Playing It Cool
Any time of year is the right time to visit Iceland with kids
Known as a playground for adventure sports and heart-pumping activities, Iceland, dubbed the “Land of Fire and Ice,” surprisingly, makes for an excellent family-friendly vacation.
Given its name, you would expect Iceland to experience frigid weather, but the temperature in winter averages 32 °F in the south — and for some people, it will feel balmy compared to back home. In summer, temperatures usually get up into the mid-seventies. But sunny or cold, it’s a destination worth visiting regardless of the time of the year.
Most visitors fly into the capital city and join a tour or discover the island independently. Plan to spend at least some of your trip there since it has evolved into a trendy and kid-friendly break destination among Europeans.
Start as we did, by exploring on foot. Reykjavík is compact and you can easily walk between most attractions, even with a small child. Head up to the top of the tower at the striking Hallgrímskirkja church for views across the city and of the mountains in the distance. My son thought it looked like a rocket ship! Reykjavík has plenty of child-friendly activities, including the Maritime Museum and the Whales of Iceland exhibit.
In the Grand harbour district, you’ll find restaurants, shops in fisherman huts and one of the city’s newest and best attractions, FlyOver Iceland. It is an immersive ride with a 65-foot curved screen and cutting-edge technology that allows visitors to feel like they are flying over Iceland’s landscapes. Kids must be three-feet tall to ride and will particularly enjoy the preshow which features an ancient troll guide.
Once you leave the city, most people stick to the south coast for tours. Although you can visit the major sites in all seasons, it’s more practical with smaller children to go in the summer months. Plan to see the dramatic Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls and marvel at the black sand beach at Reynisfjara.
There is plenty for kids to enjoy, including hiking along the shore, collecting volcanic stones, and stomping through the jet-black sand. Take the kids for a dip in one of the country’s hot springs, including the world-famous Blue Lagoon.
If you have children aged eight and up, come in winter and consider booking a tour to walk on the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and going inside the ice caves. It’s an otherworldly experience to be underneath the glacier surrounded by the varying shades of ice from volcanic ash dark to every blue your eye can detect. Children will love nearby Diamond Beach where chunks of icebergs have been deposited, appearing as glittery gems on the black sands. Also, on your road trip, stop at the LAVA Centre in Hvolsvöllur, where you can learn more about the geological features of the country and warm up with a hot chocolate and a snack.
The landscapes change so drastically with the seasons that it can feel like visiting two completely different countries in winter and summer. Whatever time of year you come in, you’ll want to visit again to see what you’ve missed in another time of year.