Words: Ann Marie Scheidler
Photo credit: Blue Lagoon Iceland
I think it’s every woman’s dream to take a dip in the fountain of youth, and if she’s willing to travel to Iceland, she may get the chance.
Iceland is the home to the Blue Lagoon—a natural aquatic wonder that has left locals and tourists alike—spellbound.
The unique powers of the Blue Lagoon’s waters were first discovered in the 1980s when locals began to bathe in the warm blue reservoir that had formed in the lava field beside the Svartsengi Resource Park. Engineers at the facility had expected the water to seep through the lava and return to the earth. However, because of the water’s high concentration of silica, the water didn’t drain and a beautiful body of water took shape.
In 1995, researchers confirmed the healing properties of these geothermal waters—specifically the water’s primary components: silica, algae, and minerals. In case after case, people suffering from skin conditions such as psoriasis saw significant improvements, if not a complete cure. It’s these elements that became the foundation of Iceland’s first luxury hotel, the Retreat.
I was lucky enough to find myself on a three-day stay at this brand new hotel that’s only been open since April 2018. Direct from Chicago, air time to Iceland is just shy of six hours. Even though it was an easy flight and a brief cab ride to my destination, it was still such a relief to arrive at the 62-suite luxe property and immediately feel a sense of warmth and relaxation.
The Retreat embodies the best the Blue Lagoon has to offer from its impeccable architecture, five-star hospitality, Michelin-inspired food, and its carefully curated collection of Icelandic art. But it’s the spa that sets this hotel apart from any other.
Built into an 800-year-old lava flow on the south shore of the Blue Lagoon, the Retreat Spa embodies the convergence of nature, architecture, and the radiant powers of the geothermal seawater. The spa offers all sorts of possibilities from dry heat, steam heat, massage, fire, relaxation with panoramic views, the Blue Lagoon’s signature Ritual, and the mineral-rich warm waters of the Retreat Lagoon. It’s no wonder that the “vacation uniform” at the Retreat is a white quilted robe. Guests wander the halls, enjoy the restaurants, and partake of the spa all in the comfort of their complimentary loungewear.
After check-in, I quickly changed into my robe and headed to my 60-minute in-water massage. I couldn’t believe there really was such a thing or how they would do it. But this was a perfect introduction to this natural wonder—floating on top of the water (with the help of a yoga mat), covered in a blanket, and being massaged from head to toe as the steam rose from the beautiful waters. I quickly forgot that it was November—in Iceland. I became one with the natural environment around me.
After a quick, healthy bite in the Spa restaurant, I embarked on the Spa’s signature Ritual. A self-guided treatment based on the Blue Lagoon’s three primary elements—minerals, silica, and algae—the Ritual takes place in three interconnected underground chambers. The first experience is designed to renew skin and stimulate circulation through a mineral lava salt scrub, followed by a rinse under a rain shower for the restorative effects of the geothermal seawater’s mineral treasures. Next, after being offered a glass of iced tea, I moved to the silica chamber to experience the silica in its purest form, which works as a mask to draw out impurities leaving skin with the most amazing glow. Finally, after rinsing the silica away, I applied the lagoon’s algae that quite literally made my skin feel smoother, younger, and more refreshed.
As if this weren’t enough, once the algae is rinsed away, the gracious staff offered me an ice cold compress to seal the pores on my face. When finished, they gave me a few drops of oil to apply to my face, neck, and hands to close out my Ritual experience.
There is no limit on how many times you can take part of the Ritual while you’re at the Retreat. I was there for three days—and did it three times, each followed by a dip in the Blue Lagoon. I quickly became obsessed with the Blue Lagoon line of skin care, most especially the Body Oil that I purchased on site but can continue to do so online from the states.
I feel forever changed—and rejuvenated—since my retreat to the Retreat.