Dear GoMad Nomad,
Have you ever been to Iceland, or would ever consider making the trip? My wife listened to the audiobook Frost on my Moustache: The Arctic Exploits of a Lord and a Loafer and ever since has been hooked! How much money do we need to save? How long would you recommend we take to get a good feel for the country, etc.?
-Bill in Pennsylvania
I have never been to Iceland, but from what I hear and read it is a fantastic place to travel—lots of really cool geologic features, hot springs, volcanoes, great scenery, hiking, ice-climbing, glacier hiking.
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Unfortunately, Iceland is notorious for being a very expensive place to visit. But since the stock market crash of 2008, prices have become a little more reasonable for travelers.
Iceland might be the place to do some camping, RVing, or try couchsurfing, hitchhiking, not drinking alcohol, and staying in hostels or sleeping bag accommodation in guest houses and farmhouses. Also, try self-contained cabins if you’re traveling in a group.
As far as an exact number for your budget, it all depends on your travel style. Lonely Planet suggests the bus riding/camping/self-catering budget traveler could scrape by on $25 US per day. Throw in some comforts like staying at an average hotel, eating out, and driving your own car, you could spend $215 per day. So that leaves a wide spectrum in between depending on your needs and your approach to travel.
As far as time, I wouldn’t go for less than two weeks. It’s a relatively small island, but it’s just more economical and greener to spend more time in a place you have flown to. If you don’t have the time to make a trip exclusively to Iceland, consider stopping on your way to Europe. I know Iceland Air allows free stopovers. Check out this article on How to Make the Most Out of Your Stopover in Iceland.
When to Go
Time of year is important. The high-season is June to August when the sun only sets briefly each night. During the March and September equinoxes, days and nights are about equal in length. If you go in December, it’s almost 20 hours of darkness.
Early or late winter, however, can be a surprisingly good time to visit. In late January, daylight lasts from about 10 am to 5 pm, and expenses can be 40% lower during this off-season. And although the snow-covered landscape can be beautiful at this time, not all the sites are accessible in the winter. Flights may be cheaper in the winter too.
Get a Guidebook
Iceland (Lonely Planet Country Guide) The Rough Guide to Iceland 4 (Rough Guides) Iceland (Bradt Travel Guide)
Photo credit: Michel Osmont