Iceland in Winter with Kids: Northern Lights and Ice Caves

  Family of 2 adults and 2 children visited Iceland in March 2017

“We are heading to Iceland with our 2 and 4 year old. We love adventure and are looking to do as much as we can with the kids in winter (we are from Boston so we are used to winter). We really want to see the northern lights, so that is a priority, but also really want to see all the other beautiful natural sights, including ice caves if possible with the kids. We are thinking it may be best to stay outside of Reykjavik and are also considering renting a car.”

Chris McCarty, a local specialist from Iceland, helped this traveler put together a customized itinerary based on Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Southern Highlights, and Golden Circle: 7-9 day Itinerary.

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Trip planning highlights

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Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Golden Circle, South Coast

Day 1: Arrival, Drive to Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Day 2: Volcanic Snaefellsnes Peninsula
Day 3: Snæfellsnes Peninsula to Golden Circle
Day 4: Golden Circle: Thingvellir, Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall
Day 5: The South Coast to Vik: Waterfalls, Beaches, Cliffs
Day 6: Skaftafell, Svartifoss, Hof, Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon
Day 7: Drive back along South Coast to KEF

Summary of the trip planning conversation

Below are some useful excerpts from the trip planning conversation
Chris McCarty
Hi, welcome to kimkim! I'm Chris and I will be your kimkim travel specialist for your trip to Iceland.

I definitely recommend renting a car to get out of Reykjavik to see more of Iceland. Unfortunately, the minimum age for the ice cave tours is 10, but there are a lot of things you can still do and see on your own.

With a little over a week, here's a route that I would recommend.

Thanks! A few questions- this has a lot of driving, approximately how many hours a day will we be in the car? Since we will be traveling in winter I ha e heard many roads get impassable, do you anticipate all those roads will be clear and that all that hiking will be doable with 2 small children? An hour hike in the snow with a 2 and a 4 year old sounds intense. Also, it sounds like we can't do any of the glacier hikes or ice cave stuff with the kids, so would you suggest augmenting the itinerary all given that? Can we do the snowmobiling? Finally, it sounds like we are staying in a new place every night, is it possible to minimize the number of different accommodations we are in thought the week to 2-3? Or even try to take advantage of staying in houses?

Chris McCarty
There is a fair amount of driving some days on this itinerary.

3 of the days are about 2-2.5 hours total, 2 are about 3 hours, and one final day to get back to Reykjavik would be 4 hours. All of these are broken up with sights every 30-60 minutes, but it can be a lot of car time for young children.

It would probably make sense to cut out the trip to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and Skaftafell, since that adds on quite a bit of the driving. Then you can spend 2 nights in and around Reykjavik, 2 nights along the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, and 2 nights near the Golden Circle area, and 1 in Vik (or see that part of the south coast as a longer day trip and spend 3 nights near the Golden Circle area)

The snowmobiles have a minimum age of 8 years. There is an option for dogsledding for the 4-year-old.

Chris- thanks so much! This is really helpful! We are really hoping to see the aurora as I am know most people are this time of year and I have been talking with a few friends who traveled to Iceland recently and they said that Reykjavik is pretty small so we were considering not staying there at all and just checking it out on the last day before we fly out that way we maximize time out in the country. What are your thoughts on that?

Chris McCarty
That would be my recommendation as well. Reykjavik is a nice town to walk through for half a day, and there are some great museums about the history of Iceland that are great if you are into that, but there is also a lot to see outside the capital.

Since you will probably arrive after a long flight / redeye, my recommendation would be to head north about 1 hour past Reykjavik to the town of Borgarnes. It's a small town in a beautiful setting along the water. If you are feeling up for it, you can hike as far as you want to Glymur Falls (can test how deep the snow us, but it may be packed down by other hikers).

Then you can spend the next 2 days exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula and stay 2 nights in the same place along it, so that you can see as much as you want each day.

Then you can go down to the Golden Circle area and spend 2 nights there to explore the Golden Circle, or the Reykjanes Peninsula, or some other sights along the start of the South Coast if you like, and then spend 1 night in Vik and 1 in Reykjavik, or add on another day around the Golden Circle area and see Vik as a long day if you like, and spend your final afternoon, evening, and next morning in Reykjavik to see it.

In Reykjavik I recommend the Harpa cultural center, the sun voyager sculpture, taking the elevator to the tower at the main church for great views, and just walking around some of the funky streets.

Chris McCarty
You may see the Northern lights on your own since you would be staying in good places away from city lights, or you could join a hunt the last night if you hadn't see anything on your own by then.

that sounds great! Thank you SO much! A few more questions :) do you have any recommendations for hotels in those areas? and do you have a sense of kid friendly activities, hikes, or spots to see in those areas beyond the famous ones? given it is winter, do you think we will ok navigating the roads on our own in a rental? and finally, we only speak English, will there be language issues if we go to places on our own instead of with tours?

Chris McCarty
I can find hotels and make the reservations for you (I'll run the options by you before), it's part of the kimkim service.
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Traveler Review

We had the BEST time! Thanks so much Chris!