For our second day in Iceland, we decided to rent a car and drive our own version of the Golden Circle Tour. A self-drive meant we could go at our own pace and stop as much (or as little) as we wanted or needed to, depending on how the kids were doing, if they were asleep or awake, etc. A little travel tip for anyone considering Iceland as a stopping point between North America and Europe: go on the leg from Europe. There’s a 2-hour time difference between Western Europe and Iceland. Which means you’ll be ready to start your day 2 hours earlier (unlike if you’re coming from North America, in which case you’ll be jet lagged and want to stay in bed all day). Those two hours make such a difference in terms of how busy the sights are. We were the very first ones at Þingvellir (that first photo). So much more ethereal when there aren’t a lot of other people around.
We stopped at 5 different sights – Þingvellir National Park, Strokkur Geyser, Gullfoss Falls, Kerið crater lake, and the Blue Lagoon. And by “we” I should say “I” because, for the crater lake at least, I had my dad pull over quickly so that I could jump out whilst he drove off with my sleeping kiddos (love my dad!). I of course grabbed only my camera and no wallet because, until that point, all of the sights had been free. Turns out, nope, this one has an entrance fee. By the time I realized this, my dad had already left again and wasn’t coming back for another 10 minutes. So I nonchalantly stood by the little hut where you pay and, when a group of 5 came to pay, I just sort of pretended I was part of their group. (Shakes head in shame. Dear Iceland tourism board: I swear I’ll pay double next time I’m there. Love you!) I took a few snaps at the top and proceeded to run down the red clay path down to the lake because I was curious if the water was warm. (It was not.) I must have looked like a bit of a maniac (I got several strange looks from other tourists) because here I was just racing around such a gorgeous natural sight and not stopping to enjoy it. But! Sleeping babies! Limited amount of time before said babies wake up and refuse to stay in the car any longer! Hashtag mom life.
Speaking of the drive, Isabelle and Nicolas did great in the car! Isabelle is a pretty good driver by now but Nicolas not so much. But he was great for the first three stretches and managed to sleep through most of the 2-hour drive from GullFoss to the Blue Lagoon. So proud of my little guy!
Side note: we rented a mid-sized station wagon and I’m seriously wondering why the heck we went the SUV route at home? Because the space in that thing was a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Like someone with legs twice as long as mine (and I’m 5’11”) could probably fit comfortable in the front seat with a rear-facing child behind them. Dang it. Hindsight, right?
The drive, you guys. There is beautiful scenery the entire time. And we only saw a fraction of Iceland!
Our first stop: Þingvellir National Park. The area is separated by a canyon formed between two tectonic plates. Known as the Silfra fissure, it separates the European and North America continents. It also has some of the best diving in the world thanks to visibility exceeding 100m. When we do a full Iceland tour in the future, this will definitely be on the list!
Love this shot of Isabelle deep in thought. Such a sweet little soul. She loved all the waterfalls and little pathways throughout the park.
The Stokkur Geysir, aka the geyser that gave all geysers their name. I actually loved the pre-eruption bubble even more than the eruption itself. The gorgeous turquoise colour, the dome-like shape, and the anticipation that, in a split-second, the geyser would erupt. Just so cool!
Gullfoss Waterfall, Iceland’s most famous waterfall. The 32m waterfall plunges in two stages at nearly 90 degree angle to each other down into a seeming abyss.
Kerið, a 55-metre deep crater lake which is about 3000 years old. We almost skipped this sight because the kiddos were asleep but I’m so glad I jumped out. The turquoise water against the red clay is so beautiful!
As close as we got to the Blue Lagoon spa – filling up on (expensive) cafe food. If you’re planning an Iceland trip with kids, don’t forget to make a reservation! There were still late night spots available the day of but that obviously wasn’t an option with these two.
Did you know that the Blue Lagoon isn’t actually a natural phenomenon? The water is a direct result of the geothermal plant found next door. The water is naturally occurring (and being used by the plant in its natural state) but the spa itself (and the otherworldly rock pool) was formed to use the “waste” water. Crazy, right?
If you do forget to make a reservation, don’t worry. There’s a large part of the lagoon that you can walk around and admire the beautiful water. Throwing rocks into this gorgeous water with hardly any other people around? Pretty good consolation prize.
These pictures really don’t do it any justice. The colour is much more saturated and ethereal light blue / turquoise colour.
I can’t wait to go back! It’s such a perfect stopover on the way to/from Europe. If you missed part one of our Iceland trip, make sure to check it out here.