Bjórböðin: Bathing in Hops at The Beer Spa in Iceland
Disclaimer: We are so thankful to Bjórböðin for hosting our couple's bath in Iceland and are excited to share our thoughts with you. Please note that even though they covered the cost of our spa experience, all opinions are our own.
Mr. Nerd and I like to research and organize the details of our trip long before we leave the house. We're planners, through and through—despite my 2016 New Year's resolution to be spontaneous. But when we stumbled across a video from INSIDER travel about a charming new beer spa in Iceland, right along the path we planned for our 11-day road trip, we just knew we had to experience an afternoon soaking in beer ... and then debrief everyone on it afterward.
And so, we set out to make it happen. Despite our breakneck pace to get around Iceland's Ring Road in just 7 days, we blocked off time to visit the spa. I'll tell you now, we weren't disappointed. It was everything we'd hoped for.
That video? It does not lie.
Bjórböðin opened its doors in June 2017 as the first beer spa in Iceland. I'm sure many of you have heard about the beer spas in Prague and Germany, but this one is an entirely different experience, as you're surrounded by breathtaking mountains. Seriously, just the drive to get there is worth the hour you'll spend with Bjórböðin. 'Tis tres bien, friends.
What is Bjórböðin, you ask? Bjórböðin labels themselves as a "beerspa and restaurant." To your right, you soak in a beer bath for 25, then allow the nutrients of the spa to penetrate your senses with 25 minutes of quiet time in the relaxation room. A 20 minute meditation session in their sauna afterward opens your pores, cleanses your soul, and wakes you right up. To your left, a tap room and restaurant awaits the hungry, the thirsty, and the sociable. You can start or finish your time with Bjórböðin there; whatever you prefer!
The Beer Spa
Mr. Nerd, my sister Elisabeth, and I all visited Bjórböðin on a lazy Thursday afternoon. It was day #6 of our trip around the Ring Road; after alternating between a tent and a car for five nights, we were so ready to relax.
Bjórböðin is located in Árskógssandur, a small fishing town in northern Iceland. If you're headed to the spa, note that Árskógssandur is a 30 minute drive north of Akureyri and 10 minutes south of Dalvik. Depending on your GPS or map, Bjórböðin may pop up in Dalvik or Árskógssandur. Let's just tell you now: if you hit Dalvik, you've gone too far. We almost missed our appointment this way.
Live and learn!
The outside of Bjórböðin is modern and unassuming, a delightful contrast to the snowcapped mountains and ocean around us. Once inside, we were greeted warmly and quickly ushered through the check-in process. Our Bjórböðin host provided us with comfortable white robes, and then we split up. Mr. Nerd proceeded to the men's dressing room, and Elisabeth and I entered the women's room.
Bjórböðin can get busy, but when we arrived at 1 p.m., it was quiet. Thankfully, Bjórböðin only accommodates up to 14 people at a time because of their limited tub space. You'll never feel claustrophobic, but even so, we were happy to have the women's dressing room to ourselves. I'm not sure how I would've felt trying to get changed with more than 3 women around me. It's a cozy room!
One of our primary concerns before signing up for the beer spa was that the bath water would be recycled (as it is at all other spas and public baths in Iceland). However, that fear was totally unfounded. Before undressing, our host told us that we could undress as much as we felt comfortable with (aka to bathing suits or to nakedness) and shower if we wanted to, but it wasn't mandatory. The tubs are cleaned out and changed between every use.
Win win win! We truly appreciated the attention to hygiene.
Elisabeth and I decided to shower after the bath, rather than before, and completely undressed. We stored our clothes in Bjórböðin's cubbies and put the keys in our robe pockets, then exited out through the showers.
Our host greeted us in the hallway and showed us to our rooms. Each one fits a wooden tub, a tap of fresh beer, and a stepping stool. We were then given an informative explanation of how the baths work. Basically, they fill the tub with hot spring water, then mix in a bucket of their "secret sauce:" young fermented beer, brewer's yeast, and hops. As you soak, this mixture brightens and restores your skin and hair. The longer you let it work its magic, the softer you'll feel and more relaxed you'll be!
TIP: For the curious, because I know you're wondering, no. The bath water is not drinkable. And even if it was, we wouldn't recommend it. Use the freshly tapped lager by the tub instead!
Because Mr. Nerd and I had asked for a couple's bath, we entered one room. Elisabeth was taken to a single's bath (which she booked and paid for). Good news for singles—Bjórböðin does not pair you up with a random stranger! You do, actually, get the experience all to yourself. Lucky Elisabeth. ;)
Mr. Nerd and I shut the door in order to have some privacy, hung up our robes, and climbed into the tub. You get 25 minutes in the bath, so we were eager to HOP on the relaxation train and take full advantage of the drinkable beer we were offered.
How many glasses of fresh, foamy deliciousness can one drink in 25 minutes, I wonder?
What does bathing in beer feel like? Well ... we thought it was weird, personally, but in a good way! On the one hand, it smelled wonderful, a heady, vegetal aroma that soothed our weary souls and joints. On the other hand, the bottom of the tub had a lot of rich sediment (from the beer mixture) that made it slippery to sit down and stuck to our skin. We both opted to get naked, too, so I'm sure hop and yeast residue got all sorts of places. It was definitely a bonus exfoliation scrub we weren't expecting!
LADIES: Before you panic, I'm no worse for wear in the yeast department. So if that's keeping you from stripping down, just know that neither I nor my sister had any ill effects. Just shower well afterward if you're worried.
Once we were used to sitting in the tub, we completely relaxed. I poured us a couple glasses of crisp, cold beer, and then we sunk in to our chins and just enjoyed. Mr. Nerd and I even took turns dunking our heads underwater. Love, love, love.
Sadly, 25 minutes flew by. Before we knew it, a knock at the door signified our time was up. We threw on our robes still dripping wet and followed our host upstairs into Bjórböðin's relaxation room.
Before visiting Bjórböðin, I hadn't been sure what to expect from this portion of our visit. A massage? Essential oils and candles? Lying naked in a sauna? But when we got upstairs, it dawned on me that "relaxation room" was completely accurate. The windows were covered with curtains and the lights were dimmed. Plush carpet caressed our toes.
We each chose the reclining chair we wanted to lie on, and then our legs and feet were wrapped in sheets to catch the beer still dripping from our skin. Once we were wrapped like mummies, our host covered us with blankets and left us to sleep/meditate/contemplate our existence.
We enjoyed our time in the relaxation room. Mr. Nerd and Elisabeth dozed off, whereas I listened to the soft spa music playing over the speakers (flutes and wind, very lovely) as the beer residue dried. Surprisingly, I didn't feel sticky or dirty. I felt clean, refreshed, and satiated.
Our 25 minute nap also went fast. Personally, I can't sleep on command, so the countdown in my head kept me from fully enjoying the quiet experience. In future, it might be nice to see more of a "spa" aspect added to the relaxation room (like an optional massage or exfoliating scrub), but we did love the down time after days on the road.
Mr. Nerd especially appreciated the chance to snooze. Poor guy had to drive most the Ring Road since he was the only one who could operate a standard; I feel for him.
When our host woke us, we were offered a 20 minute session in Bjórböðin's sauna, which we took. The sauna is big enough to fit three people sitting side-by-side. It's roughly the size of a closet, with a see-through door that swings out if you get too hot. We sat on a wood bench in our robes and watched through the glass as people wandered along the hallway.
If I recall correctly, the sauna was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Elisabeth and I chickened out halfway through—our Scandinavian blood doesn't like prolonged heat—but Mr. Nerd found it VERY rejuvenating to sweat out the beer and meditate into awakeness after being upstairs. He enjoyed every last minute he had before getting out.
When the sauna shut off (it was on a 20-minute timer) our spa experience was over. Just like that. We weren't too sure what to do next—were we supposed to wait for our host or just go back to the dressing rooms? Was there anything else?—so we loitered in the hall until someone who worked at Bjorbodin found us and confirmed that we should get changed.
We really wish someone had been around to debrief us. I only found out afterward (reading a brochure) that they recommend waiting 3-5 hours before showering to get the full benefits of the beer on your skin. Elisabeth can attest to this; she didn't wash her hair, but I did (their soap smells like beer, by the way. It's AMAZING and I'm only slightly addicted), and her hair ended up way softer than mine. Ah well.
The spa definitely worked up an appetite. So being our hungry foodie selves, we wandered over to the restaurant and ordered two beers and their soup special. The soup was incredibly filling; we soaked in the atmosphere and relaxed on the couch, looking out at the amazing view of the mountains nearby, and just loved the overall vibe of the place.
At the end, our bill was affordable compared to some other places we'd been. 1.100 ISK for the soup and 800 ISK for the beer (.3 liter). It's worth noting that the actual restaurant has a wider (less affordable) menu available, but we ordered in the tap room, so the soup was cheaper there than it would be at dinner.
TIP: If you're eating on a budget in Iceland, look for the soup of the day special. Cafes and restaurants often allow a second helping, and it always comes with bread hot off the rack.
All in all, we spent three hours at Bjórböðin. Our beer spa experience took an hour and twenty minutes, from the moment we got in our robes to the moment we changed back into jeans and jackets, and then we spent another 90 minutes just drinking beer and watching people.
If you're interested in grabbing drinks and soaking without the full spa experience, Bjórböðin has two outdoor hot tubs you can visit for 2.000 ISK. They're not filled with beer and we didn't experience them ourselves, but about 10 people climbed in one while we were there and toasted to a trip of a lifetime. Might be an alternative option for you!
We loved the beer spa package. Soaking in wooden tubs was addicting, and you definitely can't beat the beer straight from the tap. We also enjoyed the sauna and left feeling smooth, silky, and invigorated; a new version of our weary, traveling selves.
Despite all the positives, we do wish we'd had longer in the beer tub. 25 minutes flies by; we'd barely gotten used to the feeling of sitting in beer and had only just filled our glasses with a second helping from the tap when it was time to be done. 30 or even 40 minutes would've felt more substantial. And something more from the relaxation room would have been a nice touch.
But in all, if you love beer and love trying unique experiences, Bjórböðin is definitely worth visiting when you're in Iceland.
Interested in checking it out for yourself? Follow the link below to get started.
What do you think of our beer spa experience? Have you done this (in Iceland or elsewhere), or would you try it? Let us know in the comments!