Adventures in South Iceland with Kids
There are some places that leave an indelible mark and are so incredible you vow to return. For us, that was Iceland. Our visit four years ago included stops at popular attractions like the Blue Lagoon, Golden Circle and Reykjavik. We returned to Iceland a few weeks ago for a few days. This was a road trip on the southern portion that included glaciers, waterfalls and mind-blowing scenery. See our list of adventures and fun things to do in South Iceland with kids even on a short visit.
1. Hike Glaciers
Iceland has about 300 glaciers and glacier hiking is available all year. Our Blue Ice Experience tour was three hours long on the Svinafellsjokull Glacier Tongue in Skaftafell National Park, an outlet of Europe’s largest glacier. The snow-capped mountains and panoramic views surrounding the glacier were spectacular. The black material on the glacier is dirt, gravel and ash remaining from the volcanic eruption.
We wore crampons attached to our shoes to walk easier on ice and were given ice axes for small hill climbs. It added that extra touch of outdoor ruggedness to our photos. At times, my kids were more fascinated with using the ice axe on the glacier than enjoying the landscape. The trails weren’t strenuous and we felt safe. It was an amazing and memorable family adventure as we navigated through the vast glacier.
Tip: Wear layers. The temperatures constantly changed during our hike.
2. Ride Horses
The beautiful Icelandic horses were everywhere throughout our drive. While most horses walk, trot and gallop, the unique Icelandic horses have an extra two gaits: tölting and “flying pace.” We did the Guide to Iceland one-hour riding tour at the Syðra-Langholt farm.
The staff ensured that we were all comfortable and safe and were so patient with us. It was also a great way to learn about the Icelandic horses and farm life. By the end of the hour, they had us, city folks, tölting and galloping. Despite the drizzle, it was a lot of fun and we loved riding around their extensive ranch and along the river.
Tip: Bring a change of clothes for after your ride.
3. Cruise Glacier Lagoons
The incredible scenery of floating icebergs in Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is remarkable. Their most popular tour is the Amphibian boat tour. We recommend the Zodiac tour instead. The smaller boat allowed us to get closer to the glacier and floating icebergs and covered more of the lagoon.
We were lucky enough to see the glacier calving (ice falling off) several times and a seal sunbathing. Our guide even let us taste one of the icebergs. It was quite refreshing. We learned about the glaciers and saw some massive blue icebergs. We also enjoyed walking around the beach areas of the lagoon. The nearby smaller Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon also offers zodiac tours.
Tip: Reserve the zodiac tour in advance. It sells out quickly.
4. Hike Waterfalls
The drive from the towns of Selfoss to Hofn offers some stunning scenery with no shortage of waterfalls. Our drives were longer because we stopped a lot to gawk at the scenery and horses. One impressive stop was Seljalandsfoss with a trail to walk behind the powerful waterfall. It was slippery and muddy but worth it. You will get wet! There were also additional short trails here.
Skogafoss (pictured in the lead photo) is also a popular stop for its size and beauty, especially with many rainbows on it during sunny skies. Due to a flight delay, we visited the falls around 11 pm. Summertime in Iceland means the sun doesn’t really set so there was still plenty of light. What better ways to stretch your legs than a midnight hike to the top of a waterfall? There were steps alongside a cliff and the views were amazing. So, pick a waterfall and hike around it.
Tip: Wear shoes with good traction and waterproof outerwear.
5. Watch Puffins
One of the largest puffin colonies in the world is in Iceland and over half of the Atlantic puffin population breed here. They are in Iceland from April to August. The Dyrhólaey promontory, near Vik, is a nature reserve and a fantastic spot to watch the puffins and the arctic terns nesting. The puffins were closer to watch here but not as many as during our cruise to an island populated by puffins near Reykjavik. They surely are interesting creatures to watch.
Puffins and other seabirds can also be seen along the cliffs overlooking the black pebble beach in Reynisfjara (also near Vik). Don’t miss a stroll along the shore to explore a shallow cave and admire the panoramic views of unique rock formations. My kids loved climbing along the basalt columns that was an excellent natural playground.
Tip: Bring binoculars to see the birds up close.
6. Relax at Geothermal Spa
After long hikes and drives, unwinding at the Laugarvatn Fontana Spa is the ideal way to end a trip. While we enjoyed our Blue Lagoon experience, this was so much more relaxing with fewer people. The spa sits along the shores of Laugarvatn Lake and is a great stop along the Golden Circle route. There were some saunas above the geothermal waters, pools and one bath with water being fed from the natural hot springs.
Tip: Add on the rye bread experience. We watched them dig out delicious rye bread from their underground geothermal bakery.
Have you visited or road tripped through South Iceland?
You may also enjoy:
- See Iceland…All The Way
- Tips for Visiting Iceland With Kids
- Things to Do in Iceland on a Short Trip
- Extending Family Vacations with Layovers and Stopovers
- If you’re looking for a hotel, consider Hilton Reykjavik Nordica or our newest brand, Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Centre.
Mary received a complimentary Blue Ice Experience and Horse riding tours from Guide to Iceland and her family received a discount. She also received a complimentary family pass to Laugarvatn Fontana Spa.
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.
Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…