Do you want to plan an unforgettable family trip? What’s the first destination that comes to mind for you? If it’s a theme park like Disney World or a popular all-inclusive family vacation resort, I say consider Iceland instead.
The best family memories are created when everyone experiences incredible things together. Getting close to spectacular forces of nature, eating strange foods, experiencing a unique culture to see a different way of living. These are the things kids will tell stories about as they grow. You can experience the best of all of these if you visit Iceland with your kids.
What makes Iceland unique?
The incredible forces of nature, the remoteness, the history, and quirky culture, the things found in fairytales. Wild, wondrous, and downright weird, Iceland is Mordor, Nirvana, and Berk combined. A place filled with the natural wonders that story telling greats like Disney and Tolkien only saw only in their imaginations. There aren’t rides like Disneyland or dragons like Smaug but Iceland has so many other incredible things. All of which can all be seen and experienced within as little as a week because it is such a small, special place.
Here are 10 reasons visit Iceland with kids. Inspiration, for travel throughout the year.
1. The awwwww inspiring wildlife
Iceland is a remote island way up North in the Atlantic sea. Vikings discovered it first and there wasn’t much in the way of wildlife when they arrived apart from birds and fish. They introduced more animals like dogs, cats, horses, sheep, cows and others that came over domesticated but now live wild in Iceland like reindeer and rabbits.
Today Iceland is home to many unique, and incredibly cute critters as well as all of the colossal oceanic giants that swim around its craggy coasts.
The best time to visit Iceland to see the greatest variety of wildlife is Summer
But there are still prime viewing opportunities in Winter too. Organized, shorter tours are the best way to keep kids warm and comfortable on your search for wildlife during the Winter months in Iceland.
- Icelandic horses– Icelanders love horses. And theirs are definitely among the cutest. The beloved ponies can be seen all over the island! Kids will love their fuzzy coats. They look more like life size stuffed animals than actual horses, really. The Icelandic Horse Park in Fakasel is a great place to get to know these sweet horses. Less than an hour from Reykjavik, tours, and shows run year round at the Horse Park.
- Whales- Iceland has become the whale watching mecca of Europe over the last 15 years! The small country is rife with stories and legends about whales and the important role they’ve played in shaping Icelandic culture. And it’s no wonder why, Minke, Humpback, Blue and Bottle Nose all live and thrive in the North Atlantic and Arctic waters that envelop Iceland. Prime whale watching time in Iceland is between April and October. The Best Value Whale Watching Trip offers families great value, convenience, and excellent viewing chances year round. A three-hour tour you and your kids will remember for a lifetime.
- Puffins!- Atlantic Puffins spend the majority of their lives out at sea. They return to land for a brief period in the Spring and Summer months to breed. Iceland is the breeding ground for around 60 percent of the World’s Atlantic Puffins! There is no better place on Earth to see these cool and unusual birds. This list, Top Spots to Watch Puffins in Iceland outlines the best places around the island to see them in their natural habitats.
- Icelandic Dogs- A lot like the Icelandic Horse, the Icelandic Dog is a unique breed that has adapted to the cold and isolation of the island over hundreds of years. Known for its excellent work ethic and friendly temperament, these dogs are primarily used to herd sheep in the Icelandic countryside. Taking a dog sledding tour is a great way to interact with these hardworking family friendly dogs. April through August is the best time to do sledding with young children because of the warmer temperatures.
- Reindeer- Wild Reindeer live in East Iceland. The perfect opportunity for families to get a glimpse of the magical animals is around Mount Snæfell, in Vesturöræfi and Brúaröræfi during Summer.
2. The magical dancing lights in the Winter
The best time to view the Northern Lights in Iceland is late September to mid-April
One of Mother Natures most spectacular displays, the Aurora Borealis is a mysterious undulating light show that fills the night sky when the right conditions present themselves. This comprehensive list of where and when to find Northern Lights in Iceland can help you plan the best time to book your family trip to see them with your own eyes.
And midnight sun in Summer
The midnight sun is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the Summer months near each of the Earths poles. The sun remains visible at midnight in Iceland beginning the Summer Solstice, June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere. It lasts about two months.
The best time to visit Iceland and enjoy the midnight sun is end of June through July
Families can take an organized midnight sun tour. Or, even better, rent a car and embark on an unforgettable family road trip around the Golden Circle to enjoy the incredible pink sky.
3. There are so many opportunities to get close to incredible forces of nature
The islands undeniably wacky geography creates tons of family friendly adventure opportunities! Here are some of the exciting things families can experience together, things you’re all sure to remember forever.
- Climb inside a volcano– The Thrihnukagigur volcano in Iceland is the only volcano in the world people can get a look at from the inside!
- Stand on the brink of a mighty waterfall– Iceland has hundreds of waterfalls scattered all over the island. Here is a list of the top 10 most beautiful and accessible.
- Fly above in a helicopter to see nature’s most spectacular displays – Iceland has a lot of volcanos, 30 active volcanic systems jammed into its compact borders! There is no more thrilling or efficient way to see Iceland’s volcanos and the incredible way they’ve impacted its topography than from above.
- Hike terrain like nowhere else on Earth- Moss covered lava fields, massive glaciers, fields of natural hot springs. Your family can hike through all of this in Iceland!
- Ride horseback on jet black beaches
- Camp in “the pearl of the central highlands”- Landmannalaugar, a landscape like no other
- Snorkle between two tectonic plates
- Tour icy splendor that rival Elsa the Snow Queens creations
Covered in ice with glaciers, hot springs, geysers, and over 20 active volcanoes, something is always shimmering, bubbling, and exploding in Iceland!
4. And, a storybook city complete with legends and colorful characters
The world’s most Northern Capital, Reykjavik is a small city brimming with color and quirkiness. It’s the perfect place for families to stay when they visit.
Here are a few of the family-friendly highlights to enjoy in Reykjavik:
- Take a dip in one of the cities many thermal pools
- Visit a fun museum and learn about Icelandic culture and more
- Eat some of Iceland’s weird and wonderful delicacies (if you dare!)
- Enjoy some better-known treats; hot dogs, ice cream (yes, some of the best in the world), and Icelandic pancakes
Numerous tours depart from Reykjavik year round making it the convenient base for families to see and experience everything the island has to offer.
5. The flexibility (and affordability) to customize your Icelandic family adventure
The lowest average cost for a Disney vacation is $200 a day per person (including flights and accommodation costs, park passes and food). That’s around $5600 a week at the very least for a family of four. A family trip to Iceland can cost the same or less. Here is how to make an unforgettable Icelandic family trip more affordable.
- Visit in the off-season (peak season is May through September)
- Book far in advance for all aspects of your trip (flights, accommodation, tours, and car rentals)
- Choose self-catering accommodation and shop at Bonus stores for the cheapest groceries
- Visit free attractions in Reykjavik
- Drinks are expensive in Iceland. Stock up on alcoholic drinks at duty-free before leaving the airport when you arrive and save a bunch
- If you want to drive, save money renting a manual transmission vehicle that takes diesel fuel. Diesel is cheaper and if you’re traveling in the summer, skip four wheel drive and save even more. Roads are well maintained in Iceland and if you plan to drive the Golden Circle or Ring Road you’ll save a bundle opting for a smaller car.
There are really only two distinct seasons in Iceland, Summer (May-August) and of course Winter (September-April). Both offer a long list of fun and exciting things for families to enjoy. It’s important to figure out what you really want to see and do before you book your trip. Some attractions are only available seasonally like the Northern Lights, and other activities like hikes or camping is easier and more enjoyable with kids in Summer. Keep in mind, many tours and experiences are accessible year-round. All of those will be cheaper in the off-season when there are fewer tourists.
If you are interested in visiting Iceland with your family, I hope you’ve found this post helpful!
If you’re someone who has already had an unforgettable family vacation to this incredible destination please feel free to share your tips and advice in the comments below.
Featured image by Ben Ferenchak via Flickr