No, dear readers, the title is not a smug example of postmodern irony, it is a very real reference to the subject of this post. Which just goes to prove that, despite our obsession with new elections and revolutions and helvítis fokking fokk, we at the Weather Report have not forgotten our roots.
A reader contacted me [hi Jerry!] and said he planned to visit our fair country in June. [At which time we hope it will be well on its way to becoming a real democracy again, but I digress.] He wanted to know if I had any advice on kid-friendly activities here in Niceland and since I’ve had this question before from other readers, I thought it would be good to write it in a post to add to our [sadly neglected] tips for tourists category.
First of all, I should mention that Iceland is very kid-friendly in general. Children are welcome just about everywhere, and are somehow an integral part of the society, which I find quite different to many other places I have lived or visited, particularly North America. Partly this plays out in that there aren’t that many places constructed solely for kids, like kids have to be kept all separate from adults, if you know what I’m saying.
So for that reason, and also because I’m not involved with young kids on a daily basis any more, I had to give this some thought. What exactly do parents with kids DO with them, here in Iceland? And if they wanted to do something extra-special with them what would they do? I came up with five things, listed more or less in order of popularity.
- Swimming. I would say this is by far the most common recreational activity up here for parents and their kids. Partly because swimming is probably the most common recreational activity in Iceland in general, and party because of the abundance of fantastic, kid-friendly outdoor pools. The Reykjavík area alone has at least 12 thermal pools and all of them have shallow kiddie pools, some even with different pools for different age groups. All have slides and toys for kids, and many of them have those big spiralling water slides. The most kid-friendly pool is probably Árbæjarlaug, which is about a 15 minute drive from the city centre, but Laugardalslaug is also very good. My personal favourite is the pool on Seltjarnarnes, particularly in the summer – that one has a baby pool, a shallow pool and a big waterslide – plus an excellent sauna and hot pots with different temperatures. And the view from there is breathtaking. Just remember, whatever pool you visit: you must get naked. Or else.
- The Reykjavík Family Park and Zoo [Húsdýragarðurinn] in Laugardalur is also a must for kids. The ‘zoo’ part has animals indigenous to Iceland, such as seals, reindeer, mink and foxes, and there’s also a farm with domesticated animals. In the ‘park’ section there are rides [nothing lavish, though] and playground toys [jungle gym, that kind of thing] and a wading pool. They’ve recently added a science tent, also.
- Nauthólsvík. This is a man-made beach that is vastly popular in the summer on warm and sunny days. It has white [well, more reddish, actually] sand and the sea is geothermally heated in a little lagoon, so people can swim if they feel so inclined. Mostly people sunbathe, though, and soak in the long geothermal hot tub there. There is a volleyball net and lots of sand for making sandcastles. Admission is free but you have to pay to use their changing rooms and showers.
- Horse riding. There are horse rental places throughout Iceland that do longer or shorter tours. I know of two places in the Reykjavík area – one in Mosfellsdalur valley, about a half hour’s drive from the centre, and the other in Hafnarfjörður, about a 20 minute drive from the centre. There is also a well-known place near Hveragerði, for those who are doing some touring. Best to ask at your hotel for advice on the best places to go.
- Whale watching and sea angling. There are two or three firms in the Reykjavík area that offer one or both of those activities and I believe they’ll give you another, free, tour if you don’t spot any whales.
The above are all activities that are easy to do in the Reykjavík area. However, Jerry mentioned that they might be touring the West Fjords, in which case a visit to Látrabjarg is an absolute must. Látrabjarg is a sea cliff that rises about a kilometre up from sea level at its highest point and it is teeming with bird life. One of the most fun things to do is to lie flat on your stomach and inch your way to the edge [under no circumstances should you approach it standing!] and say hello to the puffins. They are incredibly friendly and you can get really close [see here]. Many of them have their nests in holes right below the edge and they come and go from there completely unperturbed by the presence of humans crawling around on their bellies next to them. And they’re so funny when they fly, with their legs all comically splayed. Highly recommended for kids of all ages.
If there are any activities I’ve missed that you’d like to share, please speak up in the comments!
CLOUDS HAVE JUST DISSIPATED
It’s been decidedly gray for the duration of the morning, but it’s cleared up and is looking all bright and lovely. It’s calm, too. At the moment we have 2°C [36F]. Sunrise was at 10.52 and sunset due for 4.24.