What a beautiful country with amazingly friendly people this is!
I never imagined that a “cold’ country had such warm, sweet and helpful people! Iceland has always been in my to do list so I decided to go with my mum and my 14 months old boy. It was a great two day experience, packed with a lot of sightseeing, which we condensed into the weekend as we tried to see as much as possible.
Let me tell you that I am the kind of traveller that believes there are so many places I still want visit in this world that unless I really, really need to, I do not go back to the same destination twice. Therefore, my trips are always planned with a tight itinerary fitting in as much as I can. For some this can be exhausting, as I manage to see sites, which would take most people roughly 10 days to visit!
So I will leave it to you to, take note and travel like we did or take your time and go for a longer stay in Iceland.
We arrived Friday night, rented a car and went directly to the hotel. We stayed at the Lighthouse Inn (that promised to be a great spot to catch the Northern Lights). It definitely was! Conveniently located on the Northwest coast and close to the airport and the Blue Lagoon, and only 50 min away from Reykjavik. This hotel is completely made out of wood; even the walls in the rooms are wood. It was very clean and nice and with a friendly staff always ready to help
Clearly one of the main things we aimed to see were the Northern Lights. So we downloaded an App called ‘Aurora’ and also checked in a website http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast. These are great sites to tell you the probabilities to see the Northern Lights.
That night we asked at the reception of the hotel to please wake us up if the Northern Lights appeared as we were tired after being on a plane with a 14 months old super active boy as my son is!
Reykjavik here we come…
Saturday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and got ready to start our adventure. The first stop was driving to Reykjavik and seeing one of the most visited landmarks of the city the Hallgrímskirkja. A Lutheran parish church. At 74.5 meters high, it is the largest church in the country and among the tallest structures too. I highly recommend paying 1000 Iceland Kronas (local currency) to take the lift to see breathtaking views of the city. As you can see in the picture the colourful roofs of the houses make Reykjavik a picturesque city. Then we were off to find a restaurant serving a typical Icelandic dish, which is the whole head of a sheep. We ended up not being successful in finding a place that sold this dish and maybe we were content, as it seems to be very graphic and not sure we would find the courage to eat it.
On our way to the famous ‘Golden Circle’
Our journey continued with the famous “Golden Circle” the tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometers looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. It is the area that has the most sightseeing spots and travel-related activities in Iceland. Our first stop was The Geysir Geothermal Area which is a hot-spring haven in Haukadalur Valley.
Though this feature is currently in a phase of inactivity, its neighbour Strokkur more than makes up for it. Every five to ten minutes, it blasts a column of boiling water to heights that can reach over 40 meters (131 feet).
Then we continued driving for an additional 10 minutes to see the stunning ‘Golden Waterfall’, Gullfoss one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters (105 feet) in two tiers into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvítá. It’s the furthest point on the Golden Circle from Reykjavík. This is where my son touched snow for the first time. And if you are wondering how we made it with a super active 14 month old little bundle of love, we did it cause driving makes him sleepy and the roads are in impeccable conditions. We only woke him up when we needed to stop see the sight and then back on the road for another snooze.
Then we headed off back to Reykjavik enjoying the clearest examples of Iceland’s fascinating geological forces, magnificent landscapes that you can see driving through Þingvellir National Park, the largest attraction of the Golden Circle route.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland. This is not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape and dramatic geology. Þingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcanic ranges, as it is located in a rift valley directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Driving back to eat dinner in Reykjavik
We ate in ‘Resto’ a highly recommend this restaurant in Reykjavik with great home-style food where locals go. A must when in town!
Hoping to catch the Northern Lights
Then headed to the hotel as the skies were clear and we were hoping that we could delight ourselves with the Aurora Borealis. Which we did, after 2 hours inside the car as I had my little one, we jumped out as soon as we saw how the lights started to show the grandiose Northern Lights! What an amazing almost surreal experience. Off to bed content as Mother Nature gave us the gift to see the Northern Lights.
Our last hours in Iceland
Sunday morning we had breakfast and checked out of the hotel to take advantage of our last hours in Iceland. First stop was Brú Milli Heimsálfa – The Bridge between two continents at Sandvík. This is a small footbridge over a major fissure, which provides clear evidence of the presence of a diverging plate margin. The bridge was built as a symbol for the connection between Europe and North America. Here you can take fun pictures during summer as well as winter. One of your party can be standing in America and the other one in the European continent as they are only a bridge apart.
Then off to Gunnuhver hot springs. Supposedly named after a female ghost that was laid there. She had caused great disturbance until a priest set a trap for her and she fell into the spring. This happened about 400 years ago.
The mud pools take form where steam from boiling geothermal reservoir water emanates and condenses and mixes with surface water. Accompanying gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide make the water acid. This causes alteration of the fresh lava rock to clay.
Blue Lagoon – last stop of our journey
Our last destination was the Blue Lagoon. My son was not able to get into the water due to the high content of minerals, so it is not recommended for young ones under 2 years. It is not ideal but still doable to go with a smaller than 2 years old child as we took turns with my mum to go into the lagoon. Even though I read this was a touristy expensive trap, I have to admit we enjoyed it a lot. The whole Spa is very nice and relaxing and being inside the water, then going to the steam room, then sauna and having a mineral mask or the many other different options for an additional fee was very pleasant. You can even enjoy a drink (alcohol and non-alcoholic beverage) inside the water whilst relaxing inside the warmth and delighting your eyes with the mountains covered with snow surrounding you. Overall, we liked the experience. Only downside is that they could have a space for children under 2 years old.
Tips for the Blue Lagoon:
Bring your flips flops, bathrobe and hair band as for sure you want to keep your hair out of the water. The water will make your hair very stiff and with the feeling that it will break.
Back to London
Then off to the airport all relaxed after the Blue Lagoon experience back to the routine.
I can totally recommend Iceland to go with children, as it is a destination that children and adults can enjoy and the Icelanders are so nice and hospitable.
Where to stay to see the Northern Lights
Download the App ‘Aurora’
Where to eat with a baby in a friendly environment