A Guide to Family Holidays in Iceland
Iceland is one of the most exciting countries on the planet. The land of ice and fire pulses with natural attractions, from the bubbling geysers to the warm baths to the sky-scraping glaciers. Combine this incredible landscape with beautiful wildlife (including indigenous goats and horses, and the adorable Arctic fox) and it’s a dramatic, epic feast for the senses!
This might lead you to believe that Iceland is not a family-friendly holiday destination, but nothing could be further from the truth. Iceland is utterly unique and has been creating vivid, lifelong memories for families for generations.
All you need to know for planning a fantastic family trip to Iceland
Here’s a guide to a family holidaying in Iceland, starting with some tips and then listing a few suggested activities for each age group…
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world, with a very low crime rate, clean air and water, and has received a number-one ranking in the Global Peace index ten years in a row.
Arctic Adventures take care of a lot of the planning for you, but there are some simple things that you can do to make your family trips that little bit easier.
Costs for a Family Trip to Iceland
You can cut down on costs in Iceland by planning carefully. Only a few hotels in Iceland offer family rooms, so if you’re a family of four, you might have to book two rooms. To save on costs, book an apartment in Reykjavik or an Airbnb rental. This may range anywhere from $80 to $200 per night. Hotels in the countryside will be more expensive.
Apartments and guesthouses often have kitchen facilities, where families can cook their meals.
If you plan to self-drive around the Golden Circle or the Ring Road, you’ll, of course, need a car. Rental cars may cost around $50 per day, plus expenses for gas. You’ll want to make sure that the car can store all your luggage. A family of four may prefer a station wagon or SUV. With insurance, this may cost around $1500 per week.
For more on ways to enjoy the country on a budget, check out free and cheap things to do in Iceland.
Accommodation for Family Trips
For family trips, it’s often recommended to rent a cabin or a large room in a hostel. Cabins come in all sizes (some can accommodate up to 16 people), so you should be able to find one to suit your clan! Many of these cabins also have hot tubs and children’s play areas.
Hotels and Airbnb options are also available, but scarcer.
Accommodation is included in many of our multi-day tours of Iceland, meaning there’s one less thing to worry about when you decide to book a trip.
Packing for Icelandic Weather
Obviously, it can get a little bit chilly in Iceland, so be sure to wrap your little ones in appropriate gear – ideally cosy and waterproof. Good hiking boots are recommended for some of the more rugged and icy hikes. But bring swimwear too, to make the most of the hot baths, springs and (yes) beaches.
Please see our guide to dressing for Icelandic weather for more information.
Traveling around Iceland
Prepare for car and bus journeys: Some of the most beautiful sites in Iceland are a little far apart, which can make for a few hours on the road at a time. Self-driving tours are popular with families, but there are plenty of bus tours for those who don’t want to drive themselves.
When traveling with a little one, make sure to bring some snacks or distractions if you’ll be on the road for a couple of hours!
Is Icelandic Food Suitable for Children?
Speaking of snacks: The food in Iceland is very tasty, especially if you like seafood or lamb, while Icelandic hot dogs are a staple as well. Icelanders are also pretty good when it comes to pastries and yogurts too. If your child is particularly fussy, it might be a good idea to prepare them for the food being a little different at times.
Here at Arctic Adventures, we have compiled numerous food guides, detailing the best places to eat all around Iceland.
When is the Best Time to Visit Iceland?
Any time of the year is ideal to explore Iceland, but the weather depends on what you will do and see. If your kids have a hankering to see the Northern Lights or explore an ice cave, winter is the season for you and yours. If you prefer admiring waterfalls or hiking in the Highlands, summertime is best for its long daylight hours. Multi-day trips in a minibus, some of our more popular tours, are enjoyable in any season–but you may make more stops in the summer thanks to the sunlight.
What to do When Visiting Iceland with Your Family
With so much to see and do in Iceland, it can sometimes be tricky to decide what to do with your time, especially with your kids in tow. Below are our recommendations for different types of families.
For any age
One of our most popular day trips, the Langjökull ice cave tour picks you up in Reykjavik, brings you into the famous glacier via scenic fjords, beautiful mountains and the hot spring Snorralaug in the village of Reykholt. After lunch in picturesque Husafell, you’ll be brought into the belly of Langjökull Glacier, all safe in the knowledge you’ll be home by 8 pm when you can put the little ones to bed.
If you want to incorporate food into your trip (and who doesn’t?) why not try the Golden Circle food tour? This tour serves up nourishing, fresh and tempting treats from local farmers and producers, and gives you the chance to take in some of the local sites, including the gorgeous Thingvellir National Park.
Also very popular with families, are our whale watching tours. In these, you can witness the majesty of the local minke and humpback whales, as well as transient species such as the gigantic grey and blue whales. There’s also a good chance that you’ll see a school of dolphins or porpoises too, with pods of orcas also traveling through Icelandic waters by times.
From 6 years up
Families with kids age 6 and older would relish the 3 day golden circle tour. This trip features one of the most beautiful sites in the whole country – the Gullfoss waterfall, a magnificent attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year from all over the world. You’ll also see the bubbling, hot springs of the Geysir, Thingvellir National Park and the Secret Lagoon.
From 8 years up
Heading through the Southern Highlands, the Landmannalaugar super jeep tour puts you in the capable hands of an experienced local driver. You and your family will take in the legendary Hekla volcano, scenic Þjórsárdalur valley, and the gorgeous Hjálparfoss lake, among other natural wonders. This trip also includes a visit to a local geothermal pool.
Alternatively, you could try a 3-day self-driving tour of the Golden Circle. This includes the Thingvellir National park, Geysir hot springs, and Gullfoss Waterfall before you take in the unique Black Sand Beach Reynisfjara.
From 10 years up
Getting a little more adventurous, the 5-day fire and ice tour will bring you up close to the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon where glaciers float, the Gullfoss waterfall which washes over lava steps and the world-famous Strokkur geyser.
If your kids are over 12 and good swimmers, they might enjoy our snorkeling tours, where they can experience some of the clearest, purest waters in the world.
Further Family Adventures
Iceland offers a number of group activities that have proven popular with school trips and families who want to bring excitement to their holidays: snowmobiling, caving and glacier hiking are among our most popular group activities.
New experiences have a way of bonding people, and countless families have returned from Iceland with incredible shared memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
We look forward to meeting you and your brood!
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