March 27, 2023

Take the family trip of a lifetime! Things to do in Iceland that will please all ages

Nature is your playmate in Iceland — and that’s key when you’re traveling with a 12-year-old. While visiting Iceland on a recent family trip, we discovered amazing ways to bond with Mother Nature, and each other.

Thermal Pools
“Shower naked” — That’s how you’re greeted at every geo-thermal pool in Iceland. None of that American “rinse-off-with-your-suit-on” modesty here! Fortunately, there’s no need to be self-conscious when everyone else is stripping down without blinking an eye.

Where to Go: Our favorite spot was Reykjavik’s Laugardalslaug, with an 83-meter-high disco slide that goes from open to pitch black (eek!) to disco lighting. The Myvatn Nature Baths are a close second, steaming and vividly blue in a lunar landscape. And finally, there’s the Blue Lagoon, a larger version of Myvatn, with a swim-up bar serving both cocktails and specially treated mud to use for facials.

High-Speed Adventures
Zoom was the operative word for us while visiting Iceland — be it across glaciers and waves, alongside dolphins and whales, or around icebergs.

What to Do: Our 12-year-old loved driving a snow machine at 70 kilometers per hour (with a reliable guide sitting right behind her) across Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier, with Glacier Jeeps.

In Húsavík, we headed out into Skjálfandi Bay with Gentle Giants, where a humpback whale traveled right next to our Zodiac and leaping dolphins surrounded us. We took another high-speed Zodiac tour — this one around Heimaey, part of the Vestmannaeyjar Islands — with Ribsafari. We visited hidden beaches, coves, and caves, topped off with a blast of rock music as we sped across the waves.

Finally, we got up-close views of icebergs in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon on a ride with Ice Lagoon.

Kid-Friendly Museums
Museums can be a tough sell for a 12-year-old. But not in Iceland, where they can pet a puffin, see houses half-buried in lava, and walk along the ruins of 9th-century Viking village.

Where to Go: At the simply named Aquarium in Heimaey, children (and adults) can hold a puffin and view more local sea life. Also in Heimaey, the newly-opened Eldheimar museum uses dramatic news footage, images, and sounds to chronicle the 1973 eruption of a volcano on the island that buried more than 400 homes in lava and ash.

At the Reykjavik City Museum, visitors walk the perimeter of a 9th-century Viking longhouse, watching videos of ghostly figures going about daily business, and using interactive technology to understand each part of the longhouse.

Horseback Riding
Cowboys in Iceland? You bet. Icelandic horses are famed for their sweet temperament and smooth gaits.

Where to Ride: Head to Skjaldarvik, outside of Akureyri, where we enjoyed a horseback ride, dinner, and a dip in the hot tub. Another top option is Gauksmýri on the Vatnsnes Peninsula, where we had a great gallop across flower-filled fields.

Where to Stay
Cute and cozy go a long way with kids, and Iceland’s farmhouses and guesthouses deliver it. The Vogafjos Cafe and Guesthouse, near Lake Myvatn, is run by the family that has owned it since the 1800s. After dinner, kids can visit a spotless cowshed to pet the farm’s calves.

The guesthouse Skalafell has cozy, two-bedroom cabins with double bunk beds for kids, at the foot of Vatnajökull glacier. And the somewhat larger Hotel Eyvindara, in a forest outside of eastern Iceland, has cabins (I recommend them) as well as hotel rooms and singalongs (don’t miss them) every night in the dining room.

Inspired to visit Iceland? Find the perfect hotel for your trip here!

About the Author:
Kate Rice covers travel retailing and technology for Travel Weekly and blogs about her own travels at She spent 12 days driving around Iceland with her husband and daughter in August 2014.

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