I don’t know about you, but when I first thought about Iceland, it brought back haunting memories of my over-the-top Bjork phase in tenth grade where I totally thought she was the most amazing music artist EVER and I might have even thought about wearing a swan dress. But with kids, Iceland is the perfect stopover if you want to head to Europe and you live in Seattle which can be about an 11 hour flight away. Iceland breaks the flight up into a manageable 7 and 3.5 hours and it is so much more than merely Bjork. (Who I still adore, of course.)
We landed in Iceland early on a Saturday morning. The kids had barely slept and we had not (the hubby had helped with a medical emergency on the plane too!) and we had a long time before we could check into our hotel in Hella. So we decided to backtrack a little from Keflavik and checkout Reykjavik, the capital and I’m oh so glad we decided to rent a car.
Thanks to Mary at the World is a Book, we were totally convinced a car was the way to go. (She traveled here with her kids and her puffin pictures made me want to visit so badly. We didn’t see puffins this time, but her help was invaluable.) The roads at this time weren’t icy or snowy. We chose our rental company because we had a very early flight out of Iceland and their counters were open at that time. (Some are not. You might want to check.) The hubby had pre-ordered a wifi system and it was waiting for us at the car rental place. (We did this in Japan too and it made travel VERY easy!) Having a car and mobile internet made travel instantly independent and wonderful-we didn’t need to get a GPS and we could find everything we needed. I hadn’t planned on stopping in Rekjavek so I quickly looked up a breakfast place and we ended up at the Sandholt Bakery which was absolutely delicious. (We bought chocolate from them too and it was divine!!) As for car seats-they were expensive to rent and Mary told me she just brought old ones. We didn’t have old ones but found some inexpensive ones in Seattle and just brought them with us to save on that cost.
By the way, things in Iceland are beautiful but very expensive and I think that’s something we didn’t expect. We paid about 20 dollars usd for a bowl of soup somewhere and nearly 30 dollars usd for a sandwich. With kids in tow this can get a bit pricy and ways that you can cut down costs are to book hotels with breakfast included, make lunch the big meal out and stopping at grocery stores or cafes to help with dinner. (Or rent a place with a kitchen, like an Airbnb). With kids, our big meal is usually lunch anyways, because they are burnt out by dinner time and it makes it hard to have a good meal out when we’re traveling. There is also some kind of tax rebate of about 25% if you’re buying souvenirs but I didn’t think to figure this out here. (We did in Copenhagen and it was really worth it. I bought some lovely things and I’ll probably revisit this idea when we head back to Iceland next.) One night we ended up looking for restaurants and noticed a lot of cars at the cafe at the gas station so wandered in too. We tried some kind of local dish and ordered the ice cream we saw everyone eating. Unfortunately for Leelee he picked one with black licorice covered in chocolate (they LOVE black licorice here) but it was actually a really fun meal.
I booked the Hotel Ranga in Hella because I heard they have night-time wakeup calls and I really wanted to see the Northern Lights if we had the chance and I thought this would be easier with kids in tow than if we did a boat or bus tour late at night.
They were about an hour away from Rekjavek so after sight-seeing a little bit we headed there and thankfully they saw how tired we were and let us check in. That night we ate out at the Eldsto Art Cafe
and found a random playground in Hella and went to sleep super early. We woke up groggily 4 TIMES that night when they called us for the Northern Lights. But I’m oh so glad-seeing the Northern Lights is exactly why I booked this hotel and it was comfortable and beautiful on top of it all too. We just stepped outside of our room and this is what we saw!
The next morning we slept in until 9am. This is a first in our house. I don’t think we’ve EVER slept in that long since the kids were born.
And the breakfast buffet was AMAZING. After taking in the spectacular morning and watching swans swim in the river from our bedroom window,
we headed out for the Golden Circle, a bread tour and some time at the baths in Fontana.
For the last night, I booked us into a hotel in Keflavek to be close to the airport so we took that day to revisit Reykjavik and spent time at the famed Blue Lagoon (I’ll post these pics soon. ( They’re on my Nikon Aw1-a SLR camera that is WATERPROOF!! and I haven’t figured out how to use the card yet.) I was a little worried because it was a small hotel but it turned out to be absolutely perfect. Our room at the A10 hotel in Keflavik was beautifully decorated and huge and there was a shared kitchen area that we ended up eating our last dinner in. (We took out from a nearby restaurant and had the whole place to ourselves.) The next morning they even sent us with breakfast to the airport and because it was only about 5 minutes away, we could even sleep in a little (you know, until about 4:30am) so it wasn’t so rushed.
On our last day In Reykjavik we went into a cool home store called Hrim that had a really cute play kitchen that entertained our kids. I bought a chocolate bar here from a new chocolate factory called Omnom chocolates and I’m totally saving it for a lovely occasion.
And there couldn’t have been a better send off at the airport. The boys found the puffins that they were wanting to buy for a lot more reasonable than anywhere we’d seen in the rest of Iceland, and I found a Bjork souvenir-a really awesome quote in a window (but oh it didn’t show up in the shot!) where I could take a good picture of my guys. I totally loved Iceland and I know we’ll be back again soon! Three days was only enough to see the Southwest corner of Iceland and there is so much more to explore.
(PS. When we rent cars in other places we also like to get some ‘theme’ music for driving. This trips playlist included a bunch of Icelandic tracks I bought on Itunes from this list. It makes for a fun souvenir after we get home.)