I am thrilled to have on the blog today travel writer Ting Dalton, with the very popular U.K. family travel blog My Travel Monkey. Ting is a journalist by trade, and also writes the MTM blog, which covers her travels all over the world, including Europe, Asia, and South America, mostly with her family in tow. This past year she and her family took a trip to Iceland, and currently being as obsessed with Iceland as the next person, I’ve read and devoured all her articles. It’s a place so stunning, and I would imagine an experience so different from what I know, that I hope to make it there some day soon. Below is a Q + A with Ting, full of tips and inspiration, and preceded by an overview of Ting’s articles by me.
Overview of Ting’s Family Vacation to Iceland and Must -See Attractions
Ting, her husband and young son (aka Monkey) went to Iceland last winter for what she was hoping would be the trip of a lifetime. Her expectations were indeed met, and seeing the Northern Lights not once, but twice, was certainly a bonus! As Ting explains, no one can really prepare you for the land of fire and ice until you get there and experience its true beauty for yourself. Located on the edge of the artic circle and atop one of the world’s most volcanic spots, Iceland’s landscape is like that of no other. “Majestic glaciers, cinematic landscapes, steaming hot geysers, bubbling mud spots and sweeping coasts” is how she describes it. It sounds mesmerizing, and so do all her photos as well as the hundreds of ones I’ve pinned online!
Within this unparalleled beauty lies culture, especially in the capital city of Reykjavik, where they began their trip. 60% of Iceland’s population lives in Reykjavik and that’s why there’s so much to see and do. From cultural attractions to top notch restaurants to a beaming nightlife (it’s known for its nightclubs), and yet all within the rugged, pristine setting of Iceland, it’s no wonder this is one of the most unique places in the world. Ting likes to stress that despite its nightclub reputation, Reykjavik is incredibly family-friendly. There are playgrounds about, family-friendly cafes and restaurants, and everyone was very welcoming. In fact, most cultural attractions and transport accept children 12 and under for free. In her Top 17 Things to do in Reykjavik with Kids post, some of the things Ting mentions to do are: go to the Hallgrimskirja Church with its stunning views of the city; go to the Botanical Gardens (even in winter!); visit the Zoo and Family Park; get a milkshake at the popular Laundromat Café; go Whale Watching; go to the city’s hot springs at Laugardalur; hop on a Sightseeing Bus; learn about Vikings at the National Museum; and, of course, go to the Blue Lagoon!
The Blue Lagoon is Iceland’s most visited attraction and for good reason – it’s a beautiful, surreal experience. Though crowded, Ting says it’s an experience you must have when visiting Iceland. Relaxing with a glass of wine in these famous hot springs in their glorious setting I don’t think anyone would deny. You can read more about her visit to the Blue Lagoon in her post 12 Things to Know Before Visiting the Blue Lagoon .
Beyond Reykjakiv and the Blue Lagoon, Ting and her family went on a four-day road trip through Southern Iceland to places such as the Golden Circle and Vik, and says this was the real way to see the country. There are bus tours and what not, but renting their own car and staying in a hotel in the middle of nowhere really allowed them to see Iceland in all its glory. And best of all, they got to see the Northern Lights – twice! I would love to do this and totally agree that the best way to see a country’s landscape one must take a road trip, and what no better place than the backdrop of Iceland.
Are you itching to go now just like me? After reading all of Ting’s posts, I just had to ask her some more questions about her trip to share with my readers:
My Interview with Ting:
How did you decide on Iceland as a family vacation destination?
We have always wanted to see the Northern Lights, and combined with the amazing things I had heard about Iceland, we felt this would be a family trip to remember.
I’m a sun seeker by heart, my husband and I like being warm! So going to sub-zero temperatures is so far removed from what we normally choose. It really was an adventure for us on so many levels.
Iceland ticked the boxes for us in terms of having an out-of-this-world experience— from exploring Reykjavik, whale watching and then discovering all its natural wonders.
What was your itinerary? Where did you fly into and visit/stay first, what did you end with and places visited in the middle?
We flew into Reykjavik and stayed there for three nights. During that time it gave us the opportunity to explore this vibrant city, as well as go whale watching and hang out in its fantastic cafes, and visit Reykjavik’s museums and art galleries.
We then picked up a car to go on a self-drive tour in the South of the island. Firstly beginning with the infamous Golden Circle, which consists of Thingvellir National Park, Geyser and the magnificent Gulfoss Waterfall. We managed to do this by ourselves in one day at a relatively easy pace and having our own car meant we didn’t have to rush.
Our base for the next three nights would be a guesthouse in a farmland in a small town of Lækur. From here we also drove to visit nearby areas including Vik, which has black volcanic sand, and all the waterfalls along the way. We also discovered Gamla Laugin – a secret (not so secret now!) thermal hot pool lagoon. A wonderful experience.
And that was what was great. We just drove and drove to see what we could find along the way – mostly stunning and spectacular scenery.
What were the trip’s highlights/favorite places visited for your family? Were your favorite things the same as Monkey’s or did they differ?
The main highlights for us would be seeing the Northern Lights not once, but twice. I remember just being in awe of this natural phenomenon, standing outside our hotel room for what seemed like hours, as Monkey was making snow angels. We were very lucky.
Another highlight for all of us was visiting The Blue Lagoon. Although it was an awful, squally, rainy day, we just had such a blast as a family. Yes, it’s really touristy, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun. Monkey loved it just as much as us, especially when he got a blue squishy to sip on the side of the pool! We spent hours there just taking in the surroundings, enjoying the hot temperatures and feeling like we were on another planet.
What would be your best piece of advice (or pieces of advice) for families interested in planning a vacation to Iceland?
Do your research and decide what time of year you want to go. If you want to see the Northern Lights then you will have to go in winter – which means unpredictable weather. We were unable to do some things because the conditions were too bad and there were also road closures.
We also had to go well-prepared with the right clothes – one day was nearly -16 and it was really cold.
Meanwhile, in the summer, the landscape changes completely and everything is very green! Not forgetting there is daylight for 24 hours, too. And it’s very busy! Book well in advance for accommodation.
Iceland is also very expensive. There is no getting around that – so if you’re prepared to budget on some food, for instance, on our day trips in the car we would just eat sandwiches and hotdogs from the gas station, you can curb your spending to some degree.
Thank you, Ting, for being a guest on my blog with such a unique experience to share! You can read more about Ting’s adventures on her blog My Travel Monkey or to go directly to the Iceland section view here .
Photos courtesy of My Travel Monkey.
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