Iceland may not be the first place that comes to mind as a honeymoon destination (unless you're a Game of Thrones fan, that is), but the island nation is out of this world. For adventurous travelers who prefer black-sand beaches over tropical isles; thundering waterfalls over gentle waves; and lagoons over hot tubs, it's the closest thing to heaven on Earth. If that sounds like the adventure you and your spouse-to-be have been searching for, here's everything you need to know about planning the ultimate Icelandic honeymoon.
Iceland is closer to the United States than most people think. It's only about a five-hour plane ride from New York City, making it the perfect stopover location if you're planning a longer European honeymoon. Hop on a direct flight via Icelandair and you'll arrive at Keflavík International Airport before you know it. Let the Iceland honeymoon begin!
Where to Stay
Located just 20 minutes from Keflavík International Airport and 45 minutes outside of touristy Reykjavík (Iceland's capital city) lies the town of Grindavík and the winding walls of the Retreat Hotel. This 62-suite hotel is situated in a stunning landscape of centuries-old lava craters and mossy plateaus, and boasts clean Scandinavian design and an ethos based on relaxation and rejuvenation. Can you think of anything better after all those months spent wedding planning? All of the suites are free of TVs for the ultimate in tranquility, and in exchange all the rooms feature otherworldly views of that unique Icelandic terrain.
The best part? The Retreat is located on a private inlet of the UNESCO Global Geopark, right alongside the waters of the famous Blue Lagoon itself. (More on that below.) In fact, some of the suites even offer in-room access to the Blue Lagoon. Simply open up the glass door that leads outside and float out into those milky blue waters you've seen all over Instagram.
Where to Eat and Drink
Icelandic cuisine is incredibly fresh, thanks to the bounty of local seafood and root vegetables, and includes traditional dishes like lobster soup, lamb stew, and plokkfiskur (a fish stew). To toast your nuptials, book a pair of seats at the chef's table at Moss Restaurant within the Retreat Hotel. There you'll dine on a seven-course feast with wine pairings that's full of local seasonal ingredients and modern spins on classic Icelandic recipes. Expect dishes like hand-caught scallops, reindeer from Eskifjörður, and fresh cod and lobster from Grindavík. Plus, the chef's table itself is carved from actual lava rock (how cool is that?), and you can drink in the views of the volcanic horizon while you dine, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows of the 2019 Michelin Guide–recommended restaurant.
While venturing out to explore Grindavík, stop for a bite at the harbor-front Bryggjan, a small authentic fishermen's café where the walls are stacked with sailing memorabilia and the tastiest homemade lobster soup is served.
If you want to spend a night out in neighboring Reykjavík, you'll find live music clubs, beer bars, and whiskey bars. There's even a Big Lebowski–themed bar.
What to Do
The Blue Lagoon
The crowning jewel of the Retreat Hotel is the Blue Lagoon itself. You might (okay, obviously) have heard of it. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, famous for its warm milky-blue waters (temperatures are around 98° to 104°F), silica, and for being on the bucket list of just about everyone you know.
Thousands of people every year venture to the Blue Lagoon to bathe in its tranquil waters, which means two things. One, bathing in the warm blue reservoir is worth the trek; and two, it's bound to get crowded. However, the Retreat removes the crowds from the equation, giving you and your new spouse a peaceful place to soak in the healing waters.
The Retreat's Lagoon is separated from the public Blue Lagoon, as the warm water flows through the public pools into the Retreat Spa for a secluded subsection reserved for hotel guests and spa patrons only. You'll enter the spa through the hotel lobby and from there, you can wade into the Retreat's Lagoon, a private waterscape that crawls between black-stone ravines and is seemingly a million miles away from the tourists in the public Blue Lagoon. The waters are relaxing and serene, offering plenty of places to cuddle up with your partner. And while the lagoon is phone-free, you can still snap those honeymoon photos for Instagram. You'll often see the hotel staff walking around the Retreat's Lagoon, asking guests if they'd like to have their photos taken (the snapshots will then be sent to your email). Possibly best of all, there is even a float-up bar where you can toast your new marriage with a glass of champagne while soaking in the warm waters.
While therapeutic for body and mind, the silica and algae in the lagoon water are extremely drying for hair, so before taking the plunge, coat your tresses in conditioner.
The Retreat Spa itself is built into an 800-year-old lava flow and the treatments there center around the naturally rejuvenating powers of the geothermal seawater. Their signature treatments even take place in the lagoon itself. We bet you never experienced anything like the in-water massage, where you lay atop a floating mattress within the lagoon as a masseuse works out every knot you got on the flight over. Serious question: Is this Iceland or heaven?
Day Trips and Activities
You can get a taste of Iceland's otherworldly terrain right from your home base of Grindavík. Spend a day exploring Iceland’s southern peninsula with its moss-covered lava fields, moon-like craters, billowing steam vents, and ocean-jutting cliffs. You can even walk between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and return to the Retreat Hotel in time for lunch. Speak to the concierge about arranging a car service or even an ATV adventure along the black-sand beaches and lava fields. The Retreat also hosts daily guided hikes along the volcanic surroundings and nearby peaks. For a more relaxing itinerary, attend a guided yoga session in the Retreat's yoga room that offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. (You'll need it to recover from all that wedding stress.)
You can also take a day trip to explore Iceland's Golden Circle from nearby Reykjavík, just 45-minutes from the Retreat. A 300-kilometer circular driving route, the Golden Circle can be explored in as little as a few hours and boasts a host of natural wonders such as Thingvellir National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site), Strokkur geyser (an active geyser that erupts with plumes of steam every few minutes), Gullfoss waterfall (which thunders into the canyon of the Hvítá river), and even Icelandic horses.
If you're honeymooning during whale season (which begins in April), be sure to also book a boat trip from Reykjavík and search for the humpback whales, porpoises, and orcas that frequent the waters.
Hungry for even more adventure? Try descending 400 feet into a dormant volcano. Tour company Inside the Volcano offers a caving tour of the dormant Þríhnúkagígur volcano daily from Reykjavík. (Yes, really.)
And you can't talk about an Icelandic honeymoon without mentioning the northern lights. (Trust us—when you return home everyone will be asking if you saw them.) Booking your honeymoon between the months of October and March offers the best chance of seeing this incredible natural phenomenon, and staying in Grindavík—which has much less light pollution than Reykjavík—will also increase your chances. But there's no need to spend every night outside in the cold, staring at the sky in hopes of catching a glimpse. (You probably have other nightly activities to attend to...) The Retreat Hotel offers a wake-up service, so you can have the front desk phone your room if the northern lights make an appearance during the night. You can then head up to the rooftop terrace to get a front-row seat to the most spectacular light show in the world.