Top free things to do and ways to save money in Iceland
Why Iceland is an affordable place to visit as a budget traveller
Iceland, the land of ice and fire, exceeded my high expectations! Depending on what time of year you visit you'll have a very different experience. We wanted to see the country covered in snow, so we went in the month of January braving the minus temperatures to see this winter wonderland.
Before our 5-day trip, we spent a lot of time reading travel blogs and getting creative about how we could financially visit this wonderful country without spending a fortune. The first amazing thing we realised was all of the must-see natural sights are actually free to visit, can you believe this? So, no money needed for entry fees or parking meters and yet you can see some of the most amazing sights in the world! You'll see what I mean in the next where I show you my top 7 free things to do in Iceland.
Top 7 free things to do in Iceland
1. Geysir hot springs
The Geysir hot springs area has many hot water blowholes, 'Strokkur' pictured below is one of the most active and erupts every few minutes. In-between the eruptions the boiling water 'breaths' with a constant sinking and rising movement which gets more intense as the pressure builds and then finally blows high above into the sky. It's quite a spectacular sight to witness!
Top tip - As I'm sure you'll have heard food and drink can be expensive in Iceland, yet opposite the the Geysir hot springs we found a cafe within the visitor centre that did a reasonably priced buffet lunch providing a good opportunity to try some of the local foods.
This two-tier waterfall is stunning, it's so powerful and roars loudly as the water makes it way down into the valley. It is a beautiful sight and well worth a visit. Just be careful as there are no barriers at the edge and the paths can be a little slippery.
Skógafoss was the most enormous waterfall we saw in Iceland and had the biggest icicles hanging down like giant swords. Legend has it that a viking named Prasi hid his hoard of gold behind the waterfall but it would take a braver person than me to go and take a look!
4. Reynisfjara black sand beach of Vik
You may have heard of the black beach in Iceland, it is remotely located next to the small village of Vik. With the black sand and the white foam on the sea it looked like someone had drained all the colour from the world, so very different to the standard blue sea and yellow sand we are used to seeing.
5. Kerið Crater
A remote crater that we viewed covered in snow, apparently in the warmer months of the year the slopes are full vibrant red and black stripes which contrast beautifully with the dark blue water below.
6. Icelandic horses
The Icelandic horse breed arrived with the Vikings. They are quite small but incredibly hardy and able to survive the coldest of temperatures. You'll see many on your travels around the island, it's worth taking the time to stop and say hello.
7. Þingvellir continental plates
This is the only place in the world where you can walk in the rift valley between two continental plates! It's known as the birthplace of Iceland as a nation and when we visited we had the entire place to ourselves, what a fabulous treat!
How to save money on a budget trip to Iceland
Plan ahead with breakfast
We knew it was going to be super cold when we visited and that having a hearty breakfast would help us keep warm in the mornings, but the average price for a hotel breakfast was £20 per person, eeek! We therefore planned ahead and brought Lidl 'porridge pots' from home that cost 35p each which we enjoyed with our complimentary hot drinks in our room each morning instead.
Fly with a budget airline
We flew with budget airline Easyjet and took cabin luggage only, we also picked mid-week flights which were cheaper and the total price was just over £200 for the both of us.
We booked all of our accommodation for this trip using Booking.com mainly because we had a cashback offer making this the most affordable option. As I am sure you can imagine there isn't a lot of choice in some of the locations but hotel rooms are pretty reasonable in Iceland for example we stayed at Litli Geysir Hotel which is one of the only hotels located near the Geysirs and paid £78 for one night. It was a lovely cozy hotel that after a day out in the cold was perfect.
Hire a car
Although it was tempting to book guided tours they can be expensive therefore we decided it would be better value for money to hire a car from the airport and drive ourselves. The cost was minimal and we only used one tank of fuel in the whole five days we were there, there was so much to stop and see that we were practically crawling in the car most of the time which reduced our fuel consumption.
With food and drink being pretty pricey in Iceland we decided to buy items from a supermarket in Reykjavik on arrival so that we could make sandwiches in the car during the days to come. This cost us just a few pounds in total and helped keep us on budget, we also got to try some local meats and cheeses which were delicious.
For water, we brought a bottle from home that filled up in the hotels rooms each morning, there really is no point in buying bottled water in Iceland, the tap water is the freshest and cleanest water you'll ever taste!
Petrol station burgers
Don't be put off by the location, the burgers served at the petrol stations around Iceland are very tasty, cooked to perfection and served on a proper china plate, what a luxury! They are one of the cheapest eats in the country and very enjoyable, you wont be disappointed.
The Icelandic Hot Dog is a big deal!
An alternative cheap eat is the Iceland Hot Dog, they are a big deal to the Icelandic's and this is the top vendor in Reykjavik recommended to us by our Icelandic friend who lives in the UK.
If you want to eat a Hot Dog like the locals it will come served in a warm bun topped with raw white onion, crispy fried onions, tomato ketchup, Pylsusinnep (a sweet mustard) and remoulade (a sauce of mayo, capers, mustard and herbs). The locals are very precious about their hot dogs and I can see why it was pretty yummy! Here I am tucking in...
Happy budget travelling everyone and if you have any questions about Iceland or any of the other places I've mentioned in other blog posts just get in touch, I'm always happy to help xx