Make memories that will last a lifetime with this incredible week long itinerary for Iceland with kids. Mix mist with mystery, thermal springs with hot chocolate and stargazing with the fires of the northern lights across the dark sky. Get ready for an unforgettable trip. Get ready for Iceland.
Disclosure – we travelled to Iceland as part of a project with Discover the World. As always, as ever, we kept the right to write what we like. What’s the point, otherwise?!
Why visit Iceland with Kids?
Iceland can feel like such a mystical place. Black sand beaches with twisted rock formations. Glowing, rolling moss-covered crater slopes and volcanoes that fire lava into the sky. Glittering snow and the ephemeral northern lights. Plus waterfalls that make you feel small. It goes without saying that Iceland is an amazing destination for adults. But what about Iceland with kids? Does it work? Does it make sense? Will anyone have any fun?!
In short, yes. Iceland with kids is fantastic. Let me walk you through this seven day Iceland itinerary with kids, all tried and tested by us and developed with Discover the World, a specialist in tailor-made trips in the region.
Quick note: a key part of the joy of travel in Iceland involves hot tubs and thermal springs. This isn’t generally advised for very young children and pregnant women. Those actively trying to conceive may also need to think twice. So, if your family is at this stage of life, then bear this in mind…
Getting to Iceland with Kids
Let’s face it, you’re not going to get to Iceland by train. There are only two ways to reach the country: plane and ferry. For this itinerary, and for most trips, it makes sense to fly into Iceland and then hire a car to travel around.
You can fly into Keflavik International Airport, which is only 47 minutes away from Reykjavik. The airport receives flights from all over the continent and is connected to other countries outside Europe, so finding a flight to Iceland is pretty easy. From the airport, you can hire a rental car and start your family trip right on the spot or take a shuttle bus to the city capital. Taxis also go in this direction, and most hotels offer airport pick-up services if you request them.
By Car + Ferry
There’s quite a novelty in taking a ferry to your destination, but this option may prove too time-consuming for those who want to spend as much time as they can in Iceland. You will have to drive to Denmark and then take the ferry from there and the whole trip takes a few days.
On the other hand, it will be an adventure, will cut down your carbon emissions, and you may see whales as you go.
Getting around Iceland
In Iceland, you will encounter three types of roads: paved roads, gravel roads, and F-roads or mountain roads. The most important highway is known as the Ring Road, with a length of 1,322 kilometres, and it allows seeing a big part of the country without hitting any bumps. But you may need to take a gravel road if you are travelling in the countryside or an F-road if you want to explore the mountains.
For this 7 day Iceland itinerary with kids, though, you won’t need to do any exceptional driving. You’ll stick to the paved roads when you drive and head off in a superjeep for when you go off road. Bear in mind that driving off road requires special skills and special equipment. Don’t be tempted to take chances in wild terrain.
Stick to the roads!
Rent a Car
Honestly, when it comes to travelling through Iceland with kids, the easiest option is to rent a car yourself. This is the best way to travel with young children, especially as you can book a vehicle with a baby car seat if necessary. You will be able to stop whenever you need and explore anything along the way.
But don’t let that make you feel that you need to everything yourself. On our trip, for example, Discover the World arranged the flights, car rental, accommodation and certain tickets for attractions. They also provided a pretty cool app which lets you look up unusual things to do and places to visit as you go. I’d highly recommend working with them to minimise the time you spend planning – plus, it’s always good to have someone you can call in case of an emergency.
Join a Tour
Many companies offer tours around Iceland, taking in the landmarks from the picturesque south coast to Snaefellsnes Peninsula. What’s best about this way of travelling is that you don’t need to think about anything. The company selects the hotels (which are amazing most of the time), picks you up from the airport, and takes you from one point to another on your itinerary.
Yet, with kids, this can sometimes feel more stressful as you’re always running on someone else’s timetable. It’s difficult to stop for frequent toilet breaks, naps and the like and, finally, some tour companies won’t take young children at all.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Iceland with Kids?
Now, that’s the million dollar question.
From June to August, the temperatures stay around 20 degrees Celsius and the days are bright and long, perfect for nature exploration. However, it’s the high season and prices are high and crowds more plentiful.
Winter carries with it a lot of darkness and bitingly cold weather. Some roads need to close and your options can be limited. Pick a winter month only if you plan on staying mostly indoors and searching for the northern lights in the night sky. You have the best chance of taking a good picture of them during the cold season.
Alternatively, you can look to the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn for planning your Iceland trip with kids. We travelled in the October half term, when the weather was cold but still bearable outside and we still had a good 8-10 hours of daylight each day. While we had some rain, most days were crisp, sunny and clear and the sunrises and sunsets lasted for hours.
In short, I don’t think you can choose the wrong time of year to visit Iceland with kids. You just need to know how to prepare and you need to have the right gear with you.
The Ultimate 7-Day Iceland Itinerary with Kids
Here’s an outline of how to spend seven days in Iceland as a family. It’s based on our trip, with just a few tweaks and further suggestions. I’ve arranged the itinerary in groups of days. You can swap these groups around but it makes sense to keep to the plan within the group itself. Clear as mud? Drop me a line and I’ll try to make things clearer.
Days 1 – 3: Head South
Let’s get started! The southern shores of Iceland are famous for their black sand beaches, waterfalls and the volcano that stopped the world – for a while.
Accommodation: 2 nights in Hotel Ranga
Day 1: Arrive at Hotel Ranga
After all the kerfuffle of an international flight, there’s something soothing about heading straight to Hotel Ranga. Maybe it’s the hot tubs, the fine food and the dedicated obvservatory. But there’s certainly the beautiful sensation of being in the middle of nowhere – and in a good way.
Say hello to the polar bear in the hallway, take a seat at the cosy wooden bar and check out Icelandic delicacies like puffin, reindeer, herring and salmon at the gorgeous wood-panelled restaurant. When the sun rises, this place serves breakfast and the glass walls of the dining room reveal panoramic views of your first glimpse of Iceland.
Stargazing in hotel Ranga
The best activity at Hotel Ranga involves staring at the night sky, hoping to see Aurora Borealis glide into view. The hotel even has a wake-up service for this very phenomenon. Select this option and you will receive a call when the northern lights are visible, even if it’s three in the morning. Luckily, we didn’t have to go to such extremes. No sooner had we finished dinner than the receptionist called us through.
And there, in vibrant, green, shimmering glory, those smudgy green lights danced across the sky.
They didn’t hang around for long, however, and many people don’t get to see them at all. Previously, this left guests with nothing but sore necks, cold fingers and a sense of frustration. So, the owner decided to highlight the other treats of the night sky.
It’s a short walk from the main hotel to the Hotel Ranga Observatory, which has the largest telescope in Iceland and a staff of well educated stargazers.
And the best yet? The hotel prepares piping hot chocolate for your return.
Day 2: Superjeep Safari
Discover the World recommended this day long tour for us on our first full day in Iceland, and it’s a recommendation that makes sense. When you’re still getting used to a brand new country, it’s a relief to have someone else take charge for the day.
Plus, a superjeep is fun.
Larger than your average off-road vehicle, this tour takes you off the paved roads and into Thórsmörk, where it soon becomes clear that specialist driving skills are required. It’s worth checking the make up of your tour group before you sign up, though. Young children won’t be able to keep up with 20 something extreme sports hikers, so just make sure that the tour guide is happy to cater for everyone.
We drove past Eyjafjallajökull, otherwise known as E15, the volcano that grounded flights, put Iceland on the map and nearly made me miss my sister’s wedding in 2010.
Dinner at Hotel Ranga
Head back to Hotel Ranga for dinner and a good night’s sleep (unless the staff wakes you up to see the northern lights.)
Day 3: Black sand beaches, waterfalls and Vik
This is a lovely day trip of a drive down to Vik and back up to Hotel Ranga. Lace up those hiking boots and prepare for natural beauty.
Step out of your car on one of the most striking black sand beaches in the world. Reynisfjara is famous for its dramatic scenery and it’s not overhyped. Imagine roaring waves, rising mist and an immense sky hovering over basalt stacks. Your kids will be fascinated by this unique place, a destination voted by National Geographic in 1991 as one of the best non-tropical beaches to visit on the planet.
However, behind the beauty lies danger. Reynisfjara hides dangerous waves that can hit the shore harder than expected, even on seemingly calm days. So never turn your back on the waves and keep everybody at a distance of at least 3 metres from the water.
As you gaze at the ocean from the beach, you will immediately spot a stunning sea stack formation close to the shoreline. They are known as Reynisdrangar and they have a cool legend behind them that seems ready-made for kids. According to local folklore, a few trolls spotted a ship sailing on the ocean and decided to pull it to the shore. However, they miscalculated the time it would take to do so, and the first sunrays caught them in the act, petrifying them along with the ship forever.
Another legend tells of two trolls who kidnapped a woman and killed her. The husband followed them to Reynisfjara and froze them so they never had the chance to kill again. I think the first is probably more suitable for family.
Inside tip: if you are travelling with teens who are big fans of Game of Thrones, they may recognise them from the series. They appear in a few scenes in ‘North of the Wall’.
As you enter Vik, you will immediately spot Reyniskirkja Church with its white exterior and red roof specific to all Icelandic churches. It is surrounded by cliffs, volcanos, and glaciers and overlooks the black shores of the Atlantic and the small community living on the coast.
Drive into the car park and take a few moments to enjoy the view. It’s hard to imagine a more classic Icelandic village scape than this. And it’s all right there before you.
Lunch at The Soup Company
Enjoy a hearty meal at this local family-owned restaurant. After all, nothing takes the chill out of your bones like a piping hot bowl of soup. The red hot lava dish – a spicy soup with beef, beans, and red lentils – is also delicious and has a fun lid made from bread.
If you have time: Dyrholaey
At the southernmost point of the Icelandic mainland, enjoy the beautiful views over the ocean and surrounding basalt formations. The most iconic landmark is the Dyrhólaey Arch, an aperture so large that boats can cruise through its opening.
Dyrholaey is also famous for its birdlife and, if you are lucky, you may spot eider ducks or Atlantic puffins. Better yet, puffins often come up close, a real treat for children to see such characterful wildlife.
On top of Dyrholaey, you can visit an old lighthouse dating back to 1919. The lighthouse is still working, so you can watch it sending its powerful white-light beams to the sea.
Waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss
On the way back north, climb the steps to reach the crown of the Skógafoss waterfall.
A little further along, it’s just a small detour to Seljalandsfoss waterfall. If clothes and time permits, you can walk behind the water and then warm up with a hot drink from one of the little kiosks near by.
Then drive on to Reykjavik, ready for the next couple of days.
Days 4 & 5: Reykjavik & Tour the Golden Circle
Using Reykjavik as a base, the next two days are split between the capital city and the country’s most famous route: the Golden Circle. It doesn’t really matter on which day you do what, so base your choice on the weather. Pick the best weather day for the Golden Circle and keep Reykjavik in your pocket for the much talked about and dreaded rainy day.
Accommodation: 2 nights in Reykjavik Natura with its easy parking and underground spa.
Alternatives include the Reykjavik Residence Hotel or Fosshotel Reykjavik.
Day 4: Explore Reykjavik with kids
Reykjavik is a fun capital city to explore as a family. It’s not too big and you can walk between many of the key sights. You could spend one day in Reykjavik many different ways, but here’s what we felt were the highlights.
The first stop is Hallgrimskirkja, the tallest church in Iceland and something of a landmark for the city. You can take the lift to the top for a clear sky day view of Reykjavik but just standing at the base and looking up is pretty impressive.
Guðjón Samúelsson designed it, taking inspiration from lava formations, glaciers, and hexagonal basalt columns. Your kids may enjoy learning that it was shaped to resemble Thor’s hammer, with the handle pointing up.
There’s a small playground just outside, which is also handy to allow young kids to burn off some steam.
Sun Voyager & Coastal Walk
The Sun Voyager is a huge steel sculpture representing the skeleton of a ship sparkling in the sun. The sculptor who made it, Jón Gunnar Árnason, saw it as representing Iceland’s aspirations for progress and freedom. Adults love looking at its majestic beauty; kids love climbing on it. Either way, it’s a winner on any family Iceland road trip.
From here, you can walk along the water’s edge, passing Harpa, Reykjavik’s striking opera house and on to a lovely waterside area for lunch.
Tips on dining etiquette for the Gambia
In a small kiosk in the centre of Reykjavik lies a hot dog surprise and possibly the most popular spot in the city. It delights kids and adults alike with its crispy, sweet yet salty dawgs.
Follow the local advice and ask for “one with everything.”
- Lamb Hot Dog
- Icelandic Mustard
- Remolaði sauce
- Fried Onions
- Raw Onions
- Iceland Style Ketchup (with apples instead of sugar to sweeten the flavor)
Then lick your lips and enjoy! Here’s the hot dog website, complete with Bill Clinton pic, to help you find where to go.
Fly Over Iceland
This immersive, simulated flight through the highlights of Iceland thrills most and scares just a few. It’s an impressive light and sound show that adds in motion, scents and sprays of water to make it seem as though you are, indeed, flying over Iceland. It’s a fun way to get a sense of the country and our six year old absolutely loved it. Buy your tickets to Fly Over Iceland here.
Perlan is part museum and part gorgeous sky view bar. Downstairs, you’ll find a real, ice cave and a section on natural history. A planetarium teaches you more about the Northern Lights than you knew was possible, plus a volcano display really highlights how Icelanders live with this ever present threat of fire amid the ice.
Upstairs, the glass domed roof provides wonderful views of the city and the restaurant and bar make it an easy place to watch the sun set into twilight as if you’re in your own cosy observatory.
If you have more time in Reykjavik with kids…
Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo
If you still have some time left, check out the Reykjavik Family Park and Zoo. Kids will love the reindeer, seals and arctic foxes.
In the summer, consider heading to Laugardalslaug, the largest swimming pool in Reykjavík, for a few hours of fun. Small children will enjoy the warm waters and the water slide while you can relax every single muscle in your body in a hot tub, jacuzzi, or a sauna.
National Museum of Iceland
Consider a stop at the National Museum of Iceland, so your kids can learn more about the history of the country through a series of interactive exhibitions. Surprise them with a one-way telephone conversation with a Viking chieftain who lived in 1117, or take a look at the huge collection of photographs showing Iceland throughout history. The museum has a coffee shop and bathrooms, so it is also a great place to take a break if you are travelling with very young kids.
Day 5: The Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is the most popular route in Iceland and with good reason. It includes three of the most fascinating natural landmarks in the country: Thingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir.
Yet, I was daunted. I imagined it would be overrun and difficult, whereas in truth, neither was the case.
It’s still easy to drive, pull up, get out and see what you want to see. No advance booking required. And in most places, you don’t even need to pay for parking. But enough about the logistics. Let’s talk about what you’ll be able to see.
Þingvellir National Park
As the closest point to Reykjavik, Þingvellir National Park is the obvious first stop. It’s also an UNESCO World Heritage Site both for its historical significance and geographical position.
For Þingvellir was the place where Icelanders established their first democratic parliament in 903 AD. That’s about 800 years before the USA and France, if you’re looking for context. It is also the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, marking the border between the two continents.
Highlights include the Oxarafoss Waterfall, although it’s a little bit of a walk for tired young legs, and the Thingvellir Church, which provides a moment of peace.
In a land full of waterfalls, you can begin to feel waterfalled out. Don’t be.
Do. Not. Miss. Gullfoss, as it is truly one of Iceland’s most spectacular waterfalls. Hey, maybe one of the world’s best waterfalls. It’s at least in the top ten.
Gullfoss is situated on the river Hvítá, fed by Iceland’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull, and has a fall of 32 meters. In the summer, about 140 cubic meters of water per second pour down the waterfall, so don’t get too close if you don’t want to get splashed. During winter, the water volume decreases to 109 cubic meters per second, but it’s no less mighty for first time visitors.
Lunch at Gullfoss Café
Stop for a bowl of lamb stew or a delicious vegan soup at this restaurant right by the waterfall. Alternatively, bring a picnic with you and enjoy the view.
Somewhat hauntingly, the original Geysir in Haukadalur no longer springs forth from the earth. It lies dormant, with a shy sign and a ring of muted rainbow crystal colours around it. However, a visit to Geysir involves more than a shrine.
Not 100 metres away, geyser Strokkur puts on a show. Steam and water spurt to the sky every 5 to 10 minutes or so, with the water reaching a height of 20 metres amid the pink and blue smudges of the sky behind.
There are plenty of other natural hot springs in this renowned geothermal area, so if you have more time, you can go on a hunt and try to spot as many as possible. Paths are clearly laid out and it can become something of a treasure trail to follow the silt, sludge and silver to an exploding finale.
If you have more time: Hraðastaðir
If your children are the kind to enjoying petting and feeding animals, then head to Hraðastaðir to cuddle up to the goats, sheep, and rabbits. For older children, consider horse riding and get to see the famous Icelandic horses up close.
If you skipped lunch, you can enjoy a sustainable meal here, cooked only with the freshest ingredients. All local, all from sustainable sources.
Drive on to Glacier Lodge in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula.
Days 6 & 7: The Snaefellsnes Peninsula & Blue Lagoon
Alright. It’s time to explore the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to uncover more natural beauty than you know what to do with. If the words gorgeous beaches, majestic mountains, and fishing villages were just words to you before, then brace yourself. Their meaning will change once you’ve been here.
Accommodation: 2 Days in Glacier Lodge, an atmospheric self-catered cottage set in stunning surroundings.
Day 6: Loop the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Head out during the sunrise to see Sanefellsnes at its best. But don’t worry. If you travel in the shoulder season, that starts at around 8am and lasts for hours…
Djúpalónssandur: Shipwreck Beach
Enjoy the rocky approach to Shipwreck Beach, so named for the shipwreck which took place here in 1948. Only five people survived and the remains of the vessel still lie scattered across the sand.
Look out for the lifting stones, a series of rocks where you can compare your strength to those of the traditional Icelandic fishermen.
At Lóndrangar, you can visit two basalt cliffs that used to be part of a volcanic crater. Start your exploration at the Visitor’s Centre and continue your walk through fields of mossy lava until you reach the cliffs. It is said that elves live here, so you can coax reluctant little legs along in the hope of spotting them.
Kirkjufell – Iconic mountain and waterfall
Up on the northern coast, Kirkjufell or Church Mountain may well give you a sense of deja-vu. Its profile is one of the most famous silhouettes in Iceland as its peak shoots its ridged spire up into the air.
Nearby, you’ll find more waterfalls to walk by and a bigger town with restaurants that make a good stopping point for lunch.
Arnarstapi to Hellnar Trail
If you have time, the Arnarstapi-Hellnar trail comes highly recommended. It’s supposed to be very kid-friendly and , of course, bursting with natural beauty.
Visit the Black Church
Standing all alone at the edge of the coast, the Black Church at Búdir throws up an intriguing silhouette from all around. It’s also a good starting spot for walks through long and golden grass.
Ytri Tunga: Seal Beach
Shhh… It you approach slowly, you’ll see seal after seal after seal at Ytri Tunga beach. If you’re lucky, you can spot both harbour seals and grey seals lounging around on the rocks.
Day 7: The Blue Lagoon and Krysuvik Geothermal Park
For the grand finale, don’t miss the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s most famous spot.
Accommodation: Konvin Hotel by Keflavik Airport. Not only is it close to the airport but it knows its clientele well: breakfast starts at 4am so no hungry kids as you start your flight home.
Krysuvik Geothermal Area
Depending on your flight time and the availability of appointment slots at the Blue Lagoon, you may just have time to drive and visit the Krysuvik Geothermal area. Full of volcanic vents, steam, crystals and colourful changes in the rocks, it’s a fun little add on to this part of your Iceland itinerary with kids.
It’s fairly accessible, too, with wooden planked walkways and great views across the surrounding landscape.
The Blue Lagoon
On your last day in Iceland, take the kids to the famous Blue Lagoon and spend a wonderful half day swimming in the iconic blue waters. Rich in silica and sulphur, the white mud is said to have youthful regenerative properties and the surroundings take some beating.
Keep in mind that this is one of the most popular places in Iceland – and it gets crowded. Book your tickets in advance and adjust your expectations. While you may not have the place to yourself, as instagram may suggest, it’s a huge place and very well organised. So don’t stress. It’s definitely worth visiting and you will have enough space.
You can choose a premium ticket which includes extra face masks and a drink at the swim up bar. Children need to wear flotation devices, which are provided, and there is a restaurant and full spa on site if you have time.
If you have more than 7 days in Iceland with kids
Of course, if you have more than a week in Iceland as a family, then you may be able to try out these other recommendations.
Viðgelmir Lava Cave
This is one of the biggest lava cave formations in the country and has an easy-access walkway that makes it perfect for the entire family. The caves are today illuminated, so you can see the wonderful colours of the rocks that used to hide before unwelcoming darkness. Take a 1.5-hour tour and learn about the formation and history of the caves before heading out to the next stop.
Reykholt Archeological Site
A popular attraction on the peninsula, Reykholt was once the home of the writer, scholar and chieftain Snorri Sturluson. Sturluson lived during the 13th century and had a great influence on the area. Today, the site at Reykholt hosts a centre for independent research and medieval studies in his memory.
A Few Tips for Visiting Iceland with Kids
- Pack good hiking boots, both for you and the kids, as there is plenty of rough, rocky ground to explore.
- Bring waterproof jackets and wear layers – the weather in Iceland can be extremely unpredictable.
- Whenever you see a supermarket or a shop, stock up on snacks and water, as they can be quite far apart, especially in the countryside. Plus, eating out is extremely expensive in Iceland.
- You can also bring a water bottle with you and fill it from taps. Tap water is safe to drink in Iceland.
- Don’t forget swimwear for the Blue Lagoon and other thermal spot and hot tubs.
- You won’t need much cash as you can pay for most things by card.
- See also our guide to creating your perfect Iceland bucket list here.
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