June 30-July 6, 2019
Volcanoes, glaciers, river rafting, Vikings, horseback riding and more, Iceland is the active family’s perfect summer holiday destination. This six-day journey allows families to learn together about plate tectonics, climate change, birds, sea creatures and Icelandic ponies, while seeing them all firsthand. And learning to spell Icelandic is fun! An expert guide leads the way to the adventure of a lifetime.
Perched on the rift between North America and Europe, Iceland is a constantly changing land of fire and ice, where molten lava has cooled, creating forms in the shape of trolls and fairies, and spawning a lively folklore. It is an ideal place for budding scientists to explore: Young naturalists will delight in the hundreds of species of birds that nest here in the summer, the whales that swim just off the coast, and even the unique, gentle Icelandic horse; and there is no better place for young geologists to learn about plate tectonics, volcanic activity and glacial formations.
John Schwartz is a reporter at The Times who writes about climate change. In his career at the NYT, he has also covered the space program, a beat that took him to a half dozen shuttle launches and two zero-gravity flights, and to Space City in Russia, where cosmonauts and astronauts train together to fly to the International Space Station.
Welcome to Iceland
Arrive at Keflavik International Airport in Reykjavik early this morning and head to breakfast at the nearby Viking World, which contains a life-sized recreation of a ninth-century Viking ship. After exploring the museum, drive along the winding and rugged coast of the Reykjanes Peninsula, home to the Reykjanes volcano. The landscape here is dotted with fissures, faults, lava shields and other intriguing formations. Stop along the way to enjoy a soak at the famous Blue Lagoon, unwinding from the flight as you float in the warm, bright blue waters. Head inland to Hveragerdi, and check in to your hotel. Explore the town on a brief walking tour before having a welcome dinner as a group.
Iceland Waters and Horses
Head to Laugarvatn, a small town in the southern part of the island. Stop at Fontana for an unusual snack: bread baked by geothermal heat. This dark bread is a specialty that is prepared in pots and buried in the hot sand where it steams naturally. Continue to Gullfoss, also known as the Golden Falls. This waterfall is one of the most recognized sights in Iceland. Next, visit Geysir hot springs, a field of geysers where the largest of them (the appropriately named Great Geysir) can shoot water over 200 feet into the air.
Explore another side of Iceland’s natural beauty at Fridheimar’s horse show. This equestrian performance introduces you to the distinctive Icelandic horse. Have lunch before beginning the active part of the day: river rafting. Those who choose to participate can raft either a full portion of the river, or the calmer lower portion. (Please note: Children 12 and older are permitted, at the discretion of the raft guide, to take the full rafting trip. Under 12 may be allowed to ride the lower, calmer half of the river at the guide’s discretion.) Return to the hotel for a family evening.
Land of Fire and Ice
Depart the hotel early this morning to head southeast towards Eyjafjallajokull, a volcano that erupted in 2010, disrupting air travel to and from Europe. (Volcanic ash and airplane engines don’t mix.) Arrive at Solheimajokull Glacier, where adults and children 10 and over can go for hike on a glacier. Learn about the behavior of glaciers and their impact on the land around them. After the hike, head to nearby Vik, the southernmost village in the country. The landscape is striking for its black basalt beach and cliff formations. Have lunch together at a local cafe.
Along the road back to Hveragerdi, stop at the outdoor museum in Skogar, which showcases homes, churches and farms built in the traditional Icelandic style. Pause at the Hvolsvollur Lava Center, a museum exploring Iceland’s volcanic history. Have dinner as a family.
Puffins on the Westman Islands
Board a ferry to sail from Landeyjahofn to the Westman Islands. This cluster of islands just off the mainland is known for its large colony of puffins as well as whales, seals and various seabirds that frequent the area. Tour the island and visit the Eldheimar Museum, dedicated to the 1973 volcanic eruption on the island of Heimaey, the largest of the Westman Islands. It buried hundreds of homes and earned the island the nickname “Pompeii of the North.” After lunch as a group, take a few hours to explore with your family or your new friends. Return to the mainland in the early evening and drive to Eyrarbakki Village to experience the legendary music and storytelling of Iceland’s sagas.
Thingvellir, Where Continents Collide
Check out of the hotel and head north to Thingvellir National Park. The park, where Iceland’s government was formed in 930 A.D., also encompasses a rift valley that marks the boundary between two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates. Hike through Thingvellir and neighboring Nesjavellir. Break for lunch and continue to Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city. Check in to your hotel and take the evening to explore independently.
An Icelandic Scavenger Hunt
This morning, explore the city in a completely new way: on a scavenger hunt. Armed with clues and a map, see Reykjavik in a different light as you follow the trail. Who will be the first to solve the puzzle and win the prize? The afternoon will be free to relax or continue exploring this beautiful city. Come together again in the evening for a farewell dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your journey home. You’ll be excited to share your journey with your friends and family back home.
This family-friendly hotel in Hveragerdi, Iceland’s hot spring capital, includes a swimming pool, hot tubs, geothermal sauna, table tennis and more.
Hotel Reykjavik Centrum
This four-star hotel is walking distance from many museums and restaurants. During the hotel’s initial construction in the 18th century, the remains of a Viking longhouse were found on the grounds.