Updated: Oct 24, 2018
Kita the Explorer reviews her personal travel experiences on this site that receives compensation from the companies whose products we review and/or promote. I am independently discussing these services and the opinions expressed here are my own.
So while taking a journey through Iceland, I learned a great deal of information I believe would great for anyone to know upon traveling to Iceland for the first time! After I discuss my lessons learned, I will then take you through what I spent for this trip, sightseeing suggestions, and accommodation recommendations. Here are the seven lessons I learned while traveling Iceland:
As of 2017, tourism is still growing in Iceland. Once leaving the city area of Reykjavik, not a lot of people are able to provide suggestions on what to see or how to get where you are going (or maybe they didn't want to help but I find that unlikely). Upon leaving back to the US, the airline lines were extremely slow and unorganized in which I was completely shocked about! Per the Grapevine, the country welcomed about 500,000 tourists while in 2016 it welcomed 1.8M (partially due to the Game of Thrones). You can read more about the rise of tourism here: Grapevine.is.
The country of Iceland is EXPENSIVE, particularly coming from the United States. As of today, the exchange rate is $1USD = 105.52 ISK (Icelandic Krona). The exchange rate looks good but when a burger is about $17USD (when in the US it could be on average $8), it makes a big difference! So plan your budget wisely when booking your trip to Iceland.
Once you leave the city area, there wasn't much variety in food. Well at least in 2017. Everywhere we stopped, it was usually burgers, hot dogs, pizza, fries, and maybe a fish/chicken sandwich. So if you plan to leave the city, stock a cooler with food to cook in a hotel with a kitchen or get your tastebuds ready!
You can drink water directly from the tap! Their water is AMAZING! But of course glacier water is!
Iceland is a great place to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). But the conditions must be right! So it must be dark, from the months of September to April, and no cloud cover! NONE! We tried to see them several nights while in Iceland. One night we saw the green lights but there was cloud cover, so not the best view. I was then able to find a Northern Light forecast website for Iceland which was very helpful to determine if the conditions were right. Check it out here: http://en.vedur.is/weather/forecasts/aurora/. Luckily, we were able to see them slightly our last night in Iceland despite being in Reykjavik. If in Reykjavik, you must go to the lighthouse and not just the parking lot! Walk the dark scary path all the way to the lighthouse!
Be cautious of what websites you visit! As of September 2017, a lot of places we stayed or visited did not have secured networks.
Icelandair names each of their planes after one of Iceland's volcanoes and they also provide stopover flights (more details below).
As mentioned above, Iceland is quite expensive when comparing it to life in the United States. I would suggest budgeting no less than $200 per day for your trip to Iceland. My total trip to Iceland ran me about $1,297 (or about $216 per day). Here is the breakdown of expenses:
Flights: $319 - The cost of the flight is split 50/50 with my trip to Denmark. We went to Iceland and Denmark from Atlanta through Icelandair's stopover flights. Their stopover flights consist of flying to one destination but having the ability to stop in Iceland for up to seven nights! So the breakdown of this is: flight from ATL to DC R/T was $223.80 (includes baggage fees). The R/T flight to Denmark with an Iceland stopover was $414.24 (includes travel insurance).
Hotels: $345 - You may see the types of hotels we stayed in under the Accommodations in Southern Iceland section of this blog down below.
Food: $249 - I spent this amount on food even though I brought food from home for breakfast meals.
Tours: $138 - This is for the Glacier Hike and entry to the crater lake.
Rental Car: $81 - This is the cost for an automatic rental car split four ways and with receiving a refund. Learn more about the rental car in the Accommodations in Southern Iceland section below.
Souvenirs: $80 - Personal choices, right? Right!
Gas: $80 - We had to keep the rental car moving, of course.
Left Over Currency: $5 - Makes it a great souvenir too!
There are other ways to decrease your spending and still have a great time in Iceland such as doing a Hop On Hop Off tour around the country, not staying as many nights, going to the grocery store for all meals, etc. I can help you plan that trip to Iceland or any others to help you stay under budget and have the best time! You can start the process by visiting here: https://goo.gl/GyQfAi.
Things to See
Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
Eldhraun Lava Field (See Picture to Right): Fields and field covered with lava from the Laki volcano eruption in the late 1700s. Learn more about this here: https://www.icelandtravel.is/about-iceland/destination-guide/eldhraun-lava-field/.
Kerið Crater Lake on the Golden Circle
Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle
Strokkur Geysir on the Golden Circle
Silfra on the Golden Circle
Thingvellir National Park on the Golden Circle (scenes of Game of Thrones was filmed here)
Accommodations In Southern Iceland
Icerental Rental Car Agency: This rental car location is off the airport but will pick you up to take you there. We were able to rent an automatic car but that means it will cost more as that is not how they drive there. But it also means the car wasn't the best. The windows constantly had wind coming through and it probably hadn't had an alignment in YEARS! Oh I can't forget to mention it was a gas guzzler! But when we returned the car, the main driver just spoke on what could be improved, the agency returned to us all fees except taxes! Since they tried to remediate the situation (i.e. tried to fix the windows & returned money), I would still recommend them. Check them out at http://www.icerentalcars.is/.
Bed and Breakfast Keflavik Airport - Hotel: Located near the airport great for a late arrival into the country. We only stayed here one night and booked through Hotels.com.
Hafnarnes: The first day in Iceland we drove to the other side of the country and stayed at this farmhouse. It is in the middle of nowhere but if the skies are clear, it is a great place to see the Northern Lights. We booked through Booking.com.
Horgsland Cottages (See Picture to Right): Cabins located about an hour outside of Vik. The cabins were beautiful with incredible scenery! Stay here if you plan to travel through South Iceland. We booked through Booking.com.
Hotel Kanslarinn: This hotel is located in Hella, Iceland in the back of a restaurant and currently isn't really visible. This hotel was conveniently right off of the route on the way back to Reykjavik. They also had one of the best breakfast meals throughout our trip. We booked through Booking.com.