Ask GoMad Nomad: Travel to Iceland

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

Landmannalaugar iceland travel mountains
Landmannalaugar Iceland

Dear Bill,

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.

How much

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.

How long

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

About The Author

8 thoughts on “Ask GoMad Nomad: Travel to Iceland”

  1. I went to Iceland a while back, but only on a day trip that lasted a few hours (as a part of a long layover). I rented a car and drove over to the Blue Lagoon. It was little pricey, but totally worth it. I felt like I was in another world!

    I highly recommend it no matter how much time you have. I do think that a week would be amazing!

  2. Winter is definitely a good time to go; it’s almost like having the country to yourself sometimes. Icelandair also has some great package deals from New York (for Bill) and it can really help you save on flights and accommodation while in Iceland.

  3. Here’s information on budgeting for a trip to Iceland

    but keep in mind that this can vary a lot depending on your preferences, how long you go, how much you pay for a flight, and when you go.

    You can definitely do a lower budget trip, and you can see quite a bit of the country in about a week. If you go in off season (even in April or September) get a decent deal on a flight from New York, mix budget eating with a few splurges, rent an automatic, and do a few tours, you can get by on about $3500-$4000 for a week or so.

    You can stay just around Reykjavik and still see and do a lot (check here for itinerary suggestions or drive around the island. I highly recommend staying a few nights in Husavik – you can drive from Reykjavik the day you arrive, spend a few days exploring the north and going whale watching, and the spent the rest of your time exploring Reykjavik and taking day trips from there. You can visit glaciers, see the Golden Circle, go horseback riding, go snorkeling (highly recommended) and visit the Blue Lagoon.

  4. Iceland is spectacular because it is so stark and the contrasting colours are incredible. We spent 2 weeks there and travelled every muddy road – quite a feat as you need to wash your rental car at every petrol station you fill up – excellent hosing down facilities!!
    Very expensive to eat out and not all accom had cooking facilities. But if you find a raw fish shop and can cook your own it’s fantastic. We pre-arranged accom trying to keep to out of way places – very good choice – it took some time to arrange as am sure they dont all have email.

    Winter might make it very hard to drive all over the island and when you watch the over-high 4WD vehicles the locals drive it tells you something. It was cold in summer where one reaches for a down jacket before getting out of car.

    I found the map a giggle, thinking we were going to go to a village, but every house has a name on the map.

    Blue Lagoon is definitely a great way to finish a holiday on such an amazingly different and contrasting part of the world. Would I go back, no – have seen it all and it’s cold = but very pleased to have been there.

    Happy to answer any queries.

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