Contrary to popular belief, you also don’t need to be constantly kitted-out in Bear Grylls’s outdoor gear to enjoy many of Iceland’s hairy-chested adventures. Dozens are within sniffing distance of the roadside and wonderfully configured for any family with a tolerance for Pac A Mac cagoules. Yes, there are ice climbers and deep lake divers here, but also plenty for can-do nursery tots and gung-ho preschoolers. Remember, Hoppipolla, the sweeping BBC Planet Earth soundtrack by Icelandic band Sigur Ros? It translates as “jumping into puddles”, an art form here.
And a trip to Iceland doesn’t have to break the bank. Flights are cheap (see easyJet and Wow Air, fares from £28.99 one-way), and all those grandstanding natural wonders are free to visit with a rental car or round-trip bus. The cost is also down to family-friendly accommodation being set up for self-catering, with any trip beyond Reykjavik dovetailing nicely with picnic lunches and faff-free gas station snacking. And for a splurge, the country’s beloved national supper is a delicious ode to the deep-fried dinner. The UK may do cod and chips well, but Iceland does it better. And if your family isn’t happy with that, then may the Norse gods help you.
10 great family things to do
Kayak with icebergs at Jokulsarlon
If ever there was a place to convince kids that Narnia is real – to step through the wardrobe into a land of ice – it is the Jokulsarlon’s inland sea. This is where the Breidamerkurjokull glacier, an all-powerful leviathan, snakes from the mountains to the volcanic beaches of the south coast, shedding icebergs as big as double-deckers into the lagoon. At 985ft deep, the water is Iceland’s lowest point, while above the glacier towers at 2,985ft, pricking senses when seen from a kayak or zodiac. Afterwards, an adventure with the Boy Scouts or Girl Guides just won’t cut it. Tours run from May to October only.
Journey to the centre of the Earth
French fantasy writer Jules Verne set his classic adventure novel Journey to the Centre of the Earth on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula in 1864 and, for school-aged kids, West Iceland still fires the imagination after all these years. To do it justice, plot a 125-mile route from Reykjavik to Hellissandur, hoovering up all the sights in between – it’s a wellspring of sense-tingling volcanic caldera to sniff, lava tube caves to climb into and rock formations to puzzle over. One standout is kaleidoscopic Vatnshellir Cave, an 8,000-year-old lava tube accessible for five-year-olds and above. Then, capping it all, is bejewelled Snaefellsjokull glacier, which kids can lap up from the vantage point of a snow cat or snowmobile, from May to August.
Hit the hot tub, Icelandic style
In many ways, Icelanders were the progenitors of wellness travel as we have come to know it, with every sort of trip punctuated by stops at geothermal springs and natural hot tubs in unlikely occasions. The Blue Lagoon at Grindavik is the blue-ribbon attraction, but the crowds can make it feel theme park-esque. The connoisseur’s alternatives for splashing about in age restriction-free waters are the many 40C pools of Reykjavik’s Laugardalslaug (double win: there’s a family park and Arctic zoo next door); the Ibiza-does-Iceland vibe of Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach; and the snooker-chalk blues of Seljavallalaug, a natural hot tub a 20-minute hike up a valley near Skogar. Children under 14 often get in for free – a personal favourite is the Secret Lagoon at Fludir.