We've all been told opposites attract. By some pretty important people, in fact. Newton’s third law tells us - every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Shakespeare dictates “we are consumed by that which nourishes us.” Maybe you’ve personally felt that sweetness can never be as sweet without having tasted the charred remains of the bitter. Can love ever be as all-consuming without first knowing heartbreak? Yet somewhere within the juxtaposition of extremes can we rest within a happy medium. Which is what’s happening here, in our #BirthdayBucketList of the week as we luxuriate in the “land of fire and ice” that is Iceland.
You’ll both want and subsequently need the hot and the cold as you rest on the in-between of both. Because the hot is fiery baby and the cold is breathtaking. You’ll be craving each one’s opposite right quick and we’ll give it to you – finding that elusive and joyous happy medium. So slip into this adventure and join us as we rest our laurels amid lava fields, rejuvenate right outside of Reykjavik in the world's most restorative naturally occurring blue lagoon hot springs, dive into a rift between two worlds and stay at a hotel with adventure as it’s middle name (no, really) and modernity in it's bones. It's a bucket list item full of opposites but once you smooth out it's edges, we know you'll find the "beauty in the breakdown."
If you're like most people you spend your time floating on the in-between of extremes, where it’s comfortable. A veritable warm yet cool year-round 70 degree homeostasis. But like us, you crave that space outside your comfort zone - where life exists roughly around the edges. In Iceland, even for aficionados of the city, extremes are a way of life and allowing such polar opposites into your comfort zone is a bucket list adventure all on it’s own.
Let’s start with your stay. It’s “where everything meets nothing.” It’s simply not enough for a hotel to be luxurious and accommodating anymore – and if you couldn’t already tell, as it’s spelled out for you in the name, this one is both luxurious AND adventurous – as promised. We’d go so far as to say it’s what you think you want… and what you didn’t know you need. Less than an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Reykjavík and set against a backdrop of majestic mountainous lava fields, ION Luxury Adventure Hotel is an unforgettable bucket list experience on it’s own.
Lounge on a Lava Field - Fire
Whether you are seeking a quiet, soulful soak beneath the Northern Lights, a challenging trek across an ancient glacier or a day of fly-fishing in plentiful icy rivers – at ION Luxury Adventure Hotel, anything is possible with your pals in the "land of fire and ice.” Can you imagine hosting a milestone birthday for a bunch of your bests in a banquet tent on their patio surrounded by lava fields? Check, check, check that bucket list.
The Design, The Adventure
The design is described as a visual symphony inspired by it’s Icelandic cultural heritage. It’s won numerous awards (12 to be exact) including Most Sustainable Boutique Hotel in Europe. Yep – it’s contemporary and eco-conscious design maximizes panoramic views AND generates hot water and energy from the surrounding hot springs.
Without leaving the hotel you can check this bucket list item off your list (if it’s not on there, it should be) soak in a Lava Spa, an outdoor geothermally heated 10 metre hot tub and if you go in the winter – you can do so with a view of the Northern Lights. Neato. The adventures at this hotel abound and are divided into categories that include “Earth” – which includes horseback riding to a black sand beach, “Fire” – which means a volcano tour, “Ice” which involves glacier hiking or Ice Caves and “Water” which has diving, rafting and fishing as possibilities. All of which is customizable around your preference, creativity and courage.
A stay in this spectacular space can only be truly rounded out by the superb eats at Silfra. The restaurant’s name derives from the Silfra rift in Lake Þingvellir. The rift is the most popular diving site in Iceland, first of all because it the crack between the American and Eurasian continent and secondly because of the magnificent visibility that isn’t like anywhere else under those circumstances. It’s like, WOW. The Nordic countries have a strong regional food culture – pure, simple, fresh and seasonal. The New Nordic Cuisine combines new ingredients with more traditional fare, often prepared in new ways.
The menu changes with the seasons but we’re currently craving the chicken liver parfait with tomato jam and crisp fruitbread as well as the traditionally smoked trout and braised and fried celeriac, with creamed barley, smoked shallot and pickled cauliflower. We’re finishing up with the seriously spectacular Skyr ice cream with brown sugar meringue, birch and Skyr foam and sorrel granite which is a foreign yet utterly fabulous flavor explosion.
One of The Top Dive Sites in the World - Ice
Taking a cue from this creative culinaria – while you’re working your way through this Icelandic bucket list – diving the Silfra rift is a bucket list must do. It’s billed as one of the best dive sites in the world. Which may seem odd because it’s a freshwater dive with almost no interesting visible life. But what makes diving Silfra Crack in the Thingvellir National Park extraordinary is that, by diving here, you’re in the space between two worlds. You can literally float on the in-between.
Silfra is the only place across the globe where you can actaully snorkel AND dive in the crack between two continental plates!
The clarity of the water is nothing short of remarkable. Water filters for many years through the volcanic rock from a glacier 50 kilometres away and wells up into the widening gap between the plates. The 100-metre plus visibility is limited only by the quality of your mask. You’ll feel like you’re flying. Or floating. Of course, the water is glacier melt, so it’s not all that warm to say the least, clocking in at 2 degrees. You’ll dive in a drysuit, so some experience with that is recommended.
Geothermic Hot Springs
In an effort to maintain our extremes homeostasis on this bucket list adventure – where there is ice in this inspiring land, so is there fire. We now find ourselves an hour or so from the hotel in one of the world’s largest and CANNOT be missed geothermic hot springs experiences. In fact, it happens to be one of the 25 wonders of the world. How’s that for a check on the old bucket list? The Lava Spa at the ION is a sweet and soulful warm-up for this bad boy. Known around the world as the “Blue Lagoon” thus named for it’s piercing turquoise naturally occurring color. In fact, according to the official website “The geothermal water originates 2,000 metres below the surface, where freshwater and seawater combine at extreme temperatures. It is then harnessed via drilling holes at a nearby geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, to create electricity and hot water for nearby communities.
On its way to the surface, the water picks up silica and minerals, before emerging at a soothing 38°C (100°F). Perfect for a relaxing and re-energising bathe. The blue colour comes from the silica and the way it reflects sunlight. During summer there can also be a hint of green in the water. This is the result of the algae, which multiplies quickly when exposed to direct sunlight. However, and this might come as a surprise to you, the water is actually white. If you pour it into a transparent cup, it will always have a milky white colour. The sun simply makes it look blue!“
We advise you to book your tickets for this experience in advance and there are packages for all price ranges – starting at 35 Euro for basic entrance all the way up to 165 Euro that includes entrance to the Spa, drinks and a reserved table at the Lava Restaurant. It’s turning a once-in-alifetime experience into luxury. How does an in-wonder of the world massage sound? You sink into the geothermic gorgeous wonder of the world and on-site masseuses sink their hands into all the knots in your back.
Fire and Ice = #BirthdayBucketList
Hot and cold. Vacation you and everyday you. The need to run wild, yet feel safe. Maybe there is a reason for every action and subsequent reaction. Maybe in a land of extreme opposites you’ll find an answer to an everyday happy medium. Return to this Blue Lagoon for rejuvenation in Reykjavik and float in between two worlds – literally in the Silfra rift and figuratively as you find that sweet spot between comfort and adventure. We've heard you have to "die a few times before you really live" and if there's a better place to do it than the land of "fire and ice" then we're all ears.
Oh, and those Northern Lights? #BirthdayBucketListBONUS.