By: Kelsea Ventures
Your best friend: “You wouldn’t believe how cheap the airfare is to Iceland! I just bought a ticket!”
Your other best friend: “You know, I’ve been thinking about taking a trip to discover myself, I’m thinking Iceland. After all they have mountains AND hot springs.”
Your parents: “With tickets what they are we’ll finally be able to afford that vacation we’ve always wanted-in Iceland!”.
Your barista: “Or are you going to Iceland? When are you going? It’s gorgeous in the Spring!”.
Everyone is an expert on Iceland.
Including me now.
Here’s the thing, I’ve wanted to go to Iceland since I was 18- far before Iceland started allowing people to visit without visas, or before Iceland Air and WOW air had marketing campaigns and $100 round-trip flights.
I’ve wanted to go to Iceland since I backpacked Europe for the first time and fell in love with discovering different cultures and experiences.
I wanted to go to Iceland a long time before it became a popular destination.
So, when I had a chance to go this year, I took it. I booked flights for myself, my sister and my friend and told them we were leaving in three weeks.
(Looking back I think the cheap last minute airline deals are a way to con you into booking before planning- good job Iceland tourism board!).
But, here’s the thing. Iceland actually let me down. It was a FANTASTIC trip. We had a ton of fun, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t necessarily go back, and if I could go back in time, Iceland would still be on my bucket list, but it would be pushed further down.
I’m sure you’ve heard it- Iceland is expensive, but let me reiterate this.
ICELAND IS FREAKIN’ EXPENSIVE!
It’s one of the most expensive destinations for tourists.
Yes, you may get a cheap flight, but the food, car rentals, taxis, hotels, and EVERYTHING else is expensive.
We spent over $1,500 a person ($5,000+ total) being there for 7 days.
That’s not us being bougie either.
We stayed in hostels, cooked our own food, and walked as much as possible to save on gas (we did rent a car).
Just a quick breakdown of what you should expect price wise.
Airplane: Cheap as bloody hell (except you’ll die of thirst unless you buy $5 water, plus no carry on-hope you can fit everything in a purse)
Hostels/Cheap Hotels: Around $100 a night
Food: Over $100/day per person
Note: We ate super, super cheap by stuffing our pockets with beef sticks and granola bars before getting on the plane… no joke my friend wore a huge winter jacket that ended up being 35 pounds with all the food stuffed in it. (we didn’t pay for the carry on or checked bags as they would have upped our plane ticket $100 each way).
Car Rental: Over $100 a day PLUS insurance (which you’ll want with the roads being how they are).
Excursions: Minimum of $150 (we only did the Blue Lagoon which was $150 per person- everything else was in shoulder season).
As you can see things start adding up quickly and there’s plenty of things we didn’t include in the total- like the price to drive 5 hours to the airport, parking at the airport, shuttles from the airport in Reykjavík into town ($50/person) etc…
When you start adding all of this up, it quickly turns Iceland into a not-so-affordable travel destination.
2. The Scenery And Things To Do
Don’t get me wrong, Iceland is beautiful… but it’s not as beautiful as I was expecting, based on the Iceland hype.
Yes, there are beautiful sections and parks, but as a whole it wasn’t in my top ten or even top fifty “scenic” places (the exception would be Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon which I would definitely put on my list).
While obviously scenery is a preference, I would describe the majority of what we drove through (we drove a large part of the island) as “desolate”… think hours of driving through flat black lava rock to occasionally get to something beautiful.
In addition to that, it’s a lot of driving around and there weren’t many opportunities for hiking and exploring on your own because the cool things are all dangerous.
Now, what I consider to be beautiful and what activities I’m looking for verses what you want out of a trip are two different things, but I definitely recommend looking through pictures of everything before you go to make sure that with the high cost of visiting Iceland the scenery meets your expectations.
After traveling to so many other places world-wide, I would definitely put Canada, Croatia, New Zealand, Australia, or Hungary, further up on my list than Iceland for both scenery and things to do. However, that might not be the case for you, and that’s totally fine!
Just be aware that with all the hype surrounding Iceland there is a chance you might enjoy visiting somewhere else better and be able to do so cheaper.
3. Other Minor Things
It’s expensive, mostly meat, and often very authentic which is hard for my *mostly* vegetarian pallet.
I’m not much of a drinker, but if you are, there are few places to pick up a drink (watch out for the grocery stores that sell “beer”- it’s nonalcoholic).
You Can’t Do A Lot Of Experiences Without An Excursion
For safety reasons, most of the “cool” things to do in Iceland require paying for an excursion. That’s fine and all, but definitely add that into your budget from the beginning. NO you cannot walk on a glacier or go in an ice cave without a guide! You can see parts of glaciers from afar.
While there are other things I could nitpick, I don’t want this post to be all negative. In fact, I plan on writing several Iceland oriented travel guides in the near future and reviews of the places we stayed etc.
But, I do think it’s important to know the cost of going to Iceland in comparison to other destinations and really look at what it is they have to offer.
Make a pros and cons list and check prices of some of the other destinations you want to travel to. You might be surprised that they end up being cheaper and there might be more to see and do for the price!
So, would I recommend Iceland?
Yes, but probably not before other places.
After going once would I go back?
Probably not. There are too many other places I’d rather go back to or see for the first time.
If I did it would be just a stop-over.
Hopefully this post didn’t come across as too negative or condescending. I was just surprised at the hype verses reality of my Iceland experience, and I wanted to write about it to hopefully help others who are considering Iceland as a destination.