How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget

How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget
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Iceland has much to offer, from a pristine, rugged environment outside the capital city of Reykjavik to the quaint rural homes and businesses.
How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget
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How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget
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How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget
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How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget
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How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget
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Updated 06 April 2017

How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget

How to do Europe’s hippest travel destination on a budget

Iceland is a destination on almost everyone’s bucket list. The only problem is it is so darn expensive. For example, it will set you back almost $20 (2,260 krona) for a cup of coffee and a bowl of soup in central Reykjavik — and that’s on a combo offer.
Meanwhile, dinner for two with drinks starts at around $125 (11,315 krona), and we haven’t even begun talking about the cost of tours to do the Golden Circle or chase the Northern Lights.
So what to do? Well, you could follow these eight cool tips on how to tackle Iceland on a budget and guarantee that whatever else happens, you won’t have a financial meltdown in Europe’s hippest travel destination.

Make it a stopover
Iceland is on the flight path to several major US cities from Europe, so as the Yanks would say (and there is a lot of them out there) get “more bang for your buck” and buy a long haul flight to America via Iceland. This makes even more sense given you need no more than two days to do the key Icelandic highlights.

Hire your own car
It will cost around $40 a day to hire a small vehicle and approximately $50 for enough petrol to do the Golden Circle and chase the Northern Lights. That is a fraction of the eye-watering prices you have to pay per person to go on any of the official tours. Of course driving in Iceland at certain times of the year is no mean feat, so only confident drivers need apply, but this option will literally save you hundreds of dollars, and you get to see all the key sites at your own pace. Even if you are a lone traveler it makes sense to carpool for a day or two and split the cost.

Self-drive the Golden Circle
“So how much did you pay to come on this Golden Circle tour?”
“Sorry, how much!?!”
Try not to respond like this, nor look too smug when you hear folk have paid upwards of $190 per person to be driven around the major tourist sites, when you have been doing exactly the same thing in your own time, for a fraction of the cost because you paid heed to point two on our list. Neither the Golden Falls nor Geyser have an entry fee — though parking fees are being planned — so all you do is drive up, park your hired car and wander in. Oh, and wipe that smug look off your face!

Chase the Northern Lights yourself
You will have a similar reaction when told the cost to be driven out by the coach load at night looking for the Northern Lights. What the tour operators don’t tell anyone is that most of them are just following a freely accessed online weather website called (, which shows scientific predictions of what parts of the country are likely to be overcast and when. This of course means you are free to jump into that hired car again and head to a suitable spot where you can stay as long as you like, with — hopefully — no one else but those evasive lights for company.

Find alternatives to the Blue Lagoon
It gets all the headlines, and is the one in all the brochures, but the Blue Lagoon is certainly not the only place in Iceland where you can swim outdoors in thermal waters. In fact, if you prefer to go against the grain and seek out more interesting options for swimming in naturally warmed waters under the Icelandic sky, you are gonna save yourself a packet too. Entry to the Blue Lagoon will set you back a minimum of $60 assuming you booked in good time as tickets are sold out months in advance. However, a short drive out to somewhere far more remote and equally magical like the Laugarvatn Fontana on Laugarvatn Lake, which is fed by geo-thermal waters, allows you a swim in pools overlooking the lake for a mere $28.

Stay in accommodation outside of Reykjavik
Your car will also open up wonderful accommodation options at reasonable rates if you are willing to look beyond the capital city. By staying outside Reykjavik not only do you get cheaper rates — in some cases almost 50 percent less — but you are likely to find cooler, quirkier spots, like secluded lodges with their own thermal heated pools. Often these come with views looking out across Iceland’s famous volcanic landscape, framed by a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.

Take advantage of free entry to city sites

There aren’t many, but if you do your homework you can find a host of fascinating little nuggets in Reykjavik to visit for free, such as the Art Museum of Einar Jonsson and the Reykjavik Museum of Photography. In Iceland, that is priceless.

The most northerly mosques in the world?
Iceland has a tiny Muslim community of mainly recent migrants. In total there are three mosques in the country, all in Reykjavik. Two are appropriated buildings, while the main mosque and community hub is the purpose-built Islamic Foundation on Skogarhlid, off the busy Bustadavegur in east Reykjavik. This serene space of worship is definitely worth a visit. You will be warmly received by a caretaker who will ply you with mint tea and pastries as he tells you about the wonderful work Nordic Muslims are doing for the image of Islam in Iceland.
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