Review of the Silica Hotel, Iceland

Arrival

Our plan for staying at the Silica Hotel in Iceland was this: because we’d be flying overnight landing in the early hours of the morning, we’d spend the day at the Blue Lagoon with the complimentary Premium Pass, have lunch at the Lava Restaurant and then spend the rest of the afternoon in the private lagoon at the hotel.

I sort of figured we’d be able to relax for the complete day and maybe not be affected too much by the jet lag of crossing 7 time zones.

We’d read online that the buses from Keflavik Airport to the Blue Lagoon stopped at the Silica Hotel enroute, but when we told the driver that was where we wanted to get off he dismissed us with a snort and said that he didn’t stop there.

We’d booked the ticket with the expectation that we’d have minimal exposure to the elements getting to the hotel, and so the prospect of a trek across the scree, exposed to the blustery cold wind, coupled with the overnight flight with zero sleep made me just a tiny bit grumpy.

The kilometre walk between the Blue Lagoon where the bus drops you off and the entrance to the Silica Hotel is stunning, alternating between aqua lakeside path and moss covered lava field. It’s also very exposed with nothing stopping the wind from ripping in off the sea and through your bones.

We came across the low slung buildings of the hotel and tried to gain access that way but the door was locked and so we had to walk all the way around the hotel to the entrance on the far side.

We were told it would not be long before our room was ready, so we sat in the chairs overlooking the private lagoon. Being out of the cold, comfortable and warm after a seven hour flight and no sleep contributed to drifting off, only to be interrupted by the sweet sounds of Magdalena (who had checked us in) calling out to us that the room was ready.

Silica Hotel Room

The room itself had great views over the moss covered lava flow and featured an extension of the Lagoon on its doorstep. It was surreal for two reasons: one being the total alien-ness of the view (to get a general feel for Iceland’s scenery, check out episode 5, season 4 of Black Mirror) and the other the lack of a proper night.

When we arrived it was heading into summer which meant that the sun set, but then hid just below the horizon for the whole night meaning that for the supposed night hours it was still light as if it was dusk. Great for photos, disconcerting for body clocks.

The bed were two singles pushed together in the fashion popular in Europe, with individual duvets. Not really to my taste, but it was very comfortable.

The room was otherwise sparsely furnished with a desk, couch, armchair and the tiniest little coffee table. A big TV was above the desk but there was also a mini tablet in a docking station in the desk also. This had internet access and an app featuring the amenities of the hotel: a better option perhaps than the paper compendium on offer at other hotels.

A tiny deck is just outside the door allowing you to get some fresh air. You’re still not allowed to smoke though: the moss is apparently flammable!

The bathroom was tastefully clad in neutral marble with underfloor heating, and the shower had both hand held and rain shower shower heads.


But realistically the room itself isn’t what you’re paying for at the Silica Hotel – it’s the proximity to the Blue Lagoon, the Private Lagoon and the view.

We got changed and headed to the Blue Lagoon to use our Premium Passes. I must admit that the same path back to the Blue Lagoon entrance without our suitcases weighing us down certainly was quicker if not warmer. The prospect of spending time in the hot water also gave a bounce to our steps!

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

A lot has been written about the Blue Lagoon, and it’s very common for bloggers to go and then post some platitudes about the experience without really illustrating why it’s so magical an experience. A lot of that is to do with waterproof cameras not being very common – I tried to get around that on my last trip by using images from those that the Blue Lagoon make available. But this time I armed myself with something which would take photos whilst in the water, so enjoy!

Our Premium Pass allowed us to skip the queues (always a good feeling) and we were briefed by staff on how the wristbands worked, each went through to the separate men’s and women’s changing rooms and showered naked before getting into our swimming costumes and heading outside. The thin robe was no match for the strong cold wind and it was a force of will to hang it up on the racks before walking down the ramp into the blissfully warm water.

The rain was coming down lightly on the strong wind, forcing the life guards to bundle up and hunch against the elements. I couldn’t figure out why they needed their hi-vis vests: nobody else was wandering around the edges of the pools, and I also couldn’t figure out why they were needed: the water wasn’t incredibly deep.

We eventually decided that the heat of the water might dehydrate people causing them to faint, in which case having someone watching over you from the decking might be a good thing.

The first thing we did was to make our way to the bar. That’s right, a bar at water level beside the pool. With the Premium Pass we got a free drink and when I swam up to the window I expected to be told that only certain drinks were included with that.

The lady behind the counter corrected me and said that they were all covered by the free offer. Given the time of day and environment, we decided against having something alcoholic and instead elected for one of the fresh juice cocktails.

Then we went over to the waterfall. This was a steady stream of water, falling far enough to act like a rough massage, pummelling head, shoulders or back. A bit much for some but pure pleasure for me!

We then headed over to the booth which was handing out silica mud for you to smear on your face. It was funny watching the different approaches to placing them on your face – one guy was using it like soap, scrubbing it as if expecting it to break into a lather. We let the mud set for the suggested 15 minutes and then headed back to the waterfall to wash it off.

Then we went for a bit of an exploration, checking out the various other areas of the Lagoon. On the way we saw what must have been a staff member up to his waist in the pool, carrying a bucket form which he was distributing gobs of the silica mud for people to put on their faces. Because of his long hair and beard, and because the customers in the pool were standing around with their hands out towards him, it looked significantly like biblical depictions of Jesus giving alms or blessings to the poor!

The other bathers came in waves as whichever bus disgorged their tour group for their visit. The visits are timed entry so the Lagoon never really gets too full, and it is enormous, but it does mean that you get large groups all moving together in unison as they decide to check out the water fall, or the bar, or they decide that they’ve had enough and head back to the changing rooms.

One group decided to do just that and we watched as they passed us, looking like a scene from the Walking Dead – all slowly walking through the mist with pale, white silica mud faces. A fellow bather independently came to the same conclusion and actually had the balls to mention it to them. One of the group snorted and suggested because of their ages they were more like the movie Cocoon.

We also tried the sauna, but I wasn’t able to last long. The large windows looking out over the Lagoon were cool though. But soon we were feeling a little Lagooned out – we’d been in the water for three hours, so we decided to see if we could get into the Lava Restaurant a little earlier than our scheduled reservation time.

Lunch at Lava

Our options were to get our robes and slippers on and head to the restaurant or else get totally changed instead. We opted to get changed but the diners in the restaurant when we arrived were 60/40 bathers in robes, so it certainly would not have raised any eyebrows had we decided to remain robed instead.

Lava overlooks the Lagoon and hasn’t changed since last time I was there 4 years ago. I definitely wanted to try the lamb again as I had remembered it being exquisite. When the waiter found out we were staying at the Silica Hotel, he brought us a complimentary glass of champagne each which was a nice touch.

We started with some bread and Icelandic butter topped with a little rock salt. I think the time in the Lagoon had built up quite the appetite as it tasted delicious. Then  for the main. Ange tried the fish of the day which was Ling, while I had my memories confirmed with the lamb. So tender it almost dropped off the fork!

Ange liked her Ling, and I must admit the creamy lobster sauce was a great match for the simpleness of the white fleshed fish.

Very very pricey, but a classy dining experience with a high waitstaff to patron ratio and delicious food.

Dinner at Max’s Restaurant, Northern Light Inn

We’d enjoyed our meal at Lava but were looking for something different for dinner. We toyed with walking to the local village (Grindavik) but a brief glance at the map indicated that it was over an hour’s walk away, and looking at UberEats and online delivery really wasn’t delivering many results. The feeling of isolation is definitely justified!

The only other place we could find even vaguely nearby was Max’s Restaurant at The Northern Lights Inn, a 13min walk away, so we thought we would brave the wind and hope the rain stayed away. The walk over was an experience. It was cold but beautiful, like something from a movie. The combination of lava fields and the moss sitting on top made it look like someone had tried to carpet a boulder field with bad 70’s shagpile.

We weren’t surprised that there was little evidence of humanity – the odd car or bus going to or from the Blue Lagoon was the only movement, but the Power Station and pipes going to and fro dominated landscape closest to us.

We eventually made it to the complex of buildings which formed the Inn and Restaurant and walked into the restaurant. It was almost empty, with the patrons almost matched by the waitstaff. We managed to catch the eye of the waiter and after a while he came over to seat us.

We elected to sit next to the window with the view of the Power station – a weird outlook from a restaurant and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the restaurant was here before the Power Station or they decided to make the Power Station the focal point when they were building the restaurant.

We had hoped the prices at Max’s would be a little less eye watering than at Lava, but looking at the menu it wasn’t to be. We both chose the Icelandic soup and I thought I’d combat the chill on the trip back with a cider. And then we waited…

The waiters congregated near the bar and chatted amongst themselves and eventually the soup came. But no cider. I was going to enquire about it and then decided that I didn’t need mine, soup was more than enough liquid for dinner!

As we finished our soup I marvelled again at the view out the window. I decided there were three levels of weirdness: the first was just the alien-ness of the landscape, then there was this huge power station in the middle of it. Lastly was the hotel and restaurant which seemed to be aimed squarely at the power station. Very strange.

The waiters weren’t too interested in offering dessert and were even less interested in bringing me the bill so I went up to the bar to pay. They hadn’t even added the cider to the bill, so I figure that somehow it hadn’t made it from the waiter’s order pad to their system. That, and the general disinterest of the staff meant that I wouldn’t hurry back to Max’s. The soup was fine though.

Silica Hotel Private Lagoon

We returned to our room after dinner and got changed, ready for an evening in the private lagoon of the hotel. We’d seen photos online and it looked a little small, so we weren’t expecting much. The room had robes and jandals so we got changed and then headed towards the changing rooms.

At reception, Magdalena looked me up and down and asked if I would like a better robe and slippers which actually fit. I smiled wryly and allowed that while a better robe would always be welcome, I’d be surprised if they had jandals which fit. And surprised I was when she brought over a soft, comfortable robe in my size, along with jandals which actually did fit. I was amazed!

We headed into the changing rooms and then through into the Private Lagoon area. And it turns out to be quite extensive. Not as big as the Blue Lagoon of course, but still able to provide privacy and various temperatures.

The white mud which works as an exfoliant was heaped up on the side of the pool and in some places collected on the bottom of the pool allowing you to make your own face mask.

At one end of the lagoon there was even a waterfall as the overflow water continued along a stream away towards the Blue Lagoon, looking not too dissimilar to the rides at Aquaventure in Dubai. We resisted the urge to try to swim from our lagoon to the Blue Lagoon.

We headed inside eventually, and even though we had spent three hours in the Blue Lagoon earlier in the day, I could have very easily spent a lot longer in the Private Lagoon.

Silica Hotel Breakfast

We woke eventually, brains still confused by the perpetual twilight, and headed down to breakfast. Now, I’ve been to some hotels with a good spread. Some have impressed with variety, some with quantity and some with both.

The Silica Hotel seemed to have taken the attitude that no option should be off limits. There were eggs three ways (fried, scrambled and boiled), a full selection of cold cuts to satisfy continental tastes, a variety of breads for toasting and fruit, salad and cheeses. There was even cod liver oil in a little bottle surrounded by shot glasses.

Alongside our table was a waffle station. I went over to have a look. Clear instructions stated you’d need two ladlefuls for the machine and an astonishing array of condiments and accompaniments stood on the table beside the waffle iron. Chocolate chips, fruit pieces and sauces all competed to be added to the waffles.

I poured out two ladlefuls of batter and was about to close the lid when one of the helpful staff members came over and asked if i needed any help. “I don’t think”, so I said, there was just enough batter for the two spoonfuls. Oh, she said, that’s not enough batter. Just then a fresh jug of batter made it to the station and she took over, pouring another two ladlefuls. “That’s better. Now that should take two minutes to cook,” she said before heading off. I set my timer and when it went off, I prised my prize from the griddle.

There’s something divine about freshly cooked waffles. I had mine with maple syrup and a small smearing of the local butter and it was incredible.

Checking Out

We had booked the bus from the Blue Lagoon to Reykjavik and after the failure of being dropped off at the hotel on the way in, we didn’t want to wait for a bus that wasn’t coming, so we enquired at reception at checkout whether the bus would come. Of the four people at reception, one was adamant that it would, one pulled out the bus timetable to indicate that certain buses did and some did not (and our bus would) before one of the other staff members suddenly remembered that the buses stopped coming to the hotel last week.

That finally made sense: during our research all of the websites had indicated that other guests had been dropped off and the hotel’s website had indicated this as well, which didn’t match with our experience the day before. The recent change would explain the discrepancy.

One of the staff members grabbed some car keys and said that they would take us in the van to the bus stop, and we headed off. I was thinking we maybe should have rung the hotel from the luggage storage place beside the bus stop at the Blue Lagoon to have someone come pick us up. Maybe next time.

Would I Return?

I’m not sure. The setting is fantastic, the amenities including the Premium Pass to the Blue Lagoon and the Private Lagoon are fantastic, and breakfast is something else again. The service from the staff can’t be topped. The only shortcomings are that its the middle of nowhere, so you’re restricted to the hotel restaurant or else Max’s. And it’s so expensive. But then again, so is Iceland in general. I guess on balance I would go back – the other worldly nature is hard to go past.