Why Iceland is the hottest wellness destination in the world

At just over 2,000 square feet, centered around a literal bar serving Champagne and moss-vodka infusions alongside more wholesome, vitamin-powered Viking smoothies, the cozy-chic spa at the Reykjavik Edition hotel in Iceland epitomizes the growing “social wellness” trend.

Why not hop into the spa’s nightclub-vibes hammam with a group of besties rather than all by your lonesome?

Although you can certainly practice some solo self-care here, if that’s what you’re after.

Positioned in the lower level of the 253-room, 26-suite property, directly across from Sunset, the hotel’s actual nightclub, the spa digs deep into its national heritage, with treatments like the 60-minute Víkingur and 120-minute Endurnýjun.

The former, ideal for workout junkies, combines a muscle-soothing salt-stone massage with essential oils and the signature healthy Viking smoothie.

Exterior of the Edition Hotel.
Check into the 253-room Reykjavik Edition for around $900 a night.
Courtesy photo

Interior of the Edition spa.
The haute hotel has a hammam on demand.
Nikolas Koenig

The latter, named for the Icelandic word for “renewal,” was inspired by the local seascape and starts with a brisk body brushing followed by a body wrap with a choice of detoxifying algae or nourishing marine mud, customized facial and scalp massage.

Spend more than five minutes in Iceland, and it’s clear the natives are more than a little proud of their water.

Whether it’s tap H2O so pure you can drink it unfiltered, or stunningly beautiful hot-spring destinations like Hvammsvík Nature Resort and Sky Lagoon, water figures prominently.

A woman lounging by a pool in Iceland.
Water becomes your soulmate at Hvammsvík Nature Resort.
Courtesy photo

“Geothermal energy is essential for the Icelandic wellness industry,” says Tatiana Hallgrímsdóttir, Edition’s director of culture and entertainment, who has organized more than her fair share of hot springs day trips for guests.

Eva Dögg Rúnarsdóttir, who, along with Dagný Berglind Gísladóttir, founded RVK Ritual — a buzzy combination event space, online educational platform and wellness product range — couldn’t agree more.

“We have everything needed for a holistic wellness experience right here in Iceland,” she says. “Combining the pure water, the hot springs, the cold sea and the mountains, it’s a wellness experience to remember.”

A woman in an Icelandic pool.
To infinity and beyond: Iceland’s endlessly icy, rocky and oceanic views.
Courtesy photo

Exterior of a woman on a dock at Hvammsvik.
The dock will see you now.
Sigurjon Ragnar

Although nowhere near the level of the American market, the Icelandic skin-care scene is gaining traction, too.

Alongside the firmly established Blue Lagoon, launched in 1995, there’s the well-regarded Bioeffect, which bills itself as biotech skin care and grows its own key ingredient — sustainable barley — in a hydroponic, ecologically engineered greenhouse situated in the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula, roughly 30 miles from its Reykjavík company headquarters. Another notable Icelandic skin-care brand is Angan, steeped in wildcrafted plant ingredients.

On the fragrance front, the family-owned Fischersund sells its artsy, culty scents, derived from herbs and oils indigenous to Iceland, online, at select retail outlets and at its always-packed boutique in downtown Reykjavík.

Incorporating a musical bent — thanks to Jónsi Fischersund, an accomplished “nose” and member of the post-rock band Sigur Rós — each fragrance is paired with a moody aural composition.

Icelandic beauty products.
Product searching? Channel your inner clean-trimmed Viking and head to Iceland for products that incorporate botanicals grown in the mineral-rich volcanic soil and healing waters.
Courtesy photo

While skin care and scents are a great way to experience Iceland’s bounty of native plant ingredients, there’s nothing like experiencing its thermal wonders.

Hvammsvík, situated on the North Atlantic in Mosfellsbær, 45 minutes outside of Reykjavík, features eight hot springs edged with black-sand beaches, a killer on-site restaurant and Architectural Digest-worthy, stand-alone guest accommodations.

One of the four private dwellings, the dramatic Hilltop House, was originally built by the British Navy as their communication headquarters in Iceland during World War II.

Exterior of the aurora borealis.
Iceland puts on quite the light show.
Courtesy photo

For more of a party vibe, but with an equally captivating ocean view, head to Sky Lagoon, minutes outside Reykjavík. After downing a flute of Champagne at the grotto Lagoon Bar, be sure to partake in the Ritual, a seven-step process that toggles between icy plunge pool, fiery sauna, steam and gritty salt scrub.

To get the most out of your Iceland visit, just take your cues from the locals.

Interior of the hotel's lobby.
Reykjavik Edition is hosting “fire and ice” spa events, co-hosted by RVK Ritual.

“There’s so much power on this island,” says Rúnarsdóttir, who has been co-hosting elaborate RVK Ritual-branded “fire and ice” wellness events at the Edition spa, accompanied by a massive gong for sound meditations. “The nature is extremely powerful, and so are the people who live here and the plants that grow here.”

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