Sunday, June 28, 2015

Iceland.Part Three. Reykjanes peninsula - Keflavik, Krysuvik-Seltun geothermal area, Gunnuhver hot spring

We arrived in the morning. The cold, End of May Icelandic wind hit angrily our faces as soon as we left the coziness of  Iceland's small International Airport. The black of surrounding us endless lava fields, the green of the moss, covering some lava stones and the heavy grey of the sky had painted a beautiful but a little eerie "Welcome To Iceland" picture.
As we had 14 days to travel around Iceland and two little kids to please, we decided to take it easy, uncover Iceland's beauty slowly and instead of hitting the road immediately, stay the first day and night next to the airport, in Keflavik. We had, then, one day to discover relatively small but super, geothermally, active Reykjanes peninsula.

Reykjanes Peninsula 

It is here, where the traveler first sees the strange, powerful, wild beauty of Iceland. Just stepping out of the airport... Here, where the crowds soak in a blue, whitish powdery waters of famous Blue Lagoon. Here, where two tectonic plates meets and you can cross a symbolic bridge between continents - North America and Europe. It is here, where the Earth uncovers what it has inside and bubbles and hisses, and throws the hot smelly water into the air and the warm sulfur steam into your face...
The good news to everyone visiting Reykjanes peninsula is that all interesting places are close to each other and can be easily seen by car in a day or even half of a day. This, plus the proximity to Iceland's International Airport, makes it ideal, to get a taste of Iceland, for everybody with a "stopover in Reykjavik" on their plane ticket.
Reykjanes peninsula is also easily reachable by car from Reykjavik (around 35km one way), making it a wonderful opportunity to see amazing Icelandic nature for people who want to base themselves in the capital and don't plan to go around the island.


Situated just 5 km from the airport the area generally refered to as Keflavik , encompasses really the towns of Keflavik and Njardvik  that melts into one another (also called Reykjanesbaer ). It is here where we'll find the airport's hotels and guesthouses. And as everyone just call it Keflavik it can get a little confusing when trying to find the place one has booked. Our GPS said there's no street in Keflavik, that we have typed there on which we knew our guesthouse was located. And it was right, the guesthouse was in Njardvik so GPS couldn't find it, when we typed Keflavik.
Reykjanesbaer itself is not particularly a pretty place. What counts is: it has Bonus and Netto supermarkets (important for everyone who wants to do the shopping for their trip outside the capital area), it has interesting, free entry Duushus Museum with a good display of different ship models (our 5 years old was very excited to see them), and interesting Viking Museum Vikingaheimar (entrance fee 1500 ISK for adults, children under 14 free). It has a good big swimming pool with warm water, inside and outside pools and slides for children (adults 550 ISK,children under 10 years old free). 
There's one more thing that little kids may love - The Giganta Cave, situated at the end of the harbour next to the small boats marina. It is a man-made cave, the house of a giant troll (it is really big!) which sits on her huge chair, snores and farts from time to time... All of the setting is pretty cute, we were very quiet there, not to wake up Giganta, and I think our 5 year old son really believed it is a giant troll sleeping there (entrance is free). 

Blue Lagoon

20 km south of Keflavik (23 km from the International Airport), announced from far, far away by the clouds of steam, located in the middle of  huge lava field is a famous Blue Lagoon. We've passed it by on our way to Krysuvik-Seltun geothermal area but we did not go there, as according to the Blue Lagoon webpage the entrance is for people over 2 years old.. (As our Alex is just over 1 years old, the Blue Lagoon was out of the question for us.)

Krysuvik-Seltun geothermal area 

Located 52km from Keflavik, Krysuvik-Seltun geothermal area was my personal highlight of the Reykjanes peninsula. Driving, on our first day in Iceland, through different color and shape lava fields and barren lunar landscape in places, was an interesting, kind of refreshing feeling, reminding us we are now in Iceland, land of lava, active destroying volcanoes, different world. 
The Krysuvik-Seltun geothermal area itself is a place hidden in a rolling hills yet the steam, again visible from kilometers away, is enticing you: 'hey I'm here, over here...' There's a small parking there (with toilet) and there's a pretty good path, with ropes along it, set up the way we can see well the hot mud pools, boiling water, the steaming grounds, the different colors of earth caused by the different minerals. It is here were you can hear the Earth 'talk' to you through hisses, bubbling mud and other different sounds that go with it. Main area with its wooden pathways is easily accessible for a baby-stroller. If you want to go further to the steaming hills (I totally recommend it!) and you are with your baby here, you need a baby carrier as the path narrows here and winds up the hill. It can be slippery after the rain, so be careful. It is an uphill walk (easy enough for our 5 years old), where you enter the steaming Earth area with vents everywhere, clouds of warm smelly steam, where the warm Earth beneath your feet in places gets really, really hot. The area here is intact and no longer restricted by ropes, so be careful!
Down the road from the geothermal area there is a small, beautiful green water lake created in a crater. Also worth a short stop. 

Gunnuhver hot spring

Another interesting place where you can witness geothermal activity is Gunnuhver hot spring area (26 km from Keflavik, 45 km from Krysuvik-Seltun). Along with the hot spring, that shoots hot water a few meters into the air, you can also see steaming vents and boiling mud. Gunnuhver creates a lot of steam, so when you're approaching it you're going through thick clouds of steam - it is a really extraordinary experience! I highly recommend it! (Wooden path easy with baby stroller) 

Bridge Between Continents
Driving from Gunnuhver back to Keflavik the narrow paved road runs through the black lava field and passes next to the "Bridge Between Continents", a walking bridge build over Mid Atlantic Ridge connecting North Atlantic and European plates. 


Friday, June 26, 2015

I just updated the post guide to travel to Iceland with kids, adding some more info that may be interesting not only for traveling parents.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Iceland. Part two. How to travel around Iceland with kids ?

Iceland. The land of eternal beauty. The land where countless waterfalls carry furiously tons of purest glacial water. Where you can indeed feel the magic, standing on the other side of the flowing wall of melted ice. Even with a baby strapped to you in a cosy babybjorn, of course. Iceland, the land of boiling mud pots, where the Earth literally talks to you hissing clouds of sulfur steam from deep within its heart. The land of mighty glaciers quietly uncovering their beauty to anyone in need of stunning nature. Where you can get so close to them that you can actually touch the thousands year old ice. Where you can take a boat trip on a famous Ice Lagoon and drift quietly among monumental icebergs and look at your children smiling to a view of swimming seals in their natural,so amazing, habitat. Iceland, where on the same day you can show your children seals playing in freezing waters and gracious reindeer feeding on the harsh Icelandic grass just next to the road you're driving...
And that was, what has surprised me the most in this extraordinary country - the easiness of seeing the magnificent Iceland's treasures. You can virtually see the glaciers, the Ice Lagoon, the waterfalls, the steaming Earth just from the seat of your car. If you'll leave the car, put your infant in a baby carrier and take a hike that is easy manageable for a 5 year old Iceland will reward you with exceptional beauty and places just out of this World.
So, what is the best way to travel around Iceland with kids?
Definitely the car. Before going to Iceland I took into account other options like being based in Reykjavik and seeing Iceland by taking trips with travel agencies. This is unfortunately pretty expensive and in my opinion not so easy with a baby, as you need to do everything on their schedules. Renting a car enables you:
to travel on your own speed,
to stop whenever you need, especially important with children/baby,
to see the things that you/your children are interested to see,
or to change your mind and not to go to place that you thought would be good to go to ,because the weather has changed or your children are just fed up with traveling at the moment and you just skip the place and go directly to the hotel.
Our decision then was to rent a car from the airport and drive around Iceland. 
We made the car rental reservation on line few months ahead our travel, as it can get very difficult with car rentals availability during months May to early September, the main travel period in Iceland. We took the car seats for our children from home (each airline offers free transport of baby/child seat) and...started our adventure. 
The fact that Iceland has only ONE main road, the Ring road, that enables one to circle the island, make life easier for the traveler. It is Route 1 and it is difficult to get lost there.

to be continued...

(Please let me know what do you think about the blog. Is it at all interesting?  Thanx)

Friday, June 12, 2015

guide to travel to Iceland with kids/infant UPDATED

Iceland with kids. What to prepare for traveling to Iceland?

If I were to describe Iceland in one word only, the word would be: Extreme.  It is a country of extreme beauty and extreme weather. And Iceland's extreme, unpredictable weather is one of the most important things to know, to remember and to prepare for, especially traveling with children and traveling with an infant in particular. It shouldn't be though the reason not to go there, just prepare for it. Warm clothes, rainproof and windproof jacket and trousers for yourself and for kids (also for the infant) should be the first things you pack in your luggage. And don't forget a hat, as warm as possible!!! We were in Iceland in June and we were caught in a snowstorm when driving from south to north Iceland. We used our hats and warm, all-weather clothes every day and our 5 year old son was super excited as he could make a snowman in June!


As Iceland is mainly NATURE, where the mountains, glaciers, huge lava fields and wastelands takes majority of its area, there is not so many towns/villages around and not so many accommodation options outside of the capital area. Of course there are hotels or farms offering accommodation spread around Iceland but compered to other countries there is just not so much of them. Therefore exceptionally important, especially when traveling with children, is to plan ahead and making the hotels reservations in advance. During the high season the accommodation fills up quickly and if we're not saying in Reykjavik but traveling around Iceland it is possible that the next available place to sleep will be in 50 km.

Types of accommodation

In Reykjavik we can, of course, find all sorts of accommodation from the simplest and cheapest (bare minimum for central Reykjavik 110 Euros for family room with no breakfast, toilet in the corridor) to the most luxurious ones.  
Outside the capital area there are mainly simple hotels (rather expensive), farms (usually not so expensive), camp sites (cheap, sometimes offering also simple wooden huts), and guesthouses/hostels usually with shared bathrooms. Majority of places provide baby cot free of charge. It is also good to call or email the hotel/farm/guesthouse and ask about the price when staying with a young child. In our case we got very good prices, many times the places charged us for a double room plus just a little for our 5 years old and nothing for a baby.
Some places offer sleeping bag accommodation, for a reduced price. In this case you pay for a bed, sometimes with a pillow, and you need to have your own blanket or sleeping bag. The sleeping bag accommodation does not mean that you have to sleep in a dorm, you can still have a private room, you just won't get and won't pay for the bedding.  
Expect to pay minimum 1700 ISK (around 12 Euro) for breakfasts, children usually pay 50%, babies nothing.
The free WiFi becomes a standard now, usually working well (that was our experience). 

Important! Farms and guesthouses may offer only breakfasts and do not offer lunch/dinners. So keep that in mind, especially when you are in sparsely populated parts of Iceland (like my personal favorite magical South East Iceland). Once we were staying on a wonderful farm, and when we arrived, really hungry after day of exploring, prepared to eat dinner there, we were informed they don't offer any food other then breakfast. The owner told us we can eat at the nearby farm (where the buffer dinner costed 40 Euros per person! sorry to expensive for us...) or in the nearest town 35 km away.

I do, though, recommend staying at farms. They are usually surrounded by stunning nature and have plenty of animals which is always a highlight for children. Even our 14 months old was excited when he could touch a baby sheep or goat, or just look at them, wondering freely around.

The food

While traveling we quickly discovered that we did not really like the breakfasts that were served in hotels/guesthouses/farms that we stayed at. In places where we had breakfast included in a room price that was not a problem we just found something to eat from food offered and, like it or not, just ate it. The different thing was when the breakfast was not included. The price was very high and the quality, well... quite poor. Before leaving for Iceland I was planning to buy breakfasts at the places we will be staying at but we just end up buying the breakfast's products in local supermarkets and eating in the common kitchen areas. That worked out much better for us taken into account price, quality and our 14 Months Old's "baby issues" .
Another thing I didn't expect, was that simple hot dogs, bought in Icelandic supermarkets, have "saved our lives" with children. The little one suddenly didn't want to eat anything from the food he used to eat at home, and after having battles with him and trying different tricks to make him eat his normal food we gave up and tried hot dogs. That plus oranges was the only food he ate for thirst couple of days, then thankfully we managed feeding him also healthier foods. Hot dogs sausages were also a great lunch/emergency food when our 5 Year Old got hungry. At home I'm normally all "Organic Homemade Food Person" but for 2 weeks in Iceland I had to make exception as eating hot dogs by my children is better then not eating anything at all...

How much are diapers and basic products in Iceland?

That was one of questions I asked myself before going to Iceland. I new that Iceland is expensive but I didn't know how much should I expect to pay for them, or maybe I should just take diapers from home and not to worry about buying them.This was finally what we did. As I couldn't find the answer anywhere on line I thought while being in Iceland I'll check what are the prices for basic things  a mother traveling to Iceland with a child/ baby may want to know. So here they are
pampers maxi 42 pieces -1295 ISK (9 Euro)
baby wipes 64 wipes. -226 ISK (1.5 Euro)
baby fruit deserts 4 *100g - 350 ISK (2,5 Euro)
baby food (lasagne) jar 235g - 250 ISK (1,7 Euro)
corn flakes 500 g. - 460 ISK (3 Euro)
Nature Valley muesli bars 5 pack 360 ISK - (2,4 Euro)
hot-dogs 5 stuck 390 ISK (2,6 Euro)
milk  1 liter 135 ISK (0.9 Euro)
jogurt plai 100 ISK (0,67 Euro)
orange juice 1 liter - 160 ISK (1,07 Euro)
apple juice 1 liter - 160 ISK (1,07 Euro)
pineapple juice 1 liter - 160 ISK (1,07 Euro)


The Icelandic supermarkets are stocked pretty well, and even the ones in remote places (I was surprised to find there few different brands of coconut oil). In every supermarket travelling mum can find diapers, baby wipes and other baby products. The most important thing to know though is that outside capital area supermarkets can be situated several dozen kilometers one from another. You may drive from one village to another and find no store/no bakery, sometimes only a gas station that may or may not have a simple mini market. So when you're driving Route 1 around Iceland stock up on the products you may need later in the trip around Reykjavik, or check before going which places on the Ring road have a supermarket. I'll be writing about that in my later posts.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

hello and welcome

My name is Izabella and I'm a traveller. I am a backpacker. Well, I was a backpacker, travelling for couple of months each year for more than 10 years, trying to find remote places in countries like Peru, Bolivia, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), China, India, Ladakh, Nepal and other countries in Asia, that I have fallen in love with. I lost a shoe while hiking in Bryce Canyon in USA, caught a Dengue Fever in Thailand, went with my year younger sister on a back of a big truck somewhere into Bolivian rainforest just to see a village off the beaten track,to see the world not described in any guidebook, I was sleeping in a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar and in a jungle in Indonesia without a tent and mosquito net - just a sleeping bag, a mat and all that bugs around... 
So yes, I was a backpacker doing all this crazy stuff but now I am a mum for 2 lovely boys and I need to be responsible. In my heart I'm still a backpacker, I still can not stay too long at home and  I need to go, to travel. 
So here I am, trying to travel responsibly with my husband and our two kids. Travelling with children with a 5 year old and a 1 year old is not easy, it's definitely different but it works and it is wonderful, because TRAVELLING IS WONDERFUL and showing the World to children, all the beautiful things around that are so different from what they know from home, the amazing architecture, landscapes, animals not in the zoo but in the place they really live IS JUST WONDERFUL.
We just came back from Iceland, 3 days ago we were still in this amazing, magic country, country like no other. It was our first real adventure trip with children and even though our 1 year old Alex was already in the USA as a 4 month old baby (we live in Europe), that trip now was something exceptional and I thought I'd like to start a blog to share my experiences with you about travelling in general, traveling with children, show you that traveling with a baby and doing fun, adventurous stuff is safe and possible if we prepare and do it right.  
With this blog I'd like to inspire you to travel, and inspire you to travel with children if you have them, inspire you to see the World and to encourage you to show your children how beautiful and amazing our Planet is. It is really priceless to hear your 1 year old baby laugh with joy when his little, cute, smiley face gets all wet from the waterfall mist. I still can remember his tiny voice saying WOW when he felt the strength of the waterfall on his lovely baby face.