Iceland’s tourism is booming and saw triple the number of people flocking to its unique shores. There’s a lot going for this little country, from incredible outdoor adventures to highly unique cultural flavor. Some 1.7 million tourists can’t all be wrong, so here’s a look at what the fuss is all about and why Iceland should absolutely be on your family vacation bucket list.
Searching for Elves and Trolls
There’s really no way to say this without being blunt. Over half of Iceland’s population openly believes in mythical creatures like elves and trolls, and the rest are mostly undecided. It sounds like a strange idea at first, but as you drive into Reykjavik, you’ll totally get it. Ancient lava fields, rock outcroppings, mystical cliffs and waterfalls abound. You can even take the kids on a tour in Hafnarfjordur where elves are said to reside. The entire country of Iceland looks like something right out of a storybook adventure starring hard-to-catch elves on the go.
The Sun Barely Sets in Warmer Months
Iceland experiences up to 24 hours of sunlight per day May through July, although many days you’ll see dusk around midnight. However, when the night sky is especially bright with “midnight sun,” tours depart Reykjavik in the middle of the night to see the countryside. Imagine telling the kids to go to bed at midnight (or better yet board a tour bus) even though it looks like it’s noon outside. Consequently, you’ll see little sun in the winter months with just a few scant hours per day.
There’s Tons to Do Outdoors
If you feel like your kids spend too much time indoors or on their devices, then Iceland will prove a breath of fresh air. There is considerably more to do outdoors in Iceland than inside, ranging from hiking to sightseeing and exploring the Gullfoss waterfall, geysers and volcanoes.
Scuba diving families can also bond over touching both the North American and Eurasian continents at once in the Silfra fissure. This otherworldly experience is also in some of the clearest water on earth in Thingvellir Lake, a historic tourist destination in its own right. Thingvellir National Park is home to the birthplace of democracy.
It Has a World-Class City
Iceland is a small country with just more than 300,000 residents, but roughly 60 percent of the population lives in Reykjavik. This world-class city is smaller than its neighboring countries’ capitals but is still home to fine dining, museums, bars and hotels. For starters, take the kids for a fantastically amazing ice cream at Valdis before walking over to the National Museum of Iceland where kids can dress up in Viking attire and yield a faux sword, shields, chainmail and helmets.
The Blue Lagoon seems to make every Iceland travel list, but for good reason. This geothermal hot spot is really that amazing. Kids 2 and under get in free with a paying adult, and the warm waters prove soothing and calming that even little ones are mystified. It’s not a waterpark style place to go for thrill rides, but it does have a lovely layout with waterfalls, boxes of white mud to lather up on your skin, a swim-up bar and more. The Blue Lagoon also gets bonus points for coordinating shuttles from the airport during layovers and captures the magic of Iceland with nearby lava fields and rock formations.
The only real complaint about Iceland is its tourism is exploding and, for a small country, its visitors quickly dwarf the number of locals. Off-season generally means lots of dark and chilly weather in Iceland, although your kids might think it’s cool to explore under the stars and search for Northern Lights. Choose a time of year that suits your needs and brace yourself for an Icelandic vacation that looks right out of a storybook.