Iceland is simply amazing. Rugged landscapes. Natural beauty. Unlimited outdoor adventures. Sharing this land of ice and fire with children is like exposing them to a fantasy land of fairies, Vikings, and mythology. Truly a bucket list-worthy family travel destination. But the question I am often asked is, what is the right age to go to Iceland with kids? The answer is…it depends.
It depends on what activities you want to do, how much you want to see, how adventurous you are, how much energy your kids have, and when you want to go. The great thing about visiting Iceland with kids is that so many attractions offer free or discounted admission for children below certain ages.
The hard part is, certain tours and adventure activities have minimum age limits. So while technically you can go and enjoy the landscape and waterfalls as a family at any age, if this is your once-in-a-lifetime family trip, you may want to wait until everyone can participate in the types of activities you would like to do.
To help you decide when the best time to visit Iceland is for your family, I put together this guide of things to do in Iceland at various ages. Now, depending on what activities are on your “must-do” list, you can decide when the best time for your family would be to go to Iceland.
Is Iceland Kid-Friendly?
For many, Iceland is a very kid-friendly country. There is plenty of beautiful outdoor landscapes to explore for free and fun wildlife to observe on an Iceland road trip. It is an extremely safe country with a low crime rate, good roads, high literacy and education rates, and English is widely spoken throughout the country.
Yet others will find Iceland challenging to visit with kids for the following reasons:
- It is expensive
- The food is limited and hard to please picky eaters
- Most hotel rooms aren’t designed for families
- You need to spend a lot of time in the car, which isn’t always easy for children
- There are not a lot of safety rails or other protections around the natural attractions in Iceland
So just like deciding the right age to visit Iceland with kids, whether or not Iceland is right for your family is very much based on personal preferences.
What to do in Iceland with Kids By Age
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If you are visiting Iceland with kids, here is a guide to what activities are best suited depending on age. Also, keep in mind, not all activities are available year-round, so do your research. Icelandic roads can be challenging to drive in the winter so if you aren’t comfortable driving in snow, doing a self-driving trip with young children becomes even more challenging.
Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers
If you are visiting Iceland with a baby or toddler, you will want to strap them into a sturdy baby carrier or baby backpack and go out and explore many of the beautiful waterfalls, black sand beaches, and rock formations.
Once your kids start to reach the preschool years, they can become a bit more fascinated by Vikings, fairies, and wildlife. Some age-appropriate activities include:
- Visit the Viking World Museum near the airport where kids can climb on board a replica Viking ship and make sure to stop at the petting zoo and Viking playground outside (children under 14 are free)
- Visit some of Reykjavik’s public pools such as Laugardalur or the geothermal beach at Nauthólsvík
- Have fun climbing on and running around the Sun Voyager sculpture in downtown Reykjavik
- Explore Reykjavik for a day, including a whale-watching or puffin tour in the harbor with Special Tours where kids under the age of six are free
- Rent a car and take a drive out to Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, strap on a baby carrier, cover up in waterproof gear and check out the waterfalls. Stop at the black sand beach of Vík and see the basalt columns and caves at nearby Reynisfjara
- Drive through the Golden Circle with stops at Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfall
- Take a day trip to drive around the Snaefellsness peninsula and see the Bardur giant man rock sculpture in Arnastapi and take a walk along the Arnarstapi cliffs (just not near the edge)
- Toddlers over two are also permitted at the Blue Lagoon, they will just need to wear arm floats when in the water (plus they are free!)
- Visit places on an Iceland road trip to search for puffins
- Just driving through the landscape can be fun if your kids are good in the car. You can pull off the side of the road and get a closer look at the Icelandic horses and sheep
- Visit the Icelandic Lava Show in Vik (under 2 are free and must sit on an adult lap, ages 2-12 have discounted admission)
- Take an amphibian boat tour of the Jökulsárlón iceberg lagoon (children under 6 are free, and 6-12 are highly discounted)
- In the West, stop at Erpsstadir, a dairy farm offering homemade ice cream, Skyr, cheeses, and other products. This family-run business is a great pit stop along your drive, offering access to a playground and farm animals (for a fee), bathrooms, and delicious dairy products. If you take a farm tour you can also see baby cows, just double check on their open hours and if you are visiting outside of the summer, be sure to call ahead to make an appointment
- Visit the Arctic Fox Centre in Sudavík, which is a rescue and educational center for rehabilitating wild arctic foxes
Elementary School Age Children
Elementary school-age children tend to be sponges that soak up new experiences and love to learn about new places. This age can be a fantastic time to take kids to Iceland, as it opens the door for many new activities too. Families with school-age children can participate in all of the above activities plus the following:
- In Reykjavik, visit the exhibits at the Perlan including an ice cave, lava show, and northern lights show
- Go for a 1.5-hour horseback riding tour with Eldhestar (ages 7 and up, children 7-14 are discounted)
- Visit the Lava tunnel (minimum age 3, under 12 is free)
- Take a family super jeep tour out onto the glacier (children under 12 are discounted)
- Go Into the Glacier to see a manmade ice tunnel
- In the West, visit a recreation of a Viking longhouse and learn about Iceland’s Viking roots at Eiriksstadir. This homestead of Erik the Red and Leif the Lucky offers tours by guides in traditional Viking clothing
The tween years are an excellent time to visit Iceland. You get to take advantage of many fun activities that make Iceland special, while still taking advantage of discounted rates. Tweens will enjoy many of the above, plus the following:
- Go on a three-hour glacier hike (must be 10 or older, ages 10-11 are discounted)
- Take an ATV tour (passengers must be eight or older and ride with an adult)
- Go snowmobiling on a glacier (passengers must be eight or older to ride with an adult)
- Take a longer three-hour dog sledding tour (must be 8 or older, ages 8-11 are discounted)
- Go on a zodiac boat tour at the glacier lagoon (must be 10 or older, ages 10-12 are half-price)
- Take a white water river jet boat down the Hvita river below Gullfoss waterfall in the Golden Circle (must be 8 years or older)
- Explore ice caves (winter only, must be 7 or older, 7-15 are discounted)
Energetic and adventurous teens can do almost anything that adults can do in Iceland. The only restrictions are around operating motor vehicles such as ATVs, buggies, or snow mobiles. In addition to the above, teens will enjoy the following:
- Go ice climbing with Icelandic Mountain Guides (must be 14 years or older)
- Hike up a volcano (must be 16 years or older)
- Go mountaineering (must be 16 years or older)
- Take a full-day trip or multi-day horseback riding tour (must be 10 years or older)
This is just a sample of some of the things that you can do on a trip to Iceland with kids. If some of these family-friendly activities are on your “must-do” list, I’d suggest waiting until your kids are old enough to take part.
We went when our daughter was 11 and found it to be a nearly perfect age. She was old enough, energetic enough, and adventurous enough to do a wide range of activities, yet still young enough to qualify for children’s discounts.
Tips for Visiting Iceland with Kids
As much as I love Iceland, it does have its challenges too. Some other things to keep in mind include:
- In Iceland fitting a family of four or more into one hotel room can be challenging. Most rooms have either a double bed or two twin beds. A few hotels have family rooms but they are limited. Be sure to check my guide on where to stay for families. Sometimes the best option will be to rent an apartment or cabin.
- If you are doing an Iceland road trip, you are going to need to switch hotels five to seven times in the course of a week to 10 days. That can be a lot for kids to handle and a lot of packing and unpacking.
- Doing a long day trip or road trip also means a lot of time in the car, which is something to consider if your kids have trouble sitting for too long or keeping themselves entertained. We think there is so much to look at but from the car seat in the back, the view may not be as spectacular.
- Iceland is expensive. It is great if you can go when the kids are young enough to take advantage of some of the discounts and possibly squeeze into a family room. But you will still be spending a lot on food, gas, car rental insurance, and activities. Make sure to plan your Iceland budget carefully.
- Dealing with picky eaters can be challenging. Even a simple dish of buttered noodles can cost over $20. You can find plenty of places with hot dogs (but they are lamb-based), hamburgers, and pizza but the main staples are fish and lamb. Chicken (and especially something resembling chicken nuggets) is harder to find. See my guide on where to eat in Reykjavik.
- If you are visiting in the winter and want to see the Northern Lights, keep in mind that it is going to get dark by 3-4 pm and the sun won’t rise until around 10 am. That is not a lot of time to squeeze in sightseeing in the cold and a lot of time to kill with young kids that want to go to sleep before the Northern Lights come out to play. This may be the kind of trip you want to save for when the kids are older.