Iceland is a magical country, with the most jaw dropping vistas and unique terrains that we have ever seen! There is really nothing else like it that we have explored in the world. In fact, there is so much beauty that you have to force yourself not to pull over every two minutes for a majestic waterfall (which there are hundreds along the road) or a view point over looking the ocean from the cliffs. This country is beautiful, really beautiful and for the most part it’s raw, and very easy to explore. We recommend getting here before the fences go up and you can only view things from a distance. But we wouldn’t do you, justice if we didn’t tell you that there is a bit of a dark side to how they treat tourists in this country.
Iceland won the World Lottery for a beautiful and unique land, and the locals know it!! The reality of this country in regards to tourism is, that they gouge tourists with obnoxious prices for everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. This is easily the most expensive country that we have visited out of the 30 we have been to so far and that includes Switzerland. Sadly the prices are extremely inflated and not just because it’s expensive to get things there, but simply because you are a tourist. The locals know there is there is a high demand, and once you are there you are at their mercy, and it appears there is very little (we were told that “Icelanders are greedy”, by other Icelanders).
During peak season (which is when we went and when you should go because that’s when the weather is the best) you can expect to spend $600-$700 per day, per couple, if you are very conservative with you spending. $250 per day for an economy car (with insurance which they sell very forcefully), $50-$70 per day for gas, at least $200 per night for a very cheap hotel/room in a house (shared bathroom), and on average $60 per couple for a very basic meal (like a hamburger with drink) the prices on food go up very sharply from there and if like most people you eat a few times a day that easily translates to $150+ per day. The prices above are not exaggerated, they also don’t include any excursions you might want to do like whale watching or visiting the Blue Lagoon (both of which we recommend).
We spent 10 days in Iceland and by the end of it we were really tired of how obnoxiously priced things are, how poor the service is, and the bad value you get for what you purchase. All of that aside, we will come back to Iceland to visit for sure because it is beautiful and unlike any other place we have ever been to!
Back to what we loved! (Iceland’s Natural Beauty)
We went around the entire country including the Westfjords, these are our favorite, must visit places!
This is the capital and the largest city in Iceland. Reykjavik is an awesome city and felt like Capitol Hill in Seattle. It’s super hipster with lots of unique shops and fun cafes. The restaurants here are great even if they are expensive. We loved exploring and wandering this town, day and night!
Where to stay Reykjavik:
This is really tough because hotels in town will run you $400-$900 per night or more. We found some really cool Aparthotels that were a good value right in the center of town that were in the $200 range.
-Our favorite was Apartment K
1) The “Golden Circle”
Everyone talks about it and it’s in all the travel books for a reason. Sure it’s a little crowded but it is a must visit! In fact we spent two days out here exploring this stretch of road all of its natural wonders
The Icelandic Horses
These beautiful beasts are overly hairy with big bushy manes and are extremely friendly. We were able to pick some clovers to feed them and they were friendly enough to pet.
Iceland’s river canyon
This incredible phenomenon is right at the entrance to the “Golden Circle” and is worth stopping for.
This is a massive and beautiful waterfall that is right off of the road. It’s easy to access which also makes it a pretty big tourist attraction.
This is the geysir after which all other geysers are named! Yep, this is the grand daddy of them all. Be sure to stop and check it out. It erupts every 5-10 min or so.
The “Cave People”
No one lives in these homes now, there were inhabited as little as 30 years ago by families. Its not a huge attraction but it’s pretty interesting. There is also a little cafe here and some goats, so it makes for a fun little pit stop.
Laugarvatn Fontana Baths Iceland
This is a fun natural hot springs location connected to a lake. Unlike the Blue Lagoon, there are natural steam saunas here and freezing cold lake to dip into after you have warmed up a bit. We really enjoyed our visit here.
Next 10 stops are on Ring Road
This is a breathtaking waterfall which you are able to take a short hike up to see it from above or from down below. People generally don’t get as close as we did simply because you leave drenched if you do. Needless to say we had to strip down to our delicates after we left and put on some new clothes.
3) Southern Region
The moss on these rocks is about 12″ deep and they are pretty creepy to walk on. It wasn’t until after the fact that I discovered that I am not supposed to walk on them.
This volcano erupted in 2010 but thankfully the farms around it were evacuated and no one got hurt. Beautiful area of farmland and mountains
There are entire areas of Iceland covered in this terrain.
After driving 150 miles without any gas stations or even a road-sign, this little fishing town was a welcome sight! There is one main cafe at the port and that is where we went! It is a great place to have a homemade breakfast with a view!
4) Glacier Lagoon
Being the first time I have ever seen an iceberg, this was an incredible experience. You can hear the thunderous crashing of glaciers breaking in the distance while in front of you the icebergs float around like cubes in a giant bowl. We spent hours here.
Just the other side of the road from the Glacier Lagoon is the Diamond Beach! It’s also beautiful and has a shore littered with “diamonds”.
5) Black Sand Beach
Just like the name suggests this is a beach covered in black shimmering sand. You can also spot puffins flying into their nests . This is a beautiful black cave here too.
These are boiling sulfur pits that are an extreme terrain for sure. There are very small boundaries around them so you are able to get close and personal with this experience. It feels out of this world. They say this is similar to the surface of Mars! Must visit!
7) Port of Husavik
This is a fun little fishing town with great fish n’ chips stall right in the port. We did a whale watching tour here and saw lots of whales and and even some dolphins! One suggestion we have is that you do a “rib boat” tour and not get on the big boats. The rib boats get a lot closer to the action.
Another one of Iceland’s amazing waterfalls that is just off the side of the road. This is a water fall you can walk behind, its pretty cool!
This is a behemoth of a waterfall, and the most powerful in all of Europe! This is a must visit and I would recommend going to the far side of the falls, the side that isn’t fully developed for tourism. You really do feel the rumble and power of the falls, it’s surreal.
10) Blue Lagoon
Last but not least, the Blue Lagoon! Yes, it’s a natural hot spring and yes, its touristy but yes, you should pay up and visit it! It’s a really cool experience, with face masks and hanging out in one of the largest natural hot-springs on earth. The staff is friendly and they limit the amount of people that can come in per hour, so book in advance (weeks in advance).
11) The Westfjords
Okay, everything about the WestFjords is beautiful and scenic. But boy are they far from civilization. You really have to plan well when heading out here, and since the gas stations are very few and far in-between, we recommend filling up completely whenever you spot one. There is a ton to see in the Westfjords so be sure to allocate at least a few days to explore it!
Natural Hot Springs (Hot Pots)
These are off the freeway and are designated with a little man sitting in hot water sign. It was a lot of fun to jump in and unwind after a long drive. The locals frequent them.
You will see these houses all over the hills, built into the hillside. The roofs of the houses are covered in grass/turf. Liana thought they were super cute so we would stop to check them out.
Forever Sunsets of Breioavik
The sun doesn’t every really set during the peak of summer so at midnight you get this perfect golden glow over the ocean. Be sure to stay up real late, its an experience you will never forget. This is a magical little town that is owned by one couple. They have a little hotel here and a camp sight with an incredible ocean view (Hotel Breidavik). Yes, it’s a bit overpriced and the rooms are shabby at best but we would come back to visit just for the sunset.
This is a beautiful beach and worth the visit if you are in the Westfjords. The beach will either be the golden color like the picture below or a red color. If you are lucky you will also see some puffins flying in to roost.
Conclusion of the matter:
The conclusion of the matter is simple. Visit Iceland, visit it soon. Before it changes, before the fences are put up and all the parks are paid. Visit it before everything is over commercialized and ruined. Drive the windy roads, smell the fresh air, experience the beautiful vistas for meet the friendly sheep on the sides of the roads. We want to go back to visit it soon! We hope to see you there!
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