In September of 2018, we took the whole family (3 adults, a 5yo, and a 3yo) to Iceland on our way to Drupal Europe. This was largely thanks to Iceland Air’s generous stopover rules where you’re essentially not charged anything extra to stopover in Iceland on your way somewhere else.
Since then we’ve had a lot of friends ask for Iceland suggestions, so we wrote up our itinerary to share. We hope it helps!
From the airport, we got a rental car and started our Journey heading clockwise along the Golden Circle.
A quick note about kids car seats. We knew we’d be driving a lot on this trip and were concerned about getting car seats from a rental place because we couldn’t’ be sure what we’d get. We drove a lot in Iceland (and later in Germany) so we brought our own on the plane. It wasn’t convenient, but we were thankful that we had them (and saved some money too).
Day 1 (3hr 30min driving time)
1. Thingvellir. Tectonic plates, lots of nice walking options
2. Geysir. There’s a large visitor center here with a couple of restaurants, coffee shop, and tourist gift shop. Hike around and watch the water grow and release about every 10 minutes.
3. Gullfloss. Large tiered waterfall that defies belief. Be prepared for damp and wind. Never before had I been in such awe of a place so breathtaking. The size of this thing is difficult to capture in photos or video.
4. Dinner in Hella (horse burger and fries) as well as purchased food (grocery store Icelandic yogurt + breads) for breakfast.
5. Stayed the night at an Airbnb (Kaldbakur South Iceland guesthouse) which was a farm down the road from Hella. Watched the horses at the farm.
Day 2 (3hr 30min driving time)
1. Seljalandfoss. Waterfall, you can also hike behind it. Continue along the path to see a smaller waterfall, and then to a really cool spot with a waterfall inside a cave. You can brave going in, but either bring rain boots or go barefoot in some cold water.
2. Solheimajokull. Bit of a rocky walk, but glaciers. You can also get a tour to go on the glaciers as well. We just played with lots of rocks instead. Try to zoom in and see the hikers going across the glacier!
3. Reynisfjara. Black sand beach, caves, basalt columns.
4. We stopped in Vik a scenic little town for lunch and getting wiggles out. Burger/brewery was good.
5. Laufskalavada. We came across this cool man-made rock formation, was really cool at sunset. Also portapotties.
6. We stayed at Hotel Skaftafell. We didn’t see northern lights but was in a good location for it (if there weren’t clouds). I walked up the hills around the hotel and watched the sunrise. You can also see more glaciers from here. The silence, then hearing sheep bells clanking far away was pretty amazing.
Day 3 (6hr 20min driving time)
1. Jokusarlon. Glacier lagoon, see them break off, crash into each other and float away. Seals! This was the most amazing and unreal thing I’ve ever seen in my life. This stop alone is worth going to Iceland.
2. Diamond beach. Basically, across the road from Jokusarlon, you can see pieces going into the ocean. Chunks will wash up on shore and you can touch them.
3. Stopped in Vik for lunch. Sudur Vik, local food, international dishes. A little pricy, but a welcome and delicious change from burgers!
4. Reykjavik. We spent the afternoon walking around in the older part of the city and seeing what there was to see. In particular, Hallgrimskirkja cathedral. Ate Icelandic hotdogs for dinner. Overall, Reykjavik was pretty touristy and we were glad we only dedicated a few hours there.
5. Airbnb (Nice Apartment in Reykjanesbaer) near the airport for the night, drop off rental, early morning flight.
A quick summary of remaining thoughts: driving meant we could stop anywhere and enjoy the awe of the landscape! Lots of waterfalls everywhere you look. We stopped along the road to get a look at but I don’t know the names. This route took us through interesting volcanic terrain. Maybe a coincidence, but we saw a lot of rainbows. Everyone spoke English clearly.
Link to Google Maps directions for this trip. Note: some things are missing. Since we just drove, I can’t be sure this is the exact route we took. In fact, I’m certain it’s not.
Things we didn’t see, but considered if had more time:
- Hot springs! There are a few in area we were (beyond the blue lagoon) but didn’t make sense with kids.
- Kerid, crater lake along the golden circle.
- Skogar Village/museum looked intriguing.
- Skogafoss waterfall, one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland.
We were unsure about “budget airline” Icelandair but it worked out really well. Especially for the kids, they get a backpack with headphones, face mask, games, and other activities for the plane. Also snacks + meals. All included with their tickets. Our flight left the US in the evening, arriving in the morning in Iceland, ready to hit the road.
Special thanks to Pantheon and Drupal Europe for giving us the opportunity and excuse to take a family vacation to Europe. And double special thanks to uncle Eric, who served many roles on this trip: cameraman, sitter, gopher, and in general, just a delightful dude to travel with.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions or comments, or just reach out directly. And yes, we absolutely want to go back. 😃