Well Intentioned: A Winter Wellness Guide to Iceland

Luxuriate in steamy hot springs on a winter wellness voyage to Iceland
Luxuriate in steamy hot springs on a winter wellness voyage to Iceland | © Galitskaya / Depositphotos.com
Emma Sparks

Take walks on ice-strewn beaches, spend nights spying the Northern Lights, then warm up in geothermal hot springs at the country’s hug-like hotels.

Stark landscapes, sub-zero temperatures and very little daylight. Iceland shouldn’t work as a winter wellness destination, but – oh, my – does it ever. After all, as the dark inky skies of winter set in, now’s the perfect time to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights, luxuriate in steamy hot springs and explore the country’s many natural wonders – all without the crowds. Here are some of the best ways to slow down and soothe your soul in Iceland, and the best spa hotels from which to do it, all bookable via Culture Trip.

1. Retreat at Blue Lagoon

Spa Hotel

A woman enters the geothermal pool surrounded by rocks at the Retreat at Blue Lagoon in Grindavík, Iceland
Courtesy of the Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland / Expedia

The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most popular landmark. So, why not settle in for an indulgent stay at a hotel on the edge of the glassine geothermal pool? Retreat guests get access to private hot springs, as well as the main lagoon – ideal if you want a quieter, more secluded experience. The spa uses algae, silica and other minerals in its stress-busting treatments, and there’s a steam room and plunge pool to boost your immune system. TV-free rooms are calming earth-toned cocoons overlooking a moss-draped lava landscape.

2. Aurora Basecamp


The Northern Lights light up the sky at Aurora Basecamp
Courtesy of Aurora Basecamp

If you’re keen to see the magical, life-affirming dance of the elusive Northern Lights, this aurora borealis observatory near Reykjavik offers the perfect set up. You can scan the skies – hot chocolate in hand – from the cosy geodesic viewing dome, before setting off for a guided walk around the lava fields with your expert guides. Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll spot them, but half the joy is in the hunt.

4. Frost and Fire

Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel

Frost and Fire hot tub dramatically perched over river and surrounding hills
Courtesy of Frost and Fire Boutique Hotel / Expedia

Icelandic winters can be chilly indeed, but this hotel has plenty of ways to warm you up, including a heated outdoor pool and sauna. Nearby River Varmá (meaning “warm river”) is fed by geothermal waters – ideal for a morning dip – and you’re encouraged to boil your own eggs in the nearby hot spring. The outdoor hot tubs are a great spot to stargaze on long winter nights – you may even be treated to an aurora appearance.

5. Mama Reykjavik

Cafe, Vegan

Soup with mung beans in a blue ceramic bowl
© Dan Counsell / Unsplash.com

It’s fitting that this plant-based cafe sits like a pot of gold at the end of the city’s much-loved rainbow road – a Pride-inspired artwork, turned permanent in 2019 – because its ethos is all about peace, love and respect. Nourishing dishes include lentil dahl and vibrant salads, but you’ll want to treat yourself to the insanely good vegan cheesecake, too.

6. 360 Hotel and Thermal Baths

Resort, Spa Hotel

The indoor pool at 360 Hotel and Thermal Baths
Courtesy of 360 Hotel and Thermal Baths / Expedia.com

This chic 13-room boutique sits along the Ring Road near Selfoss, just a 10-minute drive from the mighty Urriðafoss waterfall. After a wintry hike or excursion, warm up in your cosy room with panoramic views of the frostbitten plains, or thaw out in the indoor and outdoor thermal pools, hot tub or sauna. Even the breakfast buffet is designed to boost your health – help yourself to a shot of cod-liver oil or a bowl of protein-rich skyr (Icelandic yogurt).

7. Vatnajökull National Park

Natural Feature, Park

Man inside an ice cave under the Vatnajokull Glacier in Vatnajokull National Park Iceland
© ClickAlps Srls / Alamy Stock Photo

Ready to embrace the country’s namesake ice? Save time to explore this expansive 8,300sqkm (3,200sqmi) national park. Home to Vatnajökull, the largest ice cap in Iceland, every summer sparkling new ice caves are formed here by flowing glacial meltwaters – but they’re only safe to visit come winter. Pick a reputable tour operator such as Blue Iceland or Arctic Adventures, pack thermals and sturdy boots and prepare to have your soul soothed by Mother Nature.

8. Diamond Beach

Natural Feature

Couple gazes at full moon at dusk on Diamond Beach in Jökulsárlón, Iceland
© Jacek Kadaj / Depositphotos.com

Year-round, huge chunks of smooth, clear ice from the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon wash up on this black-sand beach – an awesome, otherworldly sight. In winter, the ‘bergs tend to be much bigger, the light is soft, like a persistent sunset (a photographer’s dream on a clear day) and crowds are few – meaning you can enjoy this sparkling spectacle in near solitude.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article