- Set sail and spot for whales in Ólafsvík
- Hang out with playful seals on the beaches of Rauðasandur
- Gaze at the thundering cascades of the Westfjord's Dynjandi Waterfall
- Experience a winter wonderland upon the icy Langjökull glacier
|Day 1||Arrive in Keflavík, Drive to Snæfellsnes via Borgarfjörður||Snæfellsnes|
|Day 2||Explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Black-Sand Beaches & Fishing Villages||Snæfellsnes|
|Day 3||Ólafsvík, Whale Watching, Ferry to Patreksfjörður||Patreksfjörður|
|Day 4||Látrabjarg, Rauðasandur & Southern Westfjords, Seal Watching Tour||Patreksfjörður|
|Day 5||Drive to Ísafjörður via Dynjandi Waterfall, Northern Westfjords & Vigur Island||Ísafjörður|
|Day 6||A Day Around Ísafjörður||Ísafjörður|
|Day 7||Isafjardjardjup Bay, Grimsey Island Puffin Boat Tour, Drive to Hólmavík||Hólmavík|
|Day 8||Explore Hólmavík & Northern Strandir||Hólmavík|
|Day 9||Drive to Reykjavík, Langjökull Glacier Tour||Reykjavík|
|Day 10||Reykjanes Peninsula, Free Day in Reykjavík, Depart Keflavík|
Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, Drive to Snæfellsnes via Borgarfjörður
Velkominn til íslands (welcome to Iceland)! Upon arrival at Keflavík airport, pick up your 4WD and start your Nordic adventure. Today's destination is the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, sometimes called "Little Iceland," containing all of the country's diversity and natural wonders within 56 miles (96 km). From waterfalls, lava fields, and red sandy beaches to sea arches and tiny fishing villages, the West Coast boasts many attractions for families who want to savor the variety of Iceland's highlights while remaining a little off the beaten track.
Set out north on the Ring Road toward Reykjavík before taking a detour to the Borgarfjörður district—a rural area covering the land between the country's capital and the peninsula. Don't miss two of the district's most beautiful waterfalls, Hraunfossar (Lava Falls) and Barnafoss (Children's Falls)—both within a short distance and easily accessible from the road. At 2,952 feet (900 m), Hraunfossar is Iceland's widest waterfall—watch the kids' awestruck faces as they witness the countless creeks and cascades tumbling down into the blue jade waters below.
Afterward, make your way to your hotel, and introduce the kids en route to some classic Icelandic legends and folk stories with a visit to Glanni Waterfall, rumored to be the home of elves and trolls. Don't miss the nearby highlights of Grábrók Crater and Deildartunguhver, Europe's most powerful hot spring. Stop for delicious waffles with whipped cream and jam (an Icelandic favorite) in the nearby village of Reykholt, known for its famous resident Snorri Sturluson. The 12th-century author is renowned for his works on medieval Icelandic mythology.
Day 2: Explore the Snæfellsnes Peninsula: Black-Sand Beaches & Fishing Villages
You'll spend tonight in Snæfellsnes, so the whole day is yours to explore the peninsula's varied wonders at your own pace. Your first stop along the coast is the startlingly atmospheric 19th-century Búðakirkja, an isolated and much-photographed black wooden chapel. Make your way across the lava fields of Búðahraun and the Búðaklettur Crater, where the kids can let their imaginations run riot on the otherworldly terrain. Continue east toward the tiny fishing villages of Arnastapi and Hellnar, and admire the coastal rock formations before visiting the nearby Lóndrangar lava formations.
As you continue in an anti-clockwise loop, visit the evocative black sandy beach at Djúpalónssandur, where the kids will be fascinated to see the rusted remains and debris from a British fishing trawler sunk in 1948. Follow a small trail along the cliffs for twenty minutes and explore the impressive rock walls at Dritvík Cove before hopping back in the car. Call in at The Pakkhus, a charming folk museum, in Ólafsvík, to learn about the area's history, legends, and the nearby mystical 7000,000-year-old Snæfellsjökull glacier volcano. The on-site café is a good choice for a light lunch.
Twenty minutes east, you'll hit upon the stunning Mount Kirkjufell and its accompanying waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss, both featured in "Game of Thrones." Spend time hiking the surrounding walking trail and task the kids with spotting the myriad of bird and marine life. The nearby fishing village of Grundarfjörður makes a perfect stop to seek afternoon refreshments, and families with younger children will appreciate the playground with mountain views. Spend the evening at one of the peninsula's many restaurants and recount your favorite memories from the day.
Day 3: Ólafsvík, Whale Watching, Ferry to Patreksfjörður
After a hearty breakfast, it's time to head back west to Ólafsvík to spend a thrilling morning whale watching. Board your boat and spend the next 3.5 hours exploring the dark seas, where orcas and sperm whales often swim in the shadows of the magnificent Snæfellsjökull glacier. Create mini marine biologists in the making and watch the kids' excitement as they spot these giants of the ocean. Your captain will get you as close as possible without disturbing the whales. Depending on the time of year, you might also catch sight of white-beaked dolphins and humpbacks.
After lunch, it's time to embark on the next leg of your road trip. Continue east through the Berserkjahraun lava field (which makes for a great stretch of the legs) until you reach the fishing town of Stykkisólmur, where you'll catch a ferry to Brjánslækur. From here, it's a short 34-mile (56 km) drive to your hotel in Patreksfjörður, a small village perfectly placed for exploring the wild beauty of the Westfjords.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Látrabjarg, Rauðasandur & Southern Westfjords, Seal Watching Tour
Spend the morning exploring Patreksfjörður and the Westfjords area in your own time. Known for its thundering waterfalls, vast beaches, remote hamlets, and headlands, this wilder and lesser traveled corner of Iceland is home to several gems. Before setting off, start the day in true Icelandic style at the town's outstanding open-air swimming pool. Bathe in the heated waters with beautiful views overlooking the fjord before making your way 38 miles (61 km) west to the Látrabjarg Peninsula, Europe's most westerly point and home to one of the most prominent bird cliffs in Iceland.
Take a gentle hike across the cliffs and task the kids with spotting the seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, fulmars, terns, and guillemots, that flock in their millions to nest among the 1,312-foot high (400 m) sheer rocky outcrops in summer. After taking in the gorgeous views out to sea, head farther along the coast to the golden beaches of Breiðavík and Örlygshöfn, a 20 and 50-minute drive, respectively, from Látrabjarg. Örlygshöfn, in particular, is known for its amazing sunsets in the summer months and is a great place to spot the northern lights in wintertime.
Next up, it's a twenty-minute drive over to the beautiful red sands of Rauðasandur Beach and this afternoon's tour location. Your local guide will take you via tractor to a seal colony where the naturally playful harbor seals can often be seen at close range. The kids will delight in watching the entertaining creatures sunbathing, while in late summer, you can watch as the adorable pups take their first steps to adulthood. Afterward, wander the beach before returning to Patreksfjörður, where the evening is yours to spend as you wish.
Day 5: Drive to Ísafjörður via Dynjandi Waterfall, Northern Westfjords & Vigur Island
Among the Westfjord's many gems, it's the thunderous Dynjandi Waterfall that's the most impressive. As you set off for the next leg of your family adventure, a 90-minute drive north from Patreksfjörður will reward you with stunning views as you reach the top of one of Iceland's most dramatic cascades. If the weather's decent, this makes an excellent spot for a picnic and stroll among the sweeping fjord backdrop. Back in the car, discover why the drive between the southern and northern Westfjords is considered one of the most picturesque in Iceland.
Continue through charming fishing villages and steep mountain passes on the drive through beautiful Arnarfjörður while you entertain the kids with tales of the fjord's legendary sea monsters. Then pass through Dýrafjörður and the historic fishing village of Þingeyri, where you can lunch on homemade soup and Belgian waffles at the homely Simbahöllin Café. Appetites sated, drive onward through the glacier valley to Önundarfjörður, a stunning fjord further enhanced by the sweeping golden beach nestled within.
Carry on along the 6-mile (9 km) Vestfjarðagöng Tunnel and descend to Ísafjörður, the capital of the region and your base for the next two nights. It's also the departure point for your next family excursion. Take a 30-minute boat ride to Vigur Island— home to thousands of eider ducks, arctic terns, and, of course, puffins! Spend a leisurely three hours with the kids as you take a guided walk around the island with your knowledgeable and entertaining guide—afterward, feast on homemade refreshments in a 19th-century cow house. A relaxing night at your accommodation awaits.
Day 6: A Day Around Ísafjörður
Start the day with a leisurely breakfast and when you're ready, head out to explore Ísafjörður. A tiny town by most standards, this picturesque gateway to the Westfjords seems positively bustling among the remote landscape. Meander through the Old Town with its quaint timber and tin-clad buildings, many dating back to the 18th century, and stop for a coffee and second breakfast at one of the cozy local coffee houses. Then, take a stroll to the harbor, where it's easy to conjure up images of vast whaling vessels and tall-masted ships that inhabited the dock in centuries past.
Despite the remote location (part of the area's attraction), there are several small fishing villages within 20-40 minutes or so drive, and all are worth a visit. A short drive north will take you to Bolungarvík, the northernmost village in the district. Visit the Ósvör Museum and watch the kids' surprise as the museum's curator greets visitors wearing a skin suit similar to those the 19th-century Icelandic sailors wore! Afterward, if you didn't have time to explore Þingeyri yesterday, head back to learn about local heritage at the town's blacksmith. And perhaps to eat those delicious waffles...
Day 7: Isafjardjardjup Bay, Grimsey Island Puffin Boat Tour, Drive to Hólmavík
After yesterday's easy day, get back on the adventure trail this morning and journey 138 miles (223 km) southeast from Ísafjörður to Hólmavík, a small coastal town nestled by Steingrímsfjördur. It's a scenic route, and your first stop is Súðavík. The impossibly cute orphaned fox cubs will enthrall the kids at the village's Arctic Fox Center, and for younger kids, there's a lovely garden and playground, Raggagarður, in the heart of the Old Town. Either stop in Súðavík for a bite to eat or continue on to the charming turf-roofed Litlibaer Café, another contender for the "best waffles in Iceland" moniker.
Just thirty minutes drive from Hólmavík, you'll find Drangsnes Harbor, the departure point for today's tour. Find your sea legs as you enjoy a short, revitalizing boat tour to nearby Grimsey Island. Circle the island and encounter colonies of razorbills, cormorants, kittiwakes (and some 60,000 Atlantic puffins) as your guide provides entertaining and informative commentary before heading ashore. Walk up to the lighthouse and enjoy the panoramic views before returning to your accommodation and heading to a cozy bistro for the evening.
Day 8: Explore Hólmavík & Northern Strandir
After breakfast, spend the morning exploring Hólmavík's attractions. The town's Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft provides insight into the country's mystical heritage and how folklore and landscape have intertwined over the centuries. Venture back in time with the older kids to 17th-century Iceland with a fascinating audio guide to learn about the prominence of sorcery in the remote Strandir area. Families with younger children should head to the Sheep Farming Museum, fifteen minutes south, where little ones can bottle feed the lambs.
Lunch in Hólmavík before setting off to explore the remote Strandir Coast. Drive two hours north along the coastal road and pass scenic waterfalls, driftwood beaches, and panoramic inlets as you approach Munaðarnes Farm at the end of the road. Stop here for breathtaking views of the fjords and the Drangaskord Pinnacles (one of the country's most prominent landmarks) on the horizon.
If the kids aren't too tired, head south along the coast and stop at the enchanting village of Djúpavík. Best known for its vast abandoned herring factory, scenes from Ben Affleck and Jason Momoa's 2016 superhero film "Justice League" were filmed here. Either take a short hike along one of several trails from the village or head back to Hólmavík, stopping to see the town's striking and modern Hólmavíkurkirkja Church.
Day 9: Drive to Reykjavík, Langjökull Glacier Tour
It's your last full day in Iceland, and this morning you'll journey to the country's capital of Reykjavík, 144 miles (232 km) due south. Pass back through the Borgarfjörður district you encountered on your first day, and break the three-hour journey at Borganes, a cute little town where you can explore and grab a bite to eat before continuing to your hotel. En route, detour to the town of Húsafell, your starting point for today's icy adventure.
Prepare to be enthralled as you venture into the raw, striking beauty of Langjökull, Iceland's second-largest glacier. Kids will adore this adventure of a lifetime as you journey up the spectacular winter wonderland landscape in specially modified glacier vehicles. Explore the views from the top of the ice cap and venture deep inside the manufactured ice tunnels leading to the blue heart of the glacier. Enjoy a guided tour before heading back down the icy slopes. From Húsafell, make the 82-mile (132 km) drive to your hotel in Reykjavík.
After checking in at your accommodation, take a stroll through Reykjavík and discover some of the city's main sights, including the towering Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral and the Sun Voyager Sculpture. Make your way to the main street of Laugavegur and the town square before heading to the charming old harbor for refreshments.
Day 10: Free Morning in Reykjavík, Reykjanes Peninsula, Depart from Keflavík
It's your last morning in Iceland, and depending on your flight time, you have several options. Spend the morning exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula with its bubbling mud pools, geological wonders such as the green-hued volcanic crater lake of Grænavatn, and the colorful geothermal areas of Gunnuhver and Krýsuvík. Venture one last time across the peninsula's vast lunar-like lava landscape as you make your way to Kleifarvatn Lake on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and wander the lava fields of the Reykjanes National Park.
Otherwise, take in some of the capital's other famous sights, including the shorefront Harpa Concert Hall and the Old Wharf, where the kids can immerse themselves in magic and mystery at the Northern Lights Center and the Saga Museum. Take one last look at the towering Hallgrímskirkja Church and savor a leisurely lunch with the family in this most remarkable of settings before heading to Keflavík, dropping off your rental car, and boarding your flight home. Safe travels!
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