Trip idea / Iceland

North Iceland

A Family Expedition

Iceland’s unfathomable landscapes and experiences in the wild will awe young and old.

Bring your family to the ends of the Earth in Iceland. Fields of lava, plunging waterfalls, steaming sulphur rivers, soaring snow-capped peaks and the Northern Lights: Iceland is the ultimate family adventure. Experience it all independently on a self-drive holiday around the north of Iceland.

The Lowdown

  • When To Go:

    This itinerary is specifically for the winter months from October – March where snow blankets the landscapes, geothermal pools steam invitingly and the chances of seeing the Northern Lights are high.

  • Good To Know:

    A necessity is a robust car – we will book you a 4X4 with winter tyres to tackle snowy routes but we also recommend downloading a local weather app – conditions can change quickly and roads close at short notice. You should also never go off-road in your vehicle.

  • Where You’ll Stay:

    Our recommended hotel is a comfortable, stylish base and well-placed to enjoy north Iceland’s experiences without long journeys.

  • Who For:

    Adventurous, free-spirited families who love exploring and discovering new places, cultures and experiences in off-the-beaten-track locations.

Perhaps you’ve visited Reykjavik already or maybe you prefer to go where others aren’t – Iceland’s north is sparsely populated and full of geological wonder, making it an eye-opening adventure for independent families that love time in the great outdoors. Base yourself at a comfortable hotel for four nights and each day head out into Iceland’s raw majesty in your own car, stopping when the moment takes you, ending the day in a steamy geothermal pool, just the ticket after day’s out in the icy wilds.

Highlights

  • Explore north Iceland and its remote majesty for four nights, enjoying a wide range of experiences in nature
  • Get to grips with geology: clamber around ancient lava, watch steam hiss from the earth and see sulphur rivers swirl around the snowy landscapes
  • Admire plunging waterfalls amid icy surrounds
  • Enjoy the delights of low-key town Akureyri: gourmet ice cream, delicious sushi and a geothermally heated swimming pool
  • Speed through snowy fields on a sled pulled by huskies
  • Soak in a variety of geothermal pools in forests and mineral-rich lakes
  • Have a day’s skiing in Hlidarfjall, Iceland’s second largest ski resort
  • Look up – if the conditions are right you’re likely to see the ethereal dance of the Northern Lights

    Akureyri and Around

    Arrive at the tiny airport of Akureyri to find a world blanketed in snow. With limited hours of daylight in winter, hit the ground running by picking up your 4×4 car with winter tyres and heading into Akureyri. Stroll the small fishing town which sits on the banks of the Eyjafjörður Fjord, have a spot of lunch and shake off the journey with a visit to Akureyri swimming baths. Spotlessly clean and populated by friendly locals, enjoy the variety of outdoor pools, all heated between 35 and 40 degrees. There’s also a slide for kids to charge down, plus steam and sauna. Finish with an ice cream at famed ice cream shop Brynja, the oldest parlour in Iceland. Follow the locals and pick between chocolate or vanilla, then dunk the whole ice cream in liquorice sauce and roll it in decadent toppings.

    Make your way to your hotel, the Fosshotel Mývatn, located by the shores of Lake Mývatn, an hour’s drive from Akureyri. An architectural award-winner, low-rise Fosshotel slips easily into its surroundings with use of natural materials and a grass roof. Settle into your room with views to the lake before dinner in the Nordic-inspired restaurant.

    Geological Wonders

    Today is the day where you’ll see firsthand why Iceland is called the ‘land of fire and ice’. As soon as the sun rises around 10am, get on the road and head to the Namafjall mountain and the surrounding Hverir geothermal area. Heavy snow may mean the Krafla Caldera is hidden but it’s still worth the climb to experience a wintery world of white with epic views onto the surrounding calderas and peaks. With so much snow, it’s easy to spot pockets of geothermal activity – like the golden sulphur river that skirts around the caldera and the bubbling mud pots and steaming vents of Hverir, where yellow and green sulphur crystals cling to the rocks and smoking fumaroles roar as they pump hot air from the earth’s core.

    Stop for lunch at family-run Vogafjós Farm Resort for smoked Arctic char and hearty beef stew in the restaurant that sits alongside cows in the dairy who provide milk for the café. After lunch, take a stomp around the unusual lava protrusions that stick out from the snow in monolithic resplendence at the Dimmuborgir lava field. As dusk sets in by mid-afternoon, make your way to the milky-blue geothermal waters of Mývatn Nature Baths for a soak in the mineral-rich waters. Warm and inviting, the whole family can swim and splash around and juices and Icelandic craft beer are waiting at the swim up bar.

    Waterfalls, Huskies and Forest Spas

    Another day and another opportunity for huge escapades in the wilds of north Iceland. Begin your day with a meet and greet with Iceland’s furriest residents – Siberian huskies! Families of dog-lovers will relish the chance to get up close to the silky-soft canines, who love to be petted and pose for pictures against the wintery backdrop of Lake Mývatn. Then the adventure really begins as you head out onto the icy snowfield on a sled, taking turns at mushing as the huskies pull you along at surprising speed.

    Continue your day by driving to Godafoss waterfall, west of Lake Mývatn, to admire the cascades of water that unfeasibly flow over a rocky cliff, plunging into a deep blue pool, despite the subzero temperatures. Gaze at the elongated icicles at the side of the waterfall and marvel at this powerful body of water. Back on the road, head to the Forest Spa, a magical spa pool located in a woodland. Have lunch in their stylish restaurant, tasting local specialities like reindeer, char and duck pate before heading into the steamy pools. Surrounded by snow-laden fir trees with views onto the twinkling lights of Akureyri, the Forest Spa is architecturally designed and beautifully crafted from wood. You simply can’t fail to feel relaxed here and kids will love the slushies on tap from the swim-up bar.

    Ski and Sushi

    Save the last day for your most epic adventure yet – skiing the powder snow of Hlidarfjall. Even the winding drive up to the mountains feels like entering a transcendent lunar wilderness yet when you arrive, ski rental and chair lifts await to get you skiing. A well organised ski school is available for children, allowing adults time to get to the top of the mountain to fly down black and red runs or off-piste in knee-deep powder. Watch the sun rise, hover on the horizon before setting again; while the ski resort’s flood lights come on, allowing for skiing well into the evening. After all your exertion, reward yourself at Akureyri’s best restaurant – Rub 23 – for huge platters of sushi, char tempura, Icelandic snow crab and craft beers. Finish with another visit to Brynja ice cream parlour for pudding.

    Drive back to Fosshotel for your final night, being sure that you look up. The cherry on the cake for your last night could be the opportunity to see the Northern Lights – an otherworldly display of green and yellow flickering lights that dance across the sky like a fluorescent harlequin. In the morning, begin your return journey home, armed with a million family memories and talking points from your epic trip to Iceland.