A Perfect Family Holiday in Iceland
Last summer while everyone else packed their bikinis and headed off to the med we dug out our ski gear and went exploring in Iceland. Years ago I would have loaded myself up with tripods, filters and numerous lenses in an attempt to capture some awesome landscapes and wildlife. However, this trip was about enjoying time with the kids and we all loved it. My two are 10 and 6 years old now, young enough to still be wowed by everything but old enough to appreciate nature and cope with some adventure. Here is our travel story.
Flights to Iceland are quick and easy from Manchester. Being July, the weather was much like our British spring and so we didn't have to worry about driving in ice or snow. We simply collected our 4x4 and headed off to Reykjavik for a quick supermarket pit stop. As it was our first trip to Iceland I chose to stay in the Southwest of the island and concentrate our sight seeing within what they call the Golden Circle. This meant an easy 40 minute drive from Reykjavik to a sweet little log cabin near the village of Selfoss. Selfoss has supermarkets, shops, a couple of restaurants, a garage and even a Subway. All very convenient and easy.
As you can see the cabin was in a beautiful location with amazing views. It was small and pretty basic but perfectly adequate with the bonus of an outdoor hot tub.
The next day we headed off to find our first volcano. Kerio is a great place to stop, just off the main road. This volcano is quite small but easily recognisable for the kids. We had great fun walking around the top and then clambering down to the lake at the bottom where it was eerily quiet.
Next came a little adventure off the beaten track. We went to find some stone trolls in the Olfusa river. We had great fun walking along the river and clambering around on rocks.
From there we headed up to our first big waterfall at Gullfoss. This is pretty touristy but a nice walk up to the roaring waterfalls. There is also a nice cafe and gift shop.
Last stop of the day was Geysir. Honestly the kids could have spent all day here. The Strokkur geyser erupts every few minutes but it is not regular. Sometimes its small, sometimes its big and sometimes it does double ones. The unpredictability kept the kids amused for ages with screams of delight every time it looked like they were going to get wet.
The next day after a leisurely breakfast we went to explore Thingvellir. This a national park in Iceland and one of the places where the continental plates of America and Eurasia meet. It's very beautiful and there is lots of hiking trails and history. We took a picnic and enjoyed the day.
The following day was Monday and one of the two trips I had pre-booked. We headed back to Reykjavik for a whale watching boat trip. This was where James and I went for our worst parents of the year award. You see, James gets really sea sick and while I'm fine I don't really know about the kids. Thinking about a boat trip off the coast of Iceland I had imagined some pretty choppy waters so James took a sea sickness pill and we gave half each to the kids just to be on the safe side. As it turned out I have never seen such calm water and the only effect the pills had was to knock out my youngest for a good couple of hours! (I know he looks unconscious but he was just sleeping, I checked a lot!) The whales were all pretty far away and you could only see their top fins so to be honest he didn't miss much. It was a nice boat ride but not as exciting as I had imagined.
Tuesday was our most exciting day yet. We got up early and set out on a two hour drive up the west coast and around to the northern side of the Langokull glacier. The drive itself was gorgeous and pretty exciting once we got off the tarmac.
It gradually got colder as we headed up into the mountains and reached the bottom of the glacier. Here we changed into our snow gear and transferred into a huge snow truck for our trip onto the glacier. Its a pretty bumpy ride and quite scary looking down into massive water holes but we made it up onto the top where it was absolutely freezing and snowing! Here we met our husky sleds and headed straight off for a ride. The kids thought this was the best thing ever. Toby did get pretty cold after a while but Emma loved every minute especially when she got to meet and cuddle all the dogs at the end.
The next day we headed east along the southern coast. Skogafoss is probably the nicest waterfall we visited. Again there were lots of people there but you can walk around behind the falls which is pretty fun.
We then went on to Dyrholaey and the cliffs there where you can see puffins nesting. We were lucky with the weather here and it was a beautiful day for a walk along the cliffs and to enjoy the view. Emma is a huge How to Train Your Dragon fan and we decided this place looked a lot like Burk. After that we went down to Vik to see the black beaches and practice some stone skimming.
Finally you really can't visit Iceland without going to the Blue Lagoon hot springs. This place is always busy but very well organised. The water is amazing and the kids loved the swim up bar with slushies called Krap. They still talk about that now. This was a perfect last day for our trip and we spent our last night at a hotel nearby which was super convenient for the airport.
So, if you haven't been to Iceland go and if you have kids take them, they will love it. It wasn't super expensive and it was all very straightforward. As we went in July we also had the benefit of about 20 hours of daylight which meant plenty of time to see everything. The downside to that of course is that we didn't see the Northern Lights, but maybe next time.
We travelled with Discover the World through which I booked flights, car hire and accommodation at Gljufur. I would definitely travel with them again as we had no problems at all. They also arranged the whale watching with Elding. I booked the husky sledding direct with Dog Sledding Iceland and can't recommend them highly enough. A great experience and they were lovely to deal with. Everything else was just a case of a bit of googling and finding it on a map. We will definitely go back one day and explore more of this amazing place.
P.S. Recommended reading for this trip: Game of Thrones books. Totally got me in the mood and I felt like John Snow could ride over the hill and join me in the hot tub at any moment. :-)