Iceland is the perfect location for a family getaway with a difference. It’s safe and welcoming, but also completely unique. Its astounding natural beauty seems a million miles away from the sun and sand of a standard beach resort, and the capital city Reykjavik enjoys a flourishing culture with museums and galleries jostling with bars and live music venues for space.
Read on for a few of the best ways to experience the great outdoors on a family holiday to Iceland – including one special destination that brings many of the country’s diverse environments together under one roof.
Whale and Puffin Watching Tours
There are few better ways to give your kids a holiday to remember than by taking them to see amazing animals in their natural habitats. As the world’s northernmost national capital, Reykjavik has a lot of opportunities to do this.
A Wide Range of Options
As a major part of the country’s tourism industry, animal watching tours are plentiful and often affordable. Options include:
- Day boat trips to see whales
- Hikes to puffin habitats
- Mammoth multiple-day treks through the wilderness
If you’re on a budget, puffin tours are the cheapest way to go – but for a truly unforgettable experience, take a ten-day self-driven tour, where you can see fjords, green mountains, blue waters and more.
Top Tip: Check what your tour guarantees ahead of time – many will let you rejoin free of charge in the unlikely event that you don’t see the creatures you paid to see.
Even though it’s not your standard summer resort, Iceland still boasts many opportunities to swim, sunbathe and sail. Opened in 2001, this artificial beach at Nautholsvik mixes cold seawater and hot geothermal water, creating a warm, semi-natural pool. Guests can also enjoy the onsite steam baths and hot tubs.
Test Your Endurance with a Cold-Water Swim
If you’re feeling particularly brave, you might want to try swimming in the water in winter. At its lowest, the temperature can reach a chilly -1.9°C – but this doesn’t stop many Icelanders and adventurous tourists braving it. The tradition dates back to 1030 AD, when legendary saga hero Grettir Asmundarson is said to have swam 7km across a bay in the north of the country to the island of Dragney.
Still, don’t worry if that sounds a little too much for you – the water can get as warm as 17°C in the summer.
While Reykjavik has more than its fair share of excellent culture, Perlan stands out in a way that makes it fit perfectly on this list of natural wonders. In an astonishing and unique collaboration, artists and scientists have worked together to create an exhibition that allows visitors to experience many Icelandic wonders under one roof.
- A 360° observation deck,
- The Water in Iceland nature exhibition
- A real indoor ice cave
How to Use the Museum
The best way to make the most of Perlan is to use it to see things you don’t have the time or the budget to do for real. While things like the glacier exhibition can complement your explorations, giving information on the geography and biology of the sites you’ve visited, it’s best to fill in the gaps. The 8K planetarium show, for instance, guarantees the wonder of the Northern Lights.
Top Tip: Don’t miss the augmented reality experience, which brings you up close to volcanoes, earthquakes and more!
One of the most famous images of Icelandic tourism, the blue lagoon sees shrouds of ethereal mist roll over placid waters, with luxurious modern spa facilities nearby. Amazingly, it’s also manmade, consisting of surplus water from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power plant.
Top Tip: While you’re here, try some excellent Icelandic cuisine at the Lava or Moss restaurants. It’s expensive, but well worth the cost.
Where to Stay
Though its name might sound vaguely like some shadowy government agency, the ODDSSON is a wonderful three-star hotel, just three miles from the airport and less than two miles from the city’s art museum. Rooms come with city views, a private bathroom, air-conditioning and a flat screen TV as standard, while some also have a seating area. A continental breakfast is available each morning.
Just over half a mile from the geothermal beach and surrounded by peaceful woodland, the Icelandair prides itself on being eco-friendly and green. Facilities include a free gym, buffet breakfast and Icelandic specials at the Satt restaurant, as well as a spa and the in-house Icelandic Modern Art Exhibition. Rooms are equipped with all the amenities you’d expect, including a fridge and satellite TV.
How to Get There
Flights from the UK to Keflavik airport take around three hours. Prices increase slightly in the summer months, peaking around July, but they’re always pretty affordable, with eight airlines offering as many as 75 flights each week. Once you land, a pre-booked Shuttle Direct transfer will get you where you need to go in good time and with no fuss.
- UK to KEF flight time: 3 hours
- KEF to Reykjavik distance: 39km
- Shuttle Direct transfer time: 1 hour
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is Europe and North Africa’s most popular airport transfer company, and we are proud to provide a great service, with experienced and friendly drivers more than willing to give you some local tips and tidbits.