Known as "the land of fire and ice", Iceland is a land of extremes. It is the perfect vacation spot for active families who enjoy getting out and experiencing wildness of nature. Itineraries can be geared for families with kids of all ages.
If you're considering Iceland as your next family vacation destination then no doubt you have a few questions. We've provided answers to some of the top questions we hear from families heading to Iceland. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here. Every family is completely different. Use this information as a starting point to insure your family vacation to Iceland is a memorable one that exceeds everyone's expectations....
1. When is the BEST time to visit Iceland? - Iceland is a year round destination. Your family will enjoy a fascinating visit no matter when you decide to visit. Much will depend on your specific vacation wish list...
Summer Season - The summer season in Iceland runs from approximately mid May until August. This is high season and when Iceland is crowded with the most tourists. High season also means this is the most expensive time to visit Iceland. In May and June expect to see "midnight sun"....Iceland experiences 24 hour daylight this time of year. Daylight slowly starts to decrease with the summer solstice but if you're visiting Iceland during the summer, this means extra time to explore more. Summer daytime temperatures range in the 60-70 degree range making it perfect for outdoor activities.
"Winter" Season - May people prefer to travel to Iceland in Low season which runs from September to April. Just as there is 24 hour daylight in summer, by contrast, at the peak of winter visitors can expect only 2-4 hours of daylight. This is the best time of year to see the Northern Lights. Considering it's latitude, Icelandic winters are surprisingly milder than most people expect with an average temperature of about 32 degrees. This is thanks to all of it's volcanic geothermal activity and the Gulf stream that flows right by. This is when you'll find the best rates to Iceland.
Seeing the Northern Lights - If you do get to see the Aurora Borealis or "Northern Lights" during your travels to Iceland, consider it a stroke of luck. Planning an entire vacation around such an event would be like trying to predict all the sunny days coming next year. You can't predict Mother Nature. You can however, give yourself the best chances which means you'll need a dark clear night. Plan a few nights of accommodation where ambient city light is lower. You can also use a little technology to forecast the best time to spot these natural fireworks with apps for your Iphone or Android.
Spring & Fall - If you're flexible, these may be some of the best times to visit Iceland because you have a chance of seeing the Northern Lights but can still see most of the tourist sites with less crowds as long as the weather cooperates. The reason you must be "flexible" is that the weather in Iceland is extremely changeable all year round but particularly in the Spring and Fall months. This means tours may or may not be operational and roads can quickly become impassable. You need to understand Mother Nature may be changing your itinerary last minute.
2. How far in advance should I make my reservations for Iceland - You'll want to start planning your vacation about 9 months in advance to avoid disappointments. Iceland has become an extremely popular vacation destination in recent years but has a limited number of accommodations and tours to accommodate all of it's visitors.
3. How long does it take to fly to Iceland- It's about a 5 hour flight from the East Coast of the United States to Reykjavik, Iceland. If you're coming from another U.S. City, add the amount of time it would take your family to fly to New York City.
4. What is better for a Family Vacation, a guided tour or an independent itinerary?- Guided tours are much more relaxing for parents. They can sit back, relax and enjoy quality time with their kids while their guide handles all of the logistics. There is no worry about speaking or understanding the Icelandic language, best places to eat, directions etc. Being part of a group that caters to families means you and your kids will get to meet other families and make new friends. One thing to bear in mind is that more tour groups have minimum ages for kids. If you have children younger than the required age you'll need to plan an independent trip or gather a few friends and family members together to make a group of your own to create a private tour.
If you're a well traveled, intrepid family then you'll probably want to plan an independent trip. Driving is fairly easy in Iceland. In Iceland, you drive on the right side of the road, you must be at least 21 years of age to rent a car and have a valid, North American driver's license. Having travel insurance with full vehicle liability is highly recommended. It takes about 12 hours to drive the entire "Golden Circle" or ring road around Iceland. Speak with one of our travel agents who can help you plan accommodations and sightseeing along the way specific to the ages and interests of your children. If you prefer not to drive in a foreign country while on vacation, independent itineraries can also be arranged with a city stay with daily guided group sightseeing options.
5. How Much Does it Cost to go to Iceland? - Iceland is not a cheap destination. That said, families need at least a starting point for their budget. Of course this amount is difficult to calculate depending on what time of year and what type of accommodations your family needs and prefers. For a basic land package that would include your hotel, airport transportation and some basic sightseeing figure about $1200 per person. Airfare, car rental and travel insurance would be additional. Food is extremely pricey in Iceland. With a the cost of a fast food hamburger along coming in around $8 a daily food budget of $75 per person is not unreasonable. Good new is the water in Iceland is some of the purest found on earth so no need to buy bottled water.
6. What Do We Need to Pack for Iceland - Layers!!!! No matter what time of year you plan to visit. Iceland's weather is extremely changeable all year round and it can change very quickly. In addition, Iceland has different micro-climates depending upon where you will be sightseeing. Wearing layers lets you stay comfortable while adjusting to different temperatures. There isn't really a rainy season but if you play to visit one of the many breath taking waterfalls Iceland has to offer, pack a poncho or some rain gear to help stay dry.
7. Some of our favorite Family Activities to do and see in Iceland -
The Blue Lagoon - This iconic attraction is ideal for families with kids ages 2 and older. This lagoon has geothermal seawater that stays at a year round temperature between 92 and 102 degrees. The geothermal water contains high levels of Silica, Algae and Minerals. Parents will appreciate the natural hot tub and wellness benefits while kids will enjoy a glorious blue swimming hole.
Ride an Icelandic Pony - One of the oldest horse breeds in the world that was brought to Iceland by the Vikings. Most horses walk, trot, canter and gallop. Icelandic ponies have a 5th gear called tölt in between a trot and cantor. Combined with their short legs this allows both pony and rider to cover vast distances of harsh terrain without becoming fatigued.
Find Your Favorite Waterfall - Iceland's volcanic mountains and glaciers create many spectacular waterfalls. Not only will your kids enjoy hiking and exploring the many waterfalls Iceland offers, they will enjoy learning to pronounce all of them. Although it was a very hard choice, our favorite is Seljalandsfoss. Thanks to the cave behind it, visitors can view and photography this waterfall from all sides.
Go INSIDE a Volcano - The Thrihnukagigur Volcano near Reykjavik last erupted in 2000 BC. Now visitors ages 12 and up can take a scenic hike up the volcano and descend via an elevator into the magma created core.
Go to Elf School - During a visit to the Elf School in Reykjavik, you'll learn about the 13 kinds of Elves that many Icelanders believe truly exist but are never seen. In addition you'll learn about fairies, trolls, dwarves and gnomes and leave with a diploma as proof.
There are simply so many wonderful sites and hidden gems found in Iceland that it's worth working with a travel agent who can help you custom craft an itinerary perfect for your family.