Iceland: Land of Fire and Ice (Days 4 and 5)

Do you know that most people who visit Iceland only stay for a day or two? They visit Reykjavik, check out the Golden Circle and maybe stop by the Blue Lagoon on their way to the airport.

If you can swing it, I highly recommend finding a way to extend your stay to at least 5 days. In my opinion, that’s how many days you need to really get out and see some of the best Iceland has to offer.

One of the main sights we wanted to see while in Iceland was the massive Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Iceland is called the country of fire and ice because there are SO MANY glaciers and volcanoes in this tiny country. Remember the volcanic eruption in 2010? I’ll never forget it. That one almost cancelled our honeymoon.

Day 4 of our Icelandic adventure was long, quiet, otherworldly and magical. We totally expected this to be a shorter day, but once again we were eating dinner at 8:30 pm and crashing in bed right after. Thank goodness Ethan was so adaptable!

The route leading to Jökulsárlón glacier is stunningly beautiful with waterfalls, lush green pastures full of baby sheep (the sheep! I wanted to snuggle all those babies!!), empty stretches of black lava rock and miles of moss covered rocks that looked like we were suddenly on another planet. There were numerous waterfalls along the way — so many that I had to cut Jason off…no more waterfall stops until we first get to the glacier!! It’s hard for his happy lil photographer heart and eyes to pass so much beauty by, but I promised him we could stop on the way back.

We did stop a few times along the way to hunt for a package of diapers (diapers were easy to find…packs of less than 80 diapers were not), explore the black lava fields where we felt like the only people in Iceland, to hop along the squishy moss covered rocks and peek in the little triangle homes built into the sides of mountains and mounds of grass. We even stopped for lunch at a tasty little cafe where i had the best $12 bowl of soup and warm, baked bread ever! Jason had a $24 cheeseburger. Ah, Iceland and your prices! But the glacier…THE GLACIER WAS MAGICAL!

I’m not sure what time it was by the time we arrived at Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, but we were immediately enchanted. From the road headed east you can see the glacier lagoon with it’s floating icy peaks to the left and the black sand spotted with rocks of ice on Diamond Beach to the right. We’d never seen anything like that beach before so we checked that out first.

The beach is a magnificent black, it’s sand actually volcanic rocks that have been crushed into tiny sand-like bits. Resting all along the beach are giant pieces of the glacier which have broken off, washed out from the lagoon to sea, and then crashed back onto shore by the intense waves. It’s truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Even with the cold misty rain coming down, we all loved every minute exploring the beach.

After the beach we crossed the road to visit the glacier. We had seen a few other glaciers when we went to Patagonia but this one had a different look and was oh so pretty. You can take a boat ride to wander between the glacier rocks but that was off limits with a baby so instead we stood on the shore just taking it in. So beautiful.

After all of our glacier exploring we started heading back west a few hours, stopping in Vik to explore for short bit  before our stay at Hotel Geirland, a cozy although simple hotel that has a fairly good restaurant (Ethan tried pickled herring for breakfast and seemed to like it!) and a pasture full of horses and sheep behind the main building.

Our fifth and final day in Iceland found us heading west back toward Reykjavik. This time I let Jason stop at any waterfall he wanted to, although I think we were a little waterfalled-out by this point. Still, we stopped to explore at least 2 or three magnificent waterfalls before driving back into the city to enjoy one final afternoon of exploring. We found an AMAZING and cute bakery and cafe called Bersson Mathus where we had a warm, delicious dinner before heading to our final AirBNB near the airport to be close to for our 6 am flight to Sweden.

 

As special thank you to Bumbleride for the warm weather foot muff that kept our little guy warm and dry nomatter where our adventures took us! His stroller, the Indie, is AMAZING both on and off the road. Learn more about Bumbleride here.

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Where we stayed:

near the glacier: Hotel Geirland

near the airport: Svitan Guesthouse and apartments (we stayed in the spacious apartment)

Good cafe in Reykjavik: Bersson Mathus

Gear:

Bumbleride Indie Stroller (all-terrain, good for jogging)

Fleece baby carrier cover (used over our Lillebaby): Jolly Jumper

 

 

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Our Iceland Adventure: The Golden Circle

Day 3 in Iceland:

Here’s the thing about going to Iceland—you’re going to see some of the most beautiful, strange and spectacular sights you’ve ever seen but most of the time it’s gonna require a few looooong days in the car getting there. If you don’t have a week to drive the popular Ring Road around Iceland, the Golden Circle is a great day trip option to take if you are limited on time and want to see some spectacular things. This was a long day, but it still was a really great day.

Leaving Reykjavik and heading northeast, the landscape quickly changed to beautiful open spaces. We stumbled across this group of Icelandic horses that was so stunning that we had to stop. Icelandic horses are really beautiful, friendly creatures and I couldn’t get enough of them. There also were SO MANY baby sheep everywhere. Every field seemed to be full of mommas and baby lambs frolicking about. If you ask me my favorite thing about Iceland it’s going to be all the horses and baby sheep. They were everywhere. Love love.

Our first stop on the Golden Circle was Thingvellir National Park. It was pretty cold and rainy here, but worth exploring. Some fun facts about this area: when the Viking settlers arrived in the 10th century this was the site they chose as the meeting place of Althing, the world’s oldest parliament. This park is also where you can literally walk — or snorkle — along a continental divide, where two tectonics plates that divide North America from Eurasia shift.

Our next stop was Haukadalur, a geothermal area about 60km away from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous geysers here called Geysir and Strokkur. In fact, the general term “geyser” was named after this particular one in Iceland. It was super fun watching the geysers bubble and churn before shooting up in the air. They also had a nice gift shop and restaurant if you’re craving a hot meal or some ice cream.

Next we came upon my favorite site on the Golden Circle road trip, the spectacular Gullfoss waterfall. This was a MASSIVE waterfall, full of power and truly awe-inspiring which falls 100 feet into a crevice in the earth, producing thick mist & frequent rainbows. It was pretty chilly here, as well, and we were glad to have on our rain gear which kept up dry in all the mist and rain.

The last attraction on the Golden Circle route is Kerid Crater Lake. Kerid is a red volcanic crater covered in green vegetation with a sparkling pool of water at the bottom. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk the rim and another 5 minutes to walk down to the water. By this point we were feeling kinda tired from the day of sightseeing and Ethan was crashed out in his car seat so we took turns walking the crater rim so that we wouldn’t have to wake him. It was a pretty stop, but not our favorite of the day.

(lots of front seat diaper changed on this trip. SO thankful for our easy-going baby boy!)

That night we stayed at the Lambastadir Guesthouse which was a cozy working farm with fields full of animals you could visit. They served a decent breakfast and were able to provide a cot for Ethan to sleep in, but the walls were so thin that we could clearly hear our neighbors talking so when he cried in the middle of the night I grabbed him and brought him into bed with us. Despite the thin walls, we loved this farm stay so much and recommend it as a great place to stay along the Golden Circle.

(surrounded by the super friendly and super curious horses)

Where to stay along the Golden Circle: Lambastadir Guesthouse

Eating: We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant near the guesthouse. It was pretty good…good enough to recommend.

Captivating Iceland: Our first 2 Days

I can’t believe that it’s taken me 7 months to post about our trip to Iceland and Sweden! I guess that’s what having babies looks like. Ha! Ethan looks SO tiny in these photos. Our trip was back in May so some of the details are a blur by now, but I’ll do my best to remember the good stuff. Here we go…

Last December I remember seeing that flights to Iceland were on sale with IcelandAir. Even better was that we could do a “stopover” in Iceland and see somewhere new in Europe as well (more about that later). My husband had been dying to go to Iceland to photograph its incredible beauty since before we were even dating so when I saw the sale I immediately thought that this would make the best surprise trip EVER!! Right? I asked his boss for the time off and started planning. But then the practice side of me kicked in and I realized that I should probably run this kind of expense by him. Ugh. Being practical is so not fun sometimes. Of course he was ecstatic that I wanted to take him to Iceland and said YES!

We decided that we’d love to visit Stockholm as well since neither of us had been there and it was only a 3 hour flight from Reykjavik. Basically our trip was going to be the best of both worlds…rugged, otherworldly Icelandic vistas followed by the charming cobblestone streets of Sweden.

After a quick flight to Seattle we were off to Reykjavik. We decided on IcelandAir over the ever cheap WOW! Air after reading some horror stories about service and delays on WOW! Air. We were flying with our son who was 7 months at the time, and I couldn’t imagine anything worse than sitting on a runway for 3 hours with an infant screaming in my lap. That said, our friends who flew WOW had no complaints or problems.

IcelandAir itself is a nice, no-fuss airline. The planes aren’t huge — basically the same setup at a Southwest plane — and they don’t serve any food and beverages on board so you have to bring your own snacks and meals along. The flight isn’t very long either — just 7 hours from Seattle to Reykjavik — so you really don’t need too much. We left Seattle at 4:30 pm to arrive in Iceland around 6 am, and because we were flying northeast, we were chasing the sun the whole flight and it never was dark. Our neighbor unfortunately watched the sunset (sunrise?) the ENTIRE flight making it impossible to sleep. I think Ethan (our baby) slept about 2 hours while J and I both got about 30 minutes. Not great.

Reykjavik has seen an incredible increase in tourism over the past few years, thanks in part to the stopover option from IcelandAir which lets you stop and visit Iceland for up to 7 days on your way to or from Europe without any additional fees. It’s brilliant, really. The airport is very nice and modern, and they are working feverishly to expand it for all the incoming visitors they now get. We arrived bright and early the next morning and grabbed some breakfast at Dunken Donuts before heading out to get our rental car. Our plan was to grab our car and head straight to the Blue Lagoon to soak and get revived before we could get into our Air BNB in the city. Unfortunately, our rental car company was TERRIBLE (don’t rent from Lagoon Car Rental) and took 3 hours to pick us up, which meant that were were all pretty grumpy by the time we got to the Blue Lagoon, not too mention that we almost missed our time slot at the lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a man-made lagoon build on a lava field and filled with geothermal waters that are said to have many health benefits. It’s a pricey place to visit (I recommend taking your own towel and buying the cheapest ticket), but because it’s so close to the airport and most flights either arrive early or leave late at night, it’s a popular place to stop and get refreshed on your way to or from town. We couldn’t get into our apartment until noon so it was a great option for us to kill time that morning. Unfortunately, children under the age of 2 aren’t allowed in the lagoon so J and I had to take turns going into the lagoon. He let me go first while he sat in the cafe and let Ethan nap in his carseat and then we switched.

Before entering the lagoon you are given wristbands and ushered into locker rooms to change, store your belongings and take a naked shower before entering the lagoon. They recommend coating your hair with their conditioner to protect your hair if you plan to put your hair underwater which I did. Take my advice — DON’T put your hair underwater in the lagoon! They say the minerals are good for your hair but it took me SEVERAL days and multiple washings just to be able to get a brush through my hair again. My hair felt like a brillo pad and was so impossibly tangled that I literally thought I had destroyed my hair.

The lagoon itself was lovely, calm and relaxing. Our morning there had some gusty, cold winds so I stayed low in the water and sought out the warmest pockets possible. I took a waterproof case for my iPhone and was able to snap some fun photos while I swam around. They sell iPhone cases there as well, but I can guarantee you’ll save some money by buying one Amazon and taking it with you. In the lagoon they have some mineral masks that you can put on your face and body if you like, they have a swim up bar where you can get smoothies and cocktails and they have a sauna that reminded me of a hobbit house.

Overall, the lagoon was a nice visit. I think we would have enjoyed it more if we could have experienced it together without taking turns, but that would have been the case anywhere with waters that hot. We were SOO tired from our trip that it was about the only activity we had energy for that morning before driving to Reykjavik and taking a 2 hour nap at our Air BNB.

After our long nap it was time to do some exploring. It was still super gusty (I literally thought Ethan’s stroller might blow over a few times) so we all got bundled up and headed out to downtown Reykjavik. Reykjavik is a small city for a capital so it doesn’t take much time to explore. I loved the colorful buildings, the cinnamon rolls we found at a famous bakery, and the quaint shopping streets. We really didn’t do much other than wander around and grab some dinner before heading back to our apartment for an early bedtime (hello jet lag!).

Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik Tips:
– If you haven’t heard it yet, Iceland is expensive. As in the most expensive country in the world. Be prepared to pay more…WAY MORE…than you think anything and everything should cost. The ONLY thing that wasn’t more expensive was Organic baby food.

– Book your Blue Lagoon visit in advance as they often sell out for certain time slots. I suggest packing your own travel towel and buying the cheapest ticket. You really don’t need the robe and slippers in my opinion.

– Iceland is super baby and kid friendly. Everywhere we went had high chairs and SUPER nice changing tables in the bathrooms. It was pretty cold and wet at times so we were thankful for our Bumbleride warm weather muff that kept Ethan toasty and dry in his stroller.

– the most popular grocery store in Iceland is called Bonus and will have just about everything you need. We shopped there for some basics like cheese and crackers and organic baby food. Grocery stores tend to open late in the morning around 10AM and close super early — sometimes by 5 which means do your shopping mid-day!

– Everything in Iceland is CRAZY expensive but you still can find good deals if you plan in advance. We loved our AirBNB rental. At just $99/night, it was warm, comfortable and only a 10 minute walk to downtown

 

Day 2 – Snaeffellsnes Peninsula


After an amazing night of sleep (J and E both slept 13 hours) we woke up ready to see more of Iceland’s natural beauty and loaded up the Duster for a day exploring the Snaeffellsnes Peninsula. Confession — I still have no idea how to pronounce this area! The Snaeffellsnes Peninsula is often referred to as “Iceland in miniature” meaning that you can see pretty much all of what Iceland has to offer — waterfalls, glaciers, charming towns and beautiful sights — in a one day drive. If you only have one or two days in Iceland, this is a great option. We drove and wandered and ate mouth watering fish and chips and took a million pictures and petted Icelandic horses. They say that you can visit the whole peninsula in about 6-8 hours, but I’m pretty sure the person who said that didn’t stop anywhere or perhaps they weren’t married to a photographer 😉 because it took us closer to 10 hours. It was a long day, but it was truly beautiful.

Ethan was such a champ this day. He was still dealing with some jet lag so the long car rides gave him plenty of napping time between us strapping him in and out of the car to take pictures and stand in awe of yet another spectacular vista.

Day 2 win — Stumbling upon a coastal food truck selling fresh fish and chips. It was the best I’ve ever had. Ethan loved it, too.

Day 2 fail — Dominos Pizza for dinner. We were SO tired and it was the easiest option. And because it’s Iceland, our 10” pizza was $22. Ouch.