This trip was one for the books. When researching into Iceland I quickly realised that it is not only an expensive country, but also one which offers so many sights that are impossible to see in only three days. Nonetheless, I was determined to finally visit one of my dream destinations, and by planning early and budgeting carefully I did so as budget-conscious as I could. Furthermore, in only three short days I was able to comfortably make my way down Southern Iceland to sights such as the Jökulsárlón glacier lake, which most people stopping in Iceland for such a short time miss out on. The key to being able to see more than just the famous Golden Circle route in Iceland is to move constantly rather than basing yourself in Reykjavik, here is how we did that:
WHEN TO COME?
Everything on Google seems to point towards summer, however we came in late October (25-29 to be exact) and I could not have imagined a better time for us to visit. Not only were we blessed with amazing weather, but being off-season for Iceland our flights were cheaper and hotel prices lower than during peak-season. We were expecting more things to be closed but had no problems finding meals at all. Tours were still on and the best part was everything was half frozen-over. Since it was October our car did not need special tires for ice, and waterfalls were 10X cooler since ice began to form. The diamond beach and glacier lagoons were also covered with ice, which is less prevalent during summer.
Friday night – We arrived to Reykjavik at night and stayed at Fosshotel Lind, which cost 72 euros (80 USD) for the night. The hotel was conveniently located, clean and had everything you would need for a night. It also offers free parking from night until 10am the next morning.
Saturday night – We ended the day at Garður Stay Inn, located by the Secret Lagoon. It cost 110 euros for the night (123 USD). The hotel acts more as a guest house, with a very comfortable and home-y design. We had a room with a double bed, and easy access to a lovely communal kitchen and a shared bathroom. If you are not used to communal living, I can assure this property is extremely clean, private and well-kept. The kitchen also offered basic breakfast necessities such as oatmeal, coffee and cereal. It is an extra fee for entrance to the Secret Lagoon, which my boyfriend and I decided not to purchase. However as a hotel guest you receive unlimited access into the lagoon during your stay after paying the entrance fee once (the fee is quite steep, at around 20 euros per person). My boyfriend and I also saw the Northern Lights from here, perks of coming in October!
Sunday night – We stayed at Fosshotel Nupar, which feels most literally in the middle of nowhere. And that is the best part! You feel totally immersed in Iceland and the hotel design is super cool, featuring a flat hotel design with ceiling to floor glass windows for every room. The hotel offered food and bar services, an amazing spot for viewing the Northern lights, and the most amazing sunrise view. It cost us 105 euros (117 USD) for one night, however I have heard it can get more expensive during peak-season.
Monday night – We ended the day back in Reykjavik since our flight was at 7am the next morning, which meant a 5:30am car drop off and 4:00am alarm clock! We stayed at Fosshotel Lind once again for 68 euros (76 USD).
TOTAL COST: 72+110+105+68 = 355 euros, divided by 2 = 177.5 euros each (198 USD). This cost fit perfectly into our budget, and these weren’t even the cheapest options that we were finding online. I’m not sure if that is just due to it being off-season, but I think this goes to show that you can definitely find something within your budget even in a place as expensive as Iceland.
We rented a Toyota Aygo (automatic) 2WD from Blue Car Rental. This car company was amazing, extremely reliable and helpful (even locals I talked to agreed with me). We also purchased the full insurance since it was my first time renting a car, however the experience was very pleasant. Furthermore, renting with Blue Car means you get discounted gas at Olis + free coffee when you fill up on gas. We were able to do all our gas refills at Olis stations!
Driving in Iceland is very easy, however if you aren’t used to driving in pitch black darkness at night you will need to familiarise yourself with your high/low beams.
Note – if you are renting a Toyota read up on the manual first, they don’t have a Park setting, so you need to be in Neutral mode to turn your car engine on. Don’t make the same mistake as I did… I thought our car battery had died TWICE and had our car jump started, when really I just wasn’t in neutral mode. Thank you Blue Car Rental for figuring out what I was doing wrong and being extremely helpful lol.
WATCH OUR TRIP:
ITINERARY (photos below):
This blog post is a 3-day itinerary, however as you saw above we were in Iceland for 4 nights! Nonetheless our first and last days were dedicated to travel (downside of cheap plane tickets = they are at the most inconvenient times, oh well). As a result we spent three full days on the road actually seeing the sights.
NOTE: We arrived on Friday at 2pm, and went straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon before going to Reykjavik. Our three-day itinerary doesn’t include the Blue Lagoon since we did it on our travel day, however if you can fit it in I would recommend combining it with a travel day since it is near the airport. The Blue Lagoon is expensive, but if you can fit it into your budget I would 100% recommend it, tourist trap or not the experience was insanely cool. You should also book these tickets far in advance as they sell out quickly.
DAY 1: The Golden Circle
I have attached our Google Map trail that we used, however if you are curious to see exactly which stops we did they are below. I would recommend seeing the sights in the same order that we did!
- We left Fosshotel Lind at around 9:30am after breakfast.
- Kerið Crater
- We went to “Olis Selfoss” which is a gas station right near a Domino’s and Subway. We stopped at Subway to have sandwiches for lunch and cookies for dessert! If you are renting a car with Blue Car Rental as we did, you get discounted gas from Olis + a free coffee.
- Öxarárfoss Waterfall
- Geysir + Lidtl Geysir
- Gulfoss Waterfall
- Drove to our hotel for the night – Garður Stay Inn. You can either hang out at the Secret Lagoon for the rest of the night, or if you are lucky like we were, go outside to see the Northern lights! We even drove out further into the middle of nowhere when the lights started to dance.
LINK TO DAY 1 MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/jJc2wNhkynBJaEdEA
DAY 2: The South Coast
- We left Garður Stay Inn at 9:30am, note that the front desk isn’t open until 11am, so we just left our keys in the guesthouse and sent them an email, which they said was totally fine!
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall – We found lunch here at a little food truck selling paninis and baked goods. A lot of the tourist sites will have a food truck. They charge a parking fee here, however we were lucky enough to pull up next to a leaving couple, and they gave their parking pass to us!
- Skógafoss Waterfall – One of the highlights of our trip, when we arrived there was a beautiful rainbow!
- Sólheimajökull Glacier – We spent over an hour walking around this area without even stepping foot on the glacier (you need ice shoes to do this, which is available for rent by companies at the glacier, or if you are in a tour). However since October left the lake frozen we had a ton of fun exploring and flying the drone up.
- Sólheimasandur plane crash – A great spot for taking photos. Once you pull up to the parking lot you can either pay to take a bus to the plane, or walk. We walked and it took us probably an hour each-way, which sounds long but didn’t feel bad at all since we were in awe of the mountains around the area anyways.
- At this point the sun was starting to go down so we drove to our next hotel, Fosshotel Nupar. However we spent quite a long time at each stop so if you have extra time you can fit in the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse view point. We ended up doing that the next day.
LINK TO DAY 2 MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/8fcv78kj9dnfuoqx6
DAY 3: Diamond Beach
- We left Fosshotel Nupar at 9:30am, driving an hour to get to Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
- Right across from the lagoon (you can walk, or if you hate the cold like us drive 4 minutes to the nearest parking lot which I would recommend) is the Diamond Beach. This stunning beach is filled with beautiful washed up icebergs. We also saw a seal swimming here!
- This day has a lot of driving… we drove an hour and a half to Fjaðrárgljúfur. These canyons were BEAUTIFUL. We were a bit confused because we saw a sign saying you needed a 4WD car, however just follow Google Maps because it will take you to the parking lot for 2WD cars. Just ignore the 4WD sign basically, it was just signaling that there was a later turn for a dirt road only 4WD cars could go on.
- Since we didn’t have time to see the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse view point the day before, we drove 50 minutes back into Vik (that’s the area where the plane crash/black sand beach/lighthouse are). It was already 3pm and we hadn’t had any lunch so we first went to The Soup Company in Vik. This cafe had delicious nachos and paninis, as well as a lava show for anyone interested.
- After lunch we stopped at the gas station, then finally went to the Dyrhólaey Lighthouse view point. We stayed here for sunset then made the rest of the drive back to Reykjavik.
LINK TO DAY 3 MAP: https://goo.gl/maps/HgxdE5k6qBAWRw1w5
PHOTOS FROM OUR TRIP:
CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM HIGHLIGHT TO SEE OUR JOURNEY: @izzyvanoppen
OTHER MONEY-SAVING TIPS:
We bought groceries in Copenhagen to bring with us since they are much more expensive to buy in Iceland. These groceries included snacks for our car rides, oatmeal + granola bars for breakfast, peanut butter and jam (we bought bread in Iceland) for sandwiches, etc.
You don’t need to buy any plastic water bottles in Iceland, bring your own water bottle. You can fill it with any tap water and many of the tourist sites have water taps as well.