The Retreat, a 60-suite luxury resort at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, offers guests a secluded dip away from the crowds who flock each year to the world-famous tourist hotspot. While it is the promise of the warming natural springs that appeals most, The Retreat is more than just a spa destination.

It’s very difficult to fault The Retreat’s location, with Iceland’s most popular attraction a few steps away from your breakfast table. From the first dip in the early 1980s when the lagoon was still considered a ‘mud pool’ news quickly spread of its mysterious healing qualities, proved to heal skin conditions such as psoriasis. Bathing outdoors in 38°C geothermal heat, mineral-rich and milky – it is hardly your standard hotel dip.

The Retreat is only 50 minutes from Reykjavik and 20 minutes on a scenic drive from Keflavik airport, meaning guests can soak away their aches and pains within an hour of touching down.

Rooms and suites

The beauty of the natural surroundings remains front and centre at The Retreat. Large picture windows offer azure views of the Blue Lagoon and the colour palette of the interiors draws on the slate grey, warm browns and muted greens of the ruggedly beautiful landscape.

The spa restaurant opens out into the Blue Lagoon, for guests to bathe in the geothermal waters just steps away from their table. Image Credit: The Retreat

This enticingly soft scheme continues through to the suites, which give a clean Nordic feel without sacrificing cosy ambience. All suites have terrace balconies offering views of lava rock, the moon-like landscape, or, for the most expensive, a private lagoon. Despite the large windows, the rooms feel secluded. Guests can soak in a bath with a far-reaching view, safe in the knowledge there are no prying eyes. The jewel of the rooms is the generosity, with toiletries from the Blue Lagoon range in large quantities. The minibar is also, very unusually, complimentary and gets restocked throughout your visit.

And for ultimate seclusion, there is The Blue Lagoon Suite with its own helipad access, private lagoon area with full spa facilities and the option to dine from any of the hotel restaurants in-suite, to enjoy complete privacy without sacrificing any of The Retreat’s amenities.

Who comes here? The clue is in the name, as guests are here for a spa retreat. The clientele is generally low-key, looking to unwind and soak up the silica. Apart from Moss restaurant, the dress code is very casual throughout.

The Retreat is popular with transatlantic commuters, given you can get from New York to Reykjavik in under six hours.

Food and drink

There are three restaurants at The Retreat, ranging from casual dining to Michelin-starred fare.

At the Spa Restaurant, guests sample international light bites (sushi, Caesar salad), in their robes after indulging in treatments or a dip in the lagoon.

Rising in formality, there is Lava, a restaurant with a buzzy atmosphere thanks to it being open to Blue Lagoon day guests. More elevated than the spa restaurant but trainers are still allowed.

The Blue Lagoon ritual is a unique spa experience, leading guests through cleansing, nourishment and hydration with skincare made on-site.

For fine-dining, there is Moss, one of only three Michelin-starred in Iceland. Guests can enjoy a scenic view of the lava fields and the wine cellar is built into 800-year-old volcanic rock, which can be toured before dinner.

The seven-course tasting menu, although updated regularly, consistently draws on elements from the surroundings while incorporating ingredients from further afield. The butter is made with whipped skyr (Icelandic yoghurt) made by local farmers that is sprinkled with sea salt sourced on-site at the Blue Lagoon research and development centre. The Sicilian tomatoes come on a pistou sauce, topped with black olives and hazelnuts and served with a tomato essence on the side, to be sipped after each mouthful.

From Norway comes the langoustine served with cauliflower and sesame and the king crab served with Asian style flavours such as lemongrass and ginger. Then the menu comes full circle back to local, culminating in Icelandic lamb, which arrives at the table on a hollowed log with hot coals – deliciously tender and served with a traditional mint pea puree.

After dinner at any of the restaurants, guests can enjoy a nightcap in the open-plan hotel lobby, with a view of the moonlit lagoon. Or, for a more cosy, at-home experience, in the fire-lit library that operates an honesty bar policy.

Amenities and experiences

The Blue Lagoon ritual is like no other spa experience. Although you’re guided through the process by skilled therapists, it’s a refreshingly independent spa visit as you move through the elements. It consists of three stages with the products made from the resource-rich lagoon.

Following exfoliation prep with salts and minerals, the first step is deep-cleansing using a full body silica mask, followed by nourishment from an algae skin wrap, finishing with hydration using oils from the Blue Lagoon skincare range.

Although there are indoor treatment rooms, the spa skilfully uses the natural resources available for in-water massages and float therapy. Despite being exposed to the elements, float therapy creates complete serenity and comfort as the therapist gently leads you around the lagoon covered in hot towels, intuitively moving your body with the water.

Relaxing safety ripples throughout the spa, both through ambience and privacy. There is a strict no phones policy, although therapists can take a picture on the dedicated hotel phone if guests want to capture the moment. For guests who would like complete seclusion, the Lava Cove, with its own separate entrance and lagoon, can be booked for the day.

The Retreat also has a fitness suite with complimentary morning yoga sessions. And for guests seeking a bit more adrenaline from their trip, the hotel provides ATV landscape tours and guided hikes.

Emerging trends in the hotel spa industry

As the hospitality industry continues to evolve, so too does the hotel spa sector. Here are some emerging trends that are reshaping the guest experience:

  • Sustainability focus: With growing awareness of environmental issues, hotel spas are increasingly incorporating sustainable practices into their operations. This includes using eco-friendly products, implementing energysaving measures, and even offering wellness programmes centred around eco-conscious living.
  • Technology integration: While spa treatments are often associated with relaxation and disconnecting from technology, there’s a rising trend of integrating technology into spa experiences. This may include high-tech treatments such as virtual reality meditation, digital detox packages or using wearable devices to track wellness progress.
  • Customisation and personalisation: Guests are seeking more personalised spa experiences tailored to their individual needs and preferences. Hotels are responding by offering customisable spa menus, personalised skincare consultations, and wellness programmes designed for specific goals such as stress relief, detoxification or sleep improvement.
  • Wellness immersions: Beyond traditional spa services, there’s a growing demand for holistic wellness immersions that encompass physical, mental and emotional well-being. Hotels are expanding their offerings to include wellness retreats, mindfulness workshops, nutritional counselling and holistic healing therapies.
  • Cultural immersion: In an effort to provide authentic and unique experiences, hotel spas are incorporating elements of local culture into their offerings. This may include indigenous healing rituals, traditional herbal remedies, or locally sourced ingredients in spa treatments and cuisine.
  • Wellness technology: Advancements in wellness technology are revolutionising the spa industry, with innovations such as cryotherapy chambers, infrared saunas, hydrotherapy pools and biofeedback devices. These cutting-edge technologies enhance the efficacy of treatments and offer guests new avenues for relaxation and rejuvenation.
  • Wellness travel packages: Recognising the growing trend of wellnessfocused travel, hotels are creating specialised packages that combine accommodation with curated wellness experiences. These packages often include spa treatments, fitness activities, healthy dining options and mindfulness classes, catering to guests seeking a wellness-oriented getaway.