To celebrate some rather big birthdays coming up, I decided that I wanted to experience something that was on both mine and my husband’s bucket lists and try to see the Northern Lights. The first decision of where was fairly easy to make, it had to be short haul and accessible, almost a city break, so I decided on Iceland and basing ourselves in Reykjavik, the capital. From here we were able to do all of the excursions that I wanted to include as well as the all-important Northern Lights tour.
I did my research and decided I wanted to see not only the Northern Lights but also do the Golden Circle tour taking in some of the geographical features of this varied land including glaciers, Gulfoss waterfall and the Thingvellir National park. There are lots of very expensive packages out
there with the more mainstream tour operators and cheaper packages with budget airlines, but having chatted to a friend who had been before, she encouraged me to look at Icelandair and book one of their holiday packages. Upon further investigation I realised actually taking the kids
1) wasn’t that much more expensive and 2) if we did get lucky and see the lights, I’d probably suffer from mum guilt forever for not taking them!
The need for a family room made our choice of hotel limited but we ended up in the Natura Reykjavik about a 20-minute walk from the city centre. We had a “suite” which much to hubs delight, entitled us to “happy hour drinks” for his favourite price of free! We also had a
kettle drinks making facilities and a fridge which turned out to be a god send.
Iceland is very expensive, food, drink, museum entries, taxis, the lot! I’m talking £2 for a carton of milk!!
We took mini cereal bowl in a boxes, cereal bars, pasta pots and hot chocolate for in our room as well as biscuits! This way we could spend our money on the excursions we wanted without having to spend loads on food.
On our first evening we got the free shuttle bus from the hotel into the city centre and the Northern Lights centre, entrance was included in our package. The kids had a great time, watching the information videos and getting their inner science geek on learning about why the lights occur. The museum has a café area at the end of the exhibit with free tea and coffee (which was most welcome after a walk in the snow) and hey also had some VR headsets where we could see pictures of the Northern Lights at different locations around the country.
From the hotel we were able to walk to Natholsvik geothermal beach for a look at the natural springs there. It being January, there was a snowstorm! The kids had a fantastic time making snow angels on the beach whilst the husband took many many pictures.
In Reykjavik there are lots of interesting museums sites and we only really scratched the surface of all there is to do! Due to the winter weather, unfortunately, our Golden Circle Tour was cancelled due to dangerous driving conditions. Despite being disappointed we decided to spend a second day exploring the city area and visited the Harpa opera house and sea front Area as well as seeing the Sun Voyager sculpture, designed to reflect the Viking history of Iceland.
We also visited the Whales of Iceland exhibition as we were unable to do a boat trip!
The kids really loved the museum and were horrified at the section about plastic pollution. My five-year-old son has done a presentation to his class about orca (they’re not killer whales mummy!) and how we need to look after them, he was so inspired by what he learnt!
We also visited the Perlan Museum, which features a planetarium show, an ice cave and a portion of the glacier declared extinct in 2012. The ice cover in Iceland is receding at a terrifying rate and the Perlan really makes you think about the impact of this! We were extremely fortunate that our Northern Lights tour went ahead despite the inclement weather and not only that, we were lucky enough to see the lights on our first ever attempt! We were on a coach trip which picked up from our hotel at 21.00 and took us to the Thingvellir National park, the rift valley, where the continental plates of Europe and North America meet. The location was awe inspiring, the scene was set, and here is the result!
We are already planning a trip back to Iceland in the summer months to do some of the tours we missed due to weather! Until next time Blue Lagoon and Golden Circle!!
Written by Kate Franklin
Kate lives in Sheffield with her husband Steve and kids Amaia (8) and Joe (5) when she’s not teaching French and Spanish she’s looking for ways to visit France, Spain and well anywhere really!