What is it like traveling to Iceland with kids? What tours, activities, and adventures are you able to bring your children on? What are the most exciting activities for your Icelandic family holiday? Read on for all the information needed to plan the perfect family trip to Iceland.
As a travel destination, Iceland stands out as one of the most family-friendly places you can visit. The local culture offers an attitude of general safety, and it is common for local kids to play outside, even after dark, when the cold winter months provide only limited sunlight each day.
Boasting a relatively low-crime rate, Iceland even topped the Global Peace Index (GPI) report ten consecutive years in a row. This societal feeling of safeness is so integrated that some Icelandic customs might appear strange—or even reckless—to visitors not used to the cultures mentality towards safety.
An example of this laid-back mentality would be the standard practice of infants being left, seemingly unattended, in their strollers and buggies outside cafés and restaurants, often on a busy shopping street and in cold weather. No need to be alarmed when you spot an unattended baby; the parent is most likely right inside keeping a watchful eye on their young one.
The reason for this has to do with the purity of the air in Iceland; it is commonly believed that it is healthiest for children to nap out in the open, breathing the healthiest air possible. Icelandic parents are also well aware of how cold it can get, meaning they have certainly properly dressed their child to keep them comfortable from the elements.
Even if you don’t feel like participating in this seemingly strange local custom, you should know that you have found a remarkably safe and family-friendly destination when you choose to take a family vacation to Iceland.
When you begin planning your family holiday to Iceland it will immediately become clear just how many exciting activities Iceland has to offer. However, you might have some questions: Can you bring your kids on a volcano tour? Are they able to do a glacier hike? Or go on a whale-watching vessel? Do tours have age restrictions?
In this article, we have gathered some useful information on things like age limits for specific tours and top recommendations to keep both you and your children entertained and safe during your travels around the island of ice and fire, no matter the season.
Read on to discover how to plan an unforgettable family holiday in Iceland!
When traveling with family, it is sometimes preferable to rent an entire apartment or home. This gives everyone space to spread out, whereas a single hotel room might get a bit tight for larger families. There are cabins, apartments, and houses of all shapes, sizes, and prices available for rental all over the country, some of them sleeping up to 16 people and allowing everyone on the trip to stay together in one palace. This also usually gives you access to a full kitchen, meaning mealtime with kids can be a lot easier.
If you prefer booking hotels, look for those that designate themselves as family-friendly and check reviews to see what other parents have to say. You certainly don’t want to find yourself in a youth hostel where the sounds of partying keeps your kids up all night!
Seljalandsfoss on the South Coast which boasts an accessible cave
One of the easiest ways to take the whole family around Iceland's renowned natural attractions is to book a self-driving tour or package, where you are in full control of the pace of your journey and which sites to visit. When you book a self-drive, your transport, accommodation and excursions are all organized before your arrival, along with a personalized travel itinerary prepared by local experts.
A self-drive tour allows you a much richer experience than you might have on a typical sightseeing tour and tends to be much more comfortable for young children. The possible array of activities available to your family are sure to excite and provide a myriad of memorable and educational adventures.
The Golden Circle is Iceland’s most popular and famous sightseeing route for good reason; the views and attractions are simply awe-inspiring. These views include the erupting geysers of Haukadalur Geothermal Valley, the mighty cascade of Gullfoss Waterfall, and the stunning continental rift valley of Þingvellir—filled to the brim with Viking history.
Despite these incredible views making you feel like you’re on another planet, the route is conveniently located close to the capital of Reykjavík and can easily be traversed within a single day. Driving between the sites does not take long at all, and you don’t have to drive backtrack. The circular route boasts a manageable distance of approximately 140 miles (230 kilometers).
If you are staying in Reykjavík City with your family, and renting a car or booking a self-drive doesn’t adhere to your travel plans, you can also enjoy the Golden Circle via a bus tour. While bus tours usually have no age limit, they differ in length and extra activities, so for families with very young children, we recommend shorter versions to better fit the stamina of the young ones’ sightseeing abilities, such as this six-hour option.
Basking in the heated geothermal pools that Iceland is famous for has been a popular family activity ever since the Age of Settlement, where the heat from the volcanic activity beneath the island’s surface has offered welcome warmth to the dwellers of this icy nation.
Today, public swimming pools and geothermal springs are found in nearly every town and village across the country. Most of these include facilities for children, such as wading pools and small water slides.
Travelers of all ages love visiting the myriad of Iceland’s natural hot pools. These can easily be located yourself when renting a car or embarking on a self-drive tour. If, for instance, you are traversing the Golden Circle route, you can stop at the geothermal valley Reykjadalur by Hveragerði and hike up to the natural hot springs that dot the area. You can also take a tour to this site.
Photo from Hot Spring Hike from Reykjadalur
For the ultimate luxury hot spring experience, establishments across the country offer geothermally heated nature baths, often built right into their natural surroundings. The most popular of these would be the world-famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in between Reykjavík City and Keflavík Airport, where children as young as two-years-old can enter.
The lagoon is an immensely popular option, but is far from the only one boasting the acclaimed benefits of tranquility and relaxation. The Fontana Geothermal Baths in Laugarvatn have no age limit, as well as offering free entry for children under thirteen—the same goes for the Mývatn Nature Baths in North Iceland. The stunning Secret Lagoon at Flúðir Village also provides free admission for kids under the age of fourteen.
Photo from Golden Circle Tour with the Secret Lagoon
Iceland might not be the first place that comes to mind when seeking a beach holiday, but if the weather is nice you can pack up the sunscreen and volleyball and head to Nauthólsvík, a man-made resort where geothermal heating is used to warm the Atlantic Ocean within a barricaded bay. You'll find outdoor hot tubs and changing-rooms amongst sunbathing locals on a fair-coloured strip of sand situated by the Reykjavík University.
With such a wide selection of options, wherever you are basing your travels, your whole family can enjoy doing what Icelanders love best—which is to soak, swim, play, relax and renew—outdoors together in warm and restorative waters.
Nothing gives children joy like animals do! Luckily, Iceland doesn’t have any particularly dangerous wildlife so kids can safely view these magnificent creatures in the wild (from a distance of course; never pet or feed wild animals!).
In Iceland, the animal life ranges from whales to seals, horses to puffins, and everything in between! Children can enjoy educational and exciting excursions to see or interact with these animals and make memories that last a lifetime. Read on for our top recommendations for adventures to satisfy animal lovers of all ages.
On a whale watching adventure, spectators of all ages can witness majestic sea mammals roaming wild and free in their natural habitat. The different species of whale that inhabit Iceland’s shores are most commonly alluring minke whales, followed by acrobatic humpbacks, playful white-beaked dolphins, timid harbour porpoises and majestic orcas. After a successful tour, your child will surely have picked out their favorite of the bunch.
Whale watching tours on traditional vessels don’t have a particular age limit and are available throughout the year from the Old Harbour of the capital city of Reykjavík, as well as Akureyri and Húsavík in the North, and the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in the West. As long as the waters are calm, you are free to bring even the very youngest onboard.
As if whale watching wasn't already exciting enough, during the summer whale watching tours often include puffin watching. These are usually conducted onboard a RIB boat, where the age-limit is ten-years-old. If your child hasn’t reached that age, don’t worry—puffins can still be found on self-drive tours of the South Coast or Westfjords, from April through August.
Having the chance to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat is an experience children will remember for life, placing whale and puffin watching tours amongst the most ideal family-friendly adventures available in Iceland.
Horseback riding is a popular activity for all ages all over the world, but a ride in the Icelandic countryside on the calm and unique Icelandic horse is a once in a lifetime experience. These horses (not ponies!) are short in stature but very strong, with a comfortable gait unique to the breed called the Tolt. These horses are famously gentle and friendly, and will provide your child with a safe and unforgettable day.
These amazing horses arrived in the country with the very first settlers, and their lack of predators created a brave breed that spooks at nothing and loves attention from humans. Children as young as seven are typically allowed on riding tours, but the trips vary in length and location, allowing you to pick the ideal adventure for you and your family.
A relatively new addition to Iceland’s varied activities, dog sledding is fast becoming a not-to-be-missed experience for animal enthusiasts. On a dog sledding adventure, your kids can encounter Greenland Dogs, as well as Siberian and Alaskan huskies—different species of sled dogs, all equal in their loveliness.
These tours operate all through the year, where the skis of the sled get replaced with wheels as the snow melts away during the summer season. Your guide is called a musher, who will inform you about the basics of dog sledding and introduce your kids to their new best friends, with plentiful opportunities for cuddling before hitting the road.
While most dog sledding tours available have an age limit of six, there are those that allow children as young as two to ride the sleds, as well as some operators offering reduced prices for children under twelve. If your kid loves dogs—and what kid doesn’t—why not make their trip especially memorable by allowing them to shoot across the Icelandic countryside with their new furry friends?
Photo from Jene Yeo
The Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is one of Iceland’s ultimate attractions, where massive icebergs floating in a deep blue lake share a home with Icelandic seals, many of which are curious enough to greet visitors to their domain. A boat ride of the lagoon has no age limit if the vessel is an amphibian boat, but for the zodiac, passengers must be at least ten years old.
Imagine the memories your kids will take back with them after spotting arctic seals lounging on massive icebergs, up close and all around. Tours of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in West Iceland also include seal watching, and there is a fair chance of spotting these doe-eyed dogs of the sea on any coastal activity around Iceland.
If your kids are really into these captivating animals, the Icelandic Seal Centre on the Vatnsnes Peninsula is a must-visit. The centre offers a wealth of information on these fascinating creatures, from their anatomy to their place in Icelandic culture and fables. The centre is not only educational and entertaining, but an important research institution that monitors the animals’ populations to help build a sustainable seal-watching industry in Iceland.
Dýragarðurinn í Slakka is a conveniently located petting zoo and farm on the South Coast of Iceland. The animals who live there include kittens, puppies, calves, piglets, rabbits, mice and parrots. There is no age limit for visiting, so bring all your animal-loving family members for a memorable day of reconnecting with nature and farm life.
The location also boasts pool tables, a playground, an arcade, and a mini-golf course, as well as a café and ice cream shop. Slakki is open every weekend of April and every day from May through August. If you are travelling with a group it is possible to arrange a visit outside regular opening hours upon contacting the establishment.
For a family holiday brimming with excitement, there is an array of adventure tours available for kids of different ages to participate in. Following are our top recommendations, along with information on age-limits, for outdoor adventures in Iceland.
A popular Icelandic adventure is a glacier hike up one of the country's many stunning ice caps. For most of the shorter tours of easy difficulty the age limit is eight or ten. However, this tour of Skálafellsjökull Glacier offers to take you most of the way onboard a super jeep and then walk on the ice, with an age limit of five years old.
There are two ways to explore the insides of a glacier in Iceland, an increasingly sought-after activity to adventurous visitors. One can either go into an authentic, naturally formed ice cave during the winter season, or venture through a man-made ice tunnel all year-round.
To be allowed on an ice cave tour, your child must be eight. However, for an educational journey inside the man-made ice tunnels of the country’s second-largest glacier, Langjökull, there is no age limit as long as parents are aware that they are responsible for their children.
If you want to take your family river rafting, the glacier river Hvítá in South Iceland is one of the most popular rafting venues of the country. The first half of the river consists of gentle currents, where children over the age of ten can join. For the whole distance, the age requirement goes up to twelve as the rapids get bigger.
In North Iceland the beautiful river of Vestari Jökulsá boasts a specialized family rafting tour for all children aged six and up. The tour includes not only rafting but swimming, water-fighting, and a treat of hot chocolate made from the area’s natural spring water.
Going inside a lava cave allows your family to explore the underworld of Iceland's geothermal activity, where colourful tunnels offer adventures for all daredevil kids to enjoy.
Within Snæfellsjökull National Park in West Iceland you’ll find the lava cave Vatnshellir, a colorful underworld so easy to navigate that children as young as five years old can join in on the excursion. Another cave with the same age requirement is Iceland's most visited lava tube, Leiðarendi, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, conveniently including transport to and from the capital of Reykjavík.
For an extremely accessible cave for all ages and abilities consider visiting Raufarholshellir, close to Hveragerdi in South Iceland. The cave includes steps, but if your child can walk on their own or if you can carry them down a flight of stairs, there is no minimum age requirement. Children under twelve are allowed on the tour for free.
For unparalleled views of Iceland’s natural wonders and rugged terrain, numerous helicopter tours exist that take you across the sky to different touchdowns around the country. The age requirement for most of these is two years old, while the duration of the tours differ from 40 minutes to several hours.
Some helicopter operators even offer specialized seatbelts that allow you to hold your infant in your lap if the child is younger than two. You might have more appreciation for the view than your infant, but you could enjoy making memories with them all the same.
The Sun Voyager by central Reykjavík's seaside is the perfect family sightseeing spot
Now that we’ve covered what sights and activities are best suited for children while navigating the countryside, it’s time to explore the family-friendly options within the capital. Reykjavik City is a bustling, small-scale metropolis that seems to strike an ideal balance between big-city excitement and the wholesome innocence of a small harbour town.
The centre, or the downtown, is the city’s most densely populated area and where most travellers find themselves staying during their time in Reykjavik. Our first recommendation is as simple as taking your kids on a stroll around the centre, where a myriad of shops, cafés, restaurants, and boutiques await for all ages to enjoy.
If you are visiting Reykjavik in summer, you can always spend a sunny afternoon in one of the capital’s public parks. These include the spacious Klambratun, a large area of greenery encompassing the museum Kjarvalsstadir and sporting equipment such as a volleyball net and frisbee golf course.
Another park of note is Hljomskalagardurinn, a picturesque esplanade boasting a pavilion and a small sculpture garden, located right by the city pond.
A favorite activity for local and visiting families alike is the city pond, known as Tjornin, a precious inner-city gem. For decades local children have enjoyed bringing food to feed the ducks and swans that live in the pond.
Please note that it is not suggested that the birds should be fed, in summer since their food sources are already plentiful, and bread will not only upset their stomachs but lure predatory seagulls that prey on the chicks. If you feel the need to feed the birds then opt for lettuce, corn, or peas.
Seemingly floating on top of this scenic body of water is the landmark building of Reykjavík City Hall. After taking your kids to explore the famous 3D map of Iceland, located within the building, you can get your hands on the Reykjavík City Card, the most budget-conscious way of exploring the culture and attractions of Reykjavík.
The Reykjavík City Card is available for both children and adults, for either 24, 48 or 72 hours, and by purchasing it you receive unlimited access to almost all city museums and galleries. These include the Árbær Open Air Museum, an interactive adventureland where kids can explore different time periods of Iceland’s history.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Meltwaterfalls. No edits made.
The family-friendly merits of the card continue, as it serves as a voucher for the myriad of geothermal swimming pools in Reykjavík, of which nearly all include kiddie pools, toys, and slides. If you are without a car to reach all of these destinations, don’t worry; the card functions as a bus ticket as well.
The card also grants access to The Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo, an action-packed amusement park and farm animal zoo in Laugardalur Valley. Also in Laugardalur Valley, right next to the Family Park and Zoo, you’ll find the Reykjavík Botanical Gardens, the perfect place for frolicking in nature and getting to know the flora of Iceland.
The picturesque gardens are home to over 5000 different species of plants and are open all year round, without charge to the public. Within the park, we recommend enjoying refreshments at Flóran Garden Bistro, an adorable pavilion sitting next to a pond populated with colorful Koi fish.
Before leaving Laugardalur Valley, take note that across the gardens you’ll find the Reykjavík Ice Skating Rink, an indoor venue offering skates for rent. The valley is also home to the geothermal swimming pool Laugardalslaug, a favorite to many kids since it boasts one of the biggest water slides in the country.
Last but not least, the Reykjavík City Card doubles as a voucher for the daily ferry trips from Reykjavík Harbour to Videy Island. The island of Videy rests in Kollafjordur Bay just outside of Reykjavík’s central harbour area, and is home to historical ruins and over 30 species of bird. It’s the ideal venue to enjoy a picnic and a day off from the bustling city streets, all the while providing educational fun for your children.
Videy Island houses ruins from deserted villages, old turf houses, a monastery, and the 12th century home and church of Skuli Magnusson, who is known as the “Father of Reykjavik.” Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower is also located on the island, where it is lit up each year between the dates of John Lennon’s birthday and death, from October 9th until December 8th.
For the artistic family, the Reykjavík City Library is located close to the harbour, boasting books both in Icelandic and English for interested bookworms, as well as special events including crafting, computer programming, and art workshops.
Right next to the library you’ll find the Kolaportid Flea Market, open on weekends, where you can rummage for trinkets and authentic wool sweaters amongst stacks of DVDs, vinyl, and books from all over the world.
Plenty of tours offer pick up from the city or operate directly in the city, including horse riding, whale watching, city walks, and adventure tours. You could also hike through the forestry of Oskjuhlid to end up at Perlan, a glass dome built on top of six sizable water tanks, with an observation deck boasting panoramic views of the city and its surroundings.
Recent renovations at Perlan include the Glacier Exhibition of Iceland, an interactive exhibit of the island’s glaciers and ice caves. If your child isn't old enough to go on glacier tours, this exhibition is the next best thing and is sure to amaze.
In addition to the glacier exhibit, the Perlan offers further exhibits including "Land, Coast, Ocean," "Northern Lights," and Iceland's very first planetarium. The venue also houses a restaurant, café, and gift shop.
Photo by GLACIERS Photo
Finally, you might be interested in purchasing tickets for the Hop On - Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus, which allows you and your family to explore some of the city’s best locations, including Perlan, Hallgrímskirkja Church, and the Whales of Iceland interactive museum, at your own pace.
So whether you prefer circumnavigating the island on a self-drive or staying in the city and going on tours, the sightseeing possibilities are nearly endless, with many of the adventures suitable for even the youngest members of your family.
Now there’s nothing left to do but plan your Icelandic adventure, and know that you can do so by contacting one of our certified locals who are more than happy to help you organize the perfect family holiday.
Iceland can't wait to welcome you and your family!
Did you find our family guide to Iceland article helpful? What are your plans with your kids in Iceland? Do you have any additional questions? Feel free to ask away, or leave your thoughts and comments in the box below!