Between the cheap flights and the hundreds of beautiful outdoor sights including hot springs, Iceland has quickly become THE place to be.  In fact, there were six times more tourists in Iceland in 2017 than the people who live there!  It is definitely a tourist hot bed.

One thing you will want to note is that Iceland is also the most expensive tourist destination in the world, according to a report by Bloomberg.  I would say from our experience alone, this was the most expensive place we’ve ever been.  I paid $6 for a generic, black cup of coffee.  That’s definitely the most I’ve ever paid for that.

Next week, stay tuned for an article titled “The truth about Iceland.”  Our expectations for this trip were not the reality.  It wasn’t just how expensive everything was, but the sheer number of people everywhere and miscommunication of books and blog posts.  Not that everyone was wrong, just that things are changing so rapidly, it’s not what it was even two years ago.  I will be posting something so that if you are going, you will have a better idea of what to expect than I did!

Brief Overview

We flew out of Toronto to Reykjavik.  From there we flew to Edinburgh for 3 days through Easyjet, and then flew back to enjoy 5 days in Iceland.  We based in Fludir for three nights, staying at a hostel where we could cook our own meals.  We then stayed one night in Akranes, visited the Blue Lagoon and then flew home.

Practicalities

Flying out of Toronto

We drove to Toronto because the tickets were so cheap.  Plus, if we flew from Columbus, we would have been in the airport with layovers for longer than it would take us to drive there.  We used Park For U, which provided valet parking for us.  They drop you off at the airport, park your car and then come pick you up in your own car.  It was perfect, fast and cheap.  It was only $6 a day to park with them.  So we had 6 hours driving time and paid about $50 for fuel there and back, and paid $50 for parking.  It may not seem like it, but we saved so much money and time doing it this way.

Toronto tickets were only $250 round-trip through WOW air.  We had no issues flying with WOW air.  Keep in mind that you do have to pay for a seat assignment, as well as if you want to check or carry-on a bag.  We opted to share one checked bag for $25 there and $25 bag.  We opted for $7 seats which ended up being in the exit row.  We thought this was a good deal.  If you want snacks or water, you have to pay for it.  We brought our own.

WiFi

Some of the places we were provided free WiFi, but it was sporadic.  We brought with us a portable, mobile hot spot from Vision Global WiFi.  The thing we were most impressed with (besides the speed) was how long the battery lasted! The battery lasted for days without having to be charged.  We couldn’t believe it! This worked out great for us, as we needed to use GPS, check email and be able to post on social media.  (OK, we don’t NEED to post on social media, but you know, we’re millennials!)  We received complimentary access from Vision Global (thanks again!), but if we paid, we would have paid less using this, than using data from our cell phone carrier. This is a better deal, and worked great!  I highly recommend looking into it for your next trip. Just use their “easy price estimator” to see how much it would cost to compare the prices before going with your cell phone carrier.

Groceries

We ended up cooking the majority of our meals because like I said before, this place is expensive!  Meat was on the expensive side, so we opted for some vegetarian meals.  Two chicken breasts would have set us back $20, so we went for a lot of roasted vegetables, rice and pasta.  We made eggs for breakfast, and had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.  We shopped at Bonus (we went to two different ones, but the same chain).  This ended up being good for us.  Groceries ended up being the most cost-effective option for us in Iceland.  Just for an idea of price, we spent $90 for 4 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners.   That’s $11 per meal for two people.  When it’s all broken down like that, not too bad!

We did like everyone told us and bought alcohol in the duty-free store at the airport!  We actually bought some whiskey in Scotland and drank that while in Iceland.

Sleeping

We stayed at the Efra-Sel Hostel in Fludir, which was about 1.5 hour drive from Reykjavik.   This ended up being a perfect base for us to explore the Golden Circle and we were able to get up at 5am and drive 10 minutes to a natural hot spring to enjoy it all to ourselves! This hostel had a full kitchen with dishes, pots, pans, oil, spices, etc.  It was perfect for us.

This was the view from right above our hostel. Perfect place to view the sunset during the midnight sun.

We stayed one night at Teigur Guesthouse in Akranes.  This place had a full kitchen (plus some items for breakfast like juice and yogurt), a living room, WiFi and two bikes!  We ended up using the bikes to ride down to the lighthouse.  It was less than a 10 minute ride.  The guesthouse is right by the water as well.

Sightseeing

We visited a lot of places, and I seriously won’t be able to list or even remember every place.  I decided to post about some of the highlights.  There are a lot of cool places to see, and our guidebook was busting at the seams with places.  You won’t be short of places to see!

Hot springs

The Blue Lagoon

I think it’s actually a crime against humanity to go to Iceland and not go here.  Someone asked me if it was overrated.  I would say that it isn’t actually.  It costs $100 a person and includes one free drink (a fruit smoothie or alcoholic beverage) and a mud mask.  The water is hot, and has multiple places to go.  There are a lot of people there, but it’s big enough to enjoy with some solace.  We really enjoyed it!  As a warning, my hair felt like dreadlocks after.  It took three washings and it still wasn’t totally back to being normal.

Secret Lagoon 

This place felt more like a public pool, but it was also very hot.  There were pool noodles available, and we used multiple ones.  You can buy drinks there or bring your own.  We didn’t know we could bring our own, or we would have!

Hrunalaug

This awesome place was only a 10 minute drive from our hostel in Fludir.  We read on a lot of blogs that this was “hidden” and no one knew about it.  That is not true.  There are a lot of people here.  It’s on private property and there’s a little hut you can use to change your clothes.  The water is very hot and feels wonderful.  It costs $10 a person to visit.  (Lots of blogs listed this place as free, but it’s not.  In fact, the owner sits out there for most of the day collecting money.)

We went at 5 a.m. since we were so close and enjoyed the place to ourselves.

Waterfalls

Skogafoss

This was a very popular waterfall, but very powerful and beautiful.  It was a very easy walk up.  We ended up eating lunch here because it was the first place we stopped and hadn’t been grocery shopping yet.  We paid $26 for two bowls of mushroom bisque.  Wowsers.

Gljúfrabúi

We heard a lot about this waterfall.  It was really close to a very popular waterfall, Seljalandsfoss.  This one requires you to squeeze through a tight cave opening and then wade through water.  You definitely need rain boots for this.  We also put on water-proof shoe leg covers, that went up to our knees.  (We ordered these on Amazon.)  It was really pretty cool to be that up close and personal. Expect to get soaked!

Gullfoss

This was by far the busiest waterfall we visited.  There were people with their selfie sticks all over the place.  It was also probably the biggest and most impressive one of all the ones we visited.  It was beautiful.

Faxi

This was a smaller waterfall near Gullfoss, and closer to Fludir.  There were only two others there at the time. There were these beautiful purple wildflowers at the top.  It was here that I just realized how fast these falls are and how impressive that is.

Nauthusagil

This was one of the highlights of the trip for us.  We were on our way to a park that we didn’t realize we needed 4-wheel drive for.  So we couldn’t go.  But, on the way back, we saw a sign for this place.  We had no idea what it was, but there were only two other cars there so we thought we’d stop.

After walking down this path, we were greeted by this beautiful river walk through this crevice. The Lord of the Rings soundtrack immediately started playing in my head and I hummed along.  There was moss everywhere.

After wading through a river, and crawling up on a chain and a rope, we made it to this waterfall.  (Shout out to my husband who encouraged me to do this, even when I thought I couldn’t.  I got scared about falling in, but he helped me and I made it).  We enjoyed this special waterfall and had it to ourselves.  It was beautiful.

After making it back through, we walked up to the top of a hill that gave us these amazing views of the surrounding area.  It was very “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” up there.

More nature

Geysir

According to the guidebook, if you’ve seen Old Faithful, this isn’t that impressive.  Lucky for us we hadn’t see Old Faithful, so we thought this was impressive.  We loved the colors of the water and the steamy volcanic land.  The geysir goes off approximately every 5 minutes, so get ready to enjoy that a few times during your visit!

Black Sand Beach

This place was littered with people.  We pulled up and about 10 tour buses and 50 cars all lined up to see the small beach area. It was also raining when we got there.  We really wanted to see the shipwreck, but it was quite a long hike and we didn’t realize it was like a 5 hour feat; so we opted out.  We still thought the black sand was super cool.

We visited a cave nearby this beach, and it wasn’t really that impressive.  However, there were more of these gorgeous purple wildflower fields!

Akranes

We stayed here for only one night, but we rode bikes up to see the lighthouse.  The town was pretty cool, in that it was right by the ocean.  We weren’t here long, but we liked what we saw!

Thingvellir

This is one of Iceland’s national parks, and it was very beautiful.  We did a few short walks.  It costs $10 to park, and they are serious about this.  We got out of the car, went to pay for parking and by the time we got back to put our parking pass on the door someone was leaving us a ticket.  In less than 5 minutes, someone is out there making sure you’ve paid.  This park reminded me a little of Jasper in Alberta, Canada.  So if you’ve been there, you might find this a little similar!

Kerid Crater

This costs about $5 a person to visit, which is really fine considering most other places are free!  We’ve seen a crater like this in Ecuador and I’ve always been fascinated by these things.  This used to be a volcano, and now it’s just a lake!

Driving: The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle has so many beautiful sites.  I loved the little houses/sheds/barns that were built into the rock.  I thought that was the coolest thing!  It was like Hobbitton.  There were also so many baby sheep and it was the greatest thing.  There were a lot of horses, but I didn’t take a picture of a horse because I felt like they were being harassed by tourists.  Every time I saw a horse, someone was taking a selfie with it.  I just couldn’t get myself to photograph the poor guys.  They’re like Iceland’s celebrities, which would make the tourists like the paparazzi.  So, in protest, I don’t have a photograph of a horse.  But, I did take pictures of the landscapes and the baby sheep.

So, that’s the highlights of our trip to Iceland.  We felt that 5 days was more than enough to enjoy the place and we even found a few moments of solace, despite the thousands of tourists around!  Have you ever been to Iceland?  Are you planning to go?

All I wanted was to see one sunset during golden hour for the 21 hours of light. We saw one, and it was incredible.

 

Nina Thomas

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3 comments

  • Abby Kamagate June 25, 2018 on 11:18 AM Reply

    Nina – These photos are glorious! You all look like newlyweds on your honeymoon. Gljúfrabúi & Kerid Crater look bone-chilling beautiful.

    • Nina Thomas Abby Kamagate June 25, 2018 on 11:26 AM Reply

      Thank you, you’re so sweet. Everything looked like a stock photo!

  • The truth about Iceland | Traveling with Nina July 2, 2018 on 7:03 AM Reply

    […] was a beautiful place to visit.  If you don’t believe me, check out my post from last week where I sung the praises of it’s beauty!  This week, I’m going to myth-bust the […]