Iceland is truly magnificent. No matter how many photos you see, nothing prepares you for the sweeping views, changing scenery and fresh air of this amazing country.
The best way to see Iceland is to take a road trip. It’s definitely possible with small children (ours had just turned 4 and 2). The sights in Iceland are great for kids – it’s like a living geography lesson, but fun. Ours haven’t stopped talking about the Strokkur geyser, the fumaroles at Lake Myvatn and the icebergs at Jokulsarlon.
If you’re considering travelling to Iceland with your kids, take a look at our suggested itinerary.
Iceland Ring Road Itinerary: Lessons Learned
I’ve put together an itinerary for a 2 week Iceland road trip with kids.
It’s not exactly what we did but this itinerary does come with the benefit of hindsight and it’s what we’d do if we went again.
While we loved our trip, we really needed a couple more days on the ring road. We had 11 days in total and drove the ring road in 7 days. This meant we had two really long days of driving which was tiring for everyone; not ideal with two small kids.
As we’re now tied to the school holidays we travelled in August. It’s high season so some places, especially in the south, were busy. But the long days and good weather made up for that. Budget accommodation was also quite tricky to find; hotels were too expensive so we used AirBnB for most of our lodgings. Book as far in advance as you can!
I’ve added a map of the route with the main sights on it. It’s colour coded by day which hopefully makes it easier to follow the itinerary.
Of course this itinerary doesn’t cover everything there is to see along the ring road – you could spend months in this stunning country.
Stay tuned as I’ll be adding more posts detailing what we got up to each day. I’ve also written a post about general tips for travelling around Iceland with kids.
Days 1 – 2: Reykjavik and the Golden Circle
You could spend at least a week in Reykjavik and its surrounds – there’s so much to do.
However, you can get a feel of Reykjavik in a day as it’s quite compact. Make sure you walk down Reykjavik’s main street, Laugavegur. Other unmissable stops include Hallsgrimkirkja, Reykjavik’s famous church, and taking a stroll down by the harbour.
For those interested in Iceland’s history there are some great museums in Reykjavik. There’s the Settlement Museum, telling the story of Iceland’s discovery and colonisation, or the Whale Museum, both found in central Reykjavik. The one we managed to get to is the Viking museum near Keflavik airport.
Take a look at our post on what to do in Reykjavik with kids. There’s plenty to keep adults interested too!
Other than Reykjavik itself, there’s the unmissable Golden Circle. Seeing the Golden Circle will take a full day as the stops aren’t right next to each other, but it’s worth the trouble.
Start at Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park where you can see the edge of a tectonic plate and walk in the gorgeous scenery. You should then drive to see Geysir and Strokkur geysers (although you’ll probably only see Strokkur erupt) before visiting the magnificent Gullfoss waterfall.
Take a different way back to Reykjavik and stop at Kerið crater if you can.
Day 3: Reykjavik to Vik
Start your ring road journey on an easy trip along the south coast towards the seaside town of Vik. Total driving time is only about 2-3 hours.
On this drive you can see some great waterfalls; stop off at the lovely Sejalandsfoss waterfall which you can walk behind, and climb up to the viewpoint next to Skogafoss waterfall for a stunning view.
We also made a pit stop at the Eyjafjallajökull museum which tells the story of local farmers and the impact that the 2010 eruption had on their lives.
Our last stop of the day was at Dyrholaey, where you can take a cliff-top walk looking over Reynisfjara’s black sand. Spot some puffins and take a look at the lighthouse.
Day 4: Vik to Hofn
From Vik, it’s a 3-4 hour drive to Hofn. Start out early as there’s plenty to see along the way.
The Ring Road takes you through vast lava fields – take advantage of the stopping points along the way. Just before you reach the next major town, Kirkjubæjarklaustur, make sure you stop at Fjaðrárgljúfur, the utterly unpronounceable but stunning canyon.
You won’t be able to linger too long, as just along the road lies the glacier Skaftafellsjökull. You can walk to its edge and if you have more time on your itinerary, you can spend some time hiking in the area. Also worth seeing is the waterfall Svartifoss, which is surrounded by black basalt columns, similar to the ones on Vik’s black sand beach.
Further east you will drive right past Jokulsarlon glacier lake, and on the other side of the road, Diamond Beach. Both of these places are unmissable! Diamond Beach is at its best in winter, but there’s still a fair bit of ice on it in the summer.
Stay overnight near Hofn. We loved the huts at Lambus, another hour or so on from Jokulsarlon.
Day 5: Hofn to the East Fjords
We didn’t stop in the East Fjords and drove the entire distance from Hofn to Akureyri in a day.
Yeah. Erm. Don’t do this unless you have to.
It’s far too far for one day. The kids were stellar; we stopped frequently, everyone survived, but it took about 8 hours.
We missed Dettifoss. Nobody could face an hour’s detour.
I’m not sure how I managed to screw up the distances so badly (I thought it would take 5 hours). However, despite grumbling about my complete brain-fart, the husband and I agreed that we got some of the best views on this part of the route.
The Eastern Fjords were gorgeous, and we didn’t even see the best parts, apparently. I would definitely, thanks to Captain Hindsight, recommend a stop on this route, probably at Seyðisfjorður.
Most of the accommodation can be found around Egilsstaðir, which is the main hub in East Iceland.
Day 6 and 7: East Fjords to Lake Myvatn
From your overnight stay in the East Fjords, you can visit Borgarfjorður Eystri, another recommended stop in this area, before continuing towards Lake Myvatn.
Visit Dettifoss, Europe’s biggest waterfall, on the way. There are two roads which lead to Dettifoss. Road 862 is paved. Road 864 is gravel but many say that the view from this road is better and the walk to the waterfall is shorter. Continue on the ring road to Lake Myvatn.
Lake Myvatn is an incredible place, and pretty much the reason for us travelling the whole ring road. We weren’t disappointed.
If you possibly can, spend all of Day 7 at Lake Myvatn as you won’t be able to see everything this area has to offer in an afternoon.
At Lake Myvatn you can experience the fiery side of Iceland. You’ll explore crater lakes, dip your toes into an underground pool, walk on still-smoking lava and take in the sulphur-laden air of volcanic vents. Definitely a memorable place for the kids!
Day 8: Whale Watching
Nearby Husavik is the place for whale watching. Several companies operate out of Husavik and in the summer months, whale sightings are all but guaranteed.
We were lucky and got another perfect day, with the sea calm and still. We spotted seven humpback whales and a minke, some puffins, and two sleeping children.
You can spend the night in Husavik or drive to Akureyri, Iceland’s second city, just over an hour away. Alternatively, if you don’t want to bother going to Husavik, whale watching trips also operate out of Akureyri.
Day 9: Akureyri and Siglufjorður
Spend the morning exploring Akureyri, Iceland’s second city. Despite its status, Akureyri is pretty small and is easily seen in a few hours. In the summer months the botanical garden is beautiful and provides a change in scenery. The cafe is nice but prices are shocking!
In the afternoon, drive 90 minutes along the stunning north coastal route to Siglufjorður.
This tiny town was once a mecca for herring fishing. The herring have long since disappeared but there’s a museum dedicated to the industry which shaped the town. Otherwise there’s some good hiking in the surrounding hills, or you can just put your feet up in the luxury hotel (sadly out of our budget; we stayed in a hostel around the corner).
Day 10 to 11: Siglufjorður to Stykissholmur
We did this in another long day of driving (5 hours) but you can stop for the night along the way if it’s too far. Three interesting stops broke up the long journey, and of course the scenery helped too.
We stopped at Glaumbaer, a turf farmhouse set in a magnificent valley where we explored traditional Icelandic life. An hour and a half later, we stopped at Kolugljúfur canyon for lunch.
We finished our sightseeing at Eiriksstaðir, a reconstructed Viking farmhouse on the site of the home of the famous Eirik the Red.
If you’d like to break the journey into two days, you can stay near Hvammstangi and try to spot seals nearby. Stop in at the Icelandic Seal Centre in the town where you can get some pointers. There are also some interesting things to find on the nearby beaches, like the rock formation of Hvítserkur.
Day 12: Snaefellsness Peninsula
The Snaefellsness Peninsula is beautiful; it’s a shame we didn’t have time to drive all around it. We did manage to get as far as Kirkjufell mountain but we then cut through the peninsula on our way back to Reykjavik.
On the rest of the peninsula you can find beautiful beaches at Skarðsvík and Dritvík as well as stunning rock formations at Arnastapi. This peninsula is home to the glacier Snaefellsjokull and so you can also do some glacier exploration if you’re inclined.
Just off the road between the beaches and Arnastapi you can take a tour of some lava caves at Vatnshellir if your kids are aged 3 and up. Pre-booking is recommended; when I looked it was all sold out for our dates. Details are on the above map.
Day 13: Langjokull Glacier and return to Reykjavik
Icy adventures await at Langjokull glacier where you can take kids into a man-made ice cave.
This was the only place that we could find where we could step into a glacier with such small kids. It was cold – do be prepared! This was part of a tour; we took the meet on location (Hotel Husafell) option although you can also get picked up from Reykjavik.
There are several things to see on your way back to Reykjavik. You can stop at the Snorri museum at Reykholt to find out about Snorri Sturluson, Iceland’s answer to Shakespeare.
There are two lovely waterfalls nearby too, Barnafoss and Hraunfossar, and the hot springs of Deildartunguhver, although this may disappoint after Lake Myvatn.
Day 14: Blue Lagoon and home
Well, you can’t leave Iceland without a quick dip in the Blue Lagoon, can you?
Yes, it’s touristy and busy. Yes, it’s expensive. But it’s a good way to kill a few hours before your flight home. We’re glad we visited, despite the initial howls of protest from both our kids. Yes, we’re that family.
Kids’ entry is free up to 13 and the minimum age is 2. You must pre-book, and in plenty of time.
A tip: borrow their towels. You don’t want to be carting more soaking items home than you need to. Hire a robe too – it’s cold when you get out, or when you’re trying to coax your screaming child into the water.
That’s a wrap: your Iceland road trip with kids is over. You won’t forget it, that’s for sure!
Have you been to Iceland with kids? What did we miss out? There’s bound to be something!