In Iceland with Kids

 

icelandMy love affair with Iceland started after reading about it on a local blog. Until I read about it there, I always thought of it as a barren, cold, and inhospitable place and had no interest in visiting. But as I read it all, I began looking for more online. It took no time at all for a spark to ignite that made my hunger for more information about Iceland bigger, only to end up hooked on the idea of having to see it.

I researched the World Wide Web far and wide for ways to do it with my family.

My husband, who was stationed in Iceland years ago, while in the military, had a very low opinion about traveling there. At the time, he never got to travel, he was always stuck inside the base and that did not leave a good impression on him. I on the other hand, after reading so much information online I had to go despite his opinions, so convincing him was needed. When he finally said yes I began preparing for what was going to be the trip of a lifetime. The hardest part was waiting to go to Iceland.

We landed in Reykjavik after a very long flight due to seven hours of delay with our connecting flight, in Oslo. There is a direct flight from Brussels to Reykjavik but for some reason we could not book it. So we got there in the middle of the night, which looked more like 5am in Belgium due to the almost perpetual daytime in spring/summer. The streets were full of people and music was blasting from all directions. It was a very surreal experience for me. After much needed sleep, the next day, our adventure began.

We started with exploring Reykjavik a little bit. After that is was all countryside and wilderness with occasional incursions into bigger towns.
The kids were great most of the time. The only thing hard on all of us was the perpetual day. Waking up at 3am and thinking it’s time to get up, only to realize its 3am was a hard thing to get used to. The weather in May is like spring all over the temperate climate world, lots of sunshine but also lots of rain. With good gear, acquired in past winter trips, that was not a problem.

Our tour started with the famous Golden Circle made up by the Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and the geothermal active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur.

We continued driving south where we passed through some of the weirdest terrain I’ve ever seen, like, dried lava fields covered by bright green moss, and large areas of completely black soil, not a spec of grass or other vegetation, and huge rocks and mountains, guarding this vast emptiness like dormant giants. It was absolutely incredible, something I had never seen before. To me it looked like the closest thing to being on the moon. We encountered the famous Icelandic horses, sheep and even herds of reindeer. Crossing Kollufell, 1025m, in the southeast of Iceland was an incredible experience and I am grateful to our agency for recommending it.

We traveled about two hundred kilometers daily and every day was a different hotel, everyday a different place to see.

When we got to lake Mývatn, in the north of Iceland, we took the kids on volcano hikes and observed hot boiling mud volcanoes. We walked though a park 2300 years old, full of massive dried lava formations, at Dimmuborgir, a place of ancient Icelandic legends.
This was our two day stay and for good reason, we succeeded in exploring the Diamond Circle, where I got see the large and thundering Dettifoss waterfall (having the reputation of Europe’s most powerful waterfall) , and go whale watching in Húsavík.

Whale watching with the kids was incredible; we were taken to a little Puffin island inhabited by thousands of puffins followed by spending the rest of the sea tour in the company of dolphins, humpback and minke whales. The kids were mesmerized and pointing in all directions, it was an experience I will never forget.

Exploring the West Fjord, was incredible and scary at the same time. We experienced really bad terrain, gale force winds and rain, fog so dense we had to drive extremely slow. But what an incredible and out of this world place it is.

From the beautiful town of Ísafjörður, my favorite in Iceland, to the Cliffs of Látrabjarg, home to millions of puffins, gannets and other Arctic birds. We drove alongside whales swimming in waters so clear and of the best shade of turquoise I have ever seen. We observed wild seals basking in the sun.

The West Fjords are very rugged and you need a better car than the station wagon we had. The best vehicles for that kind of terrain are the 4×4 ones. However, we made it work and made incredible memories there.

Coming back to Reykjavik made me sad because it meant going home. I would have loved to stay there a few of years to really get to know the land. I have noticed Iceland has that effect of people, including my husband who thanked me for replacing his old memories of Iceland with beautiful new ones.

A lot of people use the work quirky when referring to Iceland, I used to say it too, but thinking about it, Iceland is much more than that. It’s a place that is exceptionally beautiful, wild and many times, yes, weird but the kind of weird that makes you beg for more. In two weeks and 3500km traveled we experienced incredible things with our family, ate amazing and sometimes weird food like Hákarl – which consists of Greenland shark that has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. We took our kids volcano hiking and glacier hiking, we saw huge and one of a kind waterfalls, saw whales, puffins by the thousands. People should not be afraid to take kids to Iceland. The Icelandic people are very family and kids oriented people and will make your family feel very at home. I cannot remember how many times kids ate free at hotels and restaurants. It’s a place that will forever have a special place in my heart and one I hope to see again and again.

About the Author: Adriana Yampey: Romanian traveler living in Belgium.

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