When it comes to planning your family vacation to Iceland it can seem like an overwhelming process. Not only are there endless things to do and see in Iceland, but you also want to make sure the activities planned are something your family is interested in, as well as it being an appropriate activity for your family’s travel style. That is a lot of different things to think about!
To help make your travel planning fun and not stressful we have put together a guide with some of the best activities to do in Iceland with a family. Under the different recommendations we have further details, such as the ages the activity is best for, so you can be sure that you are choosing an activity that works best for your family. Now all that is left to do is figure out how to fit in all the activities we are certain your family is going to want to do from this guide, a fun problem to have!
Even if you plan on spending most of your vacation out exploring the countryside of Iceland spending a day or two in Reykjavik during your trip is something we highly recommend. The quirky capital city of Iceland is full of activities to keep your whole family busy and is a great stop to add to the start or end of your Iceland family vacation. You can use our list of top photography spots in Reykjavík as a guideline for things to see in the city.
The downtown area of Reykjavik is quite small which makes it nice and easy for your family to explore by foot at your own pace. While the city may be small the options for things for your family to do will more than keep your schedules busy! To give you an idea of things to do in Reykjavik here is an example day in the city full of activities that everyone in your group can enjoy no matter the different ages of your family members:
- Start your morning off with a visit to the top of Hallgrímskirkja for the best views over the city and let the kids point out places from the view they want to visit next.
- After seeing all the colorful streets from above spend some time wandering downtown taking in all the colorful houses and popping into the different little shops along the way.
- Enjoy snack time in a cozy cafe complete with Icelandic treats like kleinur and marriage cake.
- Go for a swim in one of the local pools and get to listen to the locals catching up on the latest news and gossip.
- Stroll down to the large pond, Tjörnin in the center of the city to watch the ducks play and let the kids run around in the large grass fields and playground.
Children playing on the frozen Tjörnin during winter.
- Take a walk along the seaside path for some great views of both the city and the mountains in the distance.
- Visit the old harbour area and enjoy checking out the boats of all sizes, museums, and different shops and restaurants.
- End the day with a delicious meal at one of the tasty restaurant spots in Reykjavik. The capital city does not disappoint when it comes to dining options so you will be sure to find one your whole family can agree on.
These are just a few ideas of how to spend a day in Reykjavik, and as you can see it will be packed full of family fun! With so many different options of things to do in the city, you can easily tailor the day to your family needs and interest making it the perfect location to either start or end your time in Iceland.
Explore the Hiking Trails
Exploring the hiking trails in Iceland not only gets you up close with the diverse Icelandic nature, but it also is a great activity for the entire family to enjoy together. Hiking in Iceland can take you anywhere from a trail back to some hot springs or a waterfall, to a trail leading you past mountain and valley views that will leave you in awe. Before you set off, keep in mind that there are a few things you should know before hiking in Iceland.
Wondering which trails are best for a family adventure?
For families with older children you may be interested in taking on longer and at times more demanding trails. Here are a few good options to check out:
- Mt. Esja trail near Reykjavik, takes 2-4 hours to complete and is a favorite trail with the locals.
- Glymur in West Iceland, takes around 3+ hours to complete and will take you back to the second-highest waterfall in Iceland. At times the trail can get quite steep so come prepared for this.
- Borgarfjörður Eystri in the East of Iceland is an area full of different hiking trails so your family can choose based on how long you would like to be out hiking for.
- Landmannalaugar and Fimmvörðuháls in the Highlands of Iceland are amazing hiking options if your family is experienced hikers and are looking for day-long hiking adventures.
Have some shorter legs in your group that aren’t quite ready to take on a few hours of hiking? No problem there are still plenty of trail options for your family that are great for letting your younger children out exploring.
The below trails are great for younger hikers or families that prefer shorter and less strenuous hikes:
- Svartifoss Trail, located in Skaftafell National Park, is an easy hike that will take around an hour and a half to do a round trip and takes you back to Svartifoss waterfall which is one of the most unique waterfalls in Iceland surrounded by basalt columns.
- Hiking trails in Húsafell offer a wide variety of options from easy walks through wooded areas to pathways along the Kaldá river.
- Arnarpstapi to Hellnar Trail, found on the Snæfellsnes peninsula will take your family for a relaxing hike by the sea.
- Úlfarsfell Trail, in Reykjavik, is a short but somewhat strenuous hiking adventure that has some amazing views over the city at the top.
Views from the top of the trail at Úlfarsfell
And for those with children not quite ready for a full-blown hiking adventure of their own don’t think you won’t get to have any hiking fun in Iceland! Pack the baby carrier or stroller and take your baby and toddlers out with you for light hiking adventures.
Depending on how long you are willing to carry around the extra weight of another person you may want to check out the following trails:
- Kvernufoss, located in South Iceland, is a short 30-40 minute round trip hike that will take you off the beaten path back to a stunning waterfall.
- Seljavallalaug Trail, also in South Iceland, takes you back into a valley on a flat easy trail that even your toddler’s little legs could manage.
- Elliðaárdalur Valley in Reykjavik is a 10 km loop that will take you past waterfalls, forests and bunnies hopping about. This option is stroller friendly making it a great place for the whole family to go out exploring.
No matter what the age range and ability of your family you can be certain to find a hiking trail that will suit you all! So pack your outdoor shoes and camera and enjoy the Icelandic nature together.
Hit the Swimming Pools
Going for a swim in one of the many pools around Iceland will be a favourite activity for all the members in your family, so don’t forget to pack everyone’s bathing suits! Whether you visit a local pool or go for hot springs out in nature you won’t want to miss a swim in the relaxing geothermal waters in Iceland.
While you can’t really go wrong when it comes to picking a swimming pool or hot spring to visit here are a couple of ideas that we think our perfect options for family adventures.
Laugardalur Swimming Pool
The best pool for a family trip in Reykjavik, here you will find several hot tubs to enjoy relaxing in, as well as a large pool perfect for the kids to splash around in. There are slides, a little obstacle course, and smaller baby pool making it suitable for all ages.
You just can’t go wrong with a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon! With the gorgeous blue water and wonderful infrastructure, it makes a family visit an enjoyable time for all. There is an age requirement of 2 years and older, and children 8 years old and younger are required to wear floaties while in the lagoon. However, these are available free of charge when you arrive.
If you dream of soaking in some gorgeous blue water in Iceland but have a little one under the age of 2 the Mývatn Nature Baths are a great alternative option to the Blue Lagoon for your family as they allow children of all ages into the lagoon and have free admission for 12 years old and younger.
Reykjadalur Hot Springs
With a relatively easy hike back to these hot springs, Reykjadalur hot springs is a great place to take your family for a swim out in the Icelandic nature. While there is not dressing rooms in this area there are nice walking paths around the hot spring making it safe and easy for your family to get down into the hot springs.
Hofsós Swimming Pool
Located in the northern part of Iceland, Hofsós pool is one of our favorite pools out in the Icelandic countryside. Here you will find an infinity pool that has stunning views over the fjord as well as plenty of room for the kids to play around. In addition, there is a large hot tub right next to the main pool so the parents can keep watch of the children while relaxing and enjoying the view.
For more swimming pools around Iceland be sure to check out this blog post where we share 20 of our favorite hot springs around Iceland.
Since the weather in Iceland can be a bit unpredictable it is good to have some indoor activity options in case you can’t make it outside due to a storm. Enter in a museum day at one of the below museums and you will all be learning about the Icelandic culture in an interactive setting. An added bonus for visiting museums is that most museums offer children under the age of 10 free admissions, so it is a budget-friendly option for a rainy family day activity.
Eldheimar Museum on Westman Islands
If you find yourself on the Westman Islands be sure to make a visit to the Eldheimar museum where you will learn all about the volcanic eruption that hit the island without warning in 1973. This eruption caused an emergency evacuation for the entire island, and it would be over a year before many of the island inhabitants could return back to the Westman Islands.
The museum displays are centered around an excavated home which was buried by ash during the eruption. An audio guide will take you around the museum covering events before, during, and after the eruption. It is amazing to see how the island recovered from this natural disaster you won’t want to miss visiting this museum!
National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik
The National Museum of Iceland is the place to go to learn all about the history of Iceland and the Viking’s that settled here. With over 2,000 artefacts to see and interactive exhibits to play around with it is a good option for a family that wants to learn all about the history of Iceland in a fun setting.
Viking World in Keflavik
Located near the international airport, the Viking World is the place to go for all things Viking of course! Here you will find a Viking ship replica of the famous Gokstad ship as well as exhibitions on the Norse settlements.
Lava Centre in Hvolsvöllur
For a truly interactive experience that even the teenagers in your family will find cool head to the newly opened Lava Centre in Hvolsvöllur. Here you will find interactive, high-tech exhibits that will educate the whole family on the volcanic activity in Iceland over the years.
Museum visits in Iceland certainly won’t be boring! Any of the above museums will provide an entertaining way for your family to learn more about the Icelandic culture and history so you can leave Iceland with lots of new facts to impress your friends and family back home.
Join an Adventure-Packed Tour
If your family is more the adventure-seeking type you all are going to love the different activity options in Iceland! Anything from a super jeep adventure to find Northern Lights to an adrenaline rush adventure of snowmobiling on a glacier can be found here in Iceland. While these types of tours are typically more suited for families with children of older ages we have added some great options that even the younger members can join in!
Lava Tunnel Exploring
Take your family adventures underground with a tour along a 1.3 kilometer tunnel that was formed thousands of years ago. The mix of colors and lava formations are a sight to be seen and with the well-maintained infrastructure inside the tunnel this tour is very family-friendly. Little ones as young as 3 years old are able to join in on the fun.
Go Glacier Hiking
Learn about the Icelandic glaciers and their importance in nature on an adventurous tour that will have your family exploring all over the glacier. The formations and stunning blue ice you will see on the glacier will be memorable for all in your group! These tours have a minimum age requirement which is usually 10 years and older, something to keep in mind when planning for your family.
Go on an ATV Adventure
If your family likes to go fast and get your adrenaline pumping joining an ATV tour will be your kind of experience in Iceland! All around the country you will find different ATV tour operators to choose from. If you are staying in Reykjavik you may be interested in this tour exploring a lava beach or this tour which will take you over the diverse landscape of the Reykjanes peninsula. A fun and unique way to get to enjoy the Icelandic sights! These tours have an age requirement for 6 years and older.
Into the Glacier
If you have young ones traveling with you and had a glacier adventure on your must-do list you are in luck! The tour Into the Glacier is open to all ages and will take your family as the name says, into the glacier.
Interested in more action-packed tours to check out in Iceland? We have partnered with some of the best tour providers in Iceland to offer you a wide variety of tours to choose from so you can keep the adventures going!
Spend Some Time with Icelandic Animals
For families who have some animal lovers, you will want to make sure to schedule some time to get familiar with the animals that call Iceland home. Whether this is with a visit to an Icelandic farm, or an adventure-packed tour in a search to find some of the animals that call Iceland home, there is an animal-friendly activity option perfect for all families.
To give you a few ideas on the possibilities in Iceland here are some of our favourite ways to spend time with the animals in Iceland.
Visit an Icelandic Farm
What better way to learn more about Icelandic culture than by spending some time hanging out with some cute animals in the Icelandic countryside? Around the country, you will find family farms that open their doors to the public so that you can learn more about life on an Icelandic farm from the friendly farmers who live there. A unique way for your family to experience Icelandic culture, your hosts will also be full of information about the region you are visiting and likely will have some favourite local spots to share with you.
Did we mention the cute animals you get to hang out with?
A farm visit will definitely be a unique stop during your Iceland adventure, but one that will be both rewarding and memorable for your family. Wondering which farms to visit? You will find 5 different ideas that we recommend in this post here.
Go on a Whale Watching Tour
Great for all ages, take your family out for a memorable adventure on the water with a whale watching tour. Enjoy the boat ride and scenery all while on the search for whales swimming around. The excitement when you see one of the glorious animals splashing around will leave smiles on your entire family’s faces for the rest of the day!
See a Puffin
One animal that you won’t often find on your travels, but will find the largest breeding grounds in Iceland, is the charismatic puffin. If you will be in Iceland during the summer months you won’t want to miss the chance to take your family out to see these adorable orange beak animals walking around.
In order to see puffins you will need to either go to one of the breeding ground locations, which are located on different cliff sides around Iceland, or join a boat tour in one of the locations they can be found. Either option will be a thrilling adventure for your family with the reward of seeing these cute animals with their playful personality up close. You can find our full guide on where the best places to go in Iceland are for seeing puffins here.
Explore the Icelandic Countryside on Horseback
A horseback riding tour for your family will be the perfect way to combine exploring more of the Icelandic countryside with bonding time with these charming animals. You will find a large variety of tour options around Iceland ranging from one-hour rides to all-day rides, tours through lava fields and tours on the beaches, making it easy to find an option that works best for your family.
While horseback riding tours are not suitable for toddlers and babies they will still enjoy stopping to pet the horses hello so don’t miss at least a quick visit with the beautiful Icelandic horses.
Explore the Icelandic Countryside
To truly get the real Icelandic experience a road trip out into the Icelandic countryside is a must! And with stunning landscapes around every corner and tons of sights to see along the way Iceland is the perfect place for an unforgettable family road trip.
Spending hours in a car with your entire family may not sound like your idea of a good time, which is why we are here to hopefully change your mind. The following road trip options take anywhere from a few hours to all day to complete assuming you are based in Reykjavik. This way everyone can be happy travelers while out exploring the Icelandic countryside.
Perfect for families looking for a short road trip adventure, the Reykjanes peninsula is an easy half-day adventure from Reykjavik that won’t have your family in the car for long stretches of time. Explore attractions such as the largest lake on the peninsula Kleifarvatn, the geothermal park Gunnuhver and the charming fishing town of Grindavik. Driving this loop and stopping along the way takes around 3-4 hours so it is perfect for younger family members who prefer running outside to sitting in a car.
The Golden Circle
The famous Golden Circle is one road trip adventure your family won’t want to miss! Enjoy stops such as Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Geysir. These stops will give your family a unique look at the diverse nature found in Iceland while getting plenty of time to stretch their legs outside of the car. Plan to spend anywhere from a half-day to most of the day exploring the Golden Circle, depending on how much time your family would like to take at each of the stops. If you want to make the absolute most of your time in the Golden Circle, you might be interested in reading our article about 12 detours to make on the Golden Circle Route.
The South Coast
If your family is up for an all-day adventure exploring the south coast of Iceland will be the perfect option. Enjoy the stunning landscape as you drive to waterfalls, black sand beaches, and if you are up for it the unique glacier lagoon. While this day does have longer stretches of drive time the stops along the way more than make up for it.
Looking for a road trip that will keep your family on the move all day long? The diverse Snæfesness Peninsula located in West Iceland is the road trip for your group! Called “Mini Iceland” on this loop you will find everything from beaches, lava fields, waterfalls and charming fishing towns. There are dozens of stops you can make along the way to make sure your family gets enough time out of the car making it so no one will get bored with this road trip!
This guide is just the start of the many different ways your family can enjoy Iceland! For more ideas of family fun in Iceland be sure to check out our blog and be sure to share all the fun your family gets up to with us on Instagram with #HeyIceland.