Chills and Thrills in the Land of Fire and Ice
It's ironic that a country called Iceland was created by the molten lava of a volcano, but it makes for dramatic and gorgeous contrasts. Iceland offers a stunning landscape of volcanoes, geysers and hot springs, but also massive glaciers that cover 11 percent of the island. Pack your bags and take your kids to the land of the Vikings, the land of fire and ice is well worth a family visit. Let the planning begin!
When to Go?
Summer days pack in 24 hours of sun in this northern nation, while winter months see only four usable daylight hours. Summer temperatures are mild, averaging in the 50s, while winter drops into the "cold" realm, with highs in the 30s.
Yes, summer is the high season for this popular travel destination, but it will be more crowded and expensive. The kids will most likely enjoy this season since there will be more time for memorable activities.
What to Do in Reykjavik?
Take the kids on an electric bike tour of Iceland's capital with Season Tours (Armuli 6, Reykjavik 112, Iceland). The bike does most of the work, so younger kids can keep up and older kids will love it. With your guide in charge, you'll explore the entire city and learn a lot about it too.
What kid doesn't love horseback riding? Opt for the Reykjavik's Islenski Hesturinn (Surtlugata 3 | Fjarborg, Reykjavik, Iceland) horse-riding tour. Even if they aren't accomplished horse riders, your family members will love taking the Icelandic horses "tolting" through a lava field with pseudo craters. This may be out of your budget, but it's a splendid way to see the beautiful countryside.
From Iceland's Viking past to its trendy present—you can dive into the fascinating history at a free tour in the National Museum of Iceland (Sudurgata 41, Reykjavik 101, Iceland). This compact museum has national treasures that help illustrate and explain the nation's history from the time of its initial settlement to the present day. It will be a fun and educational expereince for the whole family!
What to Do in the Rest of Iceland?
Volcanoes are par for the course in Iceland but truly magical for those visiting. Splurge for a tour of the Thrihnukagigur volcano, east of the Blue Mountains in Southwest Iceland. You can enter through the enormous magma chamber, a great cathedral of space higher than the Statue of Liberty and wider than a football field. The cave is painted in fantastic colors caused by mineral-enriched rock tempered in the heat of the eruption. Kids will love the rock formations all around the stony chamber.
Visit the majestic fjords along the island’s east coast. You can either rent a car and drive out there along the Ring Road or take a tour. One inexpensive activity that your kids—and your wallet—will enjoy is the Skálanes Nature and Heritage Center (Skálanes, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland), featuring seals, reindeer and puffins. Then sign up for a fishing trip in a local fjord.
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From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.