iceland2With the recent volcano eruption in Iceland, I haven’t been able to get the country out of my mind.  We were there last summer on a family vacation.It wasn’t the most obvious of places to visit on our annual summer holiday but somehow or other, I had a lot of friends and relatives visit in the last year who came back raving about the country’s beauty and ease of travel.  I was definitely curious and once we began to do our research, we decided it would be our summer holiday destination.  The kids didn’t know what to expect when they heard the word “Iceland” – they thought we were going to go ice-skating and skiing during all throughout the holiday.

Iceland is truly one of those unexpected, exotic destinations that have helped our kids develop and share a love of travel.  One-third of Iceland is roughly 40,000 square miles, volcanically active and laden with fields of lava. It’s this unique landscape that makes the country so stunning, almost magical. Of course, it’s also what makes it such an unconventional place to vacation, certainly one that wouldn’t occur to most American families.  We discovered much more to love about Iceland which convinced us the country is an ideal family destination. First, it’s closer than most people realize located half-way between the U.S. and Europe. The majority of the population is sparse, with 75% of the country’s 330,000 people living in Reykjavik. This fact helps make it an exotic yet safe place, and English is widely spoken. There are also a lot of outdoor child-friendly activities to choose from including horse riding, kayaking, watching geysers and waterfalls, bird watching, whale watching, geothermal swimming pools, Viking wax museums and more. In addition, there are discounts for children on tours as well as accommodations.

Plus, you won’t see a lot of places as beautiful as Iceland in your lifetime. Iceland is a geologically active country with its tectonic plates still moving and the country is still changing shape. Surrounded by volcanic activity and home to numerous species of duck and waterfowl, the waterfalls, gorges, glaciers and fjords present outdoor and photo opportunities galore. Warmed by Gulf Stream currents, Iceland’s temperature is much milder than the name suggests. While winter nights glow with the Midnight Sun and last until mid-morning, spring and summertime bring long daylight that make days long-lasting. It was kind of exciting to go to sleep in complete light and wake up to the same dazzling sky.

Affordability is definitely another factor. For years, we heard how Iceland was one of the world’s most expensive destinations, which was quite a deterrent. But with the recent banking collapse, one country’s misfortune has become an opportunity of sorts for us, as tourism has become a key foreign currency earner for Iceland’s economy. In fact, because Icelandic authorities want visiting families to help revive the economy, they are offering them a wide range of discounts. For instance, most tour companies and attractions offer 50% off children’s tickets, and some restaurants even offer free meals for kids under the age of twelve. So there’s never been a better time for Americans to visit. Keep in mind, though, while the economy is projected to be in this state for at least a few more years, the country is positioning to join the European Union. Should that happen and Iceland transition to the Euro, prices will no doubt go rapidly back up to their previous state. So I wouldn’t put off booking a ticket too long.

In addition, Icelandair has joined the country’s campaign to attract tourists and are offering unique and affordable flying options. We were able to stop in Reyjakavik for up to seven nights en-route to the United Kingdom and they are still offering special airfares, especially in light of the recent eruption. 

Iceland’s landscape is raw and amazing; its heritage old and rich. We felt as though we really ventured into unknown territory on this trip. Despite the occasional meltdowns, food demands, jet lag and all the fun that accompanies traveling with two young children, we found a very special place. We felt like we were witnesses to a phenomenon: landscapes, glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls, lakes and the indulgencies we had experienced in such a short period of time. It was a trip we still talk about and will remember for a long time to come.