Iceland: sites and tips
Here is what we saw in Iceland.
A drive-by of Reykjavik. The capital city is not the main attraction, though with a longer trip, I'm sure you could see some nice things there.
Lots of scenery. With our short trip (48 hours), every moment had to count. We looked at driving time as a way to take in the scenery and unusual landscape of iceland while on the go.
The Geysir geysers. Stunning. The best part was that they erupted quite frequently - you can be very efficient with your visit!
Gulfoss Waterfall. Awe-inspiring from every angle!
Fontana hot springs. Blue Lagoon is the obvious choice for hot springs in Iceland, but it is unimaginably expensive. Fontana filled the hot springs gap in our itinerary for much cheaper (kids were even free). Plus, it was an all-day ticket - we swam for a few hours, left to get some lunch, and then came back for another few hours.
Efstidalur II dairy farm. We ate lunch and some ice cream on this working dairy farm.
Kerið crater lake. Another gorgeous natural feature in Iceland. We hiked around the rim and down to the water, too.
Ljósafoss Power Station. This was a bit of a gamble to include in our itinerary, but it really paid off! It was like a mini science museum catering to adults as well as children, and they had free hot chocolate and juice.
Þingvellir National Park. This site has cultural as well as geological significance. Walking along the break between tectonic plates was more fun than it sounds like!
There are lots of waterfalls and geysers - we went to see the specific ones mentioned above, but there are others in different parts of Iceland if you want to see more of them, or just different ones.
Now for some pro tips:
1. Just know that Iceland is insanely expensive. Everything that costs money, costs a ton of it. That said, most of the nature-based sites have free entry. It was a weird contradiction. For example, the cheapest entry ticket into Blue Lagoon hot springs (which we did not go to) is USD 66 per person, at off-peak hours. Fontana was half that price for an all-day ticket. The geysers, waterfall, and power station were free. A bag of cinnamon rolls that costs two euros in Turku costs five euros in Iceland. And so on. Self-catering might be an option, but only if you're super crafty about it - grocery stores are thin on the ground once you leave the Reykjavik area.
2. Renting a car might be a really good option, unless you book a tour that includes transportation. It was cheaper for us to rent a car for two days than to pay for five round-trip bus tickets just between the airport and Reykjavik. But drive carefully - traffic fines are very steep in Iceland and carseat/seatbelt laws are strict.
3. Take advantage of jet lag and go see all the nature sites super early in the morning! I had read so much about hordes of tourists taking over the major sites, but we had most of the places to ourselves because we were out the door before 7am (thanks, 3-hour Finland time difference!). The only place that was crowded for us was Þingvellir National Park.
4. Be prepared for cold, wet weather, even in summer. It was around 10-11C and drizzling the whole time we were there.
I loved Iceland and my only complaint, if you can call it that, is how expensive everything was! Many thanks to Breanne, who passed on her own Iceland wisdom that helped me so much in my planning.