Traveling To Iceland With Kids
YOUR GUIDE TO ICELAND
If you haven't seen Iceland, you haven't yet seen the best our planet has to offer. Pure and simple!
Family Vacation In Iceland:
A Wondrous, Alien Beauty
The island nation of Iceland, with its abundance of unearthly landscapes, suits travelers of various creeds alike: for the newbies and the solo travelers, the landscape photographers, the seasoned adventurers, the folks on family vacation with kids, as well as older folks. The locals are amazingly friendly, the country is among the most progressive in the world, the scenery is something to die for, and air tickets are generally cheap; in other words, you don't have a good excuse not to visit the country. We've visited the country multiple times, and in multiple seasons, every time with our kids in tow, so have excellent tips to share with those planning their trip to Iceland with kids.
"We've visited the country multiple times, and in multiple seasons, so have excellent tips to share."
True to its fame, Iceland is indeed a land of fire and ice. All of Mother Nature’s bounties have filled the nation to its brim. Its entrails promise lava fields galore, and the oval-shaped coastline around the country is studded with untold number of scruffy fjords. At times, active volcanoes spew fire and debris, their belching smoke enveloping the skies above Europe for days, much to the chagrin of vacationers and a stalled airline industry.
If you ask me to sum up the beauty of Iceland in one word, I’d probably use the word magical, and that magic is complete with the flashy surreal dance of the multicolored Northern Lights above. This by itself is truly impressive, considering that the country doesn’t own a single theme-park of any kind. One might honestly wonder how kids survive without a form of entertainment that’s been taken for granted in our western society; but what Iceland offers is simply nature at its best.
Bits of Icelandic glaciers look like ice sculptures, and many come ashore to awe you with their larger-than-life embodiment. Then there are the Icelandic horses. These cute, short, stout creatures that are not found anywhere else in the world will earn your family’s immediate admiration just by virtue of their appearance against this fairytale backdrop. Whichever direction you look, the scenery is simply astounding, and no adjective – whether real or imagined – could frankly do justice to it..
"The scenery is simply astounding, and no adjective, whether real or imagined, could frankly do justice to it."
The nation's safety records are unparalleled. And I mean quantitatively unparalleled, since for the tenth continuous year running, the country has been the winner of being as the safest place on the planet. This means that going to Iceland with kids is safer than taking your kids to any other place in the world. The word is that you’ll find little kids strapped in strollers near restaurants and street corners minding their own business, while the parents are elsewhere minding theirs. Even the police don’t carry a gun; and since they’re never really busy, occasionally they’re happy to act as cat rescuers, helping little kids retrieve their pets stuck on trees.
And if this isn’t the epitome of safety, I’m not sure what is.
"The blueness of the ice and its transparency arise from the chemical composition of water. But the macrostructures they create, the bubbles, the glass-like edifices, are out-of-this-world."
Traveling to Iceland with kids has never been easier in the history of travel. What I’m trying to say is, kids make for great travel companions to the country. If your kids have school vacations for even a week, a short trip to Iceland will be rejuvenating. As I’ve said to my friends countless times, traveling to Iceland at least once in your lifetime should almost be considered a sacred duty, and if possible, should be repeated multiple times.
Our kids fell in love with the country the moment we headed out of Reykjavik in our rented car. Not too far from the airport we came across wonderfully cute and mysterious mossy green lava fields. This was a unique experience to my naturalist kids, who made us stop by the roadside to explore the mossy green that surrounded us. Iceland is a small country and when visiting with your family, you could basically drive around the entire nation in just a day or two. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to experience even a tiny fraction of what it has to offer on such a short trip; traveling around Iceland with kids should easily take your family weeks, if not months, if you’d really like to see them all. Case in point: on each of our Iceland family vacation we felt the days were never enough. And if you consider how different the country looks and behaves during different seasons that might give you an excuse to do just that.
Until then, here are some of the many things you can do in Iceland with your family and kids.
"If you love to travel, then traveling to Iceland at least once in your lifetime should almost be considered a sacred duty, and if possible, should be repeated multiple times."
Magnetism Of A Surreal Kind
A major attraction of Iceland has long been the stunning Northern Lights, especially during its long Arctic nights. It’s ironic then that there are places in the world that will offer you a more reliable viewing condition than Iceland. Even then, the backdrop of the unearthly landscapes of Iceland can be rarely matched. If your kids have witnessed fireworks on the 4th of July or New Year’s Eve, tell them this is fireworks of a different kind, a more dazzling and unforgettable one, and one in which there isn’t any fire of any kind. The science behind it is also quite exciting and might kindle kids’ brains, so being the nerds that we are, we’ve gone ahead and done some explaining you’ll find interesting.
There are several resources available that can reliably track the prevalence of Northern Lights and the geographical area from which they’ll be best visible on a certain night. One of these is from the Icelandic Met Office, and we’ve found it to be pretty helpful during our family vacation. An aurora is nothing like a bolt of lightning as I’ve found many of us wrongly assume. Instead, its light swirl around in the sky like a scarf on a windy day. And the colors? Well, that you’ll need to see for yourself. But remember that much like the colorful NASA images you see of distant galaxies and nebulas, the best pictures of the aurora borealis are achieved through the lens of a camera, since the human eye cannot tease out those details.
So, it goes without saying that getting decent shots of the aurora would be among the top things to do on your Iceland family vacation. But in spite of the images you see on flashy nature magazine covers, shooting underneath a dark sky where your subject is nothing but dancing light can be tricky to say the least. This is why we give you a detailed account of the correct techniques you’d need along with the photography gear that would enable you to get your award-winning shot being selected upon returning from a family trip to Iceland.
"We give you a detailed account of the correct techniques you’d need to get your award-winning shot."
Waterfalls Beyond Words
Among the many, many places our family has been fortunate to visit with our kids, we’ve come face to face with countless waterfalls. Yet, no place has kindled that awe-inspiring majesty, poetic beauty, and yes, otherworldly serenity of Iceland’s waterfalls – all wrapped up in a neat and tidy package.
"Half the fun is in the gentle walk you take towards the grandeur and power that they exude."
"There are many great waterfalls in Iceland, some of which are accessible only after a long and arduous hike."
Indeed, planned well, even a few days of Iceland family vacation with your kids would let you see all the major waterfalls. Not that you should rush, since half the fun is in the gentle walk you take towards the grandeur and power that they exude. Indeed, there are many great waterfalls in Iceland, some of which are accessible only after a long and arduous hike. Thankfully, the most attractive are all quite easily accessible for families with kids. If you’re on the Golden Loop going anticlockwise, here’s how your journey will unfold.
Seljalandsfoss will be the first one you’ll see, and boy, what a beauty she is! As you walk up to it you’ll see the trail going behind the fall from where you a rather strange vantage point – from behind the waterfall! The kids loved this view from the other side of the waterfall so much that they were willing to get soaked in the cold mist. And fans of Tintin will recall him as having swept inside a similar waterfall in the book Prisoners of the Sun, a classic children's comic by Hergé. Unlike the story, however, there’s no buried treasure here, but rest assured that when the sun shines inside the shallow cave behind this waterfall, you do get to see some ridiculous golden light that’s no less hypnotic.
"When the sun shines inside the shallow cave behind the waterfall, you get to see some ridiculous golden light that’s hypnotic."
Next up: Skógafoss. This is the one that always keeps at least a couple of pet rainbows on itself, something our kids invariably love. Not only that, the uniqueness lies in the fact that there’s a considerable amount of open space leading up to the base of this fall, so you get to experience the massive pillar of water as you walk right towards it. Don’t forget to climb those stairs to the right to take a peek from above the waterfall to get a different view altogether.
"Skógafoss is the waterfall that always keeps at least a couple of pet rainbows on itself."
Moving eastward on the Golden Road you’ll see Svartifoss, which is as much of a natural architecture as it is a waterfall. inside the remarkable Vatnajökull National Park, its cliff is bordered on all sides by lofty black basaltic columns which bear resemblance to pipes of a giant organ.
"It is truly a mesmerizing work of art from the infinitely creative repertoire of Mother Nature."
The next two major waterfalls in fact exist as a twin. Dettifoss is unquestionably the most powerful waterfall in Europe and clearly looks more menacing of the two. One unique feature of this fall is that you and your kids can actually walk right up to the gushing water’s edge without barriers of any kind which is quite cool (but probably a bit risky) if you asked me.
"Dettifoss is unquestionably the most powerful waterfall in Europe."
Although the twin falls are situated within a mile of one another, you’d need to cross Dettifoss in order for you to get to the next one. Just note that this isn’t one of those kid-friendly hikes that should be taken lightly given that the path is moderately treacherous, with jagged boulders lining the way. At the end of this short hike, which your kids might or might not be able make, you’ll find Selfoss, which, overshadowed by its monster twin Dettifoss, exists in relative anonymity. But don’t be fooled by its many-mouthed appearance and apparent calm – even though this one has a great deal of open space around it, in certain seasons it does have the reputation of transforming into a formidable force.