Blue Lagoon Limited was formed in 1992 and as well as being responsible for one of the most unique tourist attractions in the world, the company focus is on research into the primary elements of the water – silica, algae and minerals – and their uses.
All are used in a revered (yet expensive) skin care range and another bonus of being a hotel guest is that the bathroom amenities are the Blue Lagoon brand too, so hold onto those masks, gels and potions like your life depends on it.
The original spa facility launched in 1999 and there is another property on-site, Silica Hotel – clinically focused on guests with skincare ailments, specifically psoriasis – but The Retreat is the icing on the cake of the whole project. It took many years to decide exactly how they wanted to do it, contemplating what a luxury hotel would look like within the scope of the area, and founder Grimur Samundsen – a doctor, entrepreneur and founder of Blue Lagoon Iceland – was very involved in its conception.
Architects Basalt were guided by the principle that building and geology should become one, with plans sometimes changing as the team discovered particular areas of lava that were so captivating they wanted to incorporate them into the design.
The result is a 62-room hotel opened in April 2018 with an incredible subterranean spa and Michelin-quality restaurant embedded in the heart of an 800-year-old lava field, with the lagoon running around it.
Inside the hotel, it’s the work of Milan-based Design Group Italia, which has given the whole place a minimalist sophistication, but also a comfort and soothing tactility, with all natural hues throughout and only the very finest materials used. As the design team say – “when you enter the Retreat, you do not exit nature, rather you go deeper into nature”.
In the room, my bed was cloud-like comfortable, and the seating area in natural shades and tactile fabrics was a magnetic spot to sit and contemplate life or the next lagooning episode.
Above on the ceiling is a novel lighting system, a “luminaire” that somehow seeps into the ceiling like a glowing sun rather than being a harsh overhead light fixture; conceived by Liska/Verkis, the idea is to bring “human centric” lighting into the hotel that feels as far from artificial as possible and is relaxing and complimentary to the natural light from outside.
The open bathroom may not suit those sharing as friends, or who seek more privacy from each other, but it’s brilliant nonetheless, with a walk-in shower you could spend hours in – enjoying all those amazing products and the powerful showerhead by Axor Hansgrohe. The other option is the freestanding bathtub with a view, of course, out to the lava fields.
Much of the furniture in the hotel has been expertly sourced from world-leading B&B Italia along with custom-made pieces and re-editions of some styles and pieces considered Icelandic classics. The Retreat also turned to legendary Icelandic artist Ragna Robertsdottir to create several pieces – a lava-based wall installation for the Moss restaurant and salt-based “mindscapes” for the five large suites.
Elsewhere, in the lobby, Icelandic ceramics of the last 90 years are celebrated, with pieces displayed on rotation from a 1,600-piece collection at the Icelandic Museum of Design & Applied Art, which was purchased via a grant from Blue Lagoon.
The lobby is the place to come for breakfast, dining on delicious Gravalax, smoothies and of course Skyr – a kind of Icelandic yoghurt that locals swear by. This is consumed as you settle into low-slung seating facing the ever-awesome sight of the lagoon and lava through enormous glass walls. It’s an unusual decision, as it can mean you are dining on low seating and tables as the buzz of the hotel – arrivals / departures – goes on around you.
Sitting there for the “afternoon coffee” tradition feels more relaxed, as you devour delicious baked treats and enjoy an Icelandic ritual, maybe before of after a hike out into the hills and lava fields with your “host”. A member of the team is assigned to each guest for the duration of their stay and will offer a daily guided walk, with options ranging from one to three hours. And if you’re worried about the weather don’t be, as the hotel provides incredible coats to bundle up in.