“I LOVE ICELAND!” This was a phrase I heard Parker say at least 100 times while we were there.
I may be jumping the gun here, but I really do think it will be one of the favorite countries we visit this year. Parker even said he would want to move there, but the fun of 24 hours of sunshine we were experiencing while visiting is countered by 24 hours of dark in the winter! Before coming to Iceland we didn’t know much about it. I think the first time it came on most people’s radar recently is when, shockingly, they made it so far in the Euro Cup. We became fans when we realized we would be there if they continued to win, but although they lost, we still had a great time watching the finals in a square in Reykjavik with the locals.
As we explored Iceland, we were amazed by its natural beauty and contrasting countrysides. It was the perfect place to start our trip for many reasons, but there are a few that stand out. They are, ease of travel, incredible hot springs, natural beauty, and a colorful Viking history. Oh, and they still believe in elves…really.
Ease of Travel
Iceland is very easy to travel to which made it the perfect place for our first stop. It’s a small country with a population of only 340,000, so driving around was easy with really no traffic at all. We rented a car and drove all over with no problems. Also, modern technology made it easy to navigate in Iceland which will continue in every country. We could type a destination into Google maps and it would tell us exactly where to go!
The Icelandic language is ridiculously difficult to understand and read.
Fortunately for us, everyone we encountered spoke great English. Also, at almost every restaurant we went to, they had English on the menus. Even when we went to church they had a missionary translating the service into English for us! It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Natural Hot Springs
Whenever someone asked the kids what their favorite part of Iceland was, they all answered the same. The Blue Lagoon. It was stunningly beautiful and said to be one of the top 25 wonders of the world. The geothermal seawater comes up from 2000 meters below the surface and comes out at a comfortable 100 degrees. It is full of silica, algae, and minerals that reflect the beautiful blue color and give it it’s healing properties. It was so beautiful and relaxing, especially because we headed there right after our flight from Portland landed. If every plane ride ended with a relaxing experience like that, there would be no complaints.
Throughout the country there are many other natural hot springs that locals go to on a regular basis. They are generally just set up as pools and not as fancy as the Blue Lagoon. We went to one of these later on our visit and the boys had a great time diving off the diving boards with the locals while Jeromy and I relaxed in the hot pools. The people in Iceland will soak in the hot springs on a regular basis. While at the local pool I met a man who said he goes every day after work and most Saturdays and Sundays. From what I read, it seemed like this was very common among the Icelandic people.
It’s hard to put into words how beautiful nature is for the best of writers, and I don’t even claim to be a writer at all. So, I will let the pictures do the talking. Keep in mind, we were only in Iceland for 4 full days so we just scratched the surface of the beauty that is here. We were fortunate to have great weather and it never got dark so we had long days of hiking and driving and hiking and driving. The boys did great with the long days and our excitement of being there kept jet lag at bay.
Reynisfjara Beach (Black Sand Beach), Iceland with Dyrholaey in the background
The history of the Vikings is full of war and pillaging. A little violent for me, but of course the boys loved it all! Vikings settled Iceland in the late 800’s AD. Despite the common claim that Columbus discovered America, here they are proud to teach that the Viking Leif Erickson, born in Iceland, discovered North America (in modern day Canada) in about the year 1000 AD. His wife is even said to have had a baby there, which would be the first European born in the Americas. Click here for the article “The Viking Explorer Who Beat Columbus to America.” We downloaded the audio version of “The Sea Wolves – A History of the Vikings” and listened to it as we drove around and went to two different Viking museums (The Saga Center, Hvolsvollur and Viking World Museum) which brought it all to life!
Where We Stayed
We stayed in a house we found through Air BNB in the Selfoss area of Iceland. It was out in the country surrounded by farms and had a trampoline and a pond on the property. It was a beautiful place to stay and it was nice to have a kitchen to make breakfast in the mornings before we headed out for long days of sight seeing. We really liked being a little closer to all the main sights in the “Golden Circle” area and being near the ring road. It saved us some drive time compared to if we stayed in Reykjavik.
Overall, the food in Iceland was great, although pretty expensive. No, we did not try fermented shark, it is a traditional food here that is supposed to be disgusting even for Icelandic people. We never even saw it served anywhere and we did NOT seek it out. Our favorite meal was at a little café, Kaffe Vodlakot when we stopped to look at some Turf Houses (houses surrounded by dirt and with grass on the roof) that were being restored.
It was in an old house that had been restored as well. It really wouldn’t be considered a meal, they only served tea, coffee, hot chocolate, banana bread, and Icelandic pancakes. We went in for a snack and ended up having the best banana bread we have ever had (Aunt Jenell’s excluded), hot chocolate and unlimited Icelandic pancakes. The mother and son (the only people working there) let us know that it is Icelandic tradition that they don’t stop serving the pancakes until you stop wanting them. With three hungry boys, that was a tall order, but they met it! It was fun talking to local people about Iceland and feeling welcomed into their home.
We left Iceland feeling like we just scratched the surface of what it had to offer, which is probably going to be the case in most of the places we go to, but that is what is so exciting! Knowing there is a huge world to explore and that we will never be finished exploring it!