Exploring Iceland with kids makes for one of the most memorable, fun, and exciting family vacations imaginable. Family vacations in Iceland are perfect for adventurous families who love to explore the outdoors, dine on delicious local cuisine, and experience some of the most dramatic landscapes, waterfalls, and wildlife on the planet.
Family vacations to Iceland have become one of the most popular destinations for adventurous families. And as someone who has explored a huge part of Iceland with my children, I can totally understand why.
Iceland is the land of fire and ice. It’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful destination filled with towering waterfalls, a strong belief in fairytale creatures, wide-open landscapes to explore, and skies that dance with colorful lights. It’s a destination that appeals to adults and children alike.
Visiting Iceland with kids means exploring one of the safest countries in the world. And there are few other places where you can hike a glacier, bask in the spray of waterfalls, ride Icelandic horses down the coast, or take a super-jeep tour to the rim of an active volcano. It’s practically impossible for kids in Iceland not to find something that blows their little minds.
Iceland is also a place where the warmth of the locals is almost as powerful as the volcanoes that fuel the geothermal baths that dot the country. The Icelandic people are generally quiet and reserved, but many have a deep love for children. And exploring the picturesque fishing towns in Iceland with your kids will often open up a chance to connect that many adult travelers might miss. No matter what your Iceland itinerary looks like, you’re going to be planning a trip back very soon after you get home.
You’ll also find that many restaurants, cottages, and hotels cater to families. Many places have entertainment areas specifically for children. Hotels and motels often have cots and cribs, high chairs, and play areas. You’ll also find many restaurants that have children’s menus with kid-friendly versions of local foods, not just chicken nuggets and fries.
Is Iceland Child Friendly?
Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world. The crime rate is exceptionally low, the education rate is among the highest in the world, and Iceland is consistently rated in the top 5 on the World Happiness Report.
While you’re traveling Iceland with kids, you’ll also learn about Iceland’s tremendous Viking heritage. From the explorers to the Viking legends, the myth and history in Icelandic tales offer stories for kids to get lost in. They are filled with adventure, passion, and mythical creatures.
Combine these things with the wide-open landscapes, great roads, amazing restaurants, and access to incredible wildlife experiences such as whales, puffins, and reindeer, and family travel to Iceland becomes positively brilliant.
Is It Easy To Travel Iceland With Kids?
Iceland has an absolutely rock-solid tourism industry. This north-Atlantic country sees a massive influx of visitors who are focused on Iceland summer vacations and winter northern lights tours.
Because family travel in Iceland is so safe, one of the best ways to explore the country is via a self-drive tour. Many families opt to tour the Ring Road or self-drive popular attractions such as the famous Golden Circle.
Rental companies in Iceland cater well to families. Whether you’re looking to book directly with a car rental company in Iceland such as Hertz or Budget, or, as I like to do, go through an aggregator such as Auto Europe, you’ll find rental companies that are able to source important things such as car seats, booster seats, and more.
The roads in Iceland are fantastic. And, unless you are looking to explore the Icelandic Highlands that are found on the rough F-Roads (which certain rentals will not be allowed to travel on), you’ll be just fine with a two-wheel drive vehicle. But, if you want to truly get off-the-beaten-path, you’ll want something with 4-wheel-drive.
Grocery stores in Iceland are well stocked with supplies such as formula, milk, diapers, pureed, food and more. You’ll find two types of milk on the shelves. One is shelf-safe and can be stored, refrigerated for a few days. Ask the helpful staff which is best for your travel itinerary.
Purchase your supplies from larger grocery stores such as Bonus, Kronan, and Netto, and in Reykjavik, you’ll find a Costco. You’ll find prices at these locations to be significantly cheaper than smaller stores and even the well-stocked gas stations.
How to Get to Iceland With Kids
Iceland is very conveniently located right between Europe and North America. In fact, it is literally the dividing point between the two countries. You can actually swim, snorkel or even SCUBA dive between the two tectonic plates in an area of Thingvellir National Park called the Silfra Fissure.
Because of this and a large tourism push in the country, flying into Iceland is relatively inexpensive from countries such as Canada, the United States, and most of Europe.
Our flight from Toronto to Keflavik on Iceland Air only took about five hours and was one of the easiest International family travel trips that we’ve taken. Flights from within Europe are even less expensive than those coming from North America with rates that can fall below $100 USD each way.
What To Do In Iceland With Kids
Iceland tourism has exploded in recent years. And more and more families are bringing their kids to Iceland. Each story that gets told just breeds more and more passion for this amazing country. And as more and more people decide to visit Iceland with toddlers, young kids, and teenagers, new and exciting opportunities are popping up for family travel within the country.
Learn About Viking History in Iceland
One of the most fascinating parts about visiting Iceland with kids is learning about the rich Viking history of the country. These epic explorers moved across the Ocean from Norway and eventually discovered the New World long before the rest of Europe jumped on the bandwagon. And it is their fascinating story that makes Iceland what it is today.
If you’re interested in learning about the Viking history in Canada, check out our tour of the Viking Trail in Newfoundland. Some of our favorite places for exploring Viking history within Iceland with kids are:
- The Sun Voyager sculpture in Reykjavik is the perfect place to start your journey through Iceland with kids. This is one of the most iconic pieces of artwork in the country. But it’s also the perfect launching point for piquing kids’ interest in Viking culture! Honestly, some of the most fun photos you can take on a family trip to Iceland are down by the Reykjavik marina.
- Meet a Giant Viking on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. When I was researching what to do in Iceland for families, I didn’t expect that this site near the bird cliffs of the Snaefellsnes peninsula, would become one of my favorites. Here sits a massive rock depiction of Bardur Snaefellsnes, a descendant of trolls who still exerts their magical influence on the region. The Bardur of Snaefellsenes is a great way to introduce your kids to the Icelandic sagas and the history of the country.
- Visit The Incredible Viking Museums. There are many great kid-friendly museums in Iceland. The Saga Museum is located within Reykjavik and is very popular. Just outside of town (about 40 mins) is Viking World, which has some amazing displays that will capture children’s imagination.
But if you really want to delve into the Viking Saga’s and history, we highly recommend The Settlement Centre in West Iceland. It’s worth the journey if you’re traveling the Ring Road.
Take In The Most Beautiful Waterfalls in Iceland
Iceland is all about waterfalls! There are more of them than you can count. In fact, it seems that everywhere you travel in Iceland, there is water cascading down in the most beautiful way.
Not all of the waterfalls in Iceland are kid-friendly, but many of them are. These are some of our favorite waterfalls in Iceland for children. If you’re a photographer, make sure to bring along a tripod to catch those beautiful long-exposures of the waterfalls.
You can also check out my guide to the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland here.
- The Majestic Gullfoss on Iceland’s Golden Circle is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. This iconic destination is a great introduction to the waterfalls of Iceland for kids.
- Svartifoss Waterfall in Vatnajokull National Park is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It’s located at the mid-way point of an easy 1.5 km (1 mile) hike. The hike is an easy one through the low lying forest. And the stream at the bottom of Svartifoss is perfect for splashing.
- Kirkjufellsfoss waterfall in West Iceland is in one of the most scenic areas of the country. The waterfall itself is pretty basic by Icelandic standards, but the relaxing walk along the river and the scenery around it are breathtaking! Children of all ages will love running through the fields of summer flowers with Kirkjufell Mountain in the background.
Swim in the Geothermal Pools
Make sure to bring your swimsuits with you. Iceland has countless glaciers that pour melt-water down through volcanic soil and rock. The geothermal landscape makes for a natural filtration and heating system. Because of all of this geothermal activity there are an endless number of geothermal pools waiting to explore.
For family-friendly fun in Iceland, nothing beats splashing around in naturally heated pools. It seems no matter where you travel with kids in Iceland, a pool is not far away. Reykjavik alone has over 18 of these geothermal pools! Here are some of our favorite family-friendly pools in Iceland:
- Float In Elegance in the Blue Lagoon between Reykjavik and Keflavik. Yes, the Blue Lagoon is the most famous geothermal pool in Iceland.
That fame is often debated, but there’s no denying that it’s a beautiful way to begin or end a family vacation to Iceland. Unfortunately, children under 2 are no longer allowed at the Blue Lagoon.
- Enjoy family fun at the Laugardalslaug pool in Reykavik. This place combines the pools with a sports hall, botanical garden, a zoo, a sculpture museum, a large gym (World Class), a spa, and a skating rink! If you are traveling in Iceland with toddlers, it doesn’t get much better than this.
- Swim with a view at the Myvatn Nature Bath. The Myvatn Nature Baths are one of our favorite spots to bring kids in Iceland.
The Myvatn Nature Baths are open to all ages and have some of the most beautiful views of all the geothermal pools.
Go Whale Watching
There are few things cooler for both kids and adults than watching a creature the size of a bus rocket out of the water and come crashing down just a few feet away from your boat.
And there are few places in the world where you can experience whale watching as you can in Iceland. These are the ones that we recommend:
- Whale Watching in Reykjavik is an excellent option for doing a 3 or 4-day tour of Iceland with kids. The convenience of being in the capital city with easy access to the marina is helpful to those who aren’t doing a full tour of the country. Most whale watching tours in Iceland leave from the Old Harbour and last about 3 hours. You can find some family-friendly Reykjavik whale watching tours here.
- Whale Watching in the Calm Waters of Akureyri is popular for families due to the calm water of Iceland’s longest fjord. Akureyri is one of Iceland’s northernmost cities, and it is the second-largest city in the country. Whale watching tours in Akureyri take off from the floating pier near the Hof Cultural and Concert hall. Here is a great Akureyri whale watching tour to check out.
- Whale Watching from a Schooner in Husavik with North Sailing was one of our favorite experiences in Iceland. There was something magical about combining the majesty of tall ships with the elegance of whales in the Northern Sea. As an added bonus, Husavik is one of the best places to see the world’s largest mammal, the Blue Whale, during the summer months. This has become one of our favorite family-friendly wildlife experiences in the world.
Husavik is also home to the Iceland whale museum which has a lot to offer for those experiencing Iceland for kids, or adults traveling the country. There are other whale watching tours in Husavik as well. You can check them out here.
Explore some of Iceland’s Other Wildlife
Kids aren’t the only wild animals that love to explore Iceland, there are lots of amazing creatures that call Iceland their home. This country’s unique position in the ocean makes it a haven for migratory birds such as the North Atlantic puffin.
But it’s not just our feathered friends that can be found around Iceland. There are a few animals that we love to visit when we are in this beautiful country. Here are some of our top wildlife experiences for families in Iceland. You can check out our guide to finding puffins in Iceland here.
- Run along with herds of Reindeer in East Iceland. Reindeer are the largest animal that lives in Iceland (except for the occasional Polar Bear that ends up here by accident). Reindeer are most easily seen in the winter months when they head to the lowlands to feed. During the summer, you are more likely to see them in the highlands away from the crowds.
- Watch colorful puffins dance in the air and in the water. Ferry to the Westfjords where during the summer months Iceland is home to some of the largest concentrations of puffins in the world. The best place to see them are on the ferry to the Snaefellsness Peninsula (make sure to book the slow ferry, the fast one doesn’t stop at the colony). If you want to see them up-close, head to Latrabjarg in the Westfjords to watch them on the epic Latrabjarg bird cliffs.
- Go horseback riding on elegant Icelandic horses. OK, you got me, while not technically “wildlife”, Icelandic horses are still one of the most treasured animals in the country. They are known for their small size, gorgeous coats, and fortitude that allowed them to survive the harsh Icelandic winters. Kids will love horseback riding experiences along the black sand beaches on these beautiful animals. You can check out a great family-friendly horseback tour here.
Enjoy some of Icelands Best Family-Friendly Hikes
Views. Iceland’s got them. In fact, when you’re hiking in Iceland with children, it seems like Iceland has ALL the views. In all of the countries that our family has traveled to, I can’t think of one country that has matched Iceland for sheer beauty. Many have come close. But Iceland remains the champion.
Hiking in Iceland with kids is just awesome. You can check here for all of our favorite family-friendly hikes in Iceland here or have a look at these gems.
- Visit the Giant at the Arnarpstapi Bird Cliffs. Yes, this is the same trip we mentioned earlier when talking about Viking history in Iceland. Not only can you visit the Bardur of Snaefellsnes here, but you can hike between the towns of Arnarpstapi and Hellnar for some stunning views.
The Arnarpstapi cliffs are home to thousands of nesting birds that make their homes on the coastal cliffs and sea caves. As an added bonus, stop in at the Fjoruhusid cafe in Hellnar for a treat before making your way back to Arnapstapi.
- Explore the stunning landscape around Lake Myvatn. The hiking trails surrounding Lake Myvatn are gorgeous. The region is lush and green during the summer months. The well-maintained paths make the hike very family-friendly. Along with volcanic hills and craters, you might also see grazing Icelandic horses along the water’s edge.
- Take in one of the most beautiful canyons in the world at Fjadrargljufur. This narrow canyon stretches for 2 km between steep 100 m cliffs. The canyon floor can be trekked but requires some wading through shallow water and along some small waterfalls. There is also a path along the canyon rim for those who want to keep their feet dry. We opted to do a little of each, and the views from both are simply amazing.
Appease Your Adventurous Side with Family-Friendly Icelandic Adventure Activities
With endless nature and epic views surrounding you, it’s easy to get caught up in the madness and want to try something exciting! Luckily, many of these adventurous activities can be done with children. Well, at least children of a certain age. These are some of the most exciting activities in Iceland for kids.
- Snowmobile Across Langjokull Glacier. There are few things as freeing and fun as snowmobiling across a glacier in Iceland. Although you need to be 18 to be a driver and at least 6-years old to be a passenger (When we first went, the age restrictions were a little different), snowmobiling in Iceland offers a really great way to explore on top of the amazing glaciers. You can check out some Iceland snowmobile tours here.
- Take a Zodiac or Amphibious Vehicle tour of the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon. Jokulsarlon lagoon is one of the most surreal places in Iceland. Children in Iceland will love watching the icebergs cut off the Jökulsárlón glacier into the spectacular lagoon while playful seals swim amongst the clear blue icebergs that float around you. As a bonus, make sure to get a taste of the delicious glacier ice scooped straight out of the lagoon! You can find some Jukulsarlon lagoon tours here.
- Take an off-road journey in the Icelandic Interior. Off-roading and Super Jeeps are a big deal in Iceland, and these rugged adventures are something that the whole family can enjoy. And with Icelandic safety in force, you know it will kid-safe and as fun as when we went on a dune buggy in Peru. Off-roading in Iceland with kids lets you get to areas you might not think of exploring with kids. You can even combine a super jeep with a trip to beautiful Landmanalaugher with this tour.
- Snorkel or Dive Between Continental Plates. For those a little older, a visit to Thingvellir National Park affords those with the fortitude the chance to snorkel or swim in one of the most unique locations in the world. The Silfra Fissure is the location where the continental plates are drifting apart creating a huge crack through the center of Iceland. Diving and snorkeling the Silfra Fissure is amazing, and you can find some family-friendly tours here.
Taste Some Local Icelandic Food
Iceland is slowly becoming known for its culinary expertise as much as it is known for the country’s natural beauty. Icelandic cooking has adapted to the limited resources available on the island and the local chefs have learned to create some truly amazing dishes.
Sure, sometimes it can be tough to get kids to try new foods, but travel is all about trying something new! Here are some of the dishes that our kids loved:
- Get your child’s Icelandic tasting started easily with Pylsur. Pylsur?! Your kids might say, ew, gross! But this dish has become one of the most beloved meals in Iceland. What is Pylsur? It’s actually the Icelandic name for Hot Dogs! There are several great hot dog stands in Iceland, and they are ALWAYS busy. Many of these places are cash-only, so make sure you have more than credit cards
- Start your day right with a bowl of Icelandic Skyr. Almost all of the locals in Iceland eat Skyr. This creamy combination that sits somewhere between yogurt and cottage cheese is a breakfast staple. Not only is it a healthy treat, but it can be mixed with fruit and jam into a delicious treat. This delicious yogurt has exploded across North America now and you can even order it online.
- Hold your nose and gulp down some …fermented shark? Ok, I’ll be honest with you, this is something we didn’t try ourselves. But it IS a thing in Iceland. Most locals find this vile-smelling dish abhorrent, but it is steeped in tradition here as well, so there is a market for it.
Experience Some of Iceland’s Quirkiest Attractions
Icelandic People can come across as cold. That is until you get to know them. In actual fact, Icelanders love to have fun, and there is unique humor in a lot of their attractions. These are some of our favorite wild and wacky attractions that are great for family travel to Iceland.
- Wander Through Petra’s Stone Collection in Stodvarfjordur. Petra’s Stone Collection is a wild collection of rocks, minerals, and memorabilia collected by Petra María that has been referred to as a cornerstone of the nation. This collection is quirky, featuring an odd assortment of stones from throughout the country and the world. Kids will love exploring the fairy gardens, painted rocks, and beautiful gardens of Petra’s backyard while adults can visit the museum to learn about Iceland’s ‘Grand Old Lady’.
- Search for Fairies in Songhellir, the ‘Singing Cave’. Iceland is known for its rich mystical history. Many Icelandic people believe in fairies, trolls and other incredible creatures, and Icelanders are known to have small houses in their garden for elves and the like to take shelter in. Songhellir is a cave located just off the Ring Road in an area famous for mythical sightings. The cave, known as the ‘singing cave’ due to wind pushing through the lava tubes is easy to climb into and the walls feature graffiti from explorers dating back hundreds of years.
- Explore some of Iceland’s beautiful beaches. No vacation with children is complete without a visit to the beach! And the greatest thing about the beach in Iceland is that you don’t need to worry about crowds. Just drive right on out, park in the sand, and get ready to make sandcastles. Just make sure to bring a thermos of hot chocolate, the water can get a bit chilly!
Take An Iceland Road Trip
It’s easy to spend 3 or 4 days in Reykjavik and the surrounding area. There is a lot that you can see with just a few days in Iceland. But if you really want to delve into how incredibly amazing this country is, your best bet is to rent a car and explore.
Icelandic roads are super well-maintained and traffic laws are widely supported (and enforced, so drive safe!). Taking a road trip in Iceland with kids makes for an unforgettable experience. And it’s also the best way to explore the parts of Iceland that are often overlooked by visitors. Here are some of our top things you can see on a road trip in Iceland that you probably won’t see on a day trip from Reykjavik. You can check out AutoEurope for great car rental prices here.
- Drive through streams and rivers in the Icelandic Highlands. The Icelandic Highlands are a vast departure from the coastal areas of Iceland. For countless miles in each direction, the land is barren, rocky, and wild. Kids will love the thrill of driving through small streams and rivers in your 4×4 (because if you don’t have a 4×4, don’t go to the Highlands!).
You’ll see towering mountains and glaciers such as the Askja Caldera. Just make sure you stock up on gas and supplies before you go. There are no service stations here.
- Check out some of Iceland’s less famous, but no less spectacular, waterfalls. As I mentioned earlier, Iceland is full of waterfalls. And many of them can’t be seen on an organized tour. They are either too off-the-beaten-path or just not included in organized Iceland tours. Some of the ones not to miss are Godafoss, Iceland’s most powerful waterfall, and the graceful Detifoss and Selfoss. These last two can be reached via a short hike.
- Watch Where the World Has Ripped Apart in Lakagigar. Our visit to Crater Row in Lakagigar was one of our most epic road trips in Iceland. It’s a long drive to get there, but WOW! When you arrive it will blow your mind. There are a series of beautiful volcanic caves that are cool to explore (young children might need a hand to hold for this one).
But the best part is a hike up a small mountain (kids of all ages can do it with a little help). Here you can see where the earth was opened up like a zipper by a series of volcanic eruptions that devastated Iceland in the early 20th century.
What Are The Best Places To Stay In Iceland With Kids?
Iceland has some great hotels for family travel. Whether you are staying in Reykjavik or exploring deeper into the country, you’ll find friendly hosts and comfortable rooms.
Hotels in Reykjavik For Families
Reykjavik is the core of fun in Iceland with kids. It’s the biggest city and has the most options for family-friendly hotels in Iceland. The Alda Hotel Reykjavik is one of the most popular hotels for families in Iceland. They have both a family room with a pullout couch and a suite with two bedrooms.The Canopy Hotel by Hilton also has suites and rooms with pullout couches. The downtown location makes getting around Reykjavik with kids a breeze. If those book up though there are always options for hotels in the city. You can check out more great Reykjavik accommodations here.
But family travel in Iceland isn’t limited to just Reykjavik. There are other cities worth checking out. If you visit Hella, I recommend Hotel Ranga. They have their own observatory which makes watching Iceland’s dark skies even more special. In the town of Vik check out Icelandair Hotel Vik. They even have triple rooms available, perfect for families. The Icelandair Hotel Akureyri is also a good spot for families heading to Iceland’s second-largest city.
There is a LOT to do in Iceland For Kids!
Exploring Iceland for kids can be a fun-filled adventure for the whole family! There is plenty to discover and learn in this beautiful country. The people are warm and friendly and when traveling Iceland with kids you can be sure that your presence will be cherished! Don’t be afraid to venture off-the-beaten-path and get to know this beautiful country a little better.
If you’re passionate about family travel, head on over to our Family Travel Support Group on Facebook. It’s a fantastic community of parents who love travel. We share experiences, knowledge, and the lessons learned along the way. You can also sign up for our newsletter to keep in the loop about new family travel adventures. You can check out our web story for this article here.
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