Planning to travel to Iceland with kids? Iceland offers a ton of amazing things to do as a family. From hot springs to whale watches, to climbing a glacier, there are endless options. Iceland is perfect for families that love outdoor adventures.
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What is Iceland famous for?
Iceland is famous for its geologic formations including glaciers, geysers, volcanos, lagoons, waterfalls, and hot springs. Iceland is called the “Land of Ice and Fire”. At times you feel like you are walking on another planet, the geography really is stunning.
Is Iceland child-friendly?
Yes! Iceland is very child-friendly. Overall Iceland is a very safe country- the crime rate is low and the education rate is high. Children are welcome in restaurants and on most expeditions. In Iceland, it is common for children to play outdoors, often past dark.
When to Visit Iceland with Kids
A lot of visitors prefer the warmer summer months- the weather is perfect for hiking and the roads are clear for exploring. Iceland is not always cold- in July high temperatures often reach around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. From May-August you’ll have “midnight sun” which means almost unlimited daylight.
We visited in March when crowds were low and there was stunning snow cover. Driving was a little trickier away from the ring road (yes, we got stuck once) but we planned our visit with the hope of seeing Northern LIghts (spoiler alert: no luck!).
10 Things to Do in Iceland with Kids
1. Go on a Whale Watch
I love whale watches, they were my go-to activity for anyone visiting me when I lived in Boston. On a bad day, you get an amazing boat ride, and on a good day… well, anything is possible! One time we saw a calf nursing right off the side of the boat.
Whale watches leave from the Old Harbor in Reykjavik. They run year-round, but are best during warmer weather from April – September. You’ll primarily see Minke and Humpback whales, possibly Orcas, Dolphins, and Porpoises.
You can also book a whale watch from Husavik if you are heading North. This Whale Watch out of Husavik is a three-hour tour on a traditional wooden sailing ship. Limited to kids age 7 and older. You can help raise the sails!
2. See Puffins in the Wild
Adorable little puffins! You can book a puffin watch on its own, or combine it with a whale watch, though you may be buying two tickets on two different boats. These tours run from May to August. Like the whale watches, you can book ahead, or head to the harbor in Reykjavik to book onsite. These tend to be in smaller boats to get you closer to shore where the birds are nesting, so watch for an age minimum, especially on faster RIBs (rigid inflatable boats).
Most boats from Reykjavik head to Lundey or Akurey, small islands off the coast. You may also see Northern Fulmars, Gulls, Arctic Terns, and Black Guillemots. I’ve got my eye on this Puffin Express 1 hour tour, which has no age minimum. Keep in mind the earlier in the day the tour, the more likely you are to see lots of birds!
You can also book a puffin tour from Breiddalsvik (Eastern coast) or Husavik (Northern coast). This tour with Salka Whale Watching looks great- it’s on a small fishing boat which takes you to see puffins and whales.
3. Hike a Glacier, or Climb Inside one!
We hiked the Sólheimajökull glacier, which was awesome (and totally kid-appropriate). During these hikes, you often have the option of trying climbing a section of the glacier with ropes and helmets, which could be really fun for older kids!
We used Icelandic Mountain Guides and did their Glacial Exploration (2 hours, kids age 10+). As part of this tour, we went through a tunnel in the glacier. The colors were amazing (and so hard to capture on film)! They also have a Glacial Discovery which is a little shorter and rated for kids age 8+. Both are walks on the Sólheimajökull glacier in Southern Iceland, near the town of Vik. We had a fantastic time and highly recommend this group.
4. Soak in a Geothermal Spa or Hot Spring
Iceland is famous for its Blue Lagoon. It’s large, it’s crowded, it’s expensive, and it’s an amazing shade of blue with swim-up bars/juice! The minimum age is 2, and note that kids 2-8 are required to wear provided water wings. For many, this geothermal spa is a “must-do”, but there are many alternatives.
FamilyCanTravel wrote a terrific post on the details of taking kids to the Blue Lagoon, getting them through the locker rooms, etc.
Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal Baths is a highly recommended alternative with a more natural feel. They have natural steam rooms (steam comes up through the floorboards) and outdoor mineral baths at various temperatures as well as a cool lake to dip in. Children under 12 are free with adults.
5. Ride an Icelandic Horse
These horses are adorable and fuzzy and supposedly sweet and strong. The perfect small size for kids, but adults up to 250 pounds can also ride them. Just seeing these furry horses on the side of the road was a highlight for us. They grow thick fur coats in Winter, then shed them in the Spring.
Option 1: Call ahead or email Hestalanda Farm to arrange a ride on these amazing animals. Older or more experienced kids and adults can go for a half-day trail ride, younger ones can opt for a more gentle ride around a paddock. They are located about 1 hour 15 min North of Reykjavik.
Option 2: Icelandic Horseworld is a family-run training and breeding center with about 100 horses. Along with full trail rides, they offer a “Stable Combo” which includes time in the stable, and then about a 20 min ride based on ability in the paddock. Kids should be 4 or older. They are located in Hella, about half an hour from Selfoss, or 1 hour 15 mins from Reykjavik, along the ring road.
We haven’t tried this yet, but it’s definitely on our list for a summer visit!
6. Climb to a Waterfall (or two)
There are so many amazing hikes you can do that range from climbing up a steep hill to the top of a waterfall, to a several hours or day hike.
In Skaftafell National Park we hiked out to Svartifoss (“Black Falls”), a narrow waterfall with basalt columns on both sides. It’s about 3 km total leaving from the visitor center at Skaftafell. One the way down the views are tremendous, you’ll also pass by tiny huts with grass roofs.
Skogafoss is another great stop, as you can see it from the parking lot, then decide how much farther you want to explore. There are steps up the top of the waterfall for a different perspective. From there you can return to the car, or head out on part of the Fimmvörðuháls Trail named “waterfall way” which passes a lot more waterfalls as you follow the Skógá River.
7. Watch for Northern Lights
Definitely a bucket list item, we were really hoping to see the Northern Lights, but no luck. There are apps that will predict the likelihood of a sighting, so you know whether to stay up. This app gets good reviews and is available for Android and iOS.
When we stayed at the fabulous Ion Hotel (in the middle of Iceland, in an amazing bit of snowy nowhere) they offered to call our room and wake us up if the Northern Lights appeared. The viewing season is September through March.
8. Explore a Lava Cave
Sounds pretty spectacular, right? Tours of The Lava Tunnel last about an hour, and kids ages 3 and up are welcome. Explore the lava tunnel Raufarhólshellir, following the path of the Leitahraun eruption that happened over 5,000 years ago. There are footbridges and lights to help you along. There’s also a more adventurous version for those age 12+. Located just 30 min east of Reykjavik.
9. Go Dog Sledding
Dog Sledding flies a bit under the radar in Iceland. Because Iceland has such a mountainous interior, dog sledding is not a traditional way of getting around. The sport has been gaining popularity since 2006, using three breeds: Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Huskies, and Greenlandic Dog.
Since dog sledding is relatively new to the area, the teams are small and family-run. Depending on the weather, you may be on a sled in the snow, or on a kart on dry land. A lot of the tours leave from Akureyri, home to the biggest fjord in Iceland. It’s straight North or about 1.5 hours from Husavik. This dog sledding adventure has no age limit and includes “cuddle time”. If you’re worried about the kids being nervous or don’t want to invest in a full dog sledding tour, you can also book time at the dog kennels for “petting and pictures”.
10. Visit a Glacial Lagoon
You don’t want to miss Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon- you can literally hop onto floating pieces of ice in this lagoon while spying on seals lounging nearby. It’s so otherworldly it’s fantastic. The lagoon has a mix of saltwater and freshwater, giving it its unique appearance. It sits just south of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier. The lagoon keeps getting bigger as the glacial ice keeps melting. Located on the ring road, about 5 hours from Reykjavik.
Is Iceland in the EU? Do I need a visa?
Iceland is not in the EU, though it does have a strong relationship with the EU block. Iceland is part of the Schengen Area which allows borderless travel within the EU. Any nationality that can enter the Schengen Area without a visa (including Americans) can also enter Iceland without a visa, for a stay of up to 90 days.
Getting Around Iceland
International flights into Iceland arrive at Keflavik International Airport. From the airport, a bus runs from outside Arrivals to the BIS terminal in downtown Reykjavik. The bus takes about 45 minutes.
Iceland is easy to get around- the main “ring road” literally circles the island. When exploring Iceland with kids we advise renting a car- most of the good stuff is outside of Reykjavik, and with little ones we always like to be able to move at our own pace when possible. Snack breaks and bathroom breaks are crucial of course!
What will my kids eat in Iceland?
With a mix of seafood, lamb, rye bread, yogurt, and even hot dogs, picky eaters should be just fine in Iceland.
Start with a hot dog from the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavik. A stand down by the harbor, the hot dogs are made of a mix of beef, lamb, and pork.
Eat your hot dog at a picnic table before heading to Seabarons for seafood or lobster stew. Check out the old man in the corner- he fooled me!
Stock up on Skyr in a grocery for breakfasts on the road. Skyr is like a mix between yogurt and custard. I loved it some much I tried to take some home with me!
If you can sneak away from the kids, one of our Favorite Restaurants in the world is in Reykjavik.
There you have it!
Overall visiting Iceland with kids is easy and safe. There’s a lot of fun, exciting options for families to enjoy in this unique country.