The first Norseman to intentionally sail to Iceland, Flóki Vilgerðarson, settled its lush green banks in the 9 th century AD. His family and fellow settlers faced a challenging existence. One hewn from a veritable land of fire and ice. Flóki renamed the island, then Garðarshólmi, to Ísland (Iceland), living out the rest of his days there.
Today, adventurous activities and luxurious amenities abound on Flóki’s island. What to do while visiting Iceland with kids is a question with countless answers. Located just below the Arctic Circle, summer nights remain brilliantly illuminated 24 hours a day from mid-May to late July. During the summer solstice, this culminates in an actual “midnight sun.” The sun dips below the horizon around 12 am only to rise once more at 3 am. Where should you start when planning a family trip to Iceland? From majestic waterfalls to volcanic beaches, geothermal greenhouses to geyser eruptions, check out these seven must-do experiences on an Iceland family vacation.
1. Venture Across Moving Reykjanes Peninsula
Located in the southwestern corner of Iceland, you’ll find the Reykjanes Peninsula. Visitors to the island often overlook this off-the-beaten-path location. This fascinating spot includes everything from lighthouses to lava fields, beaches to hot mud pools. Yet, you’ll find the area refreshingly crowd-free.
A UNESCO Global Geopark, it sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge running south of the North Pole to Bouvet island along a plate boundary in the Atlantic Ocean’s floor. This ridge separates the North American Plate from the Eurasian Plate in the North Atlantic.
When it comes to things to do in Iceland with kids, put a walk across Leif the Lucky’s Bridge at the top of your list. This bridge lets you hop, skip, or jump from the European to the North American continents in one go! From there, head to Hvalsneskirkja to explore a beautifully preserved 19 th -century church carved from black stone and driftwood. Tour Iceland’s rugged coast, discovering picturesque lighthouses along the way, including Garður and Stafnes. Trek through lava tunnels on a hike into Iceland’s subterranean depths. Check out the highly active geothermal area of Gunnuhver and the biggest hot mud spring. Enjoy scenic views of the largest lake on the peninsula, Kleifarvatn. Located along the drift zone, the lake is renowned for its black volcanic shores and moss-covered lava formations.
2. Explore the Wonders of Iceland’s Golden Circle
Iceland’s Golden Circle lives up to its name and reputation, featuring soaring coastal views, dramatic geology, and access to stunning natural landscapes. The first stop along the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The first of Iceland’s three national parks, Thingvellir is the only one with UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Entering the park from Reykjavík, drive past a sheer cliff marking the North American continent’s corner. A couple of miles away, the edge of the Eurasian continent juts impressively into view. Iceland is the only nation where you can see the Mid Atlantic Ridge above sea level. Thingvellir National Park provides optimal views of this phenomenon.
Chimneys and vents lead the way through the Haukadalur Valley to the village of Laugarvatn. Laugarvatn contains natural hot springs heated by subterranean geothermal currents. From hot pools to clay pots and fumaroles, the valley seethes with geothermal activity. You’ll also enjoy its vividly painted landscapes, bright with the stark hues of Earth’s minerals.
Here, you’ll find two of the island’s most famed geysers, the Great Geysir and Strokkur. Strokkur goes off approximately every ten minutes (although times may prove inconsistent), shooting water 66 to 132 feet into the air. The Great Geysir remains mostly dormant now.
3. Discover the Pompeii of the North, Westman Islands
In 1973, a volcanic eruption brought massive destruction to the Westman Islands. This event forced islanders to evacuate to Iceland’s mainland. Today, you can learn about this “Pompeii of the North” on a visit to the Eldheimar, a one-of-a-kind museum. The Eldheimar was constructed around a house buried beneath the volcanic eruption’s cinders, Gerðisbraut 10. Built in 1971 by Gerður Sigurðardóttir and Guðni Ólafsson, the couple lived at
Gerðisbraut 10 with their three sons before the explosion. The museum remains one of the most popular attractions in the Westman Islands today.
You can see the home’s excavated remains, including the belongings left behind during the family’s last-minute flight. The volcanic eruption started on Heimaey Island on January 23, 1973, and lasted through July. Fortunately, only one person perished during the explosion, but the event remains the only volcanic eruption to begin in a town in Iceland.
4. See Exhilarating Sights Along Iceland’s Southern Coast
Black sand beaches, massive waterfalls, vast volcanic areas, and jagged nest-covered cliffs characterize Iceland’s southern coastline. On a guided boat tour, sail among icebergs enjoying spectacular views of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. At nearby Diamond Beach, capture surreal photos of sparkling shores where ice chunks glitter like diamonds.
In the town of Hveragerði, visit a geothermal park where you can see the Earth’s energy in action. Enjoy a snack of eggs boiled in the hot springs and rye bread baked overnight in geothermally heated air. At the Lava Center, get in-depth views of Iceland’s unique geology
through kid-friendly, interactive exhibits.
At the Seljalandsfoss, enjoy breathtaking views and walk behind the waterfall’s roaring cascades. Savor views of Skógafoss, whose free-falling waters plunge 197 feet (60 meters). Travel past the verdant Eyjafjöll mountain range and impressive Eyjafjallajökull volcano. At Reynisfjara, admire some of Iceland’s most famous black sand beaches and unique rock formations.
5. Hike Falljökull Glacier on a Journey Through Vatnajokull Glacier National Park
Get ready for the ultimate hiking adventure on an expedition to the Falljökull Glacier. This outlet glacier of Vatnajökull is the largest ice cap in Europe. Walk atop the crawling glacier while exploring extraordinary ice crevasses and formations. In the distance, catch arresting views of Hvannadalshnúkur, the highest mountain in Iceland, towering above you and your family. Falljökull Glacier surprises visitors year-round with its seasonal changes.
A certified glacier guide will describe the history and science behind this magnificent glacier. The guide will provide your family with detailed insights into how Iceland’s rugged landscapes formed. Because Falljökull is one of Iceland’s fastest melting ice caps, visiting before it disappears should be a top priority. Your family will never forget the chance to strap on crampons and head out to explore this icy gem.
6. Journey to the Center of the Earth in Snæfellsnes
In western Iceland, 118 miles (190 km) from Reykjavík, you’ll find Snæfells Peninsula. This remote location contains few settlements. That said, you’ll find the quaint village of Stykkishólmur (1,000+ residents), built atop remnants of a 16 th -century trading post. Snæfells Peninsula also boasts one of the most famous literary locations in the world.
According to Jules Verne’s monumental A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Snæfells Peninsula contains the entrance to the center of the Earth. In his book, Verne claims the “gateway” sits atop the summit of Snæfellsjökull. A stratovolcano, Snæfellsjökull measures 3,937 feet (1,200 meters) tall. Traveling to the top of the volcano can prove a tricky endeavor depending on the weather. It requires the expertise of a local guide. Along the way, you’ll encounter stunning lava formations and impressive craters. Depending on the time of year, you’ll enjoy spectacular views from the summit, even as the supposed center of the Earth looms below.
7. Take a Bite Out of Iceland’s Greenhouse-to-Table Restaurant Scene
At first glance, Iceland’s weather battered landscape appears incapable of supporting farms. Few plants flourish apart from moss. But this initial impression is far from the whole story when it comes to this North Atlantic island. Iceland boasts a secret agricultural weapon in abundance, geothermal heat.
Today, this resource is helping the nation transform into a bastion of self-sustainability. Local farmers rely on geothermally heated greenhouses to cultivate the perfect environment for a wide variety of plants. These include everything from mushrooms to tomatoes, cauliflower, lettuce, herbs, and more. Some restaurants even harness the natural heat of the earth to slow cook culinary dishes.
By focusing on local production, Iceland has significantly reduced its carbon footprint. It has also enhanced the wholesomeness and nutrition of its local food supply. The tropical greenhouses of the Agricultural University of Iceland have taken this a step further. Agriculturalists at the university cultivate everything from bananas to chocolate pods and even honeydew melons! On a geothermal greenhouse tour, see how this innovative approach to crop-growing works. Then, settle in for a delectable greenhouse-to-table meal in Reykjavík with kids.
Visiting Iceland With Kids
From Reykjanes Peninsula’s natural wonders to the geothermal gardens of Reykjavík’s restaurant scene, opportunities abound when exploring Iceland with kids. This nation remains a testament to grit, innovation, and resilience. From Flóki Vilgerðarson’s 9 th -century settlement to the nation’s contemporary, sustainable cities, you’ll fall in love with this hardy island nation. Global CommUnity offers luxury family vacations to 25 global destinations. Each customized itinerary comes in both 4- and 5-star price points. Your family will enjoy opportunities to interact with a destination’s culture and people in profound ways. Explore Global CommUnity’s itineraries now and open the door to a compelling world of luxury family travel possibilities.