Iceland: Southern Iceland
Fly in/out: Reykjavik, Iceland (KEF)
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Ball Park Price: $3,500/person for up to 4 travelers (airfare not included)
Best Season: June – August
Timezone: EST + 4 hours
DAY TWO: Take a 45 minute drive to the city of Reykjavik in the old town centre exploring the Parliament, the Hallgrimskirkja Church and, Arbaejarsafn, an indoor/outdoor folk museum. Take a midday rest back at Hotel Berg and then spend the afternoon at the famous Blue Lagoon for a geothermal hot spring swim.
DAY THREE: Take a day ride in a 4 wheel ride in a Ford Excursion navigating the majestic terrain of Iceland. Head to Porsmork Valley and Mt. Hekla Volcano. Porsmork gets it name from the “Nors God Por” standing for black sand volcanic beach. Check in at Hotel Skogar just walking distance from the beautiful 60 meter high Skogafoss Waterfall in the River Skogaa.
DAY FOUR: Wake up to the amazing sights and sounds of the Skogafoss Waterfall. Take a moderate hike and climb the slippery staircase up to the top of the waterfall. Drive along Iceland’s south shore and board a ferry for a short sail to Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) and view rugged cliffs and a giant population of puffin birds. Head back to Hotel Skogar.
DAY FIVE: Drive to the “Golden Circle” and spend day exploring Thingvellir National Park, Waterfall Gullfoss, meaning golden falls, and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Strokkur is active and erupts every five to 10 minutes. Check in at Hotel Glymur for two nights.
DAY SIX: Visit Langjokull Glacier, the second longest glacier in Iceland. (Snowmobile ride on the glacier cancelled due to weather). Trek to Glymur waterfalls and hike up to the waterfalls. In the afternoon, take an icelandic horseback riding excursion in Borgarfijorour. Drive back and check in for one more night at Hotel Berg.
DAY SEVEN: Explore the beautiful town of Reykjavik again on way to airport. Stop at famous hot dog stand and markets and head home.
- We spent our vacation in Southern Iceland aptly named “Fire and Ice” where we saw all kinds of natural wonders; glaciers, volcanoes, rivers and streams, black sand beaches, mountains, waterfalls, geysers in a geothermal valley interspersed with traditional farming lowlands and plains covered with sheep. It was our boy’s nature wonderland.
- This one week journey was ideal not only for the scenery but through the kind and caring guide provided by Jon who took us to remarkable and remote places in a private SUV that made us feel like we were not only on a private tour but made us feel like we had southern Iceland all to ourselves.
- Our first full day in the town of Reykjavik, has a European feel and charm and beautiful views of the city from the top of the Hallgrimskirkja Church. The church is an iconic tower rising symmetrically and provides an observation tower offering incredible panoramic views of the whole city. Arbaejarsafn, the outdoor folk museum was a great place to take the kids and see what the Icelandic life was like at different points in history. The Blue Lagoon is a wonderful way to cap off the day in a geothermal spa and pool. Although a major tour attraction, it’s an organized and easy place to enjoy a unique spot for an afternoon swim.
- Our super jeep tour through the Mount Hekla Volcano and Valley took us to one of the most active volcanoes in Iceland. The area is vast valley covered in black lava with lovely lake and streams.
- The ferry ride to the Westman Islands also called Vestmannaeyjar, gave us a vantage point to see sheer cliffs and rugged islands that is home to millions of the Puffin bird population.
- The drive to the “Golden Circle” was a full day exploring Thingvellir National Park, Waterfall Gullfoss, meaning golden falls, and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. The kids remember not only the views, but the incredible smells of sulfur as well.
- Another fascinating stop and interesting historical tidbit, is this area of Thingvellir is also home to the World’s oldest continuous serving parliament, founded in 930.
- Our time in Hotel Glymur surrounded by the whale fjord and the Glymur Waterfall, Iceland’s tallest waterfall, provided endless breathtaking views. We soaked up the views from the base of the waterfall and walked up the waterfalls ledge. The drops and edges were incredible sharp and steep clearly tracing where glaciers once were.
- Another memorable afternoon including horseback riding on Icelandic horses. We once again had unbelievable scenery in the area of Whale Fjord, but one of our boys was more distracted by his stubborn horse.
- Our stay at Hotel Skogar allowed us to walk over anytime to see Skogafoss waterfall, one of the most spectacular waterfalls up close. With a 200 foot drop, you can feel the mist spray and carry to wherever you’re climbing. The hike can be a tiny bit arduous with slippery steps and an uneven climb, but our boys were able to hike up to the top. Because of the amount of spray the waterfall produces, you can normally see a rainbow right in front of the fall on a sunny day.
- The day exploring Golden Circle was spectacular. In one day, we saw the geographical wonders of Pingvellir National Park (Thingvellir in English Version), where we would watch a geyser just rumble and explode before us. Then we would cross over to see another incredible waterfall and then hike through Thingvellir National Park with more spectacular views.
Places to stay
- The Borg, located in the center of Reykjavik is conveniently located within walking distance of variety of restaurants, businesses, souvenir shops, art galleries and specialty shops. It is a 4 star luxury hotel and was beautiful.
- Hotel Skogar is a plain and simple hotel with a hostel like feel but perfectly situated next to the Skogar Waterfall. Another recommended place to stay in this area is Hotel Ranga, a four star luxury resort, but it was booked.
- Hotel Glymur is a remote and beautiful bright red farmhouse highly recommended because of the location to Glymur falls. Only 45 minutes from Reykjavik, the views from Glymur Hotel were breathtaking. The food was also incredible. The only word of caution because you are in a geothermal area, the water had a strong odor of sulfur. Hot tub also included.
The famous hot dog stand is a tourist must see in Reykjavik. For recommended restaurants in Reykjavik, see Frommer’s list. The rest of our dining experiences were provided by our hotels and cafe stops along our journey.
- The most harrowing part of the trip was the weather. During the summer, the climate is mild but unstable often bringing lots of rain. As a result, bring lots of layer, water resistant clothing and sturdy rain boots or hiking boots for climbing sometimes difficult terrain. When it’s wet and near the glaciers, the layers are especially important.
- The drives through Southern Iceland were always incredibly scenic, but the kids would need to still be entertained. So, bring long car ride amenities like ipads, DVD players or whatever system is needed to entertain the kids. Don’t forget chargers and an European electrical converter.
- We were pleasantly surprised with the short flight of 5 hours out of Boston and a 5 hour time change. This made for an uneventful flight and adjustment for a one week vacation to a land that seems far away!
- The national parks of Iceland are preserved and protected a little differently than that of the US. The protection is primarily for the parks and not the tourists. Therefore, you won’t see roping, guardrails, or hiking trails for the safety of the people. Given that, there are times when there are steep drops that are not for the faint of heart parent.
- Many tours are available using the town of Reykjavik as base and unbelievable scenery is within a day’s drive. However, we would pass large white tourist buses loaded with passengers and we were just happy we weren’t one of them. We found it was another advantage of a private tour.
A pair of sturdy rain boots to stomp through puddles and hike volcanoes, glaciers and waterfalls.
Before You Go
A passport is required for all U.S. citizens.