Family Travel in South West Iceland

South-West Iceland

Here is a map of SW-Iceland marked with the places described on this page.

Distances from Reykjavík to following places is about:
Blue Lagoon: 50 km - Borgarnes: 75 km - Húsafell: 130 km - Þingvellir: 50 km - Gullfoss: 125 km - Þjórsárdalur: 115 km - Stokkseyri: 65 - Skógarfoss: 150 km.

1. Blue Lagoon and Reykjanes peninsula

Blue Lagoon is maybe the most famous spot in Iceland. It takes about 40 minutes to drive to there from Reykjavik. Head towards Keflavik in the Reykjanes-peninsula, but turn left some 10 km before entering Keflavik and pretty soon you are at the Blue Lagoon.
Before entering the lagoon, it can also be nice driving around Reykjanes. There are many 'beaches' (maybe not to sun-bathe in but nice to walk around and pick up some shells and play), lighthouses and also the 'Leif the Lucky Bridge' which spans the Alfagja rift valley (60 feet wide and 20 feet deep) near Grindavik that marks the boundary of the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. It was built in 2002 and named in honor of Icelandic explorer Leif Eriksson who travelled from Europe to America 500 years before Columbus.

2. The Golden Circle

The 'Golden Circle' is the trip that cannot be left out in your stay in Iceland!
It consist of:
a) Thingvellir, the national park where the oldest parliament was founded,
b) Gullfoss one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland,
c) Geysir, the biggest geyser in Iceland
d) Laugarvatn, with natural steambath with steam from the ground,
e) Kerid, a volcanic crater lake
f) Hveragerði, a small greenhouse village and
g) Nesjavellir, the largest geothermal power plant in Iceland.
These spots can all be visited in one trip but it can also be divided into several trips if you like to have more time at each place and take a closer look. Especially for kids it would be good to divide it at least into two trips. Then I would recommend one trip with Þingvellir and Nesjavellir together, as you can really experience those places and the road between Þingvellir and Laugarvatn is maybe not too good, and Laugarvatn, Geysir, Gullfoss, Kerið and Hveragerði in another trip.

2a. The Golden Circle - Thingvellir

In the year 930, the 'Alþingi', one of the oldest parliamentary institutions of the world, was founded at Þingvellir. It is a beautiful place with a big rift 'Almannagjá' caused by the movements of the Eurasian and North American continental tectonic plates. It is now on UNESCO Cultural and Natural Heritage list.
Following link will show you a map of interesting places, hiking trails etc.
You can either stop at the Visitors center on top of Almannagjá and walk down the clift to take a look at all the places, or drive on a bit further to Hótel Valhöll where you are closer to the lake.
Walk along Almannagjá to the river 'Öxará' with the waterfall 'Öxarárfoss'. In the river you see 'Drekkingarhylur' ('drowning pool'), where female lawbreakers were drowned, especially if people believed they were withces. Take a look at the assembly site, including the Law Rock (Lögberg) and the Law Council, where the Alþing performed its duties. Closer to the lake you can see the church. Close by there is a rift filled with water, called 'Nikulásargjá' or 'Peningagjá' ('Penny Canyon'), as it is littered with coins at its bottom. Legend says that if you throw a coin in the water and make a wish, it will come true if you can see it hit the bottom.
There are a lot of nice walking trails at Thingvellir, marked paths in the lava leading to old ruins where people lived many years ago. Those walks are not very far, maybe 1-2 hour in the whole.
It is also very nice going down to the lake. Many people go there fishing and if you have the right equipment you can pay for fishing for one day. It is also quite all right to wade out in the lake, throw stones and play around. Down by the lake is ideal place for picknic.
Is is also possible to go horsebackriding here.

2b. The Golden Circle - Gullfoss

Gullfoss ('Golden Falls') is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It is a waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. Be careful when walking around with kids, as the stones close to the waterfall are slippery.

2c. The Golden Circle - Geysir

Geysir is the best known 'geyser' in Iceland and the english word 'Geyser' is derived from it. Geysir is in the Haukadalur valley, about 15 minutes drive from Gullfoss. Eruptions at Geysir can hurl boiling water up to 60 metres in the air. However, in the last years, Geysir itself has been very quiet because of changes of volcano-activity in the ground. Eruptions in Geyser are now infrequent. Still it has it charme.
Close to Geysir there are many other geysers. The most famous one is Strokkur which erupts many times a day. The whole area is astonishing and worth walking around.

2d. The Golden Circle - Laugarvatn

Laugarvatn is a small lake about 30 minutes from Þingvallavatn, crossing a heath called 'Lyngdalsheiði'. This road is not with asphalt but all usual cars can drive it during summer. Just remember to keep right, espesially in the turns. On the way you can stop and take a look at old caves close to the road.
At Laugarvatn there is a lot of hot water in the ground used for natural steambath close to the lake. Because of the hot water, the lake is not icecold and many people like to get warm in the steam bath and run into the water right after.
It is also possible to hire boats or sailboards to use at lake Laugarvatn and the area is great for hiking. Just outside Laugarvatn there is a golf course and possibilites for angling in waters and rivers.

2e. The Golden Circle - Kerid

Kerið is a volcanic crater lake in 'Grímsnes'. You can stop very close to it and it is nice to walk around the whole crater to stretch out. It is one of several crater lakes in the area, created as the land moved over a localized hotspot. On the bottom of the crater, there is a small 'lake', about 7-10 meters deep, surprisingly aqua-green in color.

2f. The Golden Circle - Hveragerði

Hveragerdi (Hveragerði) is a small, friendly village about 30 km from Reykjavik. There are many small hot springs close to the village (drive through the village and head to the mountains), which can be worth looking at and even take a small walk.
In Hveragerdi there are two swimming pools. One close to the main road in Hotel Örk and another bigger one, closer to the nature, by the root of the small mountain. An ice-cream in Eden (a restaurant) is very popular afterwards. A trip to Hveragerdi with swimming and visit to Eden is a common habbit for many icelandic families during weekends.

2g. The Golden Circle - Nesjavellir

Nesjavellir is the main power plant station near Reykjavik creating electricity from hot water and steam and leading hot water in pipes to Reykjavik. Take a walk in the beautiful neighbourhood.

3. Stokkseyri, animal farm

Stokkseyri is a small town about 50 minutes drive from Reykjavik to the east. Close to Stokkseyri there is a small animal farm, Tofragardurinn (the MagicPark), with animals and playground for children.
If you are travelling with older kids, it could be a good idea to go kajak-sailing in Stokkseyri. Check the kajak web-page.
Or to look at the Ghost Center in Stokkseyri where you can learn about ghosts, elves and trolls.
The shore between Stokkseyri and Eyrarbakki is also very nice, just to run on and try to let the waves not get you.

4. Þjórsárdalur and Slakki in Laugarás

Driving to Thjorsardalur (Þjórsárdalur), about 100 km from Reykjavik, looking at Hjalparfoss, Stong (the historical farm which was covered with lava from Hekla), Gjain (one of the most beautiful places in Iceland), and swimming in the pool in Thjorsardalur in the middle of nowhere, will make a very nice day.
On the way home: Visiting the animal farm Slakki in the small village Laugarás about an hour drive from Reykjavik.

5. Borgarnes, Husafell

Passing Borgarnes on the way to Husafell. Take a look at two beautiful waterfalls on the way: 'Barnafossar' (Children's waterfall), and Hraunfossar (Lava waterfall). Walk around in Husafell in the small forrest and swim at their nice swimmingpool. If you are travelling with older kids you can also take a trip to the glacier 'Langjökull' where it is possible to drive on snow-mobiles, or walk around in the caves, about 15 minutes drive from Husafell.
On the way home: Visit Reykholt and Snorralaug, where Snorri Sturluson, the famous writer used to live and also visit Deildartunguhver, the biggest hot spring in Iceland.