When you only have a limited time and want to give your kids a once in a lifetime experience, it’s important to plan wisely. A trip to Iceland is one of those amazing trips families won’t want to miss. We’ve asked Ryan Connolly of Hidden Iceland to share his best tips for planning a trip to Iceland with kids. Here’s what he had to say.
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Iceland is a hidden gem in the Atlantic ocean that people have only recently begun to discover. As an industry, tourism is just finding its legs. Before Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, there were only a few hundred thousand people per year visiting the country. That number skyrocketed to around 2 million in 2019.
I would caution that Iceland is by no means overcrowded (France had over 80 million tourists in 2017 as a comparison) but there is certainly a right and wrong way to see Northern Lights in Iceland, hidden ice caves, the Golden Circle, glaciers, and volcanoes.
Planning a Family Trip to Iceland
Traveling to Iceland with your family has a bonding quality that is hard to explain until you’ve experienced it. Visitors often express how their kids can’t stop talking about their time in Iceland.
All ages will be amazed viewing the Northern Lights in a secluded farm Guest House after a day traveling along the south coast. Or maybe they get excited about a 5000 year old lava tunnel with rainbow colors spread across the inner walls. And we know everyone remembers their first time bathing in the Blue Lagoon.
Even teens who visit Iceland take an interest in becoming a glacier guide or volcanologist after hiking on a glacier that’s flowing down from the tallest volcano in the country, Oræfajökull.
So here are a few tips that we always offer to families visiting Iceland with kids, wanting that perfect experience:
1. Opt for a private Iceland tour
I am of course a little biased since I run an immersive travel company, Hidden Iceland, that specializes in Iceland trips, but to be honest Iceland is far bigger than it seems. (It’s around the same size as England).
There are so many incredible sights to see in Iceland, but you have to drive on winding and difficult roads (especially in winter with potentially bad weather). Why not let a skilled and passionate guide show you around the country?
The Golden Circle, along with the Blue Lagoon, are the busiest area for tourists. Both for good reason, as these sites are unbelievable. Here visitors can see erupting geysers, crashing waterfalls and shifting tectonic plates. That doesn’t mean the Golden Circle in Iceland is too crowded.
Our little company does the whole ‘circle’ in reverse to avoid the big bus company routes. Instead of queuing to get into the Blue Lagoon we take a dip in the Secret Lagoon just as it opens in the morning. After a quick swim we head to the Friðheimar tomato farm for lunch among the tomato plants. This one day trip from Reykjavik also stops at the famous Gullfoss waterfalls and Þingvellir National Park.
2. Plan an adventure trip to Iceland
Action packed should be the word used to describe your trip to Iceland, not rushed. Make sure that you are not simply checking things off a list. Many tourists make the mistake of trying to travel all the way to the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in one day from Reykjavik. That’s 750 kilometers round trip. That just isn’t a good idea with kids. Not a good idea for any age in all honesty.
I suggest breaking up the drive with multiple stops and including some action. On our two day trip to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon we include strolling along the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, walking along the Fjaðrárgljúfur gorge (made famous by Justin Bieber), and sneaking behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, all the while making our way to the Black Diamond Beach and the Glacier Lagoon. This is perfect for adventurous families.
The following day is spent hiking on a moving glacier, which is suitable for 10 years and up. If you have little ones, there are fun activities that can easily be swapped on a private adventure.
3. Where to stay in Iceland with kids
This is a tricky one. There are few places, even in Reykjavik that offer family rooms. Vacation rentals may well be the best option for family stays in Reykjavik or try Travelocity. Once you are outside the city, triple rooms can easily be found. If you are looking for a room with 4 beds or adjoining rooms it can be difficult.
The quaint and comfortable places we stay on our multi-day trips are family friendly, but even these struggle with the aforementioned. The most important thing to do is plan your Iceland trip in advance so you can book adjoining rooms.
4. When is best time to visit Iceland with kids?
There is no wrong time to visit Iceland, but of course people have many different factors that play into their decisions, so here’s a quick run down of why you should come in certain times of year.
Summer in Iceland
Summer in Iceland (June to August) is marked by three things that make this season great for families. There are long, warm daylight hours searching for the midnight sun, newly-born lambs bouncing around the fields, and spotting puffins during mating season. The only drawback is that the summer is it‘s one of the busier, and more expensive times of year.
Iceland in winter
If you visiting Iceland in winter (November to March) you will find two main activities that are great for families: hunting for the Northern Lights in secluded areas of the country and discovering winter ice caves.
On Hidden Iceland’s two day Iceland itinerary you get to do both. The main concern for these months is that the weather can be unpredictable. Wind and rain can cause the best planned trip to be delayed or cancelled. On the flip side you might also get an all day sunset and snow covered mountains.
Travel to Iceland in the shoulder season
Travel to Iceland in the shoulder season can be amazing (April/May/September/October). These months have the benefit of being almost as warm as the summer but being a lot quieter. April and early May are especially great for finding moments of solitude in otherwise busy attractions.
About the author: Hi, I’m Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder, Glacier Guide, and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland. I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. I’ve made Iceland my home for the past few years.
My passion for science, the outdoors, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study and write about many aspects of my adopted home, Iceland. I’m most at home walking on glaciers with families who are ready for an adventure and a learning experience. If you would like to us to help you plan you perfect trip to Iceland please click here and we can help you find the best of Iceland.