Iceland – the land of ice and fire. Yet despite sub-zero temperatures, several months of darkness and hefty prices – it’s still one of the hottest destinations around, and quite rightly so. If I could go back, I would in a heartbeat. I had no expectations when I arrived, but was blown away by the sheer beauty that greeted me.
Back in 2015 I booked us a trip to spend a week exploring Reykjavík and beyond and it was to be our first family adventure in more chillier climes.
It was February, in the middle of winter and extremely cold. One day it snowed so hard, over 30cm fell overnight and it hit -17°c on the thermometer. Did that bother are then four-year-old son? Did it heck! He was in snow heaven. And we also fulfilled one of my dreams to see the Northern Lights, twice in fact…
When we told family and friends we were going to Iceland, they all looked at us in, what I would like to perceive as awe, but in reality was more like bewilderment. “What are you going to out there with a young child?” one person asked; “Won’t it be too cold?’ another chimed.
Of course, prior to our holiday, I didn’t really have a clue about what we were going to do – all I knew was that we were prepared for the weather and had tons of suitable clothing – plus I assumed that all the amazing sights we were going to see would be spectacular even for a small child.
Was I wrong? Of course not! Iceland may not have specific activities and attractions aimed at mini travellers, but it’s a natural playground for all ages. How can you not be in awe of some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world? Monkey screamed in delight watching a geyser explode, and was so proud of himself when we climbed to the top of Skógafoss Waterfalls. He also ran around in amazement at the black volcanic sand on Vík beach.
Icelanders have children, too, so not is only are they plenty of parks in the city, but restaurants are accommodating, with most offering children’s menus.
If you still need some convincing about whether to take a family trip to Iceland, here are six reasons – and remember, you don’t have to go in winter. Iceland enjoys long warm summers where the scenery is carpeted with lush green and awash with colour.
Kids enjoy attractions for free
Many attractions in Reykyavík offer discounted prices or free entry to children who are under 12 such as the viewing platform at Perlan and free tours including the Viking exhibition at The National Museum of Iceland. You also have numerous parks, a Botanical Garden and Tjörnin – a huge pond where children can feed the ducks and geese.
Children can swim in hot pools
When we decided to experience world-famous geo-thermal pool The Blue Lagoon the first thing I was worried about was whether Monkey would be allowed to come. Kids as young as two are permitted to swim in hot pools across Iceland. And if they can’t swim, floats and armbands are provided, too. I still have a fond memory of us sitting at the side, a glass of wine in my hand, while Monkey was slurping a slushy. Then we did it all again in various other pools including Gamla Laugin. There are over 18 pools alone just around Reykjavík, and many have sections for children.
Iceland is safe
Iceland has been named the safest country in the world a staggering 10 times. With a small population, Iceland has low crime rates, the police do not carry weapons and its inhabitants are peaceful.
There are amazing activities
From toddlers to adventurous teens, there is an activity for all members of the family. The list is truly endless but glacier walking, dog sledding, horse riding, snowmobiling, jeep and boat tours, volcano hiking, mountain climbing and even snorkeling in Iceland are just some of the adventures that can be had.
For younger kids, it’s the simple things which delight. Monkey loved jumping in the car and asking what adventure we would be doing next? We drove around the Golden Circle ourselves – taking in Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall at our own pace. He also couldn’t get enough of making snow angels, and eating Icelandic hotdogs!
There’s wildlife galore
Dependent on what time of year you visit Iceland, you can get your fill of stunning wildlife including puffins, rare birds, Arctic foxes, Icelandic horses, dolphins and whales. We were lucky enough to see a minke whale and a pod of dolphins when we went out on a boat trip from Reykjavík.
It’s so close to the UK and USA
It’s just over three hours to fly from London to Reykjavík, which is hardly any time at all when you think of the completely different landscape and culture you’d be experiencing. Even from the USA, it’s a manageable time to fly with young kids – from the East Coast you’re only looking at around 5 hours 40 mins.
Have you been to Iceland with children? Did you find it a child-friendly country? I’d love to hear you thoughts.