Our Favorite Iceland Experiences
Last November, we went to Iceland for a week. This is why we had to get Aidan a passport. Parts of the trip were stressful (a 13-month-old who refuses to sleep can do that), but for the most part, magical is the best word to describe our week there. There is so much to cover about Iceland (when to go, what to see, weather, packing, food, expenses, driving, etc.) that I’ve decided to write a series of blog posts about it. Before we went on our trip, I spent a ridiculous amount of time reading other bloggers’ posts and it helped quite a bit. Hopefully I can return the favor to others who are considering this popular destination.
In preparation to start writing this series, I looked back through our photos of Iceland and narrowed down all our experiences to my top five. By covering these experiences, I hope to give you a great introduction to Iceland and what you can expect to do there (especially with small people in tow).
On our second day in Iceland, we explored the Golden Circle. Luckily, it was a bright and sunny day, which made driving relatively easy. Or so Mr. MLM said. Most rental cars in Iceland have manual transmissions, so he had to do all the driving. He also has winter driving experience and I do not. There is a lot to say about driving in Iceland in the winter, so I will save that topic for another post.
For all our trips, I am somewhat obsessive about doing research ahead of time. Normally, I create a loose itinerary of what we will do each day and where we will eat. For our trip to Iceland, I knew it wasn’t a good idea to have firm expectations, so I made lists of “well, if it’s possible to get there and the baby cooperates, it would be really nice to go” places. Efistidalur was one of those places, and I’m so glad we made it there.
Efistidalur is a family-owned farm, hotel, restaurant, and ice cream parlor. (I’m not sure why it’s called Efistidalur II. Perhaps it’s the family’s second farm with this name? I’ve looked for an answer, but can’t find one, so I’m just going with Efistidalur.) It made it on my pre-trip list because Mr. MLM is an ice cream aficionado.
First, we had lunch in the restaurant which is on the second floor above the ice cream parlor and overlooks the farm. Mr. MLM and I both had amazing hamburgers made with beef from the farm. I wish I could remember what was on mine, but I know it included peanut butter! Mr. MLM’s hamburger had skyr (Mr. MLM: “a special Icelandic yogurt-y, cheesy sauce”) and farm veggies. If lunch had been our only reason for the stop, it would have been well worth it.
After lunch, we went downstairs to the “ice cream barn” and had ice cream. Two walls of the parlor are windows into the barn, one of which overlooks the calves. Through the other window I could see a cat curled up in the hay taking a nap.
Icelandic horses (don’t call them ponies!) are everywhere. They are the descendants of Norwegian horses brought by the first settlers. After centuries in Iceland, they seem adapted to the cold winters. They were beautiful to look at as we drove along, and a couple of times, we stopped to say hello.
Driving around Hvalfjörður
Hvalfjörður is a fjord near the Airbnb we stayed in outside of Reykjavik. The road around the fjord used to be part of Route 1 (the Ring Road). Now there is a tunnel that goes under the fjord instead. This means few people take the old route, missing some of the most beautiful scenery in Iceland. Mr. MLM and I spent most of the drive repeating “wow!” to each other. I enjoyed it more than the Golden Circle. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we stopped to take any pictures.
Hraunfossar and Barnafoss
These two waterfalls are less than two hours from Reykjavik. Even though we went to Gulfoss and Seljalandsfoss, Hraunfossar and Barnafoss were my favorite waterfalls by far. There were hardly any people there, and we could walk around to different viewpoints. After spending some time looking at the waterfalls, we went in the small café for lunch and bought some souvenirs. It was a lovely stop.
I went to Iceland dead set against going to the Blue Lagoon. It looks like a beautiful destination, but it’s expensive and not baby-friendly. Children over the age of two are welcome, but Aidan was 13-months old at the time. I wasn’t sure if we would visit one of the other natural hot springs while we were there, but luckily Mr. MLM made it happen. Near the end of our trip, he booked tickets to the Secret Lagoon. It ended up being one of the most special parts of our trip and something I will always remember.
It took us about an hour and a half to get to the Secret Lagoon from Reykjavik. We didn’t mind because Aidan did well in the car and driving outside Reykjavik was one of our favorite parts of the trip. There is beautiful scenery everywhere you look.
Once we arrived, we showered and changed in nice locker rooms. Then we made the short but very cold walk from the locker room to the lagoon, where we relaxed for about an hour. Aidan is a water baby, so this was definitely his favorite part of the trip. The weather was clear and the lagoon was peaceful. Every so often a geyser near the hottest part of the lagoon went off.
After we got out and changed into our clothes, we had a snack in the café and took turns walking around the lagoon to see the geyser and hot pots. Then we headed back to Reykjavik, relaxed and grateful for the experience.
I would recommend the Secret Lagoon to anyone, but especially to those traveling with little ones. Children are welcome, there was a changing table in the women’s locker room, and we made use of one of the baby flotation vests which were available for free.