Glacier in Iceland. Windstar cruises to Iceland.
Set sail on Windstar to explore dramatic landscapes on land and sea

If you’re contemplating a summer trip to Europe with the kids, why not opt for “the land of fire and ice” before planning on more typical options like London, Paris and Rome?

 

For kids ages eight and up, but especially those in middle and high schools, sailing on a Windstar cruise around Iceland weaves in history and legends with starkly beautiful landscapes and some action-packed shore excursions. Those who like to stay active while uncovering a new destination will build memories to last a lifetime.

 

Start your adventure in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital city containing about 140,000 of the country’s approximately 375,000 inhabitants. It’s a good place to shake off jet lag and recover from the six-hour flight (from Chicago), with plenty of restaurants and shops within walking distance of great hotels.

Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik, Iceland. Credit: Windstar Cruises

It’s about a 45-minute drive from the airport to the city and there is currently no Uber or Lyft in the country. Taxis line up outside the airport and are readily available in Reykjavik’s city center as well.

 

Windstar books guests for one night before or after a cruise at Hotel Borg, but another great option is Hotel Holt. Both four-star properties serve ample breakfast buffets at an additional fee and are within walking distance of Laugavegur Street – a great place to shop for souvenirs, browse art galleries, sample an array of cuisine and meet the locals. Icelanders all speak English as it’s taught in school, but you’ll hear many languages while walking around; this is a popular vacation spot that fills up with foreigners each summer.

 

Join a city tour from Viator, Get Your Guide and the like, or opt for a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. Make sure you set aside time to explore both Perlan Museum and the National Museum of Iceland for a better understanding of the country’s natural wonders and history, respectively.

 

Also reserve a half- or full-day stop at Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon, where you can soak in therapeutic, geothermal waters. Facilities include several restaurants and a café, two hotels, a spa, gift shop, lockers and changing facilities.  You must book in advance and can purchase a day pass either included in the price of a tour, or on its own and grab a taxi for the 50-minute drive. Day passes range from comfort to luxury with various amenities added on. The bathtub-warm is shallow enough in most spots to stand comfortably.

 

The Golden Circle, another great tour departing from Reykjavik, stops at Thingvellir Valley – home to the largest freshwater lake in Iceland, where two tectonic plates meet. It also visits Geysir Park – the site of Great Geysir, first seen by explorers some 800 years ago, lending its name to all others. Though it is no longer active, neighboring Strokkur Geyser erupts every three to eight minutes. This route includes Gullfloss Waterfall, with an easily accessible path down to some awe-inspiring vistas.

Windstar Cruise ship to Iceland
One of Windstar Cruise's ships to Iceland. Credit: Windstar Cruises

Since the Windstar Pride – one of three motor yachts in the fleet – holds a maximum of 312 passengers and 204 crew, sightseeing in each of the ports is as easy as navigating from a Reykjavik hotel. Though intimate, the recently renovated and expanded ship boasts multiple dining venues, a spa, two hot tubs, an infinity pool and fitness area, plus multiple lounges. It’s full of amenities yet small enough to tuck into many ports larger cruise ships cannot access.

 

You won’t spend much time in your cabin, but all are ample in size, with fully stocked mini fridges, large closets, seating areas and bathrooms with double sinks and glass enclosed, walk-in showers.

 

There is not much onboard to occupy younger children – the action is all on shore  – however, The Yacht Club, which serves as the ship’s library, game room and viewing lounge, features puzzles, a few games and cards. In the evenings, passengers also unwind in the Compass Rose, where live music runs until late in the evening and guests can sip libations from the full bar or dance the night away.

 

In the fifth floor lounge, guests gather for lectures and talks on all things Iceland, for the crew talent show towards the end of the sailing, and before heading off on shore excursions.

 

Cruises around Iceland June through September visit Heimay Island, the site of the Eldfell volcanic eruption in 1973 and the largest colony of Atlantic puffins. Here you can book tours such as ATV or RIB boat rides, a snowmobile and helicopter adventure, and a more sedate walking tour of town and the lava field.

Trail ride in Akureyri, Iceland
Trail ride in Akureyri, Iceland. Credit: Windstar Cruises

In Sedisfjordur, hike to Hengifoss Waterfall – the third highest in Iceland, take a 4×4 guided tour, or drive to Lagarfljot – Iceland’s third-largest lake and visit a Wilderness Center with exhibits depicting how people farmed and lived on this land in decades past.

 

Family adventures in Akureyri range from river rafting through the West Glacial River Canyon to horseback riding in the countryside (Icelandic law prohibits importing horses or the return of any horse that leaves the country). These horses are sturdy, yet smaller in stature and boast five rather than the typical three gaits.

 

Aquatic enthusiasts can don warm coveralls and goggles and take a Whale RIB Safari into the Eyjafjordur Fjord to catch glimpses of humpback, blue-fin and minke whales. It’s a bracing, fast-paced ride on the 12-passenger craft but the thrill at spotting these majestic creatures is incomparable.

 

Visit the Arctic Fox Center in Isafjordur and see the only native terrestrial mammals in the country, or take a boat trip to Vigur – an island nesting ground for many birds. Kayak in the West Fjords or travel via ATV through town and into the mountains and forest. Isafjordur offers another opportunity for whale watching via RIB boat, or you can take an excursion to see Dynjandi Waterfall and the Westfjords. The hike to the top tier of the waterfall is slow going but manageable, especially with frequent stops for amazing photo ops.

Grundarfjordur, Iceland
Grundarfjordur, Iceland. Credit: Windstar Cruises

More bird viewing, fishing and hiking opportunities await in Grundarfjordur, or travel by bus to Snaefellsjokull National Park (the same-named volcanic mountain of which served as a setting in Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth) and the nearby Vatnshellir lava cave, created 8000 years ago. Equipped with helmets and flashlights, take a 45-minute tour into the cave, down two spiral staircases to see unusual rock formations and experience complete darkness.

 

Fill your cruise with cave spelunking, whale watching, waterfall hiking, fishing, river rafting, ATV rides and more as you circumnavigate Iceland with Windstar. Onboard, festive barbecues, a Blue Nose party to celebrate crossing the Arctic Circle, dance lessons, trivia contests, cooking demos and lectures will keep you engaged and entertained.

 

The weather in Iceland can be unpredictable but guests onboard the Windstar Pride can always count on action-packed days filled with adventure and fun.

 

For more information on Windstar, visit www.windstarcruises.com.

 

Cover photo credit: Windstar Cruises

 

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