When Travel-Wise contacted us about a guest post exchange, offering to write an article about family travel to Iceland, we jumped at the opportunity. We’ve never been there ourselves, but a family trip to Iceland has been on our bucket list for ages. And even more so after reading these great tips for visiting Iceland with kids!
Iceland is not only one of the most breathtaking countries on the planet, the Global Peace Index ranked it as the No. 1 most peaceful nation on the planet. In fact, it’s so safe that parents let their babies nap outside in strollers while they run into shops and cafes – the fresh air is considered good for them. Of course, parents keep eye on them regularly and tend to them when they wake.
This, coupled with the fact that Iceland offers practically an endless list of outdoor activities that are sure to keep the kids — and everyone in the family — happy makes it one of the most popular places for a family-friendly vacation.
The very best things to do with kids in Iceland
With so many things to see and do, it can be almost overwhelming. But if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to pick a few of the best sights and plan to spend plenty of time at each of them, giving your children time to explore all the wonders Iceland has to offer. If it’s your first time in Iceland, also check out these useful travel tips for visiting Iceland.
1. Hallgrimskirkja Church, Reykjavik
The capital city is well-worth exploring, compact and quite walkable. While very small children may not appreciate it, teens and pre-teens are sure to appreciate the incredible street art displayed on many of the buildings in Reykjavik. Be sure to head to the iconic Hallgrimskirkja Church, Iceland’s largest and tallest church at 244 feet high. Visitors can step inside and view the gorgeous organ and impressive interior before taking the elevator to the top of the soaring tower. There you can soak up a panoramic vista of the colorful rooftops, the glistening expanse of the North Atlantic and dramatic mountain peaks.
2. Bæjarins Beztu, Reykjavik
While in Reykjavik, be sure to make time for a stop at its internationally famous hot dog vendor, Bæjarins Beztu. It was thrust into the spotlight when former president Bill Clinton ordered a dog during his visit. The locals’ favorite is the “ein með öllu,” a hot dog made of lamb, topped with ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion, and remoulade, a sweet mayonnaise-like dressing.
3. The Golden Circle
With so many awe-inspiring landscapes, you’ll probably want to spend the majority of your time outside the city, and the Golden Circle is something that shouldn’t be missed. Approximately 150-miles in length, this driving route boasts some of Iceland’s most stunning attractions, including geysers, waterfalls and the Continental Divide, all of which are sure to mesmerize everyone in the family.
The Haukadalur geothermal area hosts two of the nation’s most well-known geysers: Strokkur and Geysir. The latter, which is the original geyser for which all the others were named, is no longer erupting, but Strokkur goes off like a rocket – sending boiling water some 100 feet in the air approximately every 10 minutes. There is a path that winds through the geysers, where you’ll see multiple vents with steam rising from the earth, along with fumaroles and mud pots that kids will be especially fascinated by. Just down the road is Gullfoss waterfall, one of the country’s most popular sights, which produces a thick mist and rainbows on sunny days.
If family adventure vacations are your thing, take time to catch a ride on the Iceland Riverjet. This adrenaline-packed excursion blasts up and down the Hvítá River, and it’s the only whitewater jet boat company in Europe, set right along the Golden Circle route. On this 40 minute adventure you’ll speed through the narrow basalt canyon, experience heart-pounding 360 spins on the river, and jump the rapids, all while taking in the dramatic scenery. It’s one of the many fun activities in Iceland for kids.
5. The South Coast Waterfalls
The South Coast is like a fantasy come to life. Some of the highlights here include Seljalandsfoss. It’s unique in that visitors can wander the path that runs behind the powerful cascading waters to take in a rare perspective: looking through the veil of water and out to the Icelandic landscape.
Skogafoss can be found about 20 minutes from Seljalandsfoss. If you’re up to the task, you can climb the nearly 400 steps to the top of the waterfall that plunges almost 200 feet into a pool below, where you’ll be rewarded with impressive coastline views. It’s easy to visit the base too, where you’ll be enveloped by the thundering sound of the falls and a cloud of spray – rainbows frequently develop in the mist here as well.
6. Reynisdrangar and the Black Sand Beach
This world-famous jet black sand beach is situated along Iceland’s South Coast near the village of Vik. Take a walk across the sands that were created by hot lava which flowed into the chilly North Atlantic, resulting in the tiny hard fragments you see today. This area also features a cliff of basalt columns, similar to what’s found along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. Just offshore are several jagged basalt sea stacks referred to as Reynisdrangar, which make for picture-postcard photographs.
7. Take a ride on Icelandic Horses
In Vik, and many other places throughout the country, you can take a ride on Icelandic horses. But this area stands out, as you can ride them right across the black sands of the seashore with Vik Horse Adventure. The experience is amazing, and can even be enjoyed by children and the inexperienced, as the small Icelandic horses are gentle, even-tempered and quite easy to manage.
8. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
In the warmer months at Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, visitors can join a Zodiac boat ride to glide among the maze of floating icebergs. The icebergs frequently break off the glacier and crash right into the water before drifting out to sea. The sight and the sounds are absolutely unforgettable. Thanks to its fantasy-like landscape, the lagoon has starred in a number of TV shows and films, from Star Wars to Game of Thrones.
9. The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon makes for the ultimate “grand finale,” located just minutes from Keflavik Airport. Here you can soak in the legendary, mineral-rich geothermal waters that sit in the middle of a lava field. You’ll enter the lagoon through a small indoor water section which leads to a small cave, with ideal shallow waters just right for little ones. Or you can paddle out further through the comfortably warm waters of varying degrees of temperature and depth throughout the lagoon, to find your own perfect spot. Everyone loves dipping their hands into the large silica tubs and rubbing the porous substance that acts as a mud mask across their faces – it’s not only fun, it will leave your skin soft and silky smooth.
While it’s a bit pricey, there is an excellent restaurant – Lava – located right on site, if you want to treat yourselves before returning home.
Iceland with kids, yes or no
Iceland has a lot to offer for kids, and parents will love it too. Numerous outdoor activities, breathtaking landscapes that have starred in many movies, lots of interesting geographic phenomena like geothermal pools, glaciers, geysers and waterfalls… Iceland is also a safe country and easy to reach by air with numerous flights per day, which makes it a great family holiday destination. So, Iceland with kids? Yes, definitely!