This is a guest post from a Ciao Bambino reader who is kind enough to share details of her tremendous experience last summer in Iceland with kids. Ruchira Chandra is a physician, wife and mother of two boisterous sons, Ethan and Jai. The whole family is passionate about travel and Ruchira hopes to spread the word that all families with young children can happliy explore the world together.
A Kid-Friendly Summer Itinerary in Iceland
Our kids, ages 2 and 6, are content as long as we are outdoors. Where could we go on a vacation would love, yet inspire us as well? Iceland! Most people associate Iceland with cold temperatures. In fact, summers are mild; we went in June when the weather is sunny with temperatures in the 50-60’s (Fahrenheit).
Our trip started when we landed in Keflavik airport at midnight and still twilight. Both kids still wide awake, of course. As we made our way to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland (a 45 minute drive), we could already see that we were in a different world. There were no trees as far as you could see, volcanic mountains in the background. Did I mention that it was still light outside?
Home base for the next 5 days was in Reykjavik. Not only can you explore the city but also see many important landmarks from here. We rented a car and with one major highway (Rt-1) that goes around the entire country, Iceland is fairly easy to navigate. There are also many tour companies that can take you to these sights as well. The golden triangle, which consists of the Blue Lagoon, Geyser, and Gulfoss, are all short drives away from the city.
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We started with the Blue Lagoon, a manmade geothermal heated spa. For the kids it was a giant swimming pool. Under 5, they were even required to wear floaties, which they provided. For the adults it was a giant hot tub with massaging waterfalls and mud masks. Most of the lagoon was a perfect warmth-with a few areas that were much hotter. Not only was this a relaxing way to start off our trip, but our skin felt incredible afterwards due to the mineral content of the water. They even offer medi-spa services to treat many conditions such as psoriasis.
Then the next day we went to Geyser and Gulfoss. Geyser is a geothermal spring of water and vapor. There is a strong sulphuric smell, which our son persistently reminded us smelled like rotten eggs. Geyser last erupted in 2000, but its neighbor Strokkur, puts on a show every 8 minutes.
Gulfoss, a massive waterfall, incredible. We hiked to get better views while getting sprayed with mist from the waterfall. The rocks can get a bit slippery as well, so one needs to be careful. The following day we took a day trip to Thingvillir national park a UNESCO World Heritage site. There we hiked along the tectonic plates that separate North America from Europe. On our way back we also stopped by Kerid Crater, a volcanic crater lake which displays some dazzling colors in the water.
In Reykjavik itself we went up the “rocket ship” church, took a Puffin Tour, and went to one of Iceland’s many public swimming pools (laugardalslaug). The pools are also geothermally heated and most have water slides and kid-friendly areas as swimming is a year round popular activity for Icelandic families.
Our favorite parent activity was strolling along the streets and window shopping, taking in the culture. We were lucky enough to be there during the Icelandic Independence Day, during which they had a huge street fair. Usually people do not associate incredible food with Iceland, but we ate many amazing meals at some wonderful restaurants in Reykjavik where we tried specialties such as the super fresh arctic char and lamb dishes.
Countryside Excursion to Vik, Jokulsartan, and VatnaJokull National Park
For the last 3 days of our trip we drove to the southeast area to see some of the countryside. We visited the black sand beaches in Vik. We also went to Jokulsartan, the ice lagoon, where we took a Duck Boat Tour through the lagoon, and our sons ate 1,000-year-old ice from the glaciers. We also went hiking in VatnaJokull National Park, alongside the largest glacier in Europe.
We highly recommend Iceland as a perfect destination for families looking for adventure. But even if you are not the adventurous type, there is still phenomenal scenery and culture to enjoy. There are many other activities that we could not do with a 2-year-old, but adventurous families would love including hiking on glaciers, snowmobiling, 8×8 glacier tours, and horse riding on the famous Icelandic ponies to name a few. All are reasons we will return!
Editor’s Note: Photos by Ruchira Chandra.