Never was there ever a country that has impressed us more with it's dramatic natural beauty than Iceland did.
Prior to moving to the United Kingdom, we had plans and flights to go to Iceland during the winter to see the Northern Lights. We ended up having to cancel and move across the ocean instead of our Northern Light adventure... but we had a bunch of Iceland Air credit that needed to be used! We didn't get to see the Northern Lights because we went in the summer, but it was equally incredible.
We decided to piece together our own itinerary because we wanted full control over what we did and when.
Travel. Boring. BUT I will say that IcelandAir was very family friendly. They let us board early (even with an older kid) and gave her a full meal and activity pack for the flight.
We stayed at a hotel by the airport (that was honestly nothing special) and then the next morning packed up our stuff and headed to the Blue Lagoon. We really took advantage of the early mornings and late nights that summer hours provided. We packed A LOT into each day. Brame family has no chill.
We know the Blue Lagoon is super touristy- but it was the experience we were looking for. We wanted the thermal lagoon vibe, with kid friendly accommodations and showers... and Blue Lagoon met all that criteria. We had the best time! Children under 8 are require to wear floaties, which made it a very enjoyable experience for all. We loved the mud masks and the included drink. Some areas of the lagoon are MUCH warmer than others, and some too hot for our little one.
Blue Lagoon Tip- Most people are walking around
naked in the locker rooms. You may want to give your
kids a heads up if they're not used to this!
More day two...
We ended up coming to Iceland during the summer instead of waiting until the winter BECAUSE there was an active volcano erupting in Iceland... and we knew we had to go see it. Fagradalsfjall Mountain started erupting in March and continued as a fissure eruption for six months. We went in August and barely made it! In fact, we had friends come the week after us and weren't able to see the lava.
SO- although it is unlikely you'll be able to see this... it was a highlight of our trip and wanted to document it. You CAN still hike to the lava fields and walk around on them- which is also very cool. The hike is pretty steep at the beginning, but levels out as a nice walk.
We watched it for a LONG time.
We then made our way over to the one of the coolest accommodations we've ever had... converted buses! I have to link it here because we had such a great time. It had a camping vibe, in that you share a communal toilet/shower area with the other buses. It was very family friendly with fire rings, trampolines and meandering walks along a stream.
Travel Tip- If you're in a place with long summer days with littles,
make sure you have an physical activity in the evening
to wear them out even though the sun is still out.
In Iceland, the sun wasn't setting until after 10pm
so we made sure to do some walking, jumping or outside
games right before bedtime.
The Golden Circle. Pretty Classic. We did what all the guide books say to do. We started at Thingvellir National Park. The views from the visitor center are fantastic. Get here right as it opens because their parking lot fills up FAST.
Thingvellir National Park is where two tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart. It was pretty epic to see cracks in the rocks that reach down... who knows how far! We loved walking all around the valley along the river with their well paved paths that lead to waterfalls.
Something on our bucket list was snorkeling between the two tectonic plates in the Silfra Fissure... home to some of the clearest water in the WORLD! There was an age minimum for snorkeling, as the water is 2 to 4 degrees Celsius all year round. Yikes!
So Jon represented our family in this bucket list endeavor and snorkeled through the fissure. He said it was incredible. The water was so ridiculously clear and COLD! Near the end he had trouble keeping his mouth on the snorkel because his lips were so numb!
Travel Tip- Iceland has a lot of high adventure activities
that typically exclude children under 12.
Although we loved our Iceland trip, we would love to
come back with an older child for some of these adventures!
Next on the Golden Circle loop is Geysir Hot Spring area. It is like a mini Yellowstone: a lot of hot springs and geysers but condensed into a smaller area. It took us less than an hour to go around to all the different view points and geysers. One thing we loved about this area is that the most active geyser- Strokkur- erupts every few minutes. We were able to watch it several times!
*see our video at the bottom of this post for some great drone footage of it erupting!*
Last stop for the day was Gulfoss- one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 metres in two tiers into the river gorge of the river Hvítá. Our experience here was HEAVENLY. It was just magical... the rainbows and the mist. Gosh. Can't think of a more beautiful place.
Waterfall Tip- Try to go a couple hours before sunset.
The waterfall puts up a lot of mist and the low sun
will light up the mist and make the most amazing rainbows!
We spent some time in Reykjavik this day! And if there is one thing I would have changed about our itinerary... it would have been to spend some more time here. We really were only there for half day before getting out on the road again. If we had more time, we would have loved to go to one of the museums that Reykjavik has to offer.
We spent time walking around the main streets of the city, popped into some stores to try on Viking helmets and Icelandic sweaters, and climbed the tower of Hallgrimskirkja church.
After Reykjavik we had some serious driving to do to get to the south east side of the island... BUT we made some great stops along the way.
Kerid Crater was a great stop to stretch our legs and walk around. We were here for less than an hour. We walked around the perimeter and then down to the water. Beautiful spot.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall was also a great stop. Here they have restrooms, a big parking lot, and even an ice cream stand. The hike is short and the waterfall is epic because you can hike up and behind it. Take your rain jacket. You WILL get wet!
Waterfall tip- After you visit this waterfall, keep walking
along the path and there is another hidden
waterfall that a lot of people don't know about!
You have to go through a little cave to get there-
but it is an amazing view.
Last stop on our southern drive of Iceland was Skogafoss. This waterfall is huge and absolutely thunders your soul. You can't miss this one. It is very popular but you'll find a large car park to accommodate large amounts of people.
*and reality check. We got a flat tire. Lovely.*
The stairs up to the top look very intimidating, but it doesn't take long and you MUST do it. The view is incredible.
Waterfall tip- We had waterproof hiking shoes,
waterproof trousers and waterproof jackets everywhere we went.
You'll definitely want them and it will make your
waterfall hikes much more enjoyable.
This country is truly the land of fire and ice, and our last day in Iceland proved that to us. At the beginning of our trip we saw lava, and our last day we saw the most amazing ice. Our daughter asked us "Is this where Elsa lives?" It was magical.
We had to do a little bit of driving before getting to the glacier lagoon, so we stopped to stretch our legs and have lunch at Skaftafell Glacier and do a little hike to Svartifoss. This waterfall was unique because it descended over a group of basalt columns!
After lunch, we continued a little further to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. When we first spotted the huge chunks of ice floating out to sea, it took our breath away. When we finally spotted the glacier lagoon, we couldn't speak. It was truly unlike anything we had ever seen before. I would HIGHLY suggest adding this to your itinerary. This is unmissable, in my opinion.
We took a cruise out onto the lagoon. There are several to choose from but only a few are suitable for young children. We cruised out among the icebergs and saw seals dancing and playing. We got to touch the ice and hold a chunk of it. We got to sail through azure water and marvel at the world. Please, please, please- don't miss this! We stayed for several hours watching the icebergs flow from the lagoon, into a narrow channel and then out to sea. It is WORTH YOUR TIME.
Can't forget about the food! We had some great food in Iceland... that also broke our bank account. Food is quite expensive in Iceland- even when doing grocery store runs. BUT we did go out a few times and really loved these places listed below...
Efstidalur Farm- This was a great stop and break on the Golden Circle. It is a farm, restaurant and ice cream parlor combined into one. We loved the food and ice cream and also enjoyed the playground and cute farm animals to have a look at. This is a GREAT family friendly stop.
Apotek- Located off the main street in Reykjavik, this place had a fun pharmacy chic vibe and had the BEST brunch. You must eat brunch here. It is a requirement.
Lava Restaurant- Located at the Blue Lagoon. This was a convenient place to eat as it was directly after our swim at the lagoon, but the food was very good and the atmosphere was excellent as it overlooked the lagoon.