The first time I had a hankering to go to Iceland I was 22. My work friend Sarah had just returned from the most incredible trip with her boyfriend, full of stories and excitement for the new country she’d discovered. But I was young and at that age had barely travelled out of Europe: back then I put it on my list of ‘things I am too scared to do’, alongside skydiving, marathon running and giving birth (whoops).
Over the years I’ve seen more and more friends visit the country of ice, and having had two of them go in the last two weeks I have decided it’s definitely a destination for me to visit soon. The clincher was the realisation that we really should get more wear out of the snow sport garms I bought for the whole family for our recent ski trip: Iceland, we’re coming to see you and we’ve got really warm clothes to prove it.
So the last few days I’ve been planning our family itinerary to Iceland. For a start, I was worried it might not be suitable for kids, but I’ve been proven wrong in my research. There’s tons for us to do together, and as Iceland is a fairly small country it seems easy to rent a car and (safely) pootle around the attractions. I can’t wait to show my two a climate that couldn’t be more diffeent than ours.
Iceland With Kids
First things first: the basics. Some websites recommend you take kids to Iceland in the summer, when the climate is temperate and multi layers are not needed. Not us though! We want snow, all the snow, so are planning a winter visit – probably January, in that lull period after Christmas and before going back to school. The average low around this time is between -3 and -5, so nothing much chillier than we were used to in France. Bring on those cold weather clothes! (FYI, during the summer months you’d be looking at 13-14 so not freezing but not Mediterranean temperatures, either).
The first attraction I want to see is the Northern lights – duh. There are plenty of Northern Lights tours in Iceland that will take the mystery out of the experience and make sure you have the best chance of seeing them. And do they look magnificent or WHAT?!
Next up for me is the food. There are a number of really brilliant restaurants in Iceland, with menus much more diverse than those we’re used to seeing in British Michelin starred place. Matur og Drykkur is supposed to be one of the best, with traditional Icelandic dishes on the menu such as trout smoked with sheeps dung and Cod’s head cooked in chicken stock. It sounds… different! The kids can stick with smoked potato croquettes and Icelandic donuts ;).
If I hear the word ‘Iceland’ I always think ‘Blue Lagoon’. As a spa lover, it was these images of the glorious steaming water that first made me hanker after a trip to Iceland.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, and it’s located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. You can just happily float around for a few hours while you’re there, but my preference would be for an in-water massage. Heaven? I THINK SO.
There’s a swim-up bar with wine for the grown-ups and yoghurt for the kids, and buckets of healing mud dotted around: I imagine my two would go wild to be told they’re allowed to cover themselves (and each other) in dirt and grime.
One of the best things I’ve seen from my friends Anna and Sarah‘s recent trips have been the Gulfoss waterfalls. Seriously, they look like nothing on earth – I commented on Anna’s Instagram story of them “I’m not sure what I’m looking at here but it looks incredible” – and I think visiting would be a proper “isn’t nature incredible?” moment. The Gulfoss falls are around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Reykjavik in a car, so really not too far.
In terms of hotels, I’ve heard great things about AirBnBs in Reykjavik itself, and for when you travel out of the capital the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel looks AMAZING. I’m not sure you could improve on the views from those windows – imagine curling up in front of them with a hot chocolate and a books? – and their hot hot hot pool overlooking the snowy landscape looks like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And finally, for sheer drama, we wouldn’t want to miss out on a Geyser experience. Another WOW nature moment, I think the blistering hot water exploding from the underground would work as a great geography lesson for the kids, as well as acting as a stunning backdrop to your trip. I mean, Center Parcs water features aside, when do we ever get to see such natural exploding water magnificence back in the UK?
Where do you recommend we go on our trip to Iceland?