Our toddler twins were two years old and a half back in January 2020, and the world was still open for travellers; we went on a four days trip to Iceland with some friends. We were six adults and three toddlers (our toddler twins and our friends’ toddler), and we rented a spacious apartment in Hafnarfjörður, a port town situated south of Reykjavík. We all hoped to live the one in a lifetime experience of seeing the Northern Lights.
We booked the trip a few months in advance, so we got reasonable prices for the accommodation and the plane tickets. But one thing we couldn’t plan: and that was to know in advance, which is the best night to gaze the midnight sky for the Aurora Borealis.
You can check for the Aurora forecasts in Iceland following the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) site: en.vedur.is or directly here. This site offers information about the weather, earthquakes, hydrology, avalanches, climatology, sea ice and pollution in Iceland, so it’s a gold mine to dig before visiting this beautiful country.
What to add in our luggage, for toddler twins visiting Iceland?
It was our first trip to a cold country having our children, so I was a little nervous about what to add in our luggage, for them. We went shopping, and we bought two thermals sets each, waterproof bottoms, snow boots, waterproof and warm mittens, winter toddler hats and a few pairs of thermal socks.
Expensive food in Iceland?
Some of our friends who already visited Iceland gave us some tips about their experience. Among these was that food is costly compared to other locations.
If you think about it, it makes sense as they need to import a long distance most of the products and this leads to increased costs.
Delia and Vlad, our toddler twins were two and a half years old when we got in Iceland. At that age, I felt stressed about what they eat. So, I decided to add in our luggage healthy foods that I can cook easily there because we have rented an entire apartment and we had a kitchen we could use.
I had this anxious feeling of getting stuck on the island, in snow and cold weather, with nothing to eat, and the children would need food. As crazy as it’s sounds, and to put my mind and heart at rest, I’ve added a few things in our luggage! Honey, unsalted butter, bread, cornflour, cereals, rolled oats, sesame seeds, coconut flakes, pasta. I also took cold-pressed olive oil, eggs (!!! I know!), milk, spinach, nuts (walnuts, cashew, almonds), mixed dried fruit, mini Babybell, carrots, potatoes, bananas, oranges, tea bags, ground coffee.
I like to try new flavours in a new country, but with my coffee, I don’t want to risk anything. If I don’t like my coffee in the morning, well, let’s say you don’t want to know what this means.
Windy, cold and dark, this is how we first saw Iceland!
When we landed in Iceland a day before, in the evening, the wind was blowing with a speed of 80mph. We had to take the bus from the airport to the car rental area, and we hardly found the building to get our rented car. The children were tired and upset by the wind. By the time we got to Hafnarfjörður, where our accommodation was, they were already sleeping.
There’s no point saying what a brilliant idea it was to have food when we woke up the next morning, around 08:00, and outside was dark. So, we’ve made some delicious pancakes with sesame seeds filled with walnuts and honey, a glass of milk and just enjoyed our first morning in amazing Iceland.
Daylight in Iceland, in January, has an average of 5 to 6 hours. Sunrise is around 11:00 and sets approximately at 16:00. We had a perfect morning as we could enjoy our breakfast without being on a rush. We could hear the wind outside, but inside it was warm and cosy. The apartment was spacious, clean and friendly, and the children had plenty of space to run and play.
Just imagine children laughing, running and playing, and we were enjoying our coffee.
And, yes, the food is expensive in Iceland.
A failed attempt to see Strokkur Geyser
After this enjoyable morning, our first-day objective was the Strokkur Geyser. Situated in Iceland’s Geyser Geothermal Area, approximately 100km away from Reykjavik, Strokkur Geyser is the most active geyser in South Iceland. It erupts every few minutes, and it can get up to 15-20 metres high.
But before Strokkur, a bolder and bigger geyser ruled the magnificent world of Icelandic geysers. Its name was Geysir. Geysir went to sleep because the humans interfered in its activity: they used soap to make the Geysir erupt higher and more dramatically. The soap damaged the structure of the vent, and Geysir is now inactive. That led to protect Strokkur from any intervention. Yet, a self-declared “landscape painter” poured food colouring in the Strokkur to make it pink; he went to jail and got a fine.
The day we choose to visit Strokkur was windy and cold. We tried to get there by car; it was one hour and 40 minutes drive away from our accommodation.
Route 36 to Strokkur Geyser:
We only managed to drive halfway as the weather got worse and we couldn’t see the road anymore. We had to stop on Route 36, close to Leirvogsvatn Lake. My husband needed to get out of the car to check the surroundings so he could turn the vehicle safely. He said, before opening the door:
“I need to keep the door firmly so the wind wouldn’t blow it away!” And my husband is a strong man!
He put both hands on the door and tried to open it slightly. In the next second, our door flew, luckily it didn’t come off the car! Our toddler twins were sleeping in their car seats; they didn’t wake up. At that point, I got terrified, as we couldn’t close the door and the wind became very intense. I realised we were in a dangerous situation, and I felt the power of nature and how helpless humans can be in front of it.
We were lucky, our friends were just behind us in another car, and they saw what happened. They managed to get to us and close our door. Imagine two strong men outside our car, pushing the door back and the third one inside, pulling the door to close.
Choose your battles wisely!
We turned the car and drove back to Reykjavik. The snow entered by the driver’s door and reached to the back seat, to Vlad, who was still sleeping. I put my coat as a screen to protect him. At that point, Delia woke up and she asked what happened. She seemed amused by the situation. A few minutes later, Vlad woke up and when he found out we were returning to the city, he started crying and saying he wants to see the geyser. We explained how dangerous that would be and promised to get back in another day when the weather calms down.
On our way back I had the feeling that nature was teasing us: now it was windy, and you couldn’t see 3 m in front of you, the next moment it was sunny, and the surroundings were amazing. But having the kids with us made it clear that we took the right decision in turning back to the city and safety.
This arrogance cost us around £2000, but we were lucky we had travel insurance from the airline company, and we got our money back a few weeks later.
We managed to get back and see the Strokkur Geyser a few days later. It was fun and exciting, as we saw Strokkur erupt a few times, we also saw the sleeping Geysir and found the view of the surrounding geothermal field fascinating.
Waterfalls and other objectives:
Another objective of Iceland’s Golden Circle was Gullfoss Waterfall, conveniently located in the canyon of the Hvita river, in the Southwestern part of Iceland. With a total height of 32 m, Gullfoss Waterfall has two falls, and the biggest one is 21 meters tall.
Our same day objective was Seljalandsfoss Waterfall:
With a drop of around 60 meters (200 feet), Seljalandsfoss Waterfall can be fully encircled by foot, in the summertime. Here we followed a steep stair for a better seeing of the waterfall. At the top, we were sorry already as it was slippery, and we hardly could keep our balance. But the view was amazing! That’s something we need to do summertime.
We hoped to see the Northern Lights too, so we drove more towards the south, we stopped at Hvolsvöllur to eat dinner and then we waited. The sky was clear, but the Aurora forecast was adverse. Nothing above us, apart from the stars and a few drifting clouds.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Next day it followed another unique destination: The Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik. This museum is unique in the world for its collection of phallic specimens. Our toddler twins enjoyed this experience more than we expected. It was fun for us too to discover new and old phallus specimens and to find creative answers to our little ones’ questions.
The manager, Thordur, shared some valuable pieces of information:
- they currently get around 80000 visitors per year;
- they now have more than 320 biological parts from well over 100 mammal species;
- they plan for a new and more significant location.
More information about the museum here.
The Largest Whale Exhibition in Europe.
The Largest Whale Exhibition in Europe was another attraction for the children and us, as we could see life-sized models and watch the whales’ swimming behaviour around Iceland, based on satellite tracking. In collaboration with the Marine Research Institute of Iceland and a whale watching operator, Whales of Iceland developed the interactive station.
They also offer whale watching tours, but that is something we look forward to seeing in our next trip to Iceland, as we have to come back in the summer too. Iceland is way too beautiful to visit it just once in my life. I completely fell in love with this country!
We booked our tickets online.
For two nights in a row, we went to the Grotta Lighthouse, a popular spot in the capital area to view the Northern Lights. Here we parked in the small lot where the road ends, and we waited. It was too cold and windy to get out of the car. It was also cloudy, and our children couldn’t sleep in the car, so we had to get back to our accommodation before midnight, without seeing the Northern Lights.
We dedicated our last day in Iceland to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa on the southwestern side of the island. Blue Lagoon is another unique attraction to visit in Iceland, the milky blue shade of the warm water it’s impressive and beautiful. The walk on the path that led us through the rocks, to the main building, was majestic! The stones stopped the wind and gave the impression that we were heading for a fortress.
Despite the magnificent view, it was too crowded inside, and I found it challenging to navigate the building, although they had staff and signs to help you in this regard.
But Vlad had the time of his life here! He immensely enjoyed the water, and we hardly got him out of it. On the other hand, Delia preferred to stay away from the water at the beginning, but she made it up for it in the end. Our whole experience lasted for approximatively two hours.
You can order drinks and food inside and pay using your bracelet. At the exit, you return the bracelet and pay for what you consumed. For more details, visit the Blue Lagoon official site.
After this experience, our toddler twins slept in their car seats while we wandered on the Icelandic roads, gazing at the spectacular landforms with steam coming out here and there. And we ate chocolate!
We spent the rest of the day enjoying Reykjavik, visiting several attractions:
- Hallgrímskirkja – the largest church and one of the tallest structures in Iceland
- – modern art representing an ode to the sun by Jón Gunnar Árnason
Dinner in Reykjavik:
We plan to revisit Iceland. Not for the Aurora, we’ll chase it in another northern country, but to experience north summer.
Facts about Iceland:
- Whaling is still legal in Iceland;
- Iceland is “The Land of ~Fire and Ice”;
- Polar bears travel on icebergs from the northern hemisphere to Iceland, but these unique species don’t live in Iceland;
- Icelanders eat horse meat;
- the Icelandic horse is a breed developed in Iceland.
Cheers to Iceland!
P.S.: If you prefer a warmer location for your holiday, have a look at Damouchari, Greece, another beautiful location where we spent great time with our awesome toddler twins!