This itinerary is designed for a family staying in Reykjavík for 5 days, exploring the city and going on a few day-trip adventures farther afield. Depending on the ages of your children, the itinerary can easily be modified for overnight stays, especially if you want to go around the Ring Road, which could be an unforgettable family road trip. But sometimes basing the family in one place and taking day trips makes for a much more relaxed holiday. The order of days can also be switched around based on everyone’s mood and the latest weather report. Consider booking less central—hence less expensive—accommodation for this sort of trip, especially if you’re hiring a car for the whole period.
Day 1: Árbær Museum & Reykjavík Zoo
Get your bearings in the city with a morning stroll along Reykjavík’s two main shopping streets, Laugavegur and Skólavörðustígur. At the top of Skólavörðustígur, ascend the Hallgrímskirkja elevator for a panoramic view. From here you could walk down Njarðargata and across the park to the National Museum—which has multimedia exhibits and a dress-up room for children—but we recommend catching a bus to the Árbær Open Air Museum instead. People in period costume explain how to weave wool or smoke meat, and Icelandic history is put in context without the yawn factor as children explore the turf-roofed houses. (If you’re reading this as you head down Njarðargata to the more convenient National Museum, note the modern residential rendition of a turf roof at the corner of Fjólugata so that you won’t miss out entirely!)
Bus 19 will take you from Árbær Museum to the Reykjavík Zoo—ask the driver to let you know when to get off. Have lunch at the nearby botanical garden’s greenhouse cafe, then meet the animals of Iceland, from domestic chickens and sheep to wild reindeer and Arctic foxes. Check the daily animal petting schedule. There’s also a family park and “science world” for any tireless children, before calling it a day.
Day 2: Laxnes, Esja & Borgarnes
Rent a car for 2 days. Set off from Reykjavík on the Ring Road heading north to drive 74km (46 miles) to Borgarnes, but take a short detour at Route 36 to sign up for a 9:30am horse ride at Laxnes Horse Farm. Next stop is Esja, Reykjavík’s “home mountain”, where you can stretch your legs while exploring the small wooded areas at the mountain’s base. Head up the mountain until you’re happy with the view or overcome by thoughts of lunch. Continue on to Borgarnes, heading for the Settlement Center, an interactive museum dedicated to the stories of the first 60 years of Icelandic settlement. Younger children may want to stick to the exhibit on Njál’s Saga—Egil’s Saga can get a bit gruesome at points, though some brave kids might appreciate Egil's life-size witches and gory scenes. Back in Reykjavík, enjoy a quick dip in the closest pool before dinner.
Day 3: Geysir & Stokkseyri
Gullfoss is a mighty and beautiful waterfall, but if that’s not enough to impress children, Geysir is sure to get their attention. To follow the typical “Golden Circle” route, take Route 1 north of Mosfellsbær, then turn right on Route 36. From Þingvellir, continue east on Route 36, turn left on Route 365, and turn left again on Route 37 in Laugarvatn; when Route 37 ends, turn left on Route 35. From there it’s a short way to Geysir, where you can all marvel at the enormous jets of water suddenly shooting into the air, and another 10 minutes to Gullfoss. Watch your footing at both places and keep children close—the unimposing rope barriers belie the dangers of Geysir’s multiple hot springs and the steep, deep gorge at Gullfoss. Jump in the car and head back to Reykjavík.
Day 4: Sagas, Seaside & Shopping
Pack swimming gear and towels, but begin with a trip to the Pearl. Go upstairs and outside to admire a 360-degree view of the capital, and then make a quick stop at the Christmas store, saving time for lunch at the cafe. From here, walk down through the wooded Öskjuhlíð hill and across to Nauthólsvík beach. Watch the children play on the white sand (imported!) from the comfort of the long hot tub. Who said Iceland wasn’t a beach holiday destination? For a spot of shopping, catch a bus to Kringlan shopping mall, where you can choose to leave your children (ages 3–9) at the Adventure Land child-minding area for an hour or two. From Kringlan, you can take a longish but leisurely walk back to the heart of town via Miklatún Park, popping into Kjarvalsstaðir Art Museum for a peek at the works of Jóhannes Kjarval, one of Iceland’s most admired artists (free for children under 18).
Day 5: The Pond to the Blue Lagoon
On your final day, begin by strolling over to Tjörnin Pond, where you can feed the ducks and gaze at the enormous 3D map of Iceland inside the Town Hall (Ráðhús). See if the children can work out where they’ve been, and show them (if you can find it!) where the big Eyjafjallajökull eruption happened in 2010. Sign up with tour company Reykjavík Excursions for transportation to the Blue Lagoon spa on the way to the airport, then bathe and exfoliate to your heart’s content until it’s time to catch your flight home. The children will especially enjoy covering each other in the white silica mud without knowing they’re getting a health treatment. It’s hard to omit this unique send-off from any itinerary in Iceland.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.