Planning a winter trip with young kids to Iceland to see the
northern lights may sound insane, but it can be done, and quite easily. Ready
to make some memories? We have a quick guide that will show you the highlights
and hopefully get you a peek at the northern lights this winter.
Start your research on the IcelandAir website. They often have vacation packages (airfare +
hotels + tours) that can save you and your family a bundle. WOW airlines just opened up
international flights to the U.S. for under $200 each way, which can save you
money. But don’t expect any frills from this budget airline. The northern
lights are best seen in the winter months, but be aware that you might miss
them. Make sure you take a few other tours, including the Golden Circle tour,
which is a must for anyone visiting the island.
What to pack
Pack warm layers and water resistant outer layers. The
weather in Iceland can shift at any moment. Expect snow, rain and sun. Take hats,
mittens, scarves, snow pants, winter coats, long johns and snow boots if you visit in the dead of winter. This may mean you have to pack an
extra suitcase or two, but remember: your outer layers can be worn several
times and they will have time to dry out at night.
What to see
The northern lights
will be a highlight of your trip in Iceland, if you are lucky enough to catch
them. Take a boat or bus tour out past the city lights for your best chance of
viewing the lights. If you get motion sickness, skip the boat and opt for a
Dramamine on the bus. While the bus parks and lets you out, the boats continue
to rock even after they stop in the middle of the water, and you wait for the
lights to appear.
The Golden Circle
is a must whenever you are on the island. See one of Iceland’s most spectacular
waterfalls, Gulfoss, beautiful in winter and
summer. You will also see Geysir, a
geyser that erupts every five to seven minutes. Lastly, you will head to Thingvellir, the original seat of
parliament back in 900 A.D. This is not an old building, but a vast landscape
that is often covered in snow in the winter months and a breathtaking sight
that will top the list of sights you see with the kids. This is their chance to
run and climb on a few rocks, right where the earth’s tectonic plates shift. Reykjavik is easy to explore in just a
day or two, at least in the winter months when the wind coming off the water
makes you want to huddle up with a warm bowl of soup and a beer (for you, not
the kids) at the local pub.
Where to eat
Food is expensive in Reykjavik, I’m not going to lie. Book a
hotel that offers breakfast in the morning. This will save you a bit of cash
and allow you to load up in the morning so you can have a small lunch and save
the bulk of your budget for a hearty dinner. 10-11 is a local quickie-mart chain that carries yogurt, bread,
snacks and even hot dogs. Although prices may be higher than home, this 24-hour
shop will save you a ton of cash during your trip and keep your kids in milk
and yogurt every evening as they work through their jetlag. Eldur & Is cooks up tasty crepes,
both savory and sweet, and at a decent price. It also offers an enticing array of
coffee beverages and ice cream to bribe the kids with to get them through a
long day. Svarta Kaffi serves warm soup and cool pints plus ham sandwiches the kids will actually enjoy. Italia is great for a carb-filled night
and Sakebarinn will give you your
sushi fix when you start to go through withdrawal.
A chance to see the northern lights is definitely worth a
trip to Iceland. We were not lucky enough to see them during our stay, but
touring the Golden Circle more than made up for it. A final stop at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s famous
geothermal hot spring, warmed us up before our flight and made for spectacular
stories to share as we got off the plane. We may not have seen the lights
showing off, but it does give us an excuse to go back and explore even more of
the island — even if we just have a few days to do it.