Plan An Iceland Family Escape
By Nancy Schretter, Editor
Iceland is a wonderful choice for a family vacation, either on its own or as part of a free stopover that’s available when flying on Icelandair across the Atlantic. Icelandair can be a good choice for low–cost flights to Europe, so take advantage of their free benefit by adding Iceland to your family vacation itinerary. Your family’s free stopover in Iceland can last between 1–7 days in each direction, so make sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy Iceland while you’re there.
June through August is the most popular time to visit Iceland. The Land of the Midnight Sun offers families long daylight hours, warmer temperatures and plenty of whale watching during the late spring and summer months. Puffins can also be spotted from May through mid–August as well. Winter is a great time for exploring ice caves and looking for the Northern Lights, although snowy and blustery weather can sometimes add to the adventure. Fewer travelers visit Iceland during the shoulder months of September/October and April/May. These months can have good weather and seeing the Northern Lights is possible from September through April as well.
To get the most out of your family’s trip to Iceland, plan to explore with a local family–friendly expert. Guided small group tours with Hidden Iceland allow families to get off the beaten path and discover little–known spots and unique experiences. Exploring Iceland with an experienced company like Hidden Iceland eliminates the stress of driving, allowing every family member to relax and enjoy the trip. Hidden Iceland’s customized private tours are excellent for families as well. As a member of the Family Travel Association, Hidden Iceland is highly committed to great family and multigenerational travel.
Families can hike on glaciers, stand behind a thundering waterfall, stroll along a breathtaking black sand beach, enjoy a delicious farm–to–table lunch at a family–owned tomato farm, and even view the Northern Lights from the perfect vantage point. While visiting Iceland is popular, Hidden Iceland’s insider knowledge allows them showcase special untouched places on their tours and arrive at Iceland’s iconic spots at just the perfect times as well. Hidden Iceland’s outstanding guides narrate each trip, providing fascinating insights on Iceland’s history, culture, and daily life. With Hidden Iceland, families can maximize their time in Iceland and return home with amazing memories of the adventures they shared together.
If you’re thinking about taking you family to Iceland, here are seven great reasons to go:
1. Explore Glaciers and Ice Caves. Iceland is one of the world’s top destinations for seeing glaciers. Approximately 11 percent of Iceland’s total surface area is covered by glaciers, but that’s changing. “In the past 15 years, we’ve seen more glacier ice melting than ever before,” said Ryan Connolly, Marketing Manager, Co–Owner and Guide at Hidden Iceland. As a result, a number of Iceland’s glaciers that would have been accessible for tourists to walk on in the past are no longer safe. “If you want to hike on a moving glacier,” Connolly advises, “now is the time to come.” Hidden Iceland offers glacier hiking opportunities on several of its small group tours, taking a maximum of 12 guests. Children must be at least 10 years old to go on tours that include glacier hikes. This amazing adventure can be included on customized private tours as well. Hiking on one of Iceland’s glaciers is a memorable bucket list experience, so don’t miss it. From November through March, adults and kids ages 12 and older can also explore Iceland’s newly formed ice caves with Hidden Iceland as well.
2. Soak in a Lagoon. Iceland is known for its geothermal hot springs and lagoons, particularly the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a world-famous spa that’s located close to the airport, so it can be a great place to visit at the beginning or end of your Iceland visit. The Blue Lagoon can be quite busy and entry is timing controlled, so make your reservations early. It’s important to point out that while the Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s top attractions, it’s not a naturally–created phenomenon. If you’re looking for a truly authentic hot springs experience, you’ll want to head to the Secret Lagoon. This geothermal lagoon has been frequented by locals for more than 100 years, making it Iceland’s oldest hot springs pool. Hidden Iceland includes a visit to the Secret Lagoon on their small group Golden Circle tours, arriving at a time that maximizes peaceful enjoyment and avoids the crowds.
3. Go Wild for Waterfalls. If your family includes avid Game of Thrones fans, you’ll recognize some of the spectacular scenery and beautiful waterfalls you can see in Iceland. Hidden Iceland includes many of these on their tours, but selects the best so it’s not overwhelming for families. Walking behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is thrilling and there’s lots of spray. Just remember to wear waterproof gear and put cameras and phones in a ziplock bag or dry bag so they don’t get soaked. The enormous Skógafoss waterfall, featured in Game of Thrones, is another gem. Walk up the flights of steps for fantastic views and then head to the bottom for dazzling close–in shots. Multiple viewing levels are also available at two–tiered Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most dramatic and powerful waterfalls. Note that “foss” is Icelandic for “waterfall”.
4. Stroll along Iconic Black Sand Beaches. Iceland is home to around 130 volcanoes and stunning places including Reynisfjara, a world–famous stretch of volcanic black sand beach located on Iceland’s South Coast. Hidden Iceland visits Reynisfjara on several of its tours. There are some wonderful Icelandic folkloric tales about this spot and it was featured in Game of Thrones as well. While the black sand beach is lovely, the features that are often remembered most are the beach’s massive hexagonal shaped basalt columns, towering cliffs, picturesque rock formations, and cool caves. Atlantic puffins can sometimes be spotted here during the summer months, too.
5. Experience the Northern Lights. Spotting the shimmering Northern Lights is often high on the list for those visiting Iceland, particularly in the winter months. Families should know that the Northern Lights can be visible during September and October in Iceland, and even in April as well. Success in seeing the Northern Lights depends on a number of things including the amount of cloud cover, degree of darkness, and the Aurora strength for the time that you’re there. Hidden Iceland has tons of experience in helping guests experience the Northern Lights and knows the best viewing locations. Their Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon two–day tour is a great option for families who want to see many of Iceland’s most stunning highlights and have a prime location for viewing the Northern Lights as well.
6. Meet Iceland’s Horses and Amazing Wildlife. Icelandic horses are acclaimed by accomplished riders for their beauty, stamina and unique gaits. Unlike other breeds, Icelandic horses have five natural gates instead of four. The five gaits are walk, trot, tölt, canter/gallop and flying pace. Riding opportunities can be easily arranged for those 8 and older and ring–riding options for younger kids are available, too. Families can also meet Icelandic horses and take pictures while at the Friðheimar tomato and horse breeding farm on Hidden Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour. Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see cute Atlantic puffins. Millions of colorful puffins come to Iceland to nest each year and can be spotted from May through August. You may see them at Reynisfjara black sand beach or in the West Fjords or Westman Islands on Hidden Iceland’s tours. If you’re short on time, another great way to see them is on whale and/or puffin watching boat tours that leave from Reykjavik’s Old Harbour area. There are over twenty whale species Iceland’s waters and a variety can be seen on whale watching tours including minke, fin, and humpback whales.
7. Visit National Parks and Museums. Several of Iceland’s magnificent national parks have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include Vatnajökull National Park which is mostly covered by the Vatnajökull glacier, the largest ice cap in Iceland, and þingvellir National Park. At this historic park, visitors can see the results of tectonic movements of the earth’s Eurasian and North American plates and walk alongside the edges of both of these plates, definitely a unique experience. Families can arrange to visit both parks on Hidden Iceland tours, along with the award-winning interactive LAVA Centre museum. Reykjavik also has some wonderful museums, including Perlan – Wonders of Iceland. This exceptional science museum contains a number of attractions including an 8K northern lights planetarium show, an interactive glacier exhibit, and even a 100 meter–long ice cave built with more than 350 tons of snow. In addition, Perlan’s outdoor deck provides magnificent 360–degree views of Reykjavik and the surrounding area.
For more information about Hidden Iceland’s family–friendly tour options and their tips for family travel in Iceland, visit their website at: hiddeniceland.is.
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