Explore Iceland

Iceland – Family holiday guide

It’s a small, friendly country with a relaxed atmosphere and few experiences that are off limits to young visitors. So visit in summer to tour around or go during winter for Reykjavik’s snowy fun and northern lights, it’s all amazing and mostly very accessible.


Why go on holiday in Iceland

  • Direct flights

    Direct flights from several UK airports all year round to Reykjavik – flight time, three hours. Also, children travel for half-price on Air Iceland’s domestic flights.

  • Family-centered culture

    Icelandic culture is very family-centred making it one of the easiest countries to visit with children of all ages.

  • Environment and national parks

    The country has three accessible national parks: Vatnajökull; Þingvellir; and Snæfellsjökull, and a very dynamic environment, famous for live volcanoes, huge glaciers and thermal waters, Iceland outdoors is particularly thrilling for active teens.

  • A very small but lively capital

    About half the size of the UK, Iceland has a population of just 400,000 and most people live in and around the capital, Reykjavik.

  • Accommodation choices

    From Aurora Borealis themed hotels to luxury hostels, self-catering city apartments, heritage guesthouses and child-friendly spas, families have a wide choice of places to stay in Reykjavik and larger towns across Iceland.

  • Lots of activities

    Family tours, day trips, cruises and guided outdoor adventures are widely available, beautifully organised and cover almost every Icelandic experience.



Where to go and stay in Iceland

Reykjavik

Small, colourful Reykjavik looks more like a prosperous fishing town than a capital city. But it’s surprisingly lively, filled with interesting things to see and do for kids and a great base for exploring the rest of rugged and magnificent Iceland. If you haven’t arranged any trips* before you arrive, you’ll be overwhelmed by choice in Reykjavik whether you want a day whale-spotting or a week getting to grips with glaciers and volcanoes.

  • Reykjavik’s within easy distance of several Icelandic legends like the Blue Lagoon, Nauthólsvík geothermal beach or Krýsuvíkurbjarg for immense cliffs, volcanic vents and geysers.
  • Visit in winter for northern lights over the city, Hafnarfjörður Christmas Village and ice skating on Tjörnin Lake.
  • Don’t miss: Whales of Iceland, Reykjavik Old Harbour, The Pearl, Reykjavik Zoo, Mount Esja, Reykjavik Art Museum and Hofsstaðir Viking Park.

*It’s best to book longer tours online in advance, especially during summer.

Vatnajökull National Park

This huge national park covers over 13% of Iceland, making it the country’s largest and one of the biggest in Europe. Centred around the Vatnajökull Glacier, it’s a landscape of volcanic peaks, craters, caldera, little towns and breathtaking beauty. Camping here in summer is a fantastic adventure with older kids and there are several campsites in the park. Visiting in winter is a lot more challenging, only possible in certain areas and best as part of a guided trip or as a drive – armed with weather info and good, local advice.

  • The western edge of Vatnajökull is just over three hours drive from Reykjavik.
  • Widely available tours and short breaks with expert local guides are a great way for families to enjoy this huge park safely.
  • Don’t miss: Laki Craters, winter and summer trail walking in Skaftafell, camping in Jökulsárgljúfur and the Heinaberg, Hjallenes and Hoffell glaciers.
  • The Askja caldera is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in Vatnajökull.
  • The park has five excellent visitor centres for information on everything from local hotels to guided tours, campsites, weather conditions and travel in the park.

Þingvellir National Park

Just half an hour’s drive north of Reykjavik this national park is a Nordic World Heritage site, one of the country’s most historic areas and a landscape where almost anything is possible from diving to fishing, swimming, hiking, horse riding and camping. Very accessible all year round and a fantastic, not too demanding, Icelandic adventure with younger kids.

  • An easy day-trip from Reykjavik, there are also two camping areas in the park open from March to September.

Golden Circle Tour

This is one of Iceland’s most popular road trips and can be done as a two or three day drive or as an eight hour bus tour. Either option is great fun for kids, but going it alone gives you more freedom to explore.

  • 300km loop starting in Reykjavik and travelling east as far as Bláskógabyggð taking in the Strokkur geyser, Gullfoss, River Hvítá, Þingvellir National Park, Solheimar eco-village, Kerid Crater.
  • If you’re travelling over a few days, fascinating hotels on-route include Hotel Geysir in Haukadalur and the Ion Adventure Hotel in Selfoss.
  • Several major companies, including Reykjavik Excursions, offer the Golden Circle Tour and in most cases kids under 11 travel free.

What to do and see with kids in Iceland

  • Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik
    Iceland’s most photographed geo-thermal spa is just 30 minutes from the centre of Reykjavik.
  • The Pearl, Reykjavik
    The glass dome by Ingimundur Sveinsson is one of Reykjavik’s many design marvels. Inside there’s a café, restaurant, 360˚ city-view platform and an art gallery – the manmade geyser outside is pretty astonishing too.
  • Whales of Iceland
    Everything kids ever wanted to know about whales is here in Europe’s largest whale-only exhibit.
  • Videy Island
    Catch the Elding Ferry in Reykjavik and go spend a day on delightful Videy Island in the company of new art, ancient history and gorgeous open space to ramble around.
  • Hoffsstadir Historic Park, Reykjavik
    Take kids to find out what it was like to live in a Viking long house in this entertaining historic park.
  • Strokkur Geyser
    Huge, unbelievable Strokkur is one of Iceland’s most famous geysers. Visit on the Golden Circle or a day trip from Reykjavik.
  • Nauthólvik Geo-Thermal Beach, Reykjavik
    The city’s favourite beach has everything from safe swimming to water sports and spas.
  • Outdoor Activities from Reykjavik
    From a morning’s horse riding to several days glacier walking in the wilds, excellent guided adventures for kids are easy to arrange.
  • Whale Watching, Reykjavik
    Seeing whales is one of the most unforgettable Iceland experiences for kids. A range of different cruises sail from Reykjavik.
  • Reykjavik Viking Adventure
    Kids can hop aboard a Viking long ship, get into full costume and be bold, fierce and terrifying out on the open sea.


Educational value for kids

  • Iceland isn’t the country for theme parks but its wild and unique landscape is a learning experience for kids every minute.
  • Viking history is everywhere in museums, heritage centres and interactive kids adventures like long-boat voyages.
  • National Park Visitor Centres are packed with information designed just for kids.
  • Iceland’s food is fascinating, very singular and an education in the history, culture and customs of the country in itself.
  • From bird watching to whale spotting, children find out about nature by default in this wildly interesting country.
  • A Reykjavik City Card has good discounts for almost all the city’s museums and galleries – children under 11 often have free entry.
  • From glacier walking skills to learning how to dive, experience and excellent instruction for kids is available for all sorts of uniquely Icelandic activities.

 

Getting about with kids in Iceland

You could manage a family holiday in Iceland without a car: day trips and longer tours from Reykjavik are easy to arrange. The larger national parks have a wide range of family-friendly breaks with transport included. And Reykjavik itself is wonderful to walk around and has excellent public transport. Driving gives you more freedom to explore further, take your time and get to know the country at your own pace. The roads are good, just keep an eye on the weather in winter and late spring.



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