Iceland has easily become one of, if not the most, photographed and visited places on Earth in the last 10 years, even seeing a 300% spike in tourism between 2010 and 2015. While this increase in visitors is changing the economy and reputation of the small island nation, it does seem that much of the popularity is attributed to young people backpacking Iceland and eager nature photographers. Iceland is a great place for adventure travel, whether that means hiking Iceland, driving across lonely arctic roads or taking to the seas. However, the Nordic country isn’t a destination exclusively for the Indiana Jones-types of the world, as the attractions, safe environment, and friendly culture also makes it ideal for families looking to take a different kind of trip. We’ve arranged a list of the ten best sites and activities to do in Iceland with kids.
Top 10 Things to Do in Iceland with Kids
The Blue Lagoon
Arguably the most famous tourist attraction in Iceland, The Blue Lagoon is geothermal hot springs that have been turned into an open-air pool where people and kids of all ages can relax and frolic in the perfectly warm waters. A swim-up bar offers up smoothies for the kiddos or beverages, like beer and wine, for the older crowd.
Whale-Watching in Iceland with Kids
Not only does whale-watching give families a chance to see the largest animals the world has ever known, it also offers an opportunity to positively impact the country. Currently, Icelanders are in heated debates amongst each other and conservationists around the world over whale hunting. Locals who embrace the tradition argue it is a culturally significant act, while others say whale watching tours brings more money to Iceland and is better for the ecosystem, notably for the fishing industry. Taking a whale-watching tour will help build a positive argument for oceanic health and helping the gentle giants.
Whales of Iceland
An excellent follow-up to a whale-watching tour, this Reykjavik museum has life-sized replicas of all the whales that inhabit the waters of the region. Looking up at these realistic models will leave anyone in awe of their magnitude. The museum also has many interactive and educational exhibits to entertain the little ones.
Great Geysir with Kids
The active geyser in southwestern Iceland is well known for being the first geyser mentioned in printed written history. Great Geysir can blast hot water as high as 230 feet into the air — about 50 feet higher than Yellowstone’s Old Faithful — but be sure to check its status before visiting as it has become less active and has been known to stop erupting for months at a time.
Gullfoss and Skogafoss Waterfalls
Potentially the two most famous waterfalls in Iceland, Gullfoss and Skogafoss are great places to visit. They are generally very accessible for families because intensive hiking is not required to reach their cascades. Kids will surely enjoy the mists and rainbows produced by the falls but will also have fun running in the unspoiled nature around the two locations.
Ride an Icelandic Horse
Going horseback riding on Icelandic horses is ideal for inexperienced children, considering the animals are famous for their small stature and happy, charming demeanor. Kids as young as seven can pilot their own horse and parents can take comfort knowing they are very difficult to spook, largely thanks to Iceland not having any known predators.
Dog Sledding for Families
Another excellent outdoor adventure in Iceland with kids, taking a sled dog ride is a great way to see natural sites like glaciers while keeping everyone entertained. Mushers will take little ones as young as two years old on excursions. The pooches, mostly huskies, are eager to please and after sled rides love to interact and play with visiting families.
Venture into an Ice Cave in Iceland with Kids
Take a unique experience gazing at and exploring the belly of a glacier. Iceland’s second largest glacier Langjokull does not have any age restrictions but does have otherworldly views. Before heading out, check with tour companies on age limits, as different tours are better suited for certain age ranges.
Perlan Museum for Kids
Another museum just outside of the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, Perlan is a new installation that stands tall on a hill over the city, offering some of the best views of the quaint and colorful town. Inside, kids and parents can be entertained by exhibitions on glaciers, the Northern Lights, and the oceans surrounding the island. Perlan, which means ‘The Pearl’ in the country’s native tongue, also has the country’s first planetarium, which replicates Iceland’s bright night sky.
Other Notable Icelandic Inhabitants and Sites
There are a number of popular tours that take families to see some of the other cute critters native to Iceland like seals and puffins that live amongst the cliffs. Another must-see in Iceland with kids that is beloved by all, including families without bedtimes, is going to the many places on the island and securing a spectacular vantage point for the Northern Lights.
Zack is a recovering technical recruiter who traded in his suit and tie in Silicon Valley for salsa music and a passion for writing in Medellin, Colombia. When not writing for AllTheRooms you can find Zack with his nose in a book, puttering around nature, or getting ultra-competitive while watching Jeopardy.