Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is hardly an undiscovered gem. In fact, of the 2.1 million people who traveled to the Nordic country in 2017, more than half of them took a dip in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon while they were there. But now that the Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, the property’s first five-star hotel, is finally open, travelers who may have previously dismissed the landmark as a tourist trap have a 62-suite hotel with its own private lagoon to call their own - no selfie sticks allowed.
Built on an 800-year-old lava flow just a 20-minute drive from Keflavik Airport, the Retreat Hotel - which just opened in April 2018 - is an ideal first or last stop on a trip through Iceland. Thanks to a sophisticated design collaboration between Basalt Architects and Design Group Italia, featuring sleek concrete walls and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the space with light and spectacular views, the Retreat blends in beautifully with the surrounding landscape both inside and out.
The standout space is, of course, the spa. Not only do hotel guests have access to the main part of the Blue Lagoon, but also the exclusive Retreat Lagoon, which flows from the same wellspring of geothermal water and features secluded lava canyons that you might easily have all to yourself at any given moment during your stay.
Inside the spa, you’ll find a subterranean steam cave and cozy rooms with suspended nest chairs. Be sure to set aside at least 30 minutes to go through the Blue Lagoon Ritual, where an attendant will walk you through a three-part process using the minerals, silica, and algae naturally found in the Blue Lagoon’s waters to scrub and cleanse your skin.
For a truly one-of-a-kind experience, book an in-water treatment where you will be massaged while floating in the silica-rich waters of the lagoon itself. After your session, enjoy a smoothie made with skyr - a kind of Icelandic yogurt - or a plate of gravlax served with freshly-baked bread at the spa restaurant.
(For about $335 for four hours, the Retreat Spa is also open to a limited number of day guests not staying at the hotel.)
Soothing design elements extend well beyond the spa and into the lobby, which feels like the Nordic living room of your dreams decorated with a rotating collection of ceramics from the Icelandic Museum of Design and Art. The sunken dining area at the center of the lobby, where breakfast and afternoon coffee is served each day, has large picture windows looking out on lagoon waters and the dormant volcano beyond.
One floor up is Moss Restaurant, with a 10-seat chef’s table, a seven-course tasting menu to rival those of restaurants you’d expect to find in Copenhagen or Stockholm, and a subterranean wine cellar carved directly into the lava underneath the hotel.
Each of the 62 suites has floor-to-ceiling windows that offer views of either the moss-covered lava fields that surround the property or the blue waters of the lagoon itself. While only the Lagoon Suites have direct access to their own mini versions of the Blue Lagoon, the Lagoon View Junior Suites offer similarly gorgeous views - just don’t try taking a dip from your private terrace - the water isn’t heated outside of these suites. But not too worry, the stand-alone tubs in each of these rooms is angled for optimal views of the lagoon from the privacy of your room.
The views are what make these suites special, but the interiors are nothing to scoff at either. With button-operated rain showers, hair and skincare products made with silica and algae source directly from the Blue Lagoon, and a duvet so fluffy you’ll never want to get out of bed, book at least two nights at the Retreat so that you have at least one morning to laze about and enjoy the space.
BOOK YOUR TRIP From about $1,360 per night.
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