Iceland is well known for being the land of ice and fire, and a short trip there will just confirm the impression.
On this post, we will try to share with you some tips about traveling there. Be aware that visiting Iceland is quite expensive and as low budget travelers, we will share a few tips we found out and some places to visit that will not cost you anything to go around!
- How to move around for cheap
Hitchhiking is fairly easy is Iceland, but can be quite difficult with the weather conditions. However it doesn’t give you much freedom to access lost locations.
- Rent a van
Probably one of the best and cheapest way to travel around Iceland. Companies like Kukucampers are offering some good deals (from 69 euros per days). We used this company and travelled in a Berlingo for 4 days for 89 euros per day for three of us. This saves you to look for accommodation. However, you have to spend the night in designated campsites (around 15 euros per head), to respect the law (we are mentioning what has to be done, up to you then).
This was particularly handy to spend the night in the van, even if space was tight, but we could avoid the -15 degrees outside (yes to your question, the van has a heater).
A liter of gasoline will cost you about 200kr per liter.
I know that sleeping in a van can be a bit uncomfortable and after a few days of exploring you might feel a bit smelly, but don’t be worry! You can access to any swimming pool around the country and they are used to traveller coming to take a shower and have a special rate for us (between 200 to 300 krone).
- Places to visit
As we have only done the south part of the country and spent only four days there, below are some of the most amazing places we have seen.
- Black Sand Beach (Reynisfjara)
Beautiful black send beach near to Vick with stones standing up as pillars (the same structures you will see and dream of in the Giants Causeway in Nothern Ireland and Fingals Caves in Staffa, Scotland).
In order to access there you have to take the Road 1 to Vick. About 10 miles before Wick, follow the road 215 on your right going to Reynisdalur. A little tip, if you arrive late there in the winter month, you can easily spend the night in the carpark by the restaurant and enjoy the sunrise by yourself before the tourist start to arrive the next morning.
- Hjörleifshöfði, the first vicking settlement in Iceland
This is one of the hidden gem we found in our road and actually a very nice hike. When you follow on the the road 1 from Vic, after 12km you will find a road on the right that goes along the mountain (you can’t miss it as this will be the only one you will find around the area that stand in the middle of the black landscape).
This place is named after Hjörleifur Hróðmarsson, who was the blood brother of the first vicking settler in Iceland in arounf 874 AD. I don’t want to spoil it but his brother was killed by his slaves that stole the boat. Hjörleifur found them hiding in the archipelago near Vic and killed them. He then settled in this very spot that you will discover.
From the car park that you will find on the left handsy about two kilometres from the main road, you can start hiking you way up that will bring you to the settlement. In the maintime, take advantage of the wonderful surrounding with the glaciers in the background and the kilometres of black lava around you. This walk will take you abut two hours and was certainly one of the highlights of our trip in Iceland.
- Jokulsarlon Lagoon and Diamond Beach
About 190 kilometres in the west of Wick, you will reach this wonderful place. Imagine a glacier at the very end of the lagoon with icebergs in the lagoon heading to the sea. You will find there a big community of seals and a black sand beach covered with icebergs.
Enjoy the walk around the lagoon banks and Diamond Beach as this is a wonderful place.
Be aware that this is a national park and that swimming is not allowed as currents are quite strong and there are icebergs around.
If you go there, please check for me if they put a no surfing sign 😊 Turns out that surfing is not illegal, but apparently became since our little trip there and our encounter with the authorities – unfortunately they declined my request to name the law after me…
- Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
We are all aware of the Blue Lagoon and other similar places, but if you wish to lose your shirt without losing all your savings, there are plenty of other natural hot spring river you can go for free, and one of them is Reykjadalur. Located between Rekjavick and Selfoss, you will have to park the car by the end of the road and hike for about 3.2 miles across a wonderful scenery of mountains and springs to set foot on the river.
Bring some beers with you and enjoy your time in the hot water while pulling your head around the surrounding ice to stay fresh! Simply a magical place to be!
- Skogafoss Waterfall
About 33 kilometres before Vik, you can find one of the most amazing waterfall. You can see it directly from the road and go and see it.
When you get there, just park the car and go explore this wonderful site. On the right handside of the waterfall, you will find some stairs that will bring you to the top and from there a path that will allow you to have a nice hike along the river and some others – small – waterfalls along the way.
6. Abandoned DC plane on the black beach.
One of the most curious thing to see in Iceland is this abandoned DC plane at Solheimasandur. Don’t you worry, no one has died and this is not a vestige of the WWII. In 1973, a DC plane ran out of fuel an crash on this beautiful black sand beach on the South coast. It can now offer you the opportunity to take some great pictures around the site surrounded by an amazing landscape and scenery!
Be aware that there is no sign on how to get there but the plane is located about 23 kilometers east of Vick. You can’t miss the car park on the sea side as it is generally quite full despite the two hours walk to get there. It not possible to get there by car anymore, but just start walking through the path and you will get there after a bit of effort.
- The Northern Lights
Iceland is probably one of the most popular places to go to try to spot the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the weather can be tricky sometimes and you won’t be able to see them. Below are a few tricks to follow to be able to enjoy this amazing experience.
- Get there in the winter months!
The northern lights happen from November to March (with a few exceptions), so plan your trip accordingly!
- Get away from the city.
Either in your van, or camping, try to get away from the city to increase your chances to find them. The further you get from any lights pollution, the better are your chances!
- Download Aurora Forecast on your phone!
We all have a smartphone and this is probably a great thing to have one in Iceland! Download this app and you will have the best chance to realise your dream!
This app allows you to follow the northern lights and to know when they will happen. Despite giving you an accurate forecast about the KP within the next hour (the higher the better), it will also give you the cloud coverage and another bunch of useful information that will allow you to see them!
Iceland is a very special place, and even if you have only a few days there, this can be a hell of a trip and you will see some amazing places around!
Those are only a few advices and tips I am able to provide you with based on a four days trip there, but feel free to get in touch if you want more info!
Travel the world on the cheap!