Category Archives: Iceland

A Quick Shoestring Budget Advice for Iceland

Iceland is famous for its intense and remote natural beauty. Some of the most epic scenes in HBO’s Game of Thrones Series are filmed here. But all of this comes at a cost, particularly to your wallet.

Iceland is so beautiful in large part because its untouched, and It’s untouched because its in the middle of nowhere. Remote wilderness is always hard to reach, everything has to be flown or shipped in and out. This basically means one thing – its gonna cost you a nice chunk of cash.

Luckily, I’m going to tell you how to do it on the cheap in four easy steps.

Step One:

Book airfare at the very beginning or very end of the tourist season, meaning late Late April to early May, or sometime towards the end of August or early September. This is the single best way to cut out 30-40 percent of the typical expense of an Iceland Summer trip. Six weeks out, book your round trip flight within these timeframes and you’ll save up to 500 bucks. During high season roundtrip airfare can cost a grand or more.

Step Two:

Hike and camp. The other two big expenses in Iceland are car rentals (minimum of 60 dollars per day) and hostels (between 50-100 dollars/night). First of all, hiking is the best way to enjoy Iceland’s natural beauty, and you can camp for free pretty much anywhere. Don’t get tricked into to pitching your tent every night at a managed campground because these will run you 20+ dollars per night per person. That being said they’re great for a shower, load of laundry and a hot meal.

Step Three:

Keep your restaurant meals to one per day max. The typical hot meal, even at a gas station, costs 20+ dollars. There are plenty of grocery stores throughout Iceland where you can get good food for cheap. Just be sure to bring your camp stove, even if it means shelling out 18 bucks for a gas canister! Yeah. Iceland isn’t cheap.

Step Four:

Remember that the real reason your there is for the nature! Not for the five star hotel treatment. If you’re looking for that just go to Cancun or some generic resort in the Caribbean.

The Best Kept Secret of Westfjords

To be honest, the Westfjords is a gem hidden amongst many gems. In Iceland you’ll find breathtaking landscapes around every turn. But only 3% of international arriving in Iceland visit the Westfjords, a testament to the serenity and desolation of the regions endless vistas. Don’t believe me? Take look at the region on Google Maps. Notice the lack of marked roads? Maybe this is why its widely regarded in travel guides as one of the worlds best kept secrets.

In fact, few Icelanders even live in the region. Its Iceland’s most sparsely populated area outside of the foreboding and highly volcanic central highlands. The northern most fjord used to have towns and villages, but the entire area was abandoned in the mid-twentieth century due to the incredibly long and harsh winters. Now its home to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, one of the most remote and beautiful national parks in the world (there’re no roads in or out!). There you’re sure to find far more sheep than humans, and most of the people you do run into will be Icelandic adventure tourists.

Luckily, the Westfjords isn’t all as inaccessible as Hornstrandir. The massive glaciers that once blanketed the region carved out broad fjords that run for hundreds and hundreds of kilometers. The mountains, combined with the length of the fjords themselves, makes the region relatively inaccessible. But, with the right strategy and a little perseverance, you can immerse yourself in Iceland’s best kept secret.

The only way to see the Westfjords is by car, and to do that properly you’ll need a four wheel drive vehicle. Many of the roads are gravel, and run along steep mountain passes while hugging cascading glaciers. If you’ve read anything about Iceland, you surely know that car rentals are expensive. This is especially true for four wheel drive SUVs. The cheapest run about 700 USD per month during the summer high season (which coincidentally is the only time many of the gravel “F” roads are open).

Hostels and guesthouses, not to mention gas stations and grocery stores, are few and far between. But you’ll find a handful of managed campgrounds with hot showers and WiFi – if you’re lucky. The best way to do it is to bring all the food and water you’ll need for your trip, along with a tent, a sleeping bag and a map. The last thing you’ll need is time – as much of it as you can spare. You won’t be able to drive more than ten minutes without wanting to stop and take a picture…or ten. Guaranteed.

Camping in Iceland

Icelandic summers are made for camping. I’ve camped all over the world – in the mountains of Patagonia, the jungles of Ecuador, the deserts of the American Southwest, the Italian Alps and on the slopes of many a Southeast Asian volcano. I can say without qualification that nowhere beats camping in Iceland. Whether you just love camping or simply want to immerse yourself in Iceland, pitching a tent is the way to go. There are five simple reasons for this.

Perfect Weather

Summer in Iceland, at least between late May and early August, averages a cool 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 C). This is perfect weather for camping. Not too hot, and certainly not too cold. You can wrap yourself up in a nice warm sleeping bag at night, and crawl out of it without too much reluctance and pain in the morning. It does rain sometimes during the summer in Iceland, so be sure to bring a tent with a rain cover.

Iceland Camping

Endless Light

By late June the sun is up 24 hours a day in Iceland. It briefly dips down and kisses the horizon for a few hours around 1 to 3 AM before rising again, but even then it’s a bright twilight. This is truly amazing for several reasons. First of all, it means from about 7 PM to 5 AM its magic hour – the time of day when the sun is low in the sky and giving off atmospherically filtered golden light that is perfect for taking photos. Also, the endless light means you don’t have to worry about it getting dark before you set up your tent. Essentially, you can travel on your own schedule, pull off to the side of the road and set up camp as late as you want.

Unlimited Space

Literally, you can pull off the side of most any road and camp for free. There are many paid campgrounds in Iceland charging up to 20 dollars per night per camper, and these are worth it every once in a while to shower, wash your cloths and use a proper kitchen. But for the most part, I camped for free and saved a boatload of money. The best part is that the ground was nearly always covered in lush grass or soft moss, the perfect bedding.

Budget Friendly

Camping in Iceland brings welcome savings for the budget traveler. Iceland is expensive. Car rentals, gas, food, drink, and LODGING are all pricey. A bunk bed in a shared room in a hostel is around 50 bucks, private rooms hover around 100. Camping is a good call

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Stunning Nature

Camping in Iceland is the best way to see the countryside. Really, there’s nothing better than climbing out of your tent in the morning, stretching your arms and seeing this view (time and time again):

The Best of Iceland

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon on the southern coast of Iceland lies just off Highway 1 and is a must see for anyone travelling the country. If you visit from late spring to late summer, be absolutely sure to stay for sunset and sunrise, which combine into one 6+ hour orgasm of magic lighting. The colors burst over the glacier lagoon and the tide pulls icebergs out to the nearby black sand beach, which is only a few hundred meteres away. Once the sun has done its thing over the lagoon, all the photographers head to the beach to snap long exposure of the waves cascading over the crystal clear ice, which sits perfectly contrasted atop the deep black sand. Its truly a magical site that will transfix you. I couldn’t pull myself away and was stuck at the lagoon from 7:30 PM to nearly 4 AM, watching this magical show of colors play out. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but there is soo much to see in Iceland!

Your Guide to Reykjavik

Reykjavik is more than just the capital of Iceland. Rekjavik is Iceland’s cultural and economic hub. In fact, over half of all Icelanders on the planet live in Reykjavik! Anyone lucky enough to visit Iceland will certainly begin and end their trip inhere, and its well worth a few days. Having spent a few weeks in Iceland and capping both ends of my trip with stays in Reykjavik, I’ve come up with a guide highlight the best of the city.

Where to Stay

Hlemmer Square Hostel. Modern, clean, spacious, great beds (down comforters and pillows, reading light, personal wall plug-in, lockable underbed cabinets, incredibly friendly and helpful staff, a kitchen equipped better than my home (and I cook!), and a very central location. Could you ask for more? Oh right, its pretty much the cheapest option in town at 24 USD for a 14 bed in a mixed dorm.

Where to Eat

Veitinghusio Hofnin. I’ve heard a lot of bad things said about Icelandic food, but one thing they do right is fish. This place does it with both visual flare and subtle flavor, and all for a good price. They key is the daily special (16.50 USD), which invariably is some sort of fresh caught fish with vegetables and risotto or pasta. Splurge for a meal here by shopping for one or two at Bonus, the cheapest supermarket chain in Iceland, and cooking it up at the hostel.

Where to Visit

National Music and Conference Center, and the Blue Lagoon (because I cant pick just one.) The Blue Lagoon is out of this world. Yes, it’s the most heavily touristed place in all of Iceland, but that doesn’t really matter. Its one of a kind and its pristine.
Massive, incredibly blue, geothermal hot springs. The pictures speak for themselves.

The National Music and Conference Center is actually the largest glass sculpture in the world. Within the glass cage is huge stone building, which is the actual concert hall. The whole structure is perched on the harbor a five-minute walk from the city center. It’s a stunning piece of architecture and its open to the public. There’s a pricey restaurant at the top with a wonderful panoramic view of the bay.

How to get to the Airport

Flybus. The most hassle-free option. When you arrive at the airport, buy and open-ended round trip ticket (37 USD) to the city center. The drive takes about an hour and the bus will drop you off at your hostel or hotel.