When you see pictures from Iceland you think “it can’t really look like that, can it?” and somehow it does. While visiting, I found myself snapping pictures of everything in a panic, the way I do when I know I can’t possibly capture something in its entirety. It happens during major changes in Juniper’s babyhood and it happens in moments of great beauty like this.
We didn’t book our tickets because Iceland was our next most longed for county. It was actually that we wanted to take Juniper on her first international trip and after asking around, our well-traveled friends recommended Iceland as an easy, “kid-friendly” destination. We had never been anywhere in Scandinavia, and were intrigued by the black beaches, waterfalls, and culture. The night flight over was shorter than expected, and direct to Reykjavik where we had the cutest two bedroom apartment for Ben, Juniper, myself, and my brother, Josh. We settled in, did our best to adjust to the time change and 22 hours of daylight, and the next day we were off on our first adventures!
Reykjavik is a very walkable city, small and beautiful. Our apartment was near Hallgrimskirkja church which was designed after waterfalls and is very tall and identifiable. Every time we headed uphill toward the church, we were going home, and every time we headed downhill, we were going toward the city center and waterfront. Juniper also adapted quickly. She learned the routine of how we did things there; stand-up showers instead of baths before bed, European high chairs, and Icelandic food were all taken in stride. By day four she knew to go downstairs to get to our apartment when we entered the building. It really was a testament to how adaptable kids are.Â The heated public pools were Juniper’s favorite part of the city and if there was something I could bring back home with us, that would definitely be it.
The Golden Circle
We took a day trip around the Golden Circle with stops at the Icelandic Horse Center, Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Gulfoss waterfall, and the Geyser. Â Icelandic horses are famous because the country has not allowed the import of horses for a thousand years (this type of history is astounding to me growing up in the young USA). The breed is small (almost like ponies) but sturdy; I think they look like miniature Belgian work horses. They also grow long hair over their coats in winter and are super friendly. I’m not so much of a horse person, but these horses were more like dogs in their affection and need for scratches. It was Josh’s favorite part of the day.
The waterfalls were beautiful, and we particularly liked Seljalandsfoss because you can walk behind it. The drive itself was amazing with mountains, fields of lupines, and sheep and horses running about without boundaries. Iceland is made for road-tripping, and we were very happy for a baby who does well in carseats and loads of snacks for the long rides.
Icelandic Cottage Life
Other trip highlights include hiking a glacier where we drank straight from the spring and smeared volcanic ash on our faces, taking a puffin sight-seeing cruise (they are so tiny!), seeing the black sand beaches, and exploring Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon by amphibious car (my favorite!). For the last two days of our trip, we rented a tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere. To clarify, when I say “nowhere,” I mean this: drove to the last town with a gas station, then drove two hours north until the road turned to dirt, then continued 6 miles, crossed a questionable bridge, scared the living daylights out of sheep who aren’t used to cars, then arrived at cabin and debated if the fog rolling over the hills looked like the start of a horror movie. It’s safe to say I chose the cottage completely based on how beautiful the view would be, and I don’t regret it.
On our last night, we put Juniper down for bed and the three of us gathered up snacks, tea, blankets, and other cozy items and spent the evening on the porch watching a telenovela and the three hour sunset. An hour and a half later I woke up to see the sunrise. It was surreal and magical, just like everything else about the trip.
I know many people will read this and think, “Why take an 18 month old on a trip like this when she won’t remember it.” And honestly, I don’t understand. With this logic, I think, “Why take my kid to do anything until she is five and creating substantial memories?”
My “why” is twofold. One reason we are traveling with her young is to teach her skills. We take Juniper to swimming lessons so she learns not to fear the water, we take her to baby gym so she learns balance and coordination, and we take her traveling so she learns adaptability, gets a bigger sense of the world, and develops a love of adventure. These things don’t just appear in our personality when we’re 25 and have saved the money to backpack across Europe; they are learned.
And the other reason is for our own benefit. One of the greatest pleasures of parenthood is sharing new things with our children. Yes the stakes are higher on a six hour flight, but seeing Juniper’s reaction to something as I also experience it for the first time is like a multiplier of joy. We can love something on our own, but we love these things even more when we see someone we love love them. We are blessed to be able to travel and we are more blessed to be able to share it.
Photos above from our June 2019 trip to Iceland. For details, suggestions when planning your own trip, or licensing information, Contact Us.