Torfhús Retreat: Iceland’s Secluded Haven of Hospitality [Video]

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The Torfhús Retreat is made for a certain type of traveler. As its name indicates, it is a retreat, created for weary travelers to just calm down while surrounded by the stunning nature of Iceland. It is ideally located on Iceland’s famed Golden Circle with nearby waterfalls, geysers, and mountains.

The Torfhús  Retreat appears as a small village, inspired by an Icelandic Viking farm, with a main house with reception, dining hall, and lounge area and 25 accommodations spread out across the 125-acre estate.  The retreat is authentic in so many ways and takes its cues from the way the Vikings lived a thousand years ago. The most iconic element is the grass or turf that covers the homes, ideal for protection against the harsh Icelandic winters. Sod also covers the sides of the homes as well as local stone and reclaimed wood.

Another type of insulation that guests will see is the privacy and exclusivity of the retreat.  It feels remote where all that can be seen are the glacier-capped mountains in the distance, the unspoiled terrain around the retreat, and the Icelandic horses that roam the estate. The exclusivity is by design, with no outside guests visiting their Michelin star-level restaurant, touring the property, or having a look around. The property is ultra-private and for guests only.

The accommodations are rustic yet with all the modern-day amenities required by the discerning traveler. This is first and foremost an eco-luxury retreat that has been designed to be sustainable from the ground up. The construction includes reclaimed woods, the restaurant uses locally sourced ingredients and has implemented zero waste programs and the retreat’s power is supplied by hydroelectric or geothermal energy. 

Iceland has so many natural attractions it’s almost too many to mention, from volcanic and ice caves to waterfalls, glaciers, geysers, and mountains. The Torfhús Retreat is located at ground zero of Iceland’s most renowned natural treasures on the popular Golden Circle. All these attractions are all within an hour or two’s drive from the property. In fact, the Langjökull glacier is visible from the retreat and about an hour away, the 105-foot-high Gullfoss waterfall is within a half-hour, while the Geysir Hot Springs is a mere 15 minutes drive from the property.

Not far away is the  UNESCO World Heritage site, Thingvellir National Park with waterfalls, stunning scenery and, is also where North America and Europe’s tectonic plates meet. Closer still, a river that runs through the property that leads to the Faxi waterfall and makes an ideal destination for a long riverside walk. During the winter months, one can literally stay put to see the northern lights, with essentially zero light pollution in the area.  Gazing at the aurora borealis from the property is exceptional, made even more unforgettable by watching from the comfort of your personal basalt hot tub.

The Torfhús Retreat perfectly balances the Viking theme, Icelandic authenticity, rustic touches, and modernity in their design and guest experience. The first encounter for the guest is the Viking Langhús which is a long house and the retreat’s common area modeled after the Viking halls of long ago. Through the black wood facade and grass-roofed entrance, guests will see Viking axes, swords, and shields along the hallway making the reference to the Game of Thrones unavoidable. 

As part of the decor, you’ll see interesting artwork by talented local artists as well as photos from 100 years ago depicting the stoic people of the lands who endured a rough and grueling life in these harsh elements. One of the many oddities there is an old wooden boat, cut in half, repurposed and, upcycled into a couch that faces a window and landscapes of the property beyond.  

Further along, the hall opens into a larger space with more oddities, artifacts, and antiques to examine such as the leathery salmon skins along the walls, a wagon wheel fashioned into a ranch-style light fixture, and a horse carriage wagon from the 1800s that doubles as the breakfast bar. Along the wall are comfortable sitting areas where the engaging and capable staff is at the ready to welcome you with a drink, perhaps a local ale in a drinking horn or cocktail made with the local spirit Brennivín – clearly an acquired taste.

The adjacent room is the dining hall, big and bright with large windows allowing light as well as delicious views over the property grounds. The room is filled with upcycled furnishings, fur throws, and candlelit tables. The beauty of the room will soon be overtaken by the dazzling dinner experience that lays in wait.

The accommodations are nothing short of sublime. There are twenty-five units with 10 two-bedroom homes and 15 one-bedroom Torfbaer Suites with three each in a multi-unit.  Each accommodation is rustic, chic, and sustainability-focused with all the creature comforts one could desire. Locally sourced stone and reclaimed woods complete the exterior along with a private deck perfect for taking in the northern lights or just relaxing with a glass of wine during the warmer periods.

The Torfhus homes feature a chalet-style interior with a fully equipped kitchen, dining table, and spacious living area. But it’s the details that make this home so special with top-notch appliances, antique light fixtures, and the walls are delightfully pitted giving texture but also reminding us that these are environmentally focused construction with walls made from reclaimed wood. The homes feature two bedrooms, ideal for families or friends traveling together. The thoughtful touches are there as well including a complimentary and replenished daily mini-bar with snacks, soft drinks, wine, and local beer.

The unit’s most exquisite feature is clearly the outdoor hot tub. The homes have their own private basalt hot tubs with relaxing geothermic waters swirling at a balmy 100-degree temperature. The unique tubs were designed by the owners and are surrounded by basalt stone rock pillars affording a level of privacy while nourishing the waters with minerals to add to the relaxation. The hot tubs couldn’t be any better for spending time with a loved one with a glass of wine under the open skies or the ethereal green hues of the northern lights.

Flash, flare, and fine describe the creative cuisine at the Tofus Retreat. Each meal is a memorable and Micheline Star level with the ingredients sourced within a 10-mile radius of the property. Nearby the retreat are glass greenhouses, heated with geothermal energy, that provide fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit. Common ingredients served are salmon and char which are caught in the nearby rivers while seafood comes from coastal fishermen. Organic mountain grazed lamb, and beef are locally sourced as well. During the day you may see the chef or his staff poking around the riverbeds or property grounds foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms or perhaps something that adds to the serving presentation. Once guests sit for dinner they will find that the creativity of the dining experience has no limit.

Executive Chef Thorarinn Eggertsson refers to the cuisine as “anti-à la carte” with his menu that morphs weekly according to his creative whims, the seasons, or based on what can be sourced that day. Before the visit, the guest’s preferences and dietary restrictions are provided to ensure there are no issues in that regard.  One could describe the fare as Icelandic-Asian fusion served in a parade of flamboyant shared plates with unusual presentations served on lava stones, wood planks, a bowl immersed in pine branches, and an assortment of other odd “plates’.

A dish may be served with dry ice and sends a smoldering fog over the table while another bursts into flames courtesy of gunpower with a side dish of oohs and ahhs from around the table. Expect dishes such as pan-seared scallops with Icelandic herbs or slices of venison served on a sizzling lava rock. From wow to whimsical, the last dish of the night may be the most thrilling with a chocolate bomb which is a chocolate orb that is unceremoniously and literally hurled at the plate and then cracks open to reveal an edible golden duckie inside. A dish made to be fun, shocking, and delicious all at the same time.  

There’s so much to do and see around the property from golf, helicopter tours, fishing, quad biking, and more. One true pleasure is to see the Icelandic horses up close. The retreat’s owners are horse lovers with a long history of breeding these majestic creatures which you’ll see roaming the property.

Iceland has more phenomenal experiences than one could ever hope to see in a lifetime. From the Northern Lights to glaciers,  waterfalls and the famed Golden Circle. For the discerning traveler, one retreat makes a visit to Iceland all the more unforgettable. From the stunning landscapes to the rustic-chic décor, dining experiences and staff, the Torfhus Retreat ensures a visit to Iceland to be cherished long after the suitcase is unpacked back home. 

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