- Marvel at the 8,000-year-old Vatnshellir lava cave
- Sail the seas in search of whales on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula
- Explore the magma chamber of the dormant Þríhnúkagígur volcano
- Sail among ancient icebergs in the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
- Experience ultimate relaxation at the famous Blue Lagoon Spa
|Day 1||Arrive in Keflavík, West Iceland & Borgarfjörður, Lava Cave Tour||Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
|Day 2||Explore Snæfellsnes, Whale Watching Tour, Ólafsvík||Snæfellsnes Peninsula|
|Day 3||Drive from Snæfellsnes to Golden Circle, Visit the Secret Lagoon||Golden Circle|
|Day 4||Southern Golden Circle, Tour Inside Þríhnúkagígur Volcano||Golden Circle|
|Day 5||Vestmannaeyjar (Westman) Islands, RIB Boat Adventure||Westman Islands|
|Day 6||South Coast Waterfalls & Black-Sand Beaches, Zip Line Adventure Tour||Kirkjubæjarklaustur|
|Day 7||Skaftafell Nature Reserve, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Boat Tour||Kirkjubæjarklaustur|
|Day 8||South Coast Drive to Reykjavík, Puffin Watching Boat Tour||Reykjavík|
|Day 9||A Day in Reykjavík City||Reykjavík|
|Day 10||Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Depart from Keflavík|
Day 1: Arrive in Keflavík, West Iceland & Borgarfjörður, Lava Cave Tour
Velkominn til íslands (welcome to Iceland)! Upon arrival at Keflavík airport, pick up your 4WD and hit the road. Your adventure begins in 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 landscapes, and black sandy beaches to volcanic craters and mountainous glaciers, the western coast is home to many of the country's gems without the crowds.
Set out north on the Ring Road toward Reykjavík before taking a detour to the Borgarfjörður district—the setting for most of the Icelandic sagas and two unique waterfalls. Just a short distance from the road, admire the vast creeks and cascades of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss as they tumble into the turquoise waters below. Stop for waffles with whipped cream and jam, an Icelandic favorite, in the nearby village of Reykholt, known for its famous resident Snorri Sturluson, a 12th-century author renowned for his works on medieval Icelandic mythology.
Continue through Borgarfjörður and introduce the kids to some classic Icelandic legends and folk stories with a visit to Glanni Waterfall, said to be the home of elves and trolls. Then, follow a short twenty-minute trail across volcanic fields to Grábrók Crater. Continue the volcano theme as you head to the 8,000-year-old Vatnshellir lava cave on the southwestern end of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Take a tour with the kids as an expert guide accompanies you through the extraordinary 650-foot (200 m) tunnel as you marvel at the glittering, colorful rocks surrounding you.
Day 2: Explore Snæfellsnes, Whale Watching Tour, Ólafsvík
After a leisurely breakfast, get ready to explore the untamed beauty of Snæfellsnes. Dominated by the mystical 700,000-year-old Snæfellsjökull glacier volcano, the peninsula is home to treasures often overlooked in favor of the more well-known South Coast. Start at the Búðahraun lava fields 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 local myths and legends. Twenty minutes east, you'll hit upon the stunning and much-photographed Mount Kirkjufell and its accompanying waterfall, Kirkjufellsfoss.
Spend time hiking the surrounding walking trail and task the kids with spotting the plentiful bird and marine life. The nearby fishing village of Grundarfjörður makes a perfect stop for lunch before driving the short distance back to Ólafsvík for one of the highlights of your trip. Create mini marine biologists in the making as you set sail to explore the seas for orcas and sperm whales. Depending on the time of year, you might also catch sight of white-beaked dolphins and humpbacks. Spend the rest of the evening at leisure, recounting your favorite memories from the day.
Day 3: Drive from Snæfellsnes to Golden Circle, Visit the Secret Lagoon
This morning you'll wave goodbye to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and make your way southeast to the Golden Circle. Discover landscapes woven with dramatic cliffs, mysterious legends, and ancient folklore as you journey 90 miles (145 km) to your first stop on this classic route—Þingvellir National Park. Meander through the Almannagjá Gorge entrance and watch the kids' amazement as they walk the path between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and marvel at the geological wonders along the Mid-Atlantic Rift.
Hike along the ridge and head toward the boardwalk to see tumbling cascades of Öxarárfoss before hopping back in the car and driving to the Golden Circle's famous hot springs and geysers. Stop to admire the regular eruptions of the Strokkur geyser, which blasts warm water to heights of up to 130 feet (40 m). Continue on another 10 minutes and arrive at the majestic Gullfoss, Iceland's mighty "Golden Falls" that cascades over two tiers into the glacial waters of the Hvítá River below.
Stop for lunch and take a breather before this afternoon's excursion. The Secret Lagoon, known locally as Gamla Laugin, is the country's oldest natural pool and maintains year-round temperatures between 86-104°F (38-40°C) thanks to the nearby hot springs of Hverahólmi. Bathe in the wonderfully clean, warm water surrounded by icy wilderness as you take a moment to breathe in this authentic Icelandic experience. Afterward, explore the nearby lava fields or check in at your accommodation before heading out to dinner at one of the area's many restaurants.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: Southern Golden Circle, Tour Inside Þríhnúkagígur Volcano
This morning is your opportunity to explore any of the Golden Circle sights you missed yesterday or that the children are clamoring to re-visit. Don't miss the stunning 3,000-year-old Kerið Crater and its aquamarine lake. Either take a walk around the crater's rim or descend the steps to explore the water's edge. As you continue west for this afternoon's excursion, stop in at the small town of Hveragerði en route. Enjoy a dip in the town's swimming pool, replete with hot baths and a natural sauna, or visit the local LÁ Art Museum and its collection of contemporary art.
Thirty minutes in the car from Hveragerði, and you'll arrive at the dormant Þríhnúkagígur volcano. Experience this wonder from the inside out with a 50-minute hike to the volcano's crater. A bucket list activity for adventurous teens, you'll start with a scenic walk to the base of the volcano, passing through lava fields and valleys with views of mountain peaks. Then, you'll brave a 400-foot (120 m) descent to the bottom of the crater in an open cable lift. Walk along designated paths that snake into the magma chamber before returning to the surface.
Day 5: Vestmannaeyjar (Westman) Islands, RIB Boat Adventure
This morning it's back in the car for the next installment of your Icelandic adventure. It's a straightforward drive from the southern Golden Circle (and from Selfoss just an hour) to the Landeyjahöfn Ferry Terminal on the southern coast. Board a thirty-minute ferry ride from the harbor to the archipelago of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands). Your destination is Heimaey, the largest and only inhabited island in the archipelago; it's an off-the-beaten-path gem with colorful lava landscapes and the world's largest puffin colony.
Once on the island, you have several family-friendly options. Visit the Eldheimar Museum and learn all about the 1973 Eldfell eruption before hiking to the top of the 720-foot (219 m) high Eldfell Crater that was formed and forever changed the island's landscape. There are numerous trails to cliffs and lava fields nearby if you have the energy. For a gentler introduction to the island, wrap up warmly and take the kids to Stórhöfði to see the puffins or visit the incredible Norwegian stave church at Stafkirkjan.
In the afternoon, it's time to swap land for the sea with an exhilarating RIB boat (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) adventure! Explore the island's coast and sail along the new lava from the 1973 eruption that enlarged Heimaey by 1.2 miles (2 km). The younger ones will be fascinated to hear tales of Viking sagas and battles as they learn about the archipelago's history. Visit the sea caves of Fjósið and Klettshellir and keep your eyes peeled for the island's famous puffins as well as orcas, porpoises, and dolphins in the summer months.
Day 6: South Coast Waterfalls & Black-Sand Beaches, Zip Line Adventure Tour
Bid farewell to Heimaey and journey back to Iceland's South Coast, where you'll head west along the Ring Road to two of the country's most celebrated waterfalls. First up is Seljalandsfoss—button up your raincoats and witness the cascade thundering 30 feet (9 m) ahead as you take shelter in a cave under the cliff. After another thirty minutes in the car, you'll reach the immense Skógafoss—with a drop of 196 feet (59 m), it's one of the largest and most breathtaking falls in Iceland. Mark the occasion with a family photo as you climb the 527 steps to the viewing platform.
Continue your journey and take a short diversion via Route 218 to the Dyrhólaey Peninsula—amaze the kids with stories of the daredevil pilot who, in 1993, flew his small aircraft through the promenade's enormous rock arch. From Dyrhólaey, it's a quick 12-mile (20 km) drive to the striking black sands of Reynisfjara Beach. Wander the vast basalt hexagonal columns rising out of the sand and play trolls in homage to the 216-foot (65 m) Reynisdrangar rock pillars; according to local folklore, giant trolls that turned to stone as they tried to haul a ship from the ocean's depths as day broke.
Make time for a late lunch at one of the local restaurants in Vík before embarking on today's last excursion—a two-hour zip line adventure tour. Perfect for kids eight years old and upward, the four aptly described zip line rides—Little Rush, Gentle Giant, Leap of Faith, and Big Rush—give stunning views of the scenery below, including Dog's Waterfall and Grave Canyon. From here, it's onward to Kirkjubæjarklaustur (or simply "Klaustur" to locals) 46 miles (74 km) away, where the evening is yours to relax or explore as you wish.
Day 7: Skaftafell Nature Reserve, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon Boat Tour
The Skaftafall National Park, some 43 miles (70 km) east of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, is a glacial winter wonderland with enchanting landscapes guaranteed to captivate even the world's weariest of kids. Hike the 3-mile (5 km) trail to the striking beauty of Svartifoss waterfall, surrounded by hundreds of dark, hexagonal basalt columns that lend a mysterious quality to the nearby scenic views of the river and glacier. Continue to the magnificent Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon, whose two million-year-old steep jagged walls give way to the icy river 328 feet (100 m) below.
Enjoy a hearty lunch in Skaftafell before heading to the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon. Board your boat and set sail around the icy waters as you reach the 1,000-year-old icebergs. Watch transfixed as the glittering boulders break off from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier and slowly drift out to sea before being polished by the waves and washed ashore onto the black sands of Diamond Beach. Task the kids with spotting the playful seas that can be seen in the glacier year-round, especially in wintertime when they flock to the lagoon's mouth to catch fish.
Day 8: South Coast Drive to Reykjavík, Puffin Watching Boat Tour
This morning bid farewell to Kirkjubæjarklaustur and make the 161-mile (259 km) journey west to Reykjavík. There are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs and explore some of the South Coast's lesser-visited gems along the way. Visit the otherworldly hiking expanse of the Þakgil Canyon with its mysteriously beautiful peaks before hopping back in the car to discover the black sands of Sólheimasandur Beach. Venture over to the abandoned wreckage of a US Navy DC plane that crashed, with no casualties, on the beach in 1973.
Continue west to Reykjavík, and check in to your hotel before heading to the old harbor for one last stretch of your sea legs. Your captain will greet you at the harbor's floating pier before setting sail to Akurey, well known for its plentiful puffins and birdlife. Your 90-minute tour will get you as close to the rocks as possible to see the sea birds in their natural habitat. Enjoy insightful commentary from your expert guide as the boat's engine is turned off to observe the birds and their beautiful surroundings better. Your return to shore gives a spectacular view of the capital from the sea.
Day 9: A Day in Reykjavík City
It's your penultimate day in Iceland, and the day is yours to explore the country's stunning capital at your own pace. Meander Reykjavík's compact downtown area and the main street of Laugavegur, with its myriad cafés, boutiques, restaurants, and galleries, as you head toward the harbor. Indulge in a second breakfast of waffles and hot chocolate before visiting the gleaming steel elegance of the Sun Voyager Sculpture. Don't miss the Harpa Cultural Center with its impossibly cool, award-winning contemporary architecture.
Meander to the old wharf, where the kids can immerse themselves in magic and mystery at the Northern Lights Center and the Saga Museum. Break for a leisurely lunch at one of the city's many excellent restaurants before taking a stroll to the towering Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral. Either take one of the many kid-friendly wildlife tours that leave from the island's capital or spend the afternoon with an experienced fisherman as you and the kids try your hand at sea fishing. The evening is yours to relax and enjoy as you wish.
Day 10: Reykjanes Peninsula, Blue Lagoon, Depart from Keflavík
It's the final day of your Nordic family adventure, and you have several options depending on your flight time. Spend the morning exploring the Reykjanes Peninsula and discover 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 lunar-like lava landscape as you make your way to Kleifarvatn Lake on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and wander the lava fields of Reykjanes National Park.
For a more leisurely end to your road trip, finish your family adventure in style with a trip to the world-famous and family-friendly Blue Lagoon Spa. Soak in the mineral-rich geothermal seawater and drift away in contemplation as the turquoise silica and algae-rich waters work their rejuvenating magic. Take a dip with the kids under the lagoon's waterfall and enjoy the in-water bar before seeking refreshments at the on-site café and restaurant.
With hearts full of adventure, it's time to say bless (goodbye). Make your way to Keflavík airport, drop off your rental car and board your flight home. See you soon!
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