Reykjavik (and surrounding area), Iceland

An incredible family adventure. There is no other place like it on Earth. A must see!
— Emily West
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, City, Mountains
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 5 days

to & from

From the East coast, take the red eye – and don’t plan anything for the day you get there so you can rest, recoup and get on local time (5 hours ahead). Icelandair has direct and easy flights from EWR and JFK.

stay

We stayed in a regular hotel about 10 mins from downtown. While there was more room there, I suggest staying right in Old Town – this hotel is great: Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel Reykjavik 
Many people who we ran in to stayed in apartments and AirBnBs so I think that is a great way to go as well.

eat and drink

If you want to be adventurous, there is food for you in Iceland. Anything from whale to shark and all the stuff in between. Just be aware that food is super expensive in Iceland. We ended up going to the supermarket to buy lunch (cheese, pepperoni, crackers) for a few days and that was a great option. Unless your kids are super foodie adventurers, you will probably stick to the more “American” restaurants in town – there are many. Do not expect service like NYC – they take their time. And that is ok – because you are on vacation!

do

There is SO much to do in Iceland and no way to do it in 5 days – but you can certainly hit the highlights. If you can go for longer, rent a car and drive the Ring Road that goes all the way around the island (only in the summer).

MUST SEE/DO ACTIVITIES:
Þingvellir National Park (pronounced THINK-valleer)
That is where the two tectonic plates come together – the North American and Eurasian plates – and is only the second place in the world where it is above land. Pretty cool.

The Golden Circle Tour covers the park, Gulfoss (waterfall), Guysir (original geyser) and a few other things. It is a day long and a good way to see a lot in a short time.

The boys LOVED riding the Icelandic Horses. I planned that on a whim the day we got there and it was one of the best things we did. We rode them here: Laxnes Horse Farm. They were awesome – family owned – and they pick you right up at your hotel. A bunch of their horses are extras in GoT and Lord of the Rings (geek-out alert).

The Blue Lagoon is a must – super touristy for good reason. It is an experience for sure. Just buy your tickets now as it will be PACKED. And even if you have an advance ticket, you still have to wait in line. You have to book a car/shuttle to take you to and from. That doesn’t include the ticket into the Lagoon so make sure you have both. Don’t forget to condition your hair before you get in (they tell you that and provide conditioner) – and try not to put your head under the water.

We went through this company for most of the tours: Get Your Guide. They were great.

There is also an amazing crepe shop right off of the main shopping street – Laugavegur – its called Eldur og Ís – Ice cream and crepes. You will all love it. Always packed.

  • Totally different country in winter (Northern Lights if you're lucky!) and Summer (24 hours of daylight).

inside scoop

There is a saying in Iceland: “There is no bad weather, just bad gear”. It is a pretty cold country – even in the summer (doesn’t get much above 60 degrees F) but the temperature is not the issue – it is all about the WIND. Iceland is the third windiest place in the world and will shift the temps like that. We had a blizzard and a crystal clear sunny 40 degree day all within the 5 days we were there. Be prepared. Bring all your gear – you will wear it all. Wool for base layers. You MUST have a warm, waterproof jacket. I swear by this one and it was perfect for this trip.

We wore ski pants and long underwear every day – we were there in April – but it can still get cold no matter what time of year it is. Don’t skimp on gear. Wear it all and you will be happy. You can always shed layers! This is especially important for the kids.

The Icelandic people are super nice – even the cabbies – maybe the most friendly.

The country itself is astronomically expensive. The food and taxis especially so just be prepared.

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