Many people travel to Iceland to escape busy, polluted cities and stressful lives. There’s a common theme across every experience in Iceland: peace, quiet, clean, serenity. You can take a road trip to some of the most remote areas of the world you’ve probably ever been to. There are entire areas that have never been inhabited like the highlands. These vast, dramatic landscapes offer plenty of space to clear your mind and unwind, with no one else around.
However, even if you’ve spent the week alone in the Westfjords, you may be seeking a pure form of peace and quiet. That’s where a new Reykjavík business called Hydra Flot (Float) can help…
I know, I know. You’re thinking “Michael, how can the most quiet, relaxing, and rejuvenating place in Iceland be in downtown Reykjavík?” “Why wouldn’t I just find a random hot pot in the mountains to unwind in?” Surprisingly, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place than in a sensory deprivation tank.
If you haven’t heard of them before, these tanks are known best by athletes, pregnant women, and physiotherapists who use them as a means to isolate ailments in their bodies. The idea is simple: hop into a soundproof, lightproof tub of skin temperature water and epsom salt, and just float.
Owner Ryan Patrekur walked us through how it works:
1. Set it Up: Book a float session on their website. Quick. Simple. Done. (Discount for Happy Campers provided when you book a van with us).
2. Find the Float: Head to their location near Hlemmur bus station and food hall. (Map location here).
3. Check In: Hydra Float’s proprietor Ryan will introduce you to the entire space, suggest the best way to get in to the tank, etc. There’s a “come as you are” policy, so you don’t even need to bring your own towel.
4. Get Ready: Settle in to the room and drop trow. You’ll need to shower before your float. Just like going to the community pools in Iceland, you have to clean well in all your nooks and crannies before you jump in. Soap and towels are provided, and each float tank room has it’s own private shower. There’s also an additional restroom with plenty of toiletries if you need them.
5. Prepare to Float: Once showered, get ready to dip in and float. Hydra Float’s website doesn’t necessarily specify, but this is a clothing optional experience. As Ryan, the Float Master, explained: “a float [can be] like going back to Mother.” You can wear a bathing suit, underwear, or other cover if you’d like, but that may constrict your senses from experiencing all the float has to offer. There are also ear plugs provided if you don’t like water getting into your ears during the float.
My recommendation: wear your birthday suit. Because the bath is filled with over 300 kg of epsom salt, your swimsuit would come out looking like a nice pretzel anyway.
6. Enter the Tank: Once you’re in the pod, pull down the lid. There’s a calming LED light inside while you’re getting situated, and then it shuts off when your float begins. This means the pod is completely light free. The difference between having your eyes closed and open is unnoticeable!
7. Float! Relax! Sit with your thoughts for an hour. Try to chase them away and clear your mind. Go on a journey. Forget about your iPhone and email notifications. Try adjusting all over the pod while floating like a wee little baby in your mother’s womb. Put your arms above your head and stretch out. The tank is actually larger than it seems, and there’s plenty of room to move around.
8. Experiment: Try remaining as still as possible. Try floating from one end of the tank to the other and notice the weightless astronaut effect that comes in. Even if you’ve never meditated before and you don’t know how to, the experience will be meditative automatically. Not so surprisingly, when you remove all light, sound, and touch in a weightless pool, it’s very easy to focus on your breath, your heartbeat, every touch and sensation around you.
These tanks are know for sensory deprivation, but they actually enhance them! Following the float, you’ll notice a big difference to light and sound especially.
9. Prepare to Finish: This one is different for everyone. With no clock or timer in the pod, the only indication of 60 minutes passing will be the soft return of LED light to the inside of the tank. Many first time floaters describe the experience as “the longest 15 minutes ever.” Sometimes the time flies by, but for most people the 60 minute float can feel equivalent to a full night’s rest!
10. Exit the Tank: When you’re ready, float up to the top of the tank and adjust yourself. Grab the handle of the lid and push up gently. The entire thing will lift with ease and you’ll be able to exit back into the room. There’s even a motion light above the tank so a light will come on to guide you if you need it in the dark.
11. Rinse Off: Since there’s a massive amount of magnesium rich salt in the float tank, you’ll want to rinse off again in the shower. The salt has amazing effects on your skin and muscles, but it’s absorbed through your skin mid-float. The salt will actually begin to crystallize in the air, drying all over. You’re basically a piece of cod ready for dinner.
12. Dry Off + Exit: Gather your things and get dressed. From there you can head back out, hydrate with some fresh drinking water or tea, and enter back into the real world full of light, sounds, and smells.
For extensive information on the benefits of floating, check out this video or this article. It’s the best cure for jet lag, one of the most common issues for travelers arriving into Iceland at crazy hours of the morning. So, if you find it difficult to fall asleep on flights, this treatment would be perfect for you when you arrive to Iceland. Floating is also a great solution for the nearly 24 hour daylight during Icelandic summer. You can try your best to block out the sun for a good night’s rest, but these tanks block out all light.
Especially if you’re out in a Happy Campers van around the island for a week, this experience offers you the best opportunity to clean up, refresh, and relax all at once. Of course there’s showers at the local pools to keep you clean around the ring road, but nothing is as relaxing as this.
If you are float-curious, check out Hydra Float Spa’s FAQ page here. Happy Campers receive a discount by showing their camper van agreement.
Pro Tip: Head over to Hlemmur Mathöll after your float if you’re itching for some good food and drink. This bus station turned food hall is a relatively new local spot for some great restaurants to nourish you.
Interested in Iceland? Check out Michael’s other articles too:
Camping Like Walter Mitty
My Favorite Waterfall: Kvernufoss
Can You Eat Wild Icelandic Berries?