Although the least densely populated country in Europe, Iceland is fast becoming a popular family ecotour destination. Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and about the size of Kentucky, the “land of fire and ice” is a country with a rich geological landscape of volcanoes, mountains and hot springs. Iceland is safe to travel, clean and offers many enriching activities for all age groups.
The three main areas to experience in Iceland besides the capital city of Reykjavík are the West, North, and South. The West, also known as the Snaefellsness Peninsula, is known for whale-watching, glacier tours and stretches of coastline with sea cliffs full of nesting birds. The North contains the region around Lake Mývatn, which features geological formations, bubbling mud pools, hiking and great bird-watching. The South of Iceland is packed with national parks containing great hiking trails and dramatic sea cliffs with scenic puffin-spotting areas. There are relatively few insect species, no reptiles or amphibians, and only a handful of wild mammals including the indigenous arctic fox.
Icelanders are also very environmentally conscious. Given that more than 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past 200 hundred years – the most recent being the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010 – the resulting natural hot water supplies much of the population with pollution-free and inexpensive heating, and rivers are also harnessed to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power. The environment is important to Icelanders and the use of hydrogen and other new sources of energy is already becoming a reality.
Family ecotour destination activities
In 2008, Iceland embarked on the largest conservation project in its history. The establishment of the Vatnajökull National Park created the biggest park in Europe. It occupies 12% of the country and offers study of its ice caps, outlet glaciers and volcanic activity in addition to guided nature interpretation tours and children’s activities.
Generally, most tour companies in Iceland offer deep discounts for children under 12 years old. Throughout the year, there are many activities to be enjoyed including whale-watching, horse trekking and hiking. The natural scenery of cliffs and crashing surf waters make bird watching quite thrilling for children and virtually every village in Iceland has a geo-thermally heated pool complete with water slides, toys and games. Lastly, a widespread custom in Iceland is to take a self-guided driving tour of the country and stay at hotels, guesthouses, and farm accommodations that offer family rooms, which sleep three to five people and contain kitchen facilities.
With opportunities to experience history, nature, culture and adventure, family ecotours to Iceland offer many lasting memories.