Iceland day #1 & #2

We just got back from a week in Iceland. It was beautiful and a wonderful trip. Here are a few pictures (there are oodles more, but I can’t possibly share all of them). We went with my parents, sisters and brother-in-law.

We flew Icelandair from Newark, NJ since it was a direct flight and very reasonably priced. It costs just about as much to fly to Iceland as it does to fly to Florida to visit my family, so that was definitely a bonus for us. Just a note though if you are flying Icelandair, they don’t staff their check in desks around the clock. We got to the airport early because we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time in case there was a lot of traffic heading north to the airport. But that resulted in us having to sit and wait for 2 hours before we were allowed to check in. Not so much fun. So check their website prior to your flight and see what it says. For Newark it says check in 3.5 hours before flight, but that means that they won’t allow you to check in prior to 3.5 hours before the flight. Icelandair was great to the kids and we were impressed with them. The provided water bottles as you walked on the plane and handed each of the girls a bag with headphones, coloring pages and some card game. The girls also received free meals on the plane. We flew at night, so we mostly slept, but it was nice to have these little extras. The flight was only 5.5 hours, which meant that was the most possible sleep we were getting that night. No one got nearly that much sleep. A few took a while to fall asleep and the rest kept waking up all night. We arrived around 6 am, but we were not very well rested at all.

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We waited in the airport for the rest of the family to arrive before taking a shuttle into Reykjavik. The airport was very crowded and kind of a maze. They also had very little seating in most of the airport so we sat on the floor along with a whole bunch of other people. I think the tourism industry has exploded in Iceland and the airport hasn’t been expanded fast enough to accommodate that. Our plane also parked on a patch of black top far from the airport and we rode buses to the airport itself. (I was not impressed with the airport, but thankfully that was just a small part of the journey). Reykjavik is about a 45 minute ride from the international airport. By the time we made it to the Air BNB that we stayed around 11, we all just wanted a nap, so that’s what we did. We later got up and headed a few blocks away to the downtown area for dinner. Iceland is known for being relatively cheap to get to and stay, but food is quite expensive, definitely more than any place else we have visited in a long time. We also stopped and got some breakfast items to eat in our room. I think I paid close to $10 for a box of honey nut cheerios and $5 for a bunch of bananas. So plan for lots of money for food. Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, which is nice, but make sure you know what kind of fees yours charges for international travel. It used to be that credit cards were the best way to get good exchange rates, but many now charge a percentage or fee for each transaction, so check into your cards before you go to see what kind of fees you will have.

The trip started off a little rough for us with lots of sitting in airports on the floor, but thankfully it turned around pretty quickly. After getting to bed at a reasonable hour despite the nonstop light outside, we got up pretty early for our first long day of a bus tour. We booked tours in a smaller mini bus that was just for our family of 11, which was nice because we kind of got to call the shots and didn’t have to worry about the kids being too noisy and disturbing too many people. On Saturday we went on a Golden Circle tour and saw lots of beautiful sites. Our tour guide, Tomas, was great and took us opposite of most of the tour buses, so we got to stops at different points in the day, which meant less crowds. The weather was pretty nice and mostly cloudy with bits of sun and not too chilly. We just needed a sweat shirt that day most of the time. We stopped at an earthquake museum (not much a of museum) for a snack break and got to see where the European and North Atlantic plates are separating.

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Then we stopped at a crater lake. The water was a beautiful color. Some of us walked around the upper rim and others went down to walk around the lake.

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We visited two waterfalls, one of which we walked close to and got pretty wet. Gullfoss is the bigger of the two with the beautiful rainbow.

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The morning was pretty sunny, which was nice and one of the few sunny times during our trip. We added a stop to the tour since we really wanted to visit the Secret Lagoon. Iceland is well known for their geothermal pools. There are plenty of them around, some more popular and crowded than others. We had heard that the Secret Lagoon was one of the better options, so we paid a visit there. I only took pictures before we got in the water since I didn’t want to bring the camera outside while we were in the water, which turned out to be a good thing because it started raining while we were in the water. The water was actually a little warmer than I would have preferred, it was definitely hotter than bath water, which is why you see people walking around the path around the lagoon to cool off. It was a lovely experience and everyone felt relaxed after standing in the water for about 30 minutes.

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For lunch we visited a tomato greenhouse. The tomatoes are grown with geothermal heated water and the plants grow very tall and last about 9 months. They have just three items on the menu, all based on the tomatoes they grow. They have tomato soup, pasta with tomato sauce and pizza. Between all of us we got all the items, but I think the soup is where they really shine. We stopped somewhere along the way to visit some Icelandic horses. There is only one breed of horses on the island and they are all over the countryside. They have longer manes and are shorter than the horses we are used to. They also grow long fur in the winter.

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We also visited a geyser, but I didn’t get very great pictures since we had to leave to visit the potty and then continued on with our tour. We saw it shoot water a few times, but sometimes little children make you miss pictures of things 🙂

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We made a stop at a delicious ice cream farm (well dairy farm that makes ice cream from their dairy) and all enjoyed a yummy cone.

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The last few stops of the day were in the Thingvellir National Park. As with most National Parks, there is lots to see there, but we were getting tired and so our last stops were much shorter than the ones earlier in the day. We could definitely have spent a lot longer exploring the park, maybe next time!

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Then to the lake in the Golden Circle that has delicious fresh water (the best in Iceland according to our guide). So we got out and filled our water bottles up.

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Last stop was a canyon. It was getting late, everyone was hungry and tired, so we didn’t get to explore too much there, but it was lovely.

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Here is a map of where we went on our Golden Circle Tour.

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And that’s a wrap for day 2. We visited a lot of stuff that day and it was a bit of a whirlwind. Thankfully my mom thought about the schedule ahead of time and didn’t book too many long bus tours in a row. We pretty much alternated a bus tour and a day in Reykjavik to give us all some time to recover.

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