Iceland is the new IT place, and for good reasons. Waterfalls, hot springs, glaciers, icebergs, and some of the nicest locals around make it the perfect family destination. If you’re looking for amusement parks, you may as well stop reading this. Iceland will get you up close with nature and push you to find your inner explorer. Although there are tons of tour companies, I would definitely suggest renting a car. Driving is so easy in Iceland and we stopped so many times to take pictures and go off the beaten path. Here is my itinerary for 7 adventurous days in the land of fire and ice:
Spend the day getting to know Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.
First stop is the Viking Museum. Although it is a little gory, it’s a good way to learn how the Viking culture influenced Iceland throughout the years. Your admission comes with a headset to do a self-guided tour.
Lunch: Head down to the water and have some amazing seafood while enjoying a backdrop of mountains and ocean.
Time to get out on the water. Take a Puffin Tour to see a breeding ground of these adorable little guys. (Book in advance)
Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the streets of Reykjavik. You might want to buy an iconic Icelandic sweater.
Today is about exploring the southern coast.
Drive to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall. There are hundreds of waterfalls in Iceland, but the incredible thing about this one is you can walk behind it. Follow the path that leads you in a circle behind it and out the other side.
Lunch: Grab an iconic Icelandic hotdog from the stand by the parking lot and sit at one of the picnic tables enjoying your lunch with a view of the falls.
Next stop is Seljavallalaug Pool. After walking down into the valley for about 20 minutes, passing over a few streams, you’ll suddenly come around the corner and a pool will appear tucked into the mountain. The water is heated by hot springs and is the temperature of a warm bath. As you swim, the mountains cascade around you and you can see several waterfalls in the distance. (Click here for detailed directions.)
Last stop for the day is Skagafoss Waterfall. It is 200 feet wide and over 80 feet high, and is one of the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland.
Make sure you climb the 400 stairs to get to the top of the falls. It’s worth every step.
By now you’ve seen lots of Icelandic horses while driving, but today you will get to ride one! These horses are breathtaking and there are many places where you can book a ride. We had an unforgettable ride from the Hestheimar Guesthouse. We still talk about how cool it was to be riding these gentle horses while looking out at the glaciers in the distance. (You’ll want to book in advance.)
After lunch, head over to Vik to see its Black Sand Beach The black pebble beach is bordered by stunning basalt cliffs that have a stair-like appearance. In the distance, you can see a natural bridge, and may be lucky enough to see seals playing in the waves.
It’s Golden Circle day!
(Don’t bother doing a tour…if you drive you can stop whenever you want.)
First stop is Thingvellir National Park. Parliament would meet here to create laws, argue about politics, and even execute prisoners. They would also throw one heck of a party during their meetings. Fans of Game of Thrones might recognize it since some episodes were filmed here. The landscape is rugged, dramatic, and gorgeous.
Lunch: There’s a great soup shop at your next stop.
Second stop of the day is Geysir. Before you approach the main geyser, you will see lots of bubbling, steaming pools of water. The smell of sulfur fills the air and you can imagine all the activity that is going on under your feet. Next stop will be Strokkur…the main attraction. Just follow the crowds. This is the big guy everyone comes to see since it erupts every 5-10 minutes into a fantastic display of water and smoke soaring through the sky.
Final stop of the day is Gulfoss Waterfall. When it comes to waterfalls in Iceland, this one is hard to beat!! The falls are known as the Golden Falls and they certainly are a treasure. It is pretty much impossible to get a bad picture here because the view will leave you in awe. Make sure you take the path to the top section of the falls to get a different perspective.
Today is all about icebergs!
Take a leisure drive to the Jokulsarlon Lagoon. There will be plenty of places you’ll want to stop along the way. You may want to stop somewhere along the way for lunch or buy some food from a local market and enjoy it somewhere with a view of a glacier.
Jokulsarlon Lagoon…when you finally get to the lagoon take a while to let it all sink in. It is unbelievable and you’ll feel like you’re standing in a postcard. Take it in from several angles, including from the top of the little hill.
Next, go on a boat tour inside the lagoon. The boat will take you as close to the icebergs as the guide feels is safe, since icebergs can flip at any moment. The icebergs are amazing and the guide was informative and even kept the kids entertained. (Book in advance.)
When you’re done, drive down to one of the beaches where the lagoon meets the sea so you can get up close with the icebergs. On these black sand beaches, icebergs wash right up onto shore and you can feel them, stand on them, and take some pretty incredible shots. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Watch the icebergs drift into sea and keep a lookout for little seals.
Today you have one last day in Reykjavik. Visit the Hallgrímskirkja Church. The real treat is the view from the top. Take the elevator up to see gorgeous views of the water, city, and mountains. The colorful houses dotting the city are so cheerful.
After lunch, head over to the Open Air Museum. This museum is a wonderful way to see firsthand the way people lived in Iceland throughout the years. It is set up into sections with over 20 houses that represent a town square, a village, and a farm. You can walk into the different homes and see what life was like.
Head back to the city and walk around some more. Finish up your shopping. In the mood for some ice cream? Joylatto makes their own ice cream in front of you using liquid nitrogen. (Njalsgata 1, 101, Reykjavik)
Book a late afternoon flight because you have one last stop in Iceland!
Pinterest is flooded with pictures of this amazing man-made geothermal pool. It is a great way to start or end your vacation since it is so close to the airport and the whole family will have fun there. Spend the morning and early afternoon relaxing in the warm water. Enjoy a cocktail or a smoothie and make sure you use the silica that they provide to do a self-facial. (Click here to read my Tips for Doing the Blue Lagoon with Kids)
Head to the airport and revel in the memories you made in Iceland!
These are all the hotels we stayed at in Iceland and I would recommend them all for various reasons. (Reviews of each hotel can be found on my menu.)
What is your favorite thing to do in Iceland?