Iceland . . . the most northerly civilization in the world and the beginning of our adventure. We knew so little about the country before this trip, just that anyone who went there seemed to rave about it – even if it is expensive.
And Iceland IS very expensive. But it is also magical. We didn’t actually see any elves or trolls of Icelandic folklore but you could be forgiven for believing they might be hiding just out of sight. Within just a few hours’ drive from the airport there were so many natural wonders to see, feel, smell, and walk on that it’s just a little stretch to think there might also be a few magical creatures watching you from behind some volcanic rock.
First – getting there . . . The flight to Reykjavik was a red eye. Less than $300CAD for each of us but . . . ugh. The next day’s fatigue was a struggle! By 10am it felt far past our bedtimes, but we kept going til 7pm when we just couldn’t stay awake any longer!
That first day was a full one. Grabbing a shuttle, we traveled from the airport in Keflavik to the car rental location which turned out to be a hostel as well. Feeling badly that we had to wait over 30min for the shuttle, the wonderfully attentive man at the desk gave us free breakfast – very much appreciated for a family that is pinching pennies!
Off we drove in our Toyota Verso diesel toward our B&B which was central to the Golden Circle and close to a town called Reykholt. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to remember how to drive stick and we were soon rolling down the highways ooing and awing at the landscape.
Just twenty minutes from the airport we couldn’t resist pulling off the road in the middle of nowhere to go for a hike. Blanketed in clouds, winds whipping at our jackets, we stepped on bouncy cushions of moss and scrambled over wildly-shaped hills of black rock. On our way back to the car Eli declared, “I would like to live here!”
Almost two more hours of blissful driving brought us to “The Secret Lagoon”. The Blue Lagoon might be more famous, but we couldn’t have been happier to wade in the hot mineral-rich waters of The Secret Lagoon. And we paid less than ¼ of what we would have at the Blue Lagoon. Best jet lag therapy I’ve ever experienced!
For our first “cooking away from Canada” experience, we went straight from the lagoon to a tiny grocery store. After perusing the aisles, Linds decided to get ingredients for a chicken/vegetable curry which turned out amazing. Full bellies put us to sleep. None of us woke for 13 hours!
After a lazy start, our second day in Iceland had us back in the car heading north. Much of the landscape we had seen was relatively flat with mountains in the distance, but our destination was Gullfoss Falls. Here, the Hvita river plunges into a canyon that is like a great gash separating plateaus of land. We all agreed that such a place in Canada would be walled off with barriers and warning signs and souvenir shops. In Iceland we were happy to get right up close to a natural wonder that has been left natural. Did I mention it was free?
If the falls were great, Geysir was AMAZING. Incredibly, just ten minutes drive west took us to the site of the most famous geyser in the world. Even though the namesake geyser (Geysir) last erupted years ago, it’s neighbour, Strokkur, erupts every 5-10 minutes and reaches heights of 20-40 metres – over 100 feet! At the site we hiked around multiple hot springs that actively boiled before our eyes, breathed the sulphuric vapour, and generally had an amazing experience. Again, free.
On our last day in Iceland we drove northwest to Thingvellir National Park. To be honest, all I knew about the place was that it was a stop on the Golden Circle tours. But . . . wow. Mere words will not do it justice. Just wait for the YouTube video. This was the reason for bringing the drone.
I cannot overstate how much fun it was just to drive in Iceland. The roads are well-maintained. The signs make sense (even if there is zero chance of pronouncing the names!), and the landscape changes every 30 minutes from one spectacular variety to another.
In the afternoon we drove from Thingvellir to Reykjavik. Walking for a few hours, we got a taste for the “big” city (population is only 123 000!) and the . . . hot dogs. We had heard all the high praise for Icelandic hot dogs, so this was our “splurge”. Six hot dogs and $30 later we were left not exactly hungry and not exactly impressed either. Oh well. Maybe we’re just not processed meat connoisseurs.
Prior to our departure from Canada we had spoken to a couple who spent $12 000 in ten days of traveling in Iceland – that is over $500 per person per day! Not including flights (about $1500), our total for three days was $1750 – or about $95 per person per day. Not exactly budget travel, but we feel it was worth it. After all, Eli might live there one day!
We are now in the land of clovers, leprechauns and Guinness . . . stay tuned for more updates and don’t forget to follow us on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.
Big Family Small World (aka The Poyners)
Looking forward to the video. Beautiful!
Wow! What a great start to your adventure! I loved reading about Iceland, as it’s somewhere that I have never been. And I look forward to hearing about your time in Ireland, to compare it with my recent experiences there. You are definitely inspiring me to plan travel soon with my kids, though on a ridiculously-smaller scale, of course.
Hey Jen, thanks for the comment! Like most countries, Ireland is so rich and diverse I’m sure no two experiences could be the same. We are only doing Dublin and Northern Ireland. Have to get used to the fact that for all the awesome experiences we are having there will always be far more that we just can’t fit in. C’est la vie!
Looks awesome! Owen that one picture, with you on the rock, looks terrifying! You’re a brave soul!
Owen is so happy you are following our blog! Soon we will be creating a kids’ blog section to post the boys’ creations. Owen will be the first!
. . . and yes, we are finding all the boys to be a little too brave. By Canadian standards, there is a surprising paucity of guardrails in Europe!
Can’t wait to see the kids’ blog!
What an amazing start to your adventure. Iceland sounds like a majestic place to say the least…except perhaps the processed meat. 😆
I love this!! My husband and I got engaged in Iceland in the winter and absolutely want to go back in the summer months. What a beautiful country!! Awesome to see how you guys traveled on a budget. I love seeing how families travel as we hope to do that as well when we have little ones. Glad I found your blog and excited to see your journey!!
What a place to start your adventure. Iceland is incredible! Paul and I spent 10 days (sans kids, actually) in April a couple of years ago and we can’t wait to go back and bring them someday. I hear you on the HOLY Iceland is EXPENSIVE. I don’t have it quite worked out in terms of how much we spent, but it was not a lot. We ate out exactly 3 times, one of which was when we had literally no options for accommodations with a kitchen (near Hofn, which is as far east as we got). So, Iceland is definitely doable on a budget. And staying in AirBnB’s is way more fun anyway as it’s so much more immersive. We met such great hosts, most notably Ragnar, the sheep farmer turned AirBnB host who had plenty of amazing stories to tell.
Even though it was only six weeks ago, Iceland feels so distant. At the same time, even though it was only three days, the memories are etched into our minds. Awesome place, in the purest sense of the word. I would love to go back for longer, explore the whole island, harvest some great drone footage. That would be fun. But I would either bring a backpack full of food or a backpack full of money!