Iceland has been on my mind ever since I read in Frommer’s 500 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up that you can participate in puffin rescues in the Westman Islands during the summer months (seriously, how adorable are puffins?). I was *this* close to booking a trip not long ago, but then changed my mind, and now Iceland is back on my radar screen for a family adventure.
One thing I like about Iceland is that it’s fairly easy to get there. From the east coast, it probably takes the same amount of time to fly to Reykjavik as it does to get to Seattle. So, put lengthy flight times aside and take a look at my five reasons to book a trip to Iceland during the summer before the kids go back to school for an adventure that won’t soon be forgotten.
1. Puffins. Head to the Westman Islands in August and September to get to know the puffins of Iceland (more than half of the world’s Atlantic Puffins make Iceland their home). Take a Puffin Tour to learn about puffin colonies before heading to Saeheimar Aquarium to meet Toti, a famous puffin in Iceland. A stop in Heimaey is also a must. The streetlights throw off newborn puffins’ sense of navigation and these birds must be released back to the sea. Children will love participating in this local tradition.
2. Festivals. The winters in Iceland are long and dark, so during the summer, the locals like to get out and celebrate as much as they can. Innipukinn is a musical festival held each year in downtown Reykjavik in early-August, while the Iceland Marathon weekend in late-August features lots of family fitness activities, like the Lazy Town Run and a 3K Fun Run. There really is a festival just about every weekend in Iceland, like the Medieval Iceland Festival (above), so work a festival or two into a summer getaway, if you can.
3. The Golden Circle. If you’re staying in or near Reykjavik, a trip around the Golden Circle (~180 miles) is a must-do. Look for geysers, waterfalls and volcanic craters. Some tours (you’ll definitely want to take a tour rather than make the drive on your own) also stop at Thingvellir National Park (see below), as well as Skalholt Church and small horticultural villages, even a greenhouse for an education on the growing of pesticide-free vegetables.
4. National Parks. There are three national parks in Iceland and each one has so much to offer families. Vatnajokull National Park is the largest national park in Europe, covering 13% of Iceland and featuring the largest glacier outside of the Arctic. Get your start at the visitor center in Skaftafell on the south side of the glacier and sign up for a ranger-led hiking adventure. Thingvellir National Park is another must-visit. Look for numerous hiking trails, even horse trails, and take time for the 40-minute multimedia program about the park.
5. The Midnight Sun. Given Iceland’s northerly location, the sun doesn’t set until nearly midnight this time of year (and sunrise is just after 3 am) and the further north you go, the longer the day will be. Fortunately, there is much to do during daylight hours, including bathing in geothermal pools, exploring waterfalls and snorkeling. Or, simply close the heavy curtains found at most hotels and get some rest before exploring more of Iceland as a family.
Have you ever been to Iceland? What are some of your favorite ways to explore this country? Let me know in the comments section below.
Photo Credits: Colin Murdison (Iceland), Didier Baertschiger (Puffin), Linda Olafsdottir (Medieval Iceland Festival), Djof (Thingvellir National Park), Federica Gentile (Golden Circle), Trey Ratcliff (Sun)