Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Hello! Today I'm going to tell you about one of my new favorite places, ICELAND, and how we had an amazing trip for under $3000 including airfare!
Iceland has recently become a very trendy place to visit. With cheap flights to get there and stunning views everywhere, it should be on everyone's travel bucket list. What inspired my visit was watching "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". If you haven't seen this movie. Watch it! I love it. It has a good message and the style is really fun. A portion of the movie takes place in Iceland, which sparked my interest in going.
This post will tell you what we did and how much it cost. At the end I'll give you a price breakdown.
Day 1: Travel
What sealed the deal for this trip was the cheap airfare... WOW airlines, (yes that is their name) offers extremely cheap flights from major airports to Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. I am CONSTANTLY seeing round trip flights for under $300. Since WOW airlines started operations in 2012, the amount of tourism in Iceland has doubled. With flights that cheap, I believe it! We booked our flight with WOW leaving from LAX in March for spring break for $779. Our son was a lap infant so that comes to about $390 per person. Not the lowest price I've seen, but not bad. My Utah residing Parents thought we were crazy for wanting to go somewhere cold instead of a beach in Mexico. But we lived in San Diego at the time, so visiting the cold wasn't a big deal. Plus, as we all should have learned in 5th grade, Iceland is green and Greenland is ice.
Redeye flights can either be wonderful or disastrous. Our son was 6 months old at the time and we really lucked out. It was a 9 hour flight and he spent it either sleeping or flirting with the flight attendants. We were in the back of the plane which actually had a lot of room. Everyone aboard was friendly and excited for their upcoming Iceland adventure. Many of the people were the same age as us and also jumped on those cheap tickets. Overall, I was just really impressed with WOW. The Flight attendants were so kind and patient with our son. This one flight attendant walked Max around the plane when he got fussy so that he could say hi to everyone and she even gave him a certificate for his first flight. It was signed by her and the captain. I seriously cannot speak enough kind words!
Day 2: Naps and Downtown
We arrived early in the morning to Keflavik airport. We rented a car for the duration of our trip. Beware the car rental agencies. They will try to scam you. Most credit cards will cover car rental insurance. So no matter what they tell you about volcanic ash and whatnot, don't bother. We didn't realize this, so we got suckered into their schemes. So be sure to check with your credit card company before you go. We ended up paying $244 for our car rental. (but it could have been cheaper!)
It was so early when we got in, that everything was closed. So we found a 24hr Subway Sandwich restaurant for some food, and then we drove to Reykjavik. We were so exhausted and our Airbnb check in wasn't until 2, so we found a parking lot and napped in our car. Once it was a more reasonable hour, we decided to walk around the city. There are a bunch of little shops and restaurants. I loved all the different colors of the buildings. We also made a quick stop to see the Sun Voyager, a sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason said to be an ode to the sun.
Once our Airbnb was ready we retired there for the rest of the day. Jet lag was hitting hard!
Airbnbs are basically the only way We travel. They are typically cheaper than a hotel, have a kitchen so you can save money by cooking your own meals, and they are a better reflection on what a typical home in that area would look like. For 8 nights, we paid $643. Now our place wasn't perfect... it was a little out of the city and wasn't as clean as I would have hoped. But we saved a lot by staying there, So I really couldn't complain.
Random fact about the water in Iceland. It is delicious. It does have a slightly sulfuric smell, but it tastes so clean. It actually comes from a natural spring. The hot water has an even more sulfuric odor, due to the hot water being heated underground geothermically. I love Iceland's use of geothermic power.
Day 3: Golden Circle Tour
So the Golden Circle tour is a must. You can do it on your own, or you can do it with a tour group. This time we actually opted to go with the tour group. We used our credit card points to pay for it, so there was no cost! So it saved us the gas and our tour guide was very informative. All good things. So be sure to check what "experiences" your credit card points might get you in each area. I think these tours are normally $80 per person. EEEK!
The tour started off with the Kerið Crater Lake, it was just a quick stop. This lake is in the crater of a volcano! Super awesome. It looks even better in the summer though, cause there is a nice contrast between the green vegetation and the red dirt.
After the crater we saw Vatnsleysufossl waterfall, it was beautiful, but the reason this waterfall stands out is because of it's Salmon ladder. But better waterfalls were still to come.
Next stop was Gullfoss Waterfall. This thing was sheer power! It was massive. It was also freeeezing and windy. But totally worth it. In the early 20th century foreign investors wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss to produce electricity. Luckily that fell through so that we can admire it's beauty today. There is a lower section that lets you really hear the falls and then a upper section that gives you the best view.
After Gullfoss was Haukadalur geothermal field. Its full of steam and had a geyser go off every ten minutes or so. We stopped here for lunch. There is a visitor center and a restaurant where you can order food. We packed lunches to save money... let's just say the food in Iceland isn't cheap.
Last stop of our journey was Þingvellir National Park. This park is full of history and sandwiched right in between the Atlantic and the Eurasian tectonic plates. Iceland is partially in Northern American and part in Europe. You can actually go scuba diving between the two plates in the crystal clear water! The history of the park is interesting because it is where the first settlers of Iceland came through. They also held parliament here. With that, there is a pool called the "drowning pool" where roughly 72 people or more were executed for their "sins". Which was during the mid 1500's. Despite it's dark history. This location was definitely a must!
Day 4: The Snæfellsnes peninsula
First thing today we woke up early and picked up some Icelandic sweaters at The Handknitting Association of Iceland. We were really torn on if we should spend the money on these... (roughly $170 each) But we wanted to support the local economy and those sweaters look so cool! So we went for it and got them as our "splurge" souvenir. They had a HUGE selection and the staff was really friendly. So check them out. What's great about these sweaters is even the locals wear them. They aren't just a tourist thing. So you'll be warm and stylish. Just make sure to wear a long sleeve underneath because they get itchy!
First stop on the peninsula was Kirkjufell mountain. I've always been drawn to this mountain for it's unique shape with it's serene falls near by. When we arrived, the mountain's top was covered by clouds. I was a little disappointed, but it still looked really picturesque! The waterfall was mostly frozen and there were horses grazing the the fields nearby. I love the green peaking through the white of the snow.
Next we drove around the peninsula to a town called Arnarstapi. Along the way there were mile-long stretches of moss covered volcanic rock. It was other worldly! Arnarstapi is known for it's arch, basalt columns, and a quaint building with a scenic view. This peninsula is definitely a must. The whole drive is just unbelievable.
As a perfect ending to the day, on the way back to Reykjavik there was a herd of horses right night to the road! As you can tell, I was a very happy girl. These horses are so cute and FLUFFY!! They are serious hair goals, that's for sure.
Day 5: seljalandsfoss, Gljúfrabúi & fjaðrárgljúfur canyon
The waterfalls along the south coast of Iceland are simply amazing. The rest of our trip involved a lot of driving. But it was all totally worth it. We started our day early, our first stop was seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrabúi waterfalls. You'll actually be able to see seljalandsfoss from the highway. So it's hard to miss. Seljalandsfoss is unique because you can walk behind the falls. It will be a bit cold, but it's a really cool experience. Watch your step though, cause it can be slippery. Gljúfrabúi is a little bit more hidden. Once you are done with Slejalandsfoss, follow the trail away from the parking lot and walk along the cliff. You'll see a few little waterfalls, but keep on going. Gljúfrabúi is kind of in a little cave of sorts. You'll wade in some water, so come prepared, but you'll walk in to the cave and you will be amazed!! It's really misty in there, so we took turns going in while the other stayed with Max. Be sure to make sure your camera gear stays dry!!!
Our longest drive during our trip was to fjaðrárgljúfur canyon. I had seen photos of this all over instagram (and I guess Justin Bieber's music video) and knew I had to see it for myself. The drive itself was beautiful. Lava fields for daaaays and then you'll take this small road to the canyon and you'll think "is this right??" and then you'll get there. It just makes you want to get a drone so that you can film the whole thing. Pictures just don't do it justice!!
Day 6: Skogafoss & seljavallalaug thermal pool
Okay so Skogafoss was my main attraction. If all I did was go to Iceland and see Skogafoss, I would probably still be a happy clam. The other stuff is just a bonus!! I knew tourist would overcrowd it pretty early, so we woke up extra early and drove out there before the tour buses arrived. IT. WAS. SPECTACULAR. Just the volume of water was incredible. You can feel it's power. The mist was intense. But wait! There's more...... The sun came out and there was the most gorgeous rainbow!!! It could not have been better!!
After Skogafoss, we hiked to the Seljavallalaug thermal pool. It's an amazingly picturesque pool with warm spring water. We opted not to go to the Blue Lagoon because of the price and it wasn't terribly baby friendly, but we will do it next time for sure! When we arrived, the parking lot was full, so we were worried that the pool was going to be overcrowded. But it turns out that the walk to the pool is pretty long. So most of the cars were people either still walking to the pool or coming back. There are changing rooms at the pool, although they get pretty damp and cold. Just be sure to pick up any trash! The pool was actually decently warm, even in March. There were warm pockets where people would sit. This was Max's first time in a pool! Bragging rights for sure. The warm pockets are mostly in the deep end and it gets hard treading water while holding a baby. So we didn't end up staying long. But it was definitely worth it. Plus it's freeeeee!!
Day 7: Rest day
At this point we were pretty exhausted, to be honest. The weather was also awful.... freezing with crazy wind. So we decided to take it easy. We relaxed at our Airbnb and we went out shopping for groceries, but that is about it. When we travel, we usually make our own food to save money. Plus it is fun to see what kind of food the locals eat. We bought some lamb to make at home since we couldn't afford any of the restaurants that would make it for us. haha. Fun fact: In Iceland, Cool Ranch Doritos are called "Cool American Doritos"
Day 8: Vik, Dyrhólaey arch & Sólheimasandur plane crash
The black sand beaches of Vik are seriously from another world. The contrast of the white waves crashing against the black sand. So good! Watch out for those waves though. They are called "sneaker waves" and will sneak up on you and pull you out to sea... never to be seen again. Jk... but seriously. When you drive up to see the arch, you will have the most incredible views of the beaches that seem to just go on forever.
The Sólheimasandur plane crash is also another Iceland thing that is all over social media. I'll tell ya... it was a loooooong walk to this plane. It's about about a 2 hour round trip walking. No driving allowed. But the plane definitely looked like something from a SciFI film! I am really glad I went at least once. I probably wont need to see it again though... I'll just re-live it from my photos. haha.
Day 9: Shopping Downtown Reykjavik, Hallgrímskirkja & Reykjadalur Steam Valley
Our last full day in Iceland! We had done a lot of driving at this point... at least 4 hour each day. So we decided to keep it close by and explore areas around Reykjavik. We liked to browse the local shops and wish we could afford those crazy prices. I wanted to get Max something to remember the trip, but everything was so expensive. So I actually found a store that sold Icelandic wool. It was only about $10 and my cousin used it to knit Max a Narwhal! Narwhals are actually local to the area. In fact, the tooth of the narwhal used to be Iceland's main export. It was sold to royals as a unicorn horn and was worth ten times their weight in gold!
I have a friend that served an LDS church mission in Iceland, so I messaged him before we went and he told me to make sure we got two things while we were there.. Icelandic sweaters and hot dogs. I am glad we listened!! The hotdogs in Iceland are probably the best hotdogs I've ever had. They are mostly made from Icelandic lamb, along with a bit of pork and beef, they have crunchy fried onions, raw onions, ketchup, a type of mustard called pylsusinnep, and remoulade, a sauce made with mayo,mustard, capers, and different spices. The hot dog has a delicious "pop" when you bite into it. There is a cart downtown that is famous for it, but our favorite hotdog was actually at a place in Selfoss called Pylsuvagninn. They grill the bun for you and everything. Make sure to get everything on it!! It's all part of the experience. This trip we basically lived off of groceries and hotdogs because hotdogs were the cheapest food from a restaurant by far.
The Hallgrímskirkja church was massive and the architecture was stunning.
Our last thing we did during the trip was Reykjadalur Steam Valley. It's just outside of Reykjavik and definitely worth a stop if you have time. There are bubbling goopy sulfer pools which sounds gross, but it continued the trend of looking like we were in a completely different world.
Day 10: Travel home
Thus ends our fabulous time in Iceland. It was truly incredible and actually affordable! (when done right) So here is our price breakdown as well as things I would do differently next time.
Car Rental: $244
Total: $2752 (not including sweaters)
So our total came in just under $3000. The thing that really ate away our funds was gas. Gas rates are killer. Since we stayed in Reykjavik the whole time, we drove A LOT.
What I would do differently for our next trip is get a camper van. Even though the camper van would get worse gas mileage than our rental car, we would do significantly less driving. Therefore less gas. Plus then you would be combining your car with your airbnb. So you'd get more time at the locations and be able to travel further each day because you wouldn't have to drive back at the end of the day. You can also find cheaper airfare if you wait for the perfect time.
So there you have it! If you have any questions be sure to comment. Do you love Iceland too? What was your favorite part?