Flying in over the barren, unbeknown landscapes of the breathtaking lava plains on the Southeastern side of Iceland, it quickly becomes apparent as to why this haven is somewhat of a hotspot amongst the travel industry.
Landing in a White Paradise
Arriving to the airport, the air feels fresh and clear awakening the senses and inducing a welcome state of relaxation and escapism.
Descending on our journey to the retreat, we are welcomed by our driver in a warm manner and begin to immerse ourselves in the hot steams and geothermal activity in the surrounding areas of the Blue Lagoon.
Voyaging through the idyllic Icelandic Moss our driver tells us not to step on it, ‘don’t step on the moss, don’t smoke around it and try not to touch it – it’s highly flammable and takes around 80 years to recover from any impact’.
Brimming with Nordic charm and his intriguing Icelandic accent, the driver points to a large plume of white smoke in the distance. ‘That is The Blue Lagoon’ in awe of the mystical sight ahead, the plume of smoke becomes closer and more enchanting. Approaching the driveway of Iceland’s only five-star resort, we take in the black, jagged rocks rising on either side and take in the pearlescent tones of blue the resort is so well known for.
A Warm Northern Welcome
Upon arrival, we are welcomed by our host, Friðmann/Friiman, encapsulating the aesthetic of the resort, he is dressed in a crisp grey polo shirt and matching trousers. Setting the tone for what’s to come, we approach a grand entrance hall adorned with large windows overlooking man-made tiered lagoon pools and distant hills. A highlight of the hall is a rotating exhibition of a 1,600-piece ceramic collection belonging to the Icelandic Museum of Design & Applied Art. Minimalism is conveyed throughout the property correlating with the core message: This is The Retreat.
Arriving in time to enjoy breakfast, we take advantage of the resort’s simple yet hearty breakfast made from locally sourced ingredients. There’s soft classical music that helps enlighten the mood preparing one’s inner-self for the day ahead, given a key-card and an electronic bracelet, we head over to our suites in anticipation.
The epitome of tranquillity and wellbeing, the understated yet elegant channel the concept of the resort, the experience is heightened by scenic floor-to-ceiling windows giving panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from the comfort of one’s own king-size bed. Promoting self-relaxation, rooms are intentionally equipped without televisions in a bid to rest the mind from the stimulation of the outside world, suites are each equipped with a discreet tablet device loaded with useful information on the property and how to make the most of your stay.
Luxury Service is All About the Details
The resort had opened just two weeks prior to our visit and so it was a much-welcomed surprise to encounter an almost faultless stay with the exception of just a few minor teething-problems whilst the property fully finds its feet.
Whisked away from the stresses of day-to-day life, we were encouraged to roam around the communal areas of the resort in robes and slippers and this is exactly what I did as I made my way to the resort’s state-of-the-art spa.
Greeted by Erla, I’m transported on a Nordic journey and after a short tour of the spa was shown over to a voguish relaxation area complete with lounge-pods. The vibe is reminiscent of the Japanese influences articulated around the spa, a wooden walkway proceeding over the lagoon and windows overlooking the terraced waterscape.
Sigrídur Sigthórsdóttir is the designer behind the Blue Lagoon facilities. Inspired by the interaction of lava, light, moss, and steam – the integral elements of the Blue Lagoon’s volcanic surroundings, she states:
“I attempted to capture the mystery of the location with the ever-changing play of light and shadow across the lava, the steam from the lagoon and the special light that characterises the northern part of the world…Icelandic materials from moss and stones characterize the design. We wanted to emphasize the relationship between nature and the man-made.”
The parallel worlds are apparent throughout the spa, the facilities are perhaps one of the highlights of this oasis, a dry sauna, another sauna in a volcanic cave just outside the spa, a fire lounge room and a refreshment area complete with fresh juices. The public lagoon, private lagoon and Three Way Ritual treatment rooms are all accessed from this part of the spa.
The Spa at The Retreat Blue Lagoon
The Ritual consists of three elements, Deep-Cleansing, Nourishment and Hydration, inside the spacious lava caves, one is drawn to three illuminated pots each in corners dedicated to the natural ingredients the spa’s ethos is centred around.
The skilled therapists guide me through the different stages of the ritual, tailored to revive and reinvigorate the skin different products are applied to the skin and left for intervals of five minutes each accompanied by an offering of natural tea in a bid to develop a sense of wellbeing both on the exterior and from within.
The resort has its own range of in-house products, favourites include the foaming cleanser, silica facial scrub and the hydrating lotion. Erla tells us how the natural ingredients are quite literally taken from the elements, shipped off to be packaged and then sent back to the resort.
The treatment can be personalised with a variety of add-on treatments that can complement it, options include a water massage or access to either the public or private lagoon.
The legendary Lagoon has a realm of history behind it, originally established as the Svartsengí Geothermal Power Plant in 1974 which wanted to harness geothermal energy. Whilst building the plant of a reservoir of steaming, milky blue water with high levels of salt forms in the shadows of the plant it was eventually covered up until noticed by the public. People suffering from conditions such as psoriasis began to bathe in soothing water, word-of-mouth quickly made the waters a phenomenon and eventually the social location it is known as today.
I drift lazily through the thick waters trying to enjoy a short swim but end up trudging my feet through the silica-rich depths. There is a slight smell of sulphur, the light trickle of steam that floats off the 37 degree Celsius pools and the sound of water as I serenely glide through the lagoon. The black rocks rise on all sides offering a contrast of peace and shelter in a turbulent terrain. This place is something to experience rather than to describe.
A Fine Dining Experience at The Retreat
Lunch is in the large Lava Café which is part of the Silica Hotel which is adjoined to The Retreat. The food consisted of a three-course meal containing langoustine soup, followed by Atlantic cod and then crème brûlée which was delicious.
An Icelandic Adventure
Prior to visiting Iceland, we had decided to have a private Icelandic Horse trek across the coastal region with Vikur Hestar. This was something booked outside of the hotel, but they offered us a taxi that took us the 20 minutes to the stable. The Icelandic Horse is a world apart from all other breeds and among its most celebrated features are its five natural, and unique gaits: the walk, the trot, the canter, the tölt, and the flying pace. Concentrating on not falling off, I’m not sure if the horses were managing the famous flying pace. It is a very interesting gait though and something horse lovers can hope to enjoy. Vikur Hestar declares us the fastest group they’ve ever had the (mis)fortune to escort as we gallop triumphantly back into the stable garnering a whisky shot and a Shoe Horse as a souvenir. The hotel sent a car to collect us as we are all exhilarated from such a fantastic ride.
Excursions, Yoga, Golf & Other Activities
In addition to the Horse Trek and unlimited access to the entire Blue Lagoon facility guests of the Retreat are invited to enjoy yoga each morning. The Retreat also provides guided hikes, allowing guests to explore the striking geological features of Blue Lagoon’s volcanic surroundings.
Furthermore, just a mile from the Blue Lagoon lies Grindavík Golf Course, an 18-hole course providing preferred tee times for guests of the Retreat looking to play around during the warmer, brighter months when the Midnight Sun is shining.
The Retreat can also arrange a wide array of private excursions including touring the stunning volcanic phenomena of the Reykjanes Peninsula; experiencing Iceland from the sky in a private helicopter tour; riding an ATV across black sand beaches and hiking sprawling lava fields and extinct volcanoes.
The Moss Restaurant
On returning to my bedroom I run the bath and enjoy the relaxation of the bath salts and gels after I realise my sore inner thighs will never be the same. This is preparation before we indulge in tasting the seven-course dinner at the Moss Restaurant.
Greeted with glasses of Veuve Clicquot, we are settled in to wait for the rest of our party by enjoying whisked butter with dried cod skin, which was a delicious appetiser before the seven courses. The first few morsel courses arrive slowly, which are delicious experiences of rustic Nordic flavour explosions. The meal culminates in delicious Icelandic lamb slices served on a hollowed log, filled with hot coals topped with dill and decorative pine cones.
I can barely remember climbing the stairs back into my bedroom where I settle into my cosy, ready to sleep bedroom. I have a moment briefly on the balcony to enjoy the view by moonlight. Cloudy skies greet me.
Having arranged a wakeup call with reception as I headed to bed the previous evening, this then wakes me up at 7:30 the next morning after hardly moving in such a deep slumber. I enjoy a choice of tasty root vegetables, English breakfast tea before checking out and getting in the taxi to the airport.
The Experience of a Lifetime
The Retreat at The Blue Lagoon takes romanticism into a modern luxurious setting that sets it apart from many other spas. The neutrality is the charm of the ruralness and raw atmosphere makes this a modern must visit when coming to the country. The Retreat offers exactly what it says on the tin.
For more information about booking your stay at The Retreat at Blue Lagoon in Iceland, get in touch with one of our travel experts today or call us on +44 (0) 207 099 0777.