The Retreat Hotel at the Blue Lagoon has been one of the ultimate destination spas since it opened in 2018, favoured by celebrities, honeymooners and spa junkies alike. Nestled in an 800-year-old lava field in the heart of the Reykjanes UNESCO Geopark, complete relaxation is the order of the day, with spa robes and slippers the uniform from dawn until dusk. This year the Retreat is launching a new series of experiential offerings to enhance your Blue Lagoon visit, starting with a culinary partnership with Raymond Blanc OBE. Lounging in healing geothermal waters by day and fine dining by night? This is the perfect post-Covid recovery getaway, writes Rebecca Cox on her February 2022 visit.
The Retreat Hotel At Blue Lagoon Review
The February Arctic winds are blowing strong as the storm whips up and temperatures plummet below zero, but the water in the Blue Lagoon is a toasty 38° C. I have a floating helmet covering my head, floating bands tied to my thighs and an eye mask blocking out the last of the afternoon sun. This is Float Therapy (pictured top), the latest addition to the impressive and unique spa menu at The Retreat. One might be concerned about looking (or feeling) a little silly, floating out in the blue lagoon untethered and totally vulnerable, but our floatation guide gently swirls me back into position when I drift too far, gently massaging limbs and manoeuvring the body into positions to bend and stretch and further unwind. This is the most relaxed I have felt in living memory, and I imagine this is how my son once felt cocooned inside my womb, floating in blissful abandon (although granted with a little less space). This is what The Retreat at the Blue Lagoon is all about: complete relaxation to rest, recharge and forget about the outside world. A mandatory action when Icelandic storms mean that the retreat has to be shut off completely.
The 4000sq-m spa is at the heart of the hotel, connecting the Retreat hotel to the public lagoon. As well as a private lagoon (complete with swim-up direct access to the bar), the spa includes access to the Blue Lagoon Ritual, a three-step face and body routine utilising the silica, algae and mineral elements of the lagoon in a nourishing, revitalising treatment. There are also multiple relaxation areas, steam, ice pool and sauna facilities for a day of total indulgence.
Having battled gusts of UK wind strong enough to uproot trees across the country, faced an eight-hour flight delay and arrived in a blanket-white snowscape, news of incoming severe weather was met with less concern than gales on the home front. After all, road closures at this end mean one thing only: we’ll be stuck at The Retreat Hotel for longer. Let the storm rage on.
The Retreat Hotel features 62 suites, with stunning lagoon or lava field views and some with their own private slice of the lagoon to float in. Interiors are sleek and muted with floor to ceiling windows to maximise the view and bring the (breath-taking) outside in. The enormous feather-soft beds ensure a great night’s sleep and if you’re visiting in the winter months where days are short, you’ll want to sleep with your curtains open, in case you’re treated to a sighting of the Northern Lights. (In fact, the hotel offers wake-up calls in the event that the mystical green lights should make an appearance.) The bathroom is stocked with the company’s Blue Lagoon toiletries, perfect for a relaxing long soak in the tub, or you can check out their latest launch BL+ skincare, enriched with the healing algae of the lagoon, available on site. Only the lure of your next float in the lagoon will tempt you from this cocoon-like sanctuary.
The other thing that may entice you from your room? The promise of a dinner cooked by Raymond Blanc and Moss Restaurant’s head chef Agnar Sverrison. Icelandic talent Aggi was once under the tutelage of Blanc and the pair have remained great friends, so this collaboration is a natural one for the hotel’s first event of its kind. If the visiting Brits knew what to expect from Raymond’s cuisine, Aggi’s input is a revelation, and enough to think about Iceland as a potential foodie destination in its own right. ‘He is a genius, a raw talent’, Blanc tells us. ‘Everything he cooks is good’. While it’s hard to tell exactly who conceived of the individual elements of the special menu, everything is exquisite, from the freshly caught langoustines to the Icelandic sea urchin, containing a fresh combination of shellfish and a tarte sorbet, one of the most unusual and exciting dishes on a flawless menu. The seafood is the star of the show, and what excites Raymond the most on his visits. ‘You know, I caught a salmon the last time I was here?’ he tells me. ‘But I cheated, I used a worm! It was very big. Not the fish, but the worm!’ If the food is excellent, the company is even better as Raymond pulls up a chair to join us for the dessert he’s made (a light vegan panna cotta served with exotic fruits). As he enthuses about Agnar’s talents, the local ingredients, and his renewed lust for life after surviving two strokes plus a very serious bout of Covid in 2020, the winds outside rage and one of the staff informs us that all roads in and out have been closed off. Raymond is telling us about the importance of balance in fine dining: ‘My food is never punishment; you will party all night after eating it’. Alas, the roads are closed, the last drop of Dom Pérignon (another partner for the event) is gone, and the feather-soft bed back in the suite beckons.
THE FINAL WORD
The culinary retreat is the first of what may become a regular addition to the offering at one of Iceland’s most luxurious escapes, and really elevates an already superlative experience. Our only advice? Keep your return date flexible. If anyone asks, those roads out are still closed, we’ll be here floating for the foreseeable…
A Moss Junior Suite or a Lava View Junior Suite is ISK 180,000 (approx £1,068) inclusive of taxes and fees | bluelagoon.com