Iceland is the land of fire and ice. For an adventurous vacation in nature’s playground, look no further than this small island, less than six hours flying from the USA’s East Coast.
Family Adventure Travel in Iceland
You’ll feel like you’re on the moon in this spectacular country… walk behind thunderous waterfalls… sail on a lagoon full of icebergs…hike on black sand beaches…see the Northern Lights in winter and the Midnight Sun in summer…ride a quad bike up a mountain. With so much nature has to offer, plus some of the most interesting food and culture in Europe, Iceland is a must visit destination for any family. And if that’s not enough, we can add on Greenland as well!
- Go snowmobiling on top of a glacier!
- Descend 400 feet inside a volcano – the only place in the world where this is possible!
- Enjoy a perfect day of walking behind waterfalls, cruising a lagoon filled with icebergs like James Bond, and finish by riding Icelandic horses on one of the South Coast’s black sand beaches.
- Landmannalaugur’ s epic landscape will make you feel like you’ve been to the Moon and Mars in one day!
- Experience the electrifying volcanic activity around Lake Myvatn and then enjoy a nighttime soak in the Jardbodin Hot Pools.
Iceland Sample Itinerary
Day 1 – Keflavik Airport, Reykjavík
On arrival at Keflavik airport you’ll be met and welcomed. If you have an early morning arrival, we’ll go straight to Iceland’s most famous hot pools, the Blue Lagoon (if you have a late arrival we’ll go on departure day) where you can soak in the azure blue waters with their famous healing properties. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal natural spa surrounded by lava fields on the Reykjanes peninsula. To add to the experience, how about a well deserved 20 minute in-water massage? Perhaps a relaxing massage with a massage oil that contains Blue Lagoon active ingredients and essential oils. Is this not a perfect way to arrive at a new destination?! After the lovely soak, you’ll be transferred to your hotel in Reykjavík. Then you can walk around Iceland’s lovely capital city and perhaps climb to the top of the tallest building in the city – Hallgrimskirkja for fantastic views. You may want to try a hot dog at Baejarins Bestu where famously Bill Clinton ate one with only mustard added and this instantly became known as ‘the Clinton’! Afterwards, head down to Reykjavík’s old harbour, from where your pre-booked whale watching tour departs. The captain will bring you up close to whales and birds in their natural habitat. You might also get to see the famous puffin and other seabirds.
Day 2 – Reykjavík, Golden Circle
Collect your rental car and head for some of the most well known natural phenomena in Iceland, usually known as the Golden Circle. Thingvellir National Park, home of Iceland’s ancient Viking parliament and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site where you can walk and experience the geological phenomenon that is the ever expanding Mid-Atlantic ridge. You can even go snorkeling or diving at Silfra where you can stand between the two tectonic plates that separate Eurasia from North America! How cool is that! Then go on to the great Geysir and surrounding area with its bubbling hot springs and the reliable Strokkur geyser that erupts with 3-7 minutes intervals. The English word ‘geyser’ can be traced directly to this area. Finish the day with the magnificent Gullfoss, the queen of Iceland’s waterfalls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls of Iceland situated on the white colored Hvitá River.
If you have time, then grab your towel and enjoy a visit to the Laugarvatn Fontana geothermal spa with its hot springs bathing. You’ll have a panoramic view of the beautiful surroundings while the healthy water nourishes both body and soul. A great way to end the day! Three steam rooms and Finnish saunas are also there to be enjoyed. Feel alive with the dash between these amazingly beautiful hot pools.
Day 3 – Hella, Vík
The South Coast is full of spectacular sights and today you’ll be treated to many of them! Don’t worry if you don’t do everything you planned on today as you will be heading back this way on Day 6. Your first stop will be Seljalandsfoss, the waterfall you can literally walk in and around! Take a raincoat with you (in any case, a raincoat should never be far away in Iceland). Right next to Seljalandsfoss is the equally lovely Gljufrabui waterfall, almost completely ignored by tourists and often called the Hidden Waterfall as it is partially obscured by a giant rock. Next up is Skogafoss waterfalls. Not only is this a very impressive waterfall, if you walk up the 500 steps next to the waterfall, you’ll see the waterfall and also be at the start of a wonderful hike. Great hiking is always close in Iceland and this is one of the best! The Skogar Folk Museum has a good collection of artifacts representing the way people have lived in the area dating back to the Vikings. If you can locate the path, another hidden waterfall, Kvernufoss, is worth a look. Further up the road is the access to the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and volcano that erupted in 2010 with devastating effect. Check out the visitor center at Thorvaldseyri and the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano Exhibit. End your day in Vík village on the south coast with its black beaches, Reynisdrangar rock formations and huge sea bird colonies. Try a horseback riding tour along the coast on one of Iceland‘s famous five gaited ponies (beware though – to Icelanders, those are HORSES and not ponies)
Day 4 – Vík, Klaustur
It just gets better and better as you drive along Iceland’s incredible south coast. Drive across the vast black sands of Mýrdalssandur and then go exploring in the weird otherworldly Eldhraun lava field, with a thickness of about 12 meters and completely overgrown with moss. Just pull over anywhere along the way and walk around what feels like a playground for aliens. In the tiny village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur (try saying that quickly ten times!) you can see the “church floor”, an 80 m² expanse of columnar basalt, eroded and shaped by glaciers and waves. There has never been a church there even though it looks man made.
Fjaðrárgljúfur is a magnificent and massive canyon, about 100 meters deep and about two kilometres long. The canyon has sheer walls, and is somewhat serpentine and narrow. The river Fjaðrá, running through the canyon, is often rather low in water and therefore hikers can safely choose to walk inside the canyon. However, wading is necessary fairly often. Deep in the canyon there are waterfalls so one needs to walk the same way back. Most people choose to walk along a walking path up on the canyon’s edge while simultaneously enjoying the view above the canyon. An amazing hike and a must do in the area!
Other attractions nearby include the Systrafoss waterfall and Systrastapi. Systrastapi (Sister´s Rock) is a steep-sided rocky hill west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Folklore tells of two nuns who were buried on the rock after being burned at the stake for breaking their vows. From Systravatn, Systrafoss (Sister´s Falls) cascades down into the Fossárgil canyon.
Day 5 – Klaustur, Skaftafell
For many people this is the day they’ve been dreaming of since planning a trip to Iceland.
Skaftafell, a part of Vatnajökull National Park and a place of great beauty is nestled under the enormous Vatnajökull glacier east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Join our mountain guides on a 2 hour glacier hike where you will walk on crampons up onto the ice field and discover a wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges and deep crevasses, and learn about the glacier. Our experienced mountain guides will teach you how to use the basic ice equipment necessary for the hike.
From Skaftafell you continue east until you reach the amazing Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon where you take a zodiac boat ride among the floating icebergs. Jökulsárlón is one of Iceland’s most visited places and for good reason! The large glacier lagoon is a unique place with icebergs constantly breaking off from the glacier and eventually drifting through the short river to the sea. The waves turn some of the icebergs back to the black sand beach where they lie scattered like gems. Jökulsárlón is extremely popular amongst photographers due to its spectacular scenery. Jökulsárlón was the setting for the Hollywood films A View to a Kill, Die another Day, Tomb Raider and Batman Begins – in addition to the reality-TV series Amazing Race. After your boat ride, walk across the road to the beach for more icebergs!
Because there is so much light in Iceland in the summer (it may not get dark until midnight) you could still head back to Skaftafell and do one of the hikes that start at the Visitors Center.
Day 6 – Höfn, Reykjavík
Today you’ll be driving back to Reykjavík. It’s about a five hour drive so plenty of time to catch up on some of the things you may have missed along the way! You may want to start at the fishing village of Höfn known for its lobster and its proximity to the ever watchful Vatnajökull glacier. While in the area, this is a great chance to go snowmobiling on the mighty glacier! This is about as wild as you can get! This is also a great day to do some soaking in the many natural hot pools that dot the landscape! Closer to Reykjavik, at the Reykjadalur Valley you can go horseback riding or do the short 2 mile/3km hike to the river through wonderful thermal fields until the river where you can soak in the warm thermal waters! It’s a wonderful experience!
Day 7 – Reykjavík, Inside the Volcano
Going deep down inside a volcanic chamber is something you can only do in Iceland! This morning you’ll be transferred to the Thrihnukagigur volcano, midway between Reykjavík and the Golden Circle area. After a 45 minute walk to the base of the crater, you’ll descend 120 meters by an open basket style elevator to the base of the dormant volcano. Just AMAZING. Afterwards you’ll be treated to tea or coffee and local soup before returning to Reykjavík. A fantastic experience!
Day 8 – Departure from Iceland
Sadly today it’s time to leave Iceland! If you didn’t get to the Blue Lagoon on your day of arrival, we’ll make a special stop there on the way to the airport. What a way to end a great trip!
Iceland Trip Tips & FAQ's
What time of year is best to visit Iceland?
Well it depends! If you want to take advantage of Iceland’s magnificent hiking trails, horseback riding and getting to some of the country’s more remote waterfalls, summer will be better. Summer means very long days with daylight well into the night which is great for a traveler! However if you want a real winter wonderland with the most amazing light (not for many hours but perfect for photographers), the Northern Lights and some of the most impressive natural ice caves, then winter is better. And Icelandic hot pools are there the whole year round!
Is Iceland a good place for a family vacation?
Yes! Iceland is perfect for active families! In just one week you could see geysirs, walk under waterfalls, roll around on moss covered lava fields, ride a snowmobile, run on a black sand beach, go ice climbing on a glacier and ride a zodiac in a lagoon filled with icebergs! Add great hiking, horseback riding, active volcanoes and bathing in hot pools – what family won’t love all that?
What is the food like in Iceland?
Food is interesting! All kinds of meat and fish but probably the best loved product of all is skyr, a local yogurt which Icelanders have been eating for over 1,000 years! You’ll love it!
Where should I stay in Iceland?
Accommodation can include intimate boutique hotels, large European chain hotels, and country lodges. Iceland is not well known for their accommodations – it is more functional than sensational but it always does the job!
Is Iceland Expensive?
Iceland is not a cheap destination. It is very popular in summer and prices go up sharply especially for accommodations which are quite limited. Many activities though are free – great hikes and natural hot pools although some of the most desirable activities like snowmobiling and going inside a volcano are pricey, especially over the Xmas/New Year period.
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