft and moisturized it felt. The steam in my lungs and the minerals flowing through my body left me floating on a cosmic level of relaxation.
Blue Lagoon vs. Sky Lagoon
The one exception I have to the Sky Lagoon experience is that it is yet to feature any on-site accommodations. And given how close it is to nearby Reykjavik, that makes perfect sense. On my first trip to Iceland, however, I experienced the Blue Lagoon through The Silica Hotel, which, alongside The Retreat Hotel, is connected to the Blue Lagoon. Both offer private access to a dedicated section of the Blue Lagoon, which you can directly swim into from the hotel. My stay there was superb, and I would recommend it to travelers who want the best of both worlds. Avisit to the legendary Blue Lagoon and a fully immersive spa experience that can last several days rather than hours.
After visiting both the Blue Lagoon and the Sky Lagoon. I can confidently say that I enjoyed the Sky Lagoon more. My Sky Pass was valued at around $112. And I felt that it included just about everything I could dream of for an Icelandic spa experience. A much better value than the $438 Retreat experience at the Blue Lagoon, which I feel would be semi-comparable. Among its spoils of other offerings. Iceland has genuinely succeeded in creating a visually beautiful and authentic new experience for travelers. After a stressful juncture in all of our lives, it couldn’t have arrived at a better time.