Some people head Iceland and picture a land of ice and snow as coined in Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. Others see it simply as one of the shooting locations of Game of Thrones. While this country may be both of those things, it is also so much more. Iceland is one of the most beautiful places in the world, with many natural wonders that are sure to thrill all visitors. Have you ever considered taking a trip to Iceland? If you haven’t, then I highly recommend you should. My family and I recently returned from a trip to Iceland and I’m here to share with you some of my experiences, tips, and recommendations to help your family plan your next great trip!
1. If you are planning your trip to Iceland, the first place you should visit is the Perlan Museum. Located in Reykjavík, the museum offers visitors a one of a kind experience with exhibits such as the man-made ice cave, an augmented reality lab, and a planetarium that showcase all of Iceland’s wonders. The first of its kind, the man-made ice cave is 100 meters long and gives visitors the experience of what it is like to be inside a glacier.
The augmented reality lab allows visitors to feel, hear, and see the power of volcanoes, earthquakes, and geothermal energy. But the real reason to visit is Perlan’s Planetarium Áróra light show. This 8K definition light show is the first of its kind and is breathtaking to behold. It is such a beautiful experience to watch the Northern Lights and, since you can’t always experience it in person, this is the next best thing.
Travel Tip: I highly recommend stopping here first on your visit as it will give you a really clear understanding of what to expect while visiting Iceland.
2. One of the things that makes Iceland such a fascinating place is its high level of geothermal activity. This activity manifests itself in many different ways, from volcanoes to hot springs. One of the most fascinating visual displays of geothermal activity is a geyser. Originating from the Icelandic word “geysa”, meaning “to gush”, geysers are hot springs that erupt a tall column of boiling hot water into the air.
If you are interested in seeing one of these natural phenomenons, then there is no better place than the Haukadalur Valley, home of the world’s oldest known geyser, the Great Geysir. Dating all the way back to the year 1294, the Great Geysir was the first geyser to be discovered by modern Europeans. The geyser will sporadically erupt with water reaching levels of up to 70 meters. Since the eruptions are not predictable, you may not catch one on your visit. But don’t worry about missing out! Nearby is the Strokkur geyser, one of the world’s most active and reliable geysers, erupting every 6-10 minutes with heights averaging 15-20 meters tall. This truly is a sight to behold. You and your family will be greatly impressed with the sheer power and beauty that mother nature has to offer.
If you are someone who appreciates nature, be sure to check out our blog about other National Parks to visit this Winter!
3. If you visit the Perlan Museum, you will have the opportunity to visit a man-made glacier. But if you would like to visit a real glacier, then be sure to head over to Klaki Basecamp.
Here, specialized glacier vehicles will transport you and your family into a glacier cave where you can explore while also listening to a guided tour. You’ll even be able to see the effects of global warming first-hand and learn about what the future holds for glaciers as a result. Keep in mind that the tour is roughly 3 hours long and it is important to bring warm clothes. Glaciers all over the world are receding, so if this is something you wish to experience, then I recommend visiting one before it’s too late.
4. Have you ever wondered what it was like to live on a farm in Iceland? Well, if you visit Bjarteyjarsandur Farm, you can experience it first-hand for yourself. Located an hour’s drive outside of Reykjavik, Bjarteyjarsandur Farm provides visitors the opportunity to interact with the animals, such as sheep, pigs, hens, rabbits and dogs all while learning about what’s it like to work on there. You also get the opportunity to taste some of the local produce and you even get the chance to do a little farm work yourself.
If you are lucky and visiting in the spring, like we were, you may have the good fortune of experiencing the birth of a baby sheep! This was an incredible experience and really gives you an appreciation of all the hard work that farmers do on a daily basis. Plus, my daughters and niece were thrilled to get the chance to hold a newborn lamb!
Travel Tip: If you are considering driving around Iceland, consider hiring a local driver who is familiar with the area. This will make traveling easier and will allow you to focus on the beautiful sites. Our driver Thor served as the perfect tour guide as he was full of helpful information!
5. Nothing says comfort food like warm, homemade bread. But how can you make it without an oven? Well, if you live in Iceland, you don’t “knead” an oven (sorry, I couldn’t resist a good pun!). Due to Iceland’s geothermal activity, all you need is a pit. That’s right, you can bake bread in the ground! Known as Geothermal Bread, these ancient recipes, used since 1632, contain rye, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and milk. These ingredients are mixed together and placed into baking containers. These containers are then lowered into a geothermal pit which uses the earth’s natural heat to cook the bread over a 24 hour span.
We were lucky enough to experience making some of the bread ourselves and you can visit local bakeries to pick up a loaf for yourself. In order to really enjoy this bread, be sure to try eating it with smoked salmon or Icelandic butter. This unique treat is truly something you won’t want to miss.
6. If you’re taking a longer trip to Iceland, consider exploring Northern Iceland. Those wanting to save themselves the 5 hour drive can fly from Reykjavik to Akureyri. From Akureyri, it’s just over an hour’s drive to Glaumbær Farm. While Bjarteyjarsandur Farm gives you a glimpse into the life of an Icelandic farmer, Glaumbær Farm gives you a glimpse into the Iceland’s history.
Located in Skagafjörður in Northern Iceland, Glaumbær Farm was founded by settlers around 900 AD. But what really makes Glaumbær such a special place is their turf houses. Due to the harsh climate of the region, settlers built turf houses to help insulate their homes. With a stone base and a wooden frame structure, these homes were then covered in turf. This was thought to be more effective than using just wood or stone.
At Glaumbær Farm, houses have been preserved dating back to the mid 18th century, with the newest home built in the late 1870’s. Glaumbær Farm is truly a fascinating place and gives you a great understanding of what it was like to live in Iceland during this time period. It also makes you appreciate modern housing. Talk about having a dirty house!
Travel Tip: To make your visit to Glaumbær Farm even better, take a horseback ride with your family on world renowned Icelandic horses!
7. Speaking of history, if you are a history lover like me, you will want to check out the 1238: THE BATTLE OF ICELAND Museum. Also known as the Battle of Örlygsstaðir, this battle took place during the Sturlunga Era in Northern Iceland as part of a civil war between rival clans. What really makes 1238 so interesting is its use of virtual reality to take its visitors back in time.
By donning a virtual reality headset, you can immerse yourself right into the battle and experience the action first-hand. For those that prefer to keep things a little more real, the museum also features displays of artifacts and information for visitors to explore as well. This museum is a lot of fun and is a great place to learn something new all at the same time. It’s the perfect place to utilize your war cry!
If you are love visiting museums, check out our blog about 11 extraordinary museums you should experience!
8. As much as I used to wish I could be in two places at one time, I had never been able to make it happen. But what if I told you that you could? Sadly, I don’t have the secret to creating your clone, but if you visit the Bridge Between Continents, you can stand over both Eurasia and North America at the same time. Located on the Reykjanes Peninsula, the small foot bridge serves as a symbolic connection between the Europe and North American tectonic plates. As the continents drift apart from one another, they create fissures in the landscape where they divide.
Here, visitors can cross from one continent to the other and see the visual effects of continental drift. If you do visit the bridge, be sure to stop by the visitor’s center in order to receive a personalized certificate as proof that you really can be in two places at once.
9. Finally, there is no better way to end a trip than to visit Kleifarvatn Lake. Also in the Reykjanes Peninsula, Kleifarvatn Lake is unique in that there are no visible sources of water to feed it. So how does the lake maintain its water supply? All the water is fed in and out of the lake underground. But what really makes this such a great place to wrap up your trip is Blue Lagoon.
Travel Tip: Be sure to pack sturdy walking shoes like Timberland boots. Also, a hat is a must in the chilly weather!
Blue Lagoon is a resort spa located near Kleifarvatn Lake. The lagoon is utilizes seawater heated by geothermal energy to help you relax and rejuvenate your skin. The seawater contains silica, algae and healing mineral and can help people suffering from psoriasis. The minerals also give the water its iconic blue color. Whether you need a little free time for yourself or you want to treat your whole family, Blue Lagoon is a great place to truly appreciate all of Iceland’s natural gifts.
As you can see, Iceland has so many amazing places and things to experience. Whether they are man-made or natural, Iceland has some of the most fascinating wonders of this world. When planning your next trip, consider making Iceland your preferred destination.