Do you ever get the feeling, upon returning from holiday, that you could immediately use another one? Maybe you overdid it on adrenalin-related activities, spent too many hours driving around trying to cram in as many "must-see" sites as possible, or enjoyed a little too much fine drink and food?
Well, you’re not alone. Considered more and more one of the top things to do in Iceland, many people are visiting spiritual retreats in Iceland to give their bodies and minds a break from the rigors and stresses of 21st-century life.
After all, if you’re going to hit the proverbial mental reset button in an attempt to detoxify your overloaded mental and physical state, why not do it in the most beautiful country in the world?
What is a spiritual retreat?
So, what exactly is a spiritual retreat? Well, a spiritual retreat is somewhere that offers sanctuary from the stressors of daily life in an attempt to find inner peace.
It’s also an opportunity to take a break from unhealthy lifestyles in a bid to improve our physical condition. Healthy body, healthy mind, and vice versa! There are many different activities offered at such retreats to help us achieve our desired states.
For example, some focus on Yoga, while others are centered on meditation, or even a combination of the two. Retreats that highlight spirituality in the form of Buddhism and more contemporary new age philosophies are also common.
Iceland is the perfect place for an exercise in spirituality and mindfulness. It is a sparse and remote land, which means escaping the crowds and finding solitude in nature is remarkably easy. There’s also clean, crisp air, pure Icelandic water, and an abundance of organic food to look forward to.
So, where are the best spiritual retreats in Iceland? Here are some of the top recommended spots that you can incorporate into your Icelandic adventure, ensuring you don’t need another holiday right after returning home.
The best spiritual retreats in Iceland
Knarraberg Spa and Wellness Centre, Akureyri
With its generally mild weather and stunning scenery, the pretty town of Akureyri in the North of Iceland provides an ideal setting for a spiritual retreat. Just outside the town lies Knarraberg, a spa and wellness center which is the only one of its kind in Northern Iceland.
Specifically designed to host yoga – it’s basically a fully equipped yoga studio that even accommodates “hot” yoga. Knarraberg also boasts a sauna, an outdoor jacuzzi, massage rooms as well as fantastic views over the fjord and mountains that surround Akureyri.
The Wellness Center hosts various public retreats throughout the year, all of them offering classes on yoga and meditation that are combined with day trips to the surrounding area.
This is hands down one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland, so you’re going to want to take some time to see its highlights. Accommodation is offered at apartments or hotels in Akureyri.
The good people at Inspiration Iceland offer a more integrated sightseeing and yoga experience. Qualified instructors take you on guided hikes before removing your walking boots and indulging in yoga sessions in whatever beautiful location you happen to have hiked to.
These "yoga hikes" are available all year round; you can have a class under the midnight sun or even while hunting the Northern Lights (that might be a bit chilly, though).
Birkihof Retreat Centre, Laugarvatn
Laugarvatn is a small town located at the heart of Iceland's iconic Golden Circle, the legendary area in the South West that encompasses the holy trinity of Iceland’s most famous attractions. (Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss).
It is also the location of Birkihof, a large guesthouse that is perfect for hosting your own spiritual retreat. Birkihof has accommodations for up to 18 people as well as a swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and even a sweat lodge.
If you're looking for a spiritual experience in Iceland, then you have to check out a sweat lodge! With roots in Native American culture, they have become increasingly popular in Iceland over the past twenty years.
The practice involves entering a huge tent heated by burning stones to perform a sweat ceremony. This features several rounds of chanting and singing in the intense heat before heading out for what must surely be the world´s most refreshing dip in a swimming pool.
The sweat lodge at Birkihof can be booked for a session, with or without overnight accommodation.
Ashram Spritiual Retreat, Silfurberg, Breiðdalsvík
Despite having the best weather in Iceland as well as jaw-droppingly stunning scenery, the Eastern Fjords of Iceland are often overlooked by visitors. Every summer the East Fjords plays host to the Ashram Spiritual Program, a spiritual retreat located in Breiðdalur, right in the heart of the East Fjörds.
The program consists of a week-long blend of yoga and Qi gong exercises, along with organized hikes around some of the natural wonders of the area (there are loads to choose from!).
Each day ends with a relaxing sports massage and a restorative evening yoga session to soothe any aching muscles.
Ashram means "place of peace", which is most apt given the beautiful yet secluded accommodation on offer. Since the retreat is based a long way from Iceland’s international airport, you could either take an internal flight to Egilsstaðir from Reykjavík, or make a road trip out of it and hire a car.
You would need to allow at least a couple of days for the journey, but you'd get to see some of Iceland's most famous sites while enroute.
Blue Lagoon Retreat, Grindavík
While it's not technically a spiritual retreat in the strictest sense, if you don't feel physically and mentally rejuvenated after spending some time at the Blue Lagoon retreat, then we would be shocked to say the least. This is pampering taken to another level.
The Blue Lagoon is probably Iceland's most famous tourist attraction. It's a large outdoor bathing pool with naturally heated milky blue water that looks almost as good as it feels when you gradually immerse yourself into them.
The silicate mud which covers the bottom of the pool is said to work wonders for your skin. Here you have a full guide to the Blue Lagoon if you wish to know more.
Most people tend to visit the Blue Lagoon for a few hours, but it is possible to spend several nights here and enjoy water massages, a retreat spa and lagoon as well as food at a Michelin recommended restaurant. Check out the available packages on their website.
Peace of body, peace of mind
Embarking on a spiritual retreat in Iceland is a great way to find inner peace whilst getting to see the most uniquely beautiful country on the planet. You can combine a spiritual retreat with the more traditional elements of an Icelandic holiday, like hiking adventures and glacier sightseeing. Contact us to see if we can assist you with your travel requirements.