Home Blog Why Iceland is a blast for budding geographers

Why Iceland is a blast for budding geographers

Thursday, 5th May 2022

Will Gray

iceland south west children on basalt cliff reynisdrangar istk

Thundering waterfalls. Wave-battered cliffs. Rumbling volcanoes and bubbling mud pits. Shimmering icecaps and creaking glaciers. Black-sand beaches, plate-tectonic rifts, geothermal pools, the northern lights… nowhere brings geography to life more vividly than Iceland. A family holiday in the Land of Fire & Ice not only opens your children’s eyes to the raw power of nature, it’s also the perfect opportunity to nurture a passion for geography.

Ask any neuroscientist and they will tell you that when the fun stops, learning often stops too. It’s all a matter of psychology. Remove the joy from learning and your child’s ability to process information or memorise facts also suffers.

There’s never a dull moment when you’re on holiday in Iceland. Thanks to its unique location, straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, it’s like a geography textbook sprung to life.

iceland south west strokkur geysir rth

Volcanic rock versus ice versus sea: a continuous battle constantly reshaping the country. Iceland rose above the surface of the Atlantic around 18 million years ago. It’s been growing ever since (about 5cm a year), but the North Atlantic gnaws away at it. The result? Black-sand beaches stretching as far as the eye can see; towering sea cliffs (some of Europe’s tallest), and extraordinary features like Jokulsarlon – a coastal lagoon of icebergs shed from one of Iceland’s vast icecaps.

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you turn your family holiday into a school field trip (our Education department already does a great job of organising those). Instead, our Travel Specialists will create an itinerary that’s tailor made to your interests and your children’s ages – filling your holiday with exciting activities and experiences where you’ll be learning about geography without even realising it!

Here are 10 things to include in your Iceland family holiday that are guaranteed to impress any geography teacher…

iceland jokulsarlon diamond beach istk

10 things to include on your family holiday

1. Get to know a geyser

One of the highlights of the Golden Circle, the Strokkur geyser erupts roughly every six minutes, spouting a steaming column of water up to 40m into the air. You can watch the superheated spectacle safely from just a few metres away. The action takes place at the aptly-named geothermal site of Geysir where you’ll also find hot springs and mud pits.

2. Plunge into plate-tectonics

Another Golden Circle must-see, the Silfra fissure is located in Thingvellir National Park and marks the boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Slip on thermals and a drysuit and you can snorkel through this flooded canyon. The water is so clear you can sometimes see 100m ahead – bringing plate-tectonics into sharp relief.

iceland south west thingvellir rift and stone path istk

3. Journey to the centre of the earth

The LAVA Centre at Hvolsvollur (90 minutes’ drive from Reykjavik) has high-tech, interactive exhibits on Iceland’s volcanoes. To see the real thing, head to Thrihnukagigur where you’re lowered inside the giant, empty magma chamber of a long-dormant volcano. In other parts of Iceland, you can delve into lava tunnels.

4. Venture onto a volcano

Staying above ground, Iceland has numerous volcanoes that you can climb, including Hverfjall – 396m-high tephra explosion crater just to the east of Lake Myvatn in North Iceland. An all-terrain superjeep safari, meanwhile, can take you (safely) onto the slopes of bigger beasts like Eyjafjallajokull which infamously blew its top in 2010.

5. Get to grips with glaciation

It’s the Land of Fire and Ice, so you can’t experience Iceland’s volcanoes without giving its frozen places some serious attention. Equipped with crampons and ice axes, children love guided glacier hikes, exploring a maze of crevasses and ice formations. You can also go snowmobiling on an icecap – or even walk inside one on the ‘Into the Glacier’ tour.

6. Wise up on white water

Iceland’s mighty icecaps feed wild rivers bloated with meltwater – ideal for exhilarating rafting trips. The West Glacial River is suitable for families, with fun rapids as well as calmer sections where you can admire the scenery while contemplating the processes of river erosion. If you prefer your water vertical, Iceland has around 30,000 waterfalls.

iceland young family admiring glacier istk

7. Immerse yourself in geothermal energy

Not all water in Iceland is seething, bubbling, crashing or foaming. Famous geothermal pools, like the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon and Myvatn Nature Baths are calm and serene… sink into the gently steaming, milky blue waters and gently poach yourself, marvelling at the fact that it’s risen from deep underground, heated for free.

8. Switch on to solar phenomena

Iceland has two very special kinds of natural light. Head to the north in mid-summer and you can witness the midnight sun never quite setting over the Arctic Ocean. Or plan an autumn or winter holiday and you can go aurora hunting. Generated by solar particles, the northern lights can be seen dancing over Iceland anytime from September to March.

9. Find out about life on a farm

Geography is as much about people as places. Visit a farm during your holiday – or plan a farmstay – and you will learn about the relationship between people and the land – how they use local produce and harness natural energy. Horsepower is also a big thing: saddle up on a sturdy Icelandic horse for breathtaking mountain or beach rides.

10. Experience a world of natural wonders

Wherever you go in Iceland, your list of natural wonders will rapidly grow. Waterfalls, volcanoes, icecaps, hot springs, black-sand beaches, iceberg-strewn lagoons, cliffs teeming with seabirds and oceans rich in cetaceans. Who’d have thought you could have so much fun with geography – right here in Europe – just a 3hr flight from the UK?

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Feeling inspired?

Ask our Travel Specialists to tailor make your family holiday to Iceland. Get in touch by calling 01737 214 250 or send an enquiry.