Things to Do in Iceland with Kids | A Family Itinerary For Iceland

Iceland is a magical island in the North Atlantic and the perfect vacation destination for families.  The natural beauty is otherwordly, with its dramatic landscapes of volcanoes, green moss, glaciers, geysers, and hot springs. We visited Iceland during the Fall and it was the perfect time to be there.

I’m going to help you through the essentials of planning a family trip to Iceland during this season, covering activities, accommodations, dining, and even a few tips for making the most of your adventure. My actual itinerary from my last trip is at the bottom of the article, with links to the places we stayed and visited.

In my experience, September to November is a perfect time to visit — much of the tourism traffic from summer has dissipated, the northern lights begin to appear, and the landscape turns into a vibrant palette of autumnal colors of red, green, and yellow. We rented a car and I would recommend this 100%.

Family-Friendly Activities

Natural Wonders: Visit iconic sites within the Golden Circle, where you can explore the Gullfoss Waterfall, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park. These locations are easily accessible and offer short walks suitable for children.

Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of Iceland’s parliament; it also offers a visible rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The Geysir area, with its spouting hot springs and bubbling earth, is a hit with kids who marvel at the natural power on display. Gullfoss, or the Golden Falls, will mesmerize with its beauty and might.

Hiking for All Ages: Iceland is full of trails suitable for all skill levels. For a relatively easy hike with a rewarding view, try the trail to Seljalandsfoss, one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls, which you can walk behind.

Puffin Watching: While puffins start to leave Iceland in August, I’ve heard you can still catch sight of them in early fall, especially in the Westfjords or on the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). However, I haven’t had any luck spotting them yet.

Whale Watching: Fall is also a great time for whale watching, as many species continue to inhabit Icelandic waters. Tours are available from Reykjavik, Husavik, and Akureyri.

Visit a Farm: Several farms across Iceland welcome visitors for horse riding, where families can interact with the friendly Icelandic horses, known for their unique tölt gait. The farms you’ll visit in Iceland are so different from the typical farms we have in the United States, Icelandic farming practices are heavily influenced by the country’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

In Iceland, the use of geothermal energy for heating and renewable energy sources is much more common, often out of necessity due to Iceland being a volcanic island with rugged terrain, geothermal activity, and limited arable land. Iceland also does not have multiple climate zones and so it’s not possible to grow a diverse range of crops. Due to its cooler climate, Iceland’s crop production is limited to hardy vegetables, barley, and fodder for livestock.

Geothermal Pools: No visit to Iceland is complete without soaking in its famous hot springs. The Blue Lagoon is the most famous, but there are many other less crowded and family-friendly options such as the Secret Lagoon.

Visit a Lava Centre: Learn about Iceland’s volcanic activity by visiting the Lava Centre in Hvolsvöllur. This interactive museum educates visitors about the volcanic eruptions and earthquakes that have shaped Iceland over millions of years.

Experience Viking History: Visit the Viking World Museum in Reykjanesbær to learn about Iceland’s Viking heritage. The museum features the Íslendingur Viking ship, which sailed to North America in 2000 and offers interactive exhibits that are great for kids.

Stroll Through Reykjavik: Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, is charming, colorful, and full of life. Don’t miss the opportunity to see the city from above by visiting the Hallgrimskirkja church tower. The city also boasts the interactive Perlan Museum and the imaginative Tales from Iceland Museum, which are perfect for young visitors.

Horseback Riding on Icelandic Horses: Take a family horseback riding tour to experience the Icelandic landscape from a unique perspective. The Icelandic horse is a gentle breed, making this activity suitable for children and beginners.

Go on a Glacier Adventure: Older children will be thrilled by a guided glacier walk, which is a fantastic way to appreciate Iceland’s ice caps. Companies like Icelandic Mountain Guides offer family-friendly glacier tours that focus on safety and fun. One of our core memories was going on a boat ride to see the glacier. I can’t wait to take all of my children once they hit the age requirement of 12 years old.

Chase the Northern Lights: If visiting between September and April, don’t miss the chance to witness the Aurora Borealis. This natural light show will captivate children and adults alike. Remember, viewing requires patience and a bit of luck with the weather. We didn’t see the Northern Lights at all for nearly a week because of clouds and weather conditions, or just going to bed too early. We finally saw the Northern Lights on our final night, well after midnight.

Walk Along Black Sand Beaches: The south coast of Iceland is home to stunning black sand beaches, such as Reynisfjara near Vik. Marvel at the powerful waves and dramatic basalt columns, but remember to keep a safe distance from the surf.

Our Actual Iceland Itinerary

A very, very big thank you to my friend Michelle for her hard work planning our entire trip. She’s not a travel agent but she put together the best trip we could ever have taken. 100% of her selections were perfect, I wouldn’t change a thing. I know she would recommend that everyone join an Iceland traveler Facebook group, there’s so much wisdom in there.

– Arrive in KEF early morning and retrieve the rental car from Thrifty Car Rental (Actual cost $777 for 6 days)
– Visit the Bridge Between Two Continents (roadside, a short stop)
– Gunnuhver Hot Springs (Roadside, a short stop. Also you’ll see a lighthouse.)

– Brimketill Lava Rock Pool (roadside, a short stop)
– Reservations at the Blue Lagoon for 10 am (Adult admission $100. Children ages 2-13 enter free with a paid adult. Children under 2 are not permitted. If your kids are under the age of 9, they must bring/wear inflatable floaties.)

– LUNCH: Café Bryggjan (Currently closed due to volcanic eruption)
– Ice cream stop at The Old Dairy Food Hall – Mjólkurbúið Mathöll
– Kerid Crater (pay a small fee to enter, if you’re going on a Golden Circle Tour, this may already be included)

– Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (no fee to enter or walk behind this waterfall, but there may be a small parking fee. There are restrooms available for a fee.)
– DINNER: Black Crust Pizzeria in Vik (They use activated charcoal in their pizza crust and it was delicious)

– ACCOMMODATIONS: Hótel Klaustur for one night. Beautiful hotel with an incredible breakfast ($286 when we visited)

– Skeiðará Bridge Monument (quick stop on our way)
– Breiðamerkursandur/Diamond Beach (quick stop very close to our boat tour to see the black volcanic sand beaches and pieces of the glaciers washed up on shore, creating a diamond look)
Zodiac Boat Tour of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon ($110 per person. This takes a few hours with parking, getting suited up, and transportation. BEST part of my trip. Children under the age of 10 or less than 130 cm (4’3”) are not allowed on the Zodiac tour.)
– LUNCH: Get the Fish & Chips from the food trailer at the Boat Tour truck. We also stopped for soup at a gas station cafe.
– Mossy Lava Fields (Free. Quick roadside stop in Kirkjubæjarklaustur)
– Skógafoss (Parking fee. One of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, you can walk right up to it but you WILL get wet.)

– ACCOMMODATIONS: Hótel Hvolsvöllur (Hotel with quad family rooms for up to four people. Another beautiful breakfast)
-DINNER: Valhalla Restaurant (Viking-themed dining hall with hamburgers and axe throwing. Within walking distance of our hotel.)

Caves of Hella Tour (This is a very interesting tour of mysterious underground quarters. We visited before the 2024 volcano eruptions but our guide showed us signs that it was coming!)

Secret Lagoon ($50 per adult. Three children under the age of 14 free with paid adult.)

– Strokkur Geysir (This geyser shoots water up to 100 feet in the air several times each hour. It’s beautiful and so fun to see.)
– LUNCH: Geysir Center (The Geysir Center has a cafeteria-style restaurant with everything from soup to fish and chips to desserts.)

– Drive to Reykjavík and stop along the way for photos of rainbows, waterfalls, sheep, grassy fields.)
– ACCOMMODATIONS: Guest House Sunna (Fantastic place for a family, single or couple. Full apartments available with ensuite kitchens or shared kitchens)
– DINNER: Pósthús Food Hall & Bar (Walking distance from Guest House Sunna. Perfect for a family since there are so many choices for cuisine.)

– BREAKFAST: Café Babalú (Quick walk from Guest House. Delicious food for all – crepes, pastries, egg dishes.)
– Meet up at the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral across from the Guest House for the Golden Circle Tour (Reservations required. approximately $250 per person)

– STOP #1: Hveragerði Sunnumӧrk Shopping Center in Hveragerði (Quick stop, free. The Hveragerði fissure runs through here, so the shopping center is across two continents. This rift is part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the continents of America and Europe meet. Inside the shopping center is a geological exhibition that shows the aftermath of a 6.3 Richter scale earthquake in southern Iceland in 2008.)
– STOP #2: Kerid Crater (Even though it was our second visit, we still loved it. We went around a different side of the crater. Since the weather was different, the colors looked different.)

– STOP #3: Friðheimar (This tomato farm was a highlight of our trip. As a part of the tour group, we met with the farmers and got a behind-the-scenes tour of the farm. Most patrons only get to enjoy a meal there. Afterward, we had an amazing lunch of tomato dishes and tables heaped with bread! The price of lunch is not included in your tour, but it’s worth it. They also breed Icelandic horses here and we were able to watch a demonstration of what makes Icelandic horses different from horses anywhere else in the world.)

– STOP #4: Strokkur Geysir (This is an active Geysir that’s incredible to watch. Our second visit did not disappoint.)
– STOP #5: Gullfoss Waterfall Lookout (One of the most beautiful waterfalls, with three drops. We were told that it’s referred to by tourists as the Niagara Falls of Iceland.)

– STOP #6: Laugarvatn Fontana (This is another core memory for us. Our guide brought us here for a quick stop to see where the bakery was baking bread in the ground! Every day, they dig into the warm ground and place their pots, bury them, and bake for 24 hours, then they dig the bread up! You can try this at the bakery inside and you can go on a tour if you visit separately from this tour. While we were there, a family was boiling an egg. When I return to Iceland, this geothermal pool will be a repeat stop for me.)

– STOP #8: Thingvellir National Park (I’d love to return to this UNESCO World Heritage Site when I’m not part of a tour and have more time to explore. It’s beautiful and there’s so much history to learn.)
– STOP #9: Sky Lagoon (This was an add-on for our tour and best for adults only. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to visit the Sky Lagoon. If you are without kids or have teens, this is a MUST-DO. It was probably my favorite lagoon in Iceland.)

– DINNER: Skál! Foodhall (Several choices of different cuisines make this a great family dinner stop.)

– BREAKFAST: Café Babalú
– Icelandic Phallological Museum, also known as The Penis Museum. (Okay, my children did not go here with me. However, now that I’ve been there, I’d be fine with taking them with a bit of forethought and discussions about sensitivity. This unique museum houses the world’s largest display of penises and penile parts, including specimens from almost all the land and sea mammals found in Iceland. While the subject matter is approached with scientific seriousness and educational intent, the museum’s theme is undeniably unusual and may provoke a range of reactions from visitors of all ages. Before deciding to take children to the Phallological Museum, parents and guardians need to consider the maturity and interest level of their kids, as well as their ability to understand and respect the biological and scientific aspects of the exhibits. The museum offers a rare opportunity to learn about the natural world in a way that is distinct from traditional museums, focusing on a specific aspect of mammalian anatomy that is often overlooked or considered taboo. For curious minds, it can provide a fascinating insight into the diversity of nature and how different species have adapted to their environments. However, it’s advisable to prepare the children ahead of the visit, explaining what they will see in a straightforward and age-appropriate manner to foster a respectful and educational experience. But also, they serve penis-shaped waffles with ice cream. Human penis shaped.)
– LUNCH: Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (A famous Icelandic hot dog stand. Icelandic hot dogs made with Icelandic lamb, mixed with beef and pork.)

– Rainbow Street and Souvenier Shopping (This iconic rainbow-painted road is a beautiful photo op at different times of the day. There are lots of souvenir shops all around.)
Hallgrímskirkja Church and Observation Tower (One of the tallest buildings in Iceland and the largest church in Iceland. A carillon of bells at the top rings each hour. For a small fee, you can light a candle for your dead loved ones. Visitors can take an elevator up to the viewing deck to see Reykjavík and the surrounding mountains for a small fee (September – April only.))

– Pool
– Northern Lights Tour (We paid a tour company to take us to see the Northern Lights. We ended up back at Thingvellir National Park and it was great. Many tour companies have guarantees that you’ll see them or else they take you back another night for free within a year. Don’t save this for your final day, it may take multiple tries to see them!)

– Perlan (We spent about two hours exploring the Perlan Interactive Nature Museum. It’s a great stop for kids to learn more about Iceland and ice caves. I wish we had visited on the first day to give a little more insight into our week ahead.)
– Departure to the United States

Where to Stay

Reykjavik: The capital city is a great base for exploring nearby attractions and offers a range of family-friendly accommodations. Consider renting an apartment or staying in a hotel that caters to families.

Countryside Cottages: For a more immersive experience, rent a cottage in the countryside. This option provides space for children to play outside and offers a peaceful retreat after a day of exploring.

Farm Stays: Some farms offer accommodations, allowing families to experience rural Icelandic life. This can be a unique and educational experience for children.

Visiting Restaurants in Iceland with Kids

Icelandic cuisine might be a new experience for your kids, but many restaurants offer child-friendly options and are accommodating to families. Traditional dishes such as lamb and seafood are popular, but you can also find plenty of places serving pizza, pasta, and other international foods. In Reykjavik, there are numerous cafes and restaurants with kid-friendly menus.

Tips for Visiting Iceland with Kids in the Fall

Dress in Layers: Icelandic weather can be unpredictable, especially in fall. Dressing in layers will allow you and your family to adjust to changing conditions throughout the day.

Rent a Car: To explore Iceland at your own pace, consider renting a car. This gives you the flexibility to stop at various points of interest and take breaks whenever needed.

Bring Entertainment: While driving between sites, having games, books, or music for your children can make the journey more enjoyable for them.

Check the Weather and Road Conditions: Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before heading out each day to ensure safety.

Stay Flexible: Be prepared to adjust your plans based on the weather or your children’s needs. Having a flexible itinerary will make your trip more enjoyable and less stressful.

Educate About Safety: Teach your children about respecting nature and staying safe, especially near hot springs and when hiking.

Capture Memories: Don’t forget to take plenty of photos and maybe even encourage your kids to keep a travel journal. Iceland’s landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for unforgettable family memories.

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