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How to travel across the Iceland in 7 days and not to ruin your bank account

You’ll love it and hate it at the same time. You’ll experience all kinds of weather, sometimes in just a few hours. You’ll experience hundreds of waterfalls, lunar landscapes, black volcanic beaches, endless green hills and absolutely incredible scenery that changes with every kilometer. In short, Iceland is, an experience of a lifetime and you will surely NEVER regret visiting it!

From where? With whom? When? Tips from us on flights to Iceland

  • Where from? London, (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton), Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, (Charles de Gaulle, Orly), Oslo, Stockholm, Dublin, Helsinki, Brussels.
  • With whom? Icelandair, WOW Air, easyJet, British Airways, Lufthansa, SAS, Norwegian Air Shuttle, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Air France, Finnair, Wizz Air
  • When? Feel free to plan a great trip to Iceland at any time of the year. Summer (June-September) is considered the high season, you can get a lot things done in a short time, because the sun hardly ever sets here. On the other hand, from autumn to spring, when the darkness comes more quickly, you will be lucky to watch the Northern Lights. If you’re adventurous person, don’t hesitate to come in winter too, you’ll have an unique experience for sure.
  • What’s included? Return flight, all fees, hand luggage (low-cost airlines) and checked-in luggage.

Cheap flights to Iceland

Accommodation in Iceland: what is the cheapest way to stay in?

Although Iceland is well known for not being one of the cheapest destinations, with Pelican, you’ll be able to find affordable accommodation even in this destination. For example, you can stay in the popular northern region of the Westfjords, in the southern region of Patreksfjordur or in the capital Reykjavík, where it will be a bit more expensive.

You can stay in Iceland at great prices. Check prices and book a hotel via Pelikan. Check out this handy map for accommodation tips:

Which documents are required to enter the Iceland?

All entry requirements were cancelled on 25th of February 2022. You only need ID card or passport.

island kone

This is how it all began

When you’re looking at ticket prices every day, browsing hundreds of pictures of Iceland on Instagram and dreaming about it, you need to take action. I made the right decision at the right time and bought a great ticket from Icelandair through Pelican. Stockholm – Reykjavik – New York – Stockholm ticket for 289 euros. I absolutely didn’t mind that the ticket only starts in Sweden. You can arrange the trip there for a couple of dozen euros from Budapest or Vienna.

And when you finally buy your ticket, all the excitement is doubled. My girlfriend and I immediately started planning the whole trip. We wanted to see as much of the countryside as possible, but we also had a clear plan – not to spend a lot of money. And we managed to do that, I think.

Our plan was to drive all the way around the island via so-called Obchvat and maybe a little more. We comfortably completed it in 7 days. I originally wanted to title this article: “How to travel across the Iceland in the cheapest way”, but unfortunately, the reality is that the living in Iceland is not that cheap. But if you follow certain rules, it might not cost you much at all. That’s why I’ve decided to drop some useful tips for all those who are planning to come here.

Car rental in Iceland

We started our journey in Keflavik airport, where one of the SADcars car rental staff was waiting for us as soon as we arrived. SADcars have a fleet of cars near the airport and they transport all customers from the airport and back for free. Upon arrival at the SADcars premises, we filled out all the necessary paperwork – you need a valid driver’s license and a credit card to rent. A huge advantage compared to other car rental companies is, that at SADcars you don’t need to pay a deposit for renting a car. This means they won’t hold 1000-2000 euro on your card, so any damage on the car is dealt with after you return it. You only pay for the rental car itself, which is in this case MUCH less than elsewhere.

We booked an M-class car about a week in advance and took advantage of a promotion – when you rent for 7 days, you automatically get 1 day free. M-Class means the car is 4×4, manual transmission and is a larger off-road car. The biggest advantage is that you can drive it on all types of roads in Iceland. From classic tarmac road to the most challenging gravel roads and flooded paths you’ll encounter when crossing the inland of the island.

We got a Suzuki Grand Vitara, which is an excellent off-road car, with only slightly higher fuel consumption. We paid about 400 euros for the rental + ordered basic insurance, which is not compulsory but we recommend it, so the total price was 480 euros. Make an proper check when you pick the car up, focus on taking the photos of the doors and the front site, that’s where the gravel usually scratches the most. If you are only going to drive in the south of the island in the summer season, you can get there with a smaller car and you don’t need 4×4 drive, but if you want to drive across the whole island, I fully recommend you to rent a 4×4.

Shops in Iceland – How to buy cheap

You only have 2 options in Iceland. You will eat in restaurants and spend tens to hundreds of euros per day on food, or you can save money and cook your own meals. We chose the second option. We brought a handy cooker from Slovakia and bought a gas bomb at the gas station in Rejkjavik. It’s very simple, anyone can use it and it costs just a few euros.

So right after we took over our car, we needed to stop by the grocery and buy a food for a few days. You can spend the most on food, but you can also save the most. In Iceland, this is doubly sure. The best place for cheap shopping is undoubtedly the BÓNUS chain. The prices here are about the same as in Slovakia. If you want to have some alcohol, prepare a good chunk of money, for example the price for a small beer starts from 10 euros.

First day – Golden Circle

If you plan to visit Iceland, you probably won’t miss the Golden Circle, or the three attractions that 90% of tourists who visit this magical island visit. Thanks to Icelandair’s well-set departure times, we arrived in Iceland at 9:00 in the morning. It meant we had a full day ahead of us, managing to arrange car hire, shopping and set off on our first adventure.

The first stop was Þingvellir National Park. This is where the oldest parliament in Europe was once established and also a unique place where the tectonic plates of North America and Europe rub against each other.

Useful info: There’s a 750 ISK (Icelandic króna) parking fee for parking in the national park, which is about €5.50, but if you arrive in the evening, parking is free.

We continued our journey to Iceland’s most famous geyser, also known as Strokkur. Parking here is free and right in front of the entrance. I still remember the pervasive smell of sulphur, the hissing and steam from the fissures. And, of course, the huge geyser that spews water from the shaft every 5 minutes.

Recommendation: don’t go off the tourist trails – it’s dangerous and ultimately disrespectful to the locals.

Next stop: Gulfoss Falls. It’s only a short walk from Strokkur and it’s the last piece of the the Golden Circle. Parking is free and the views are breathtaking. Gulfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. It is located on the Hvítá River, which flows through a 2 kilometres long canyon and ends its journey on the waterfall with a double cascade, where the flow of the river gradually drops from 10 and 20 metres. If you’re lucky with the weather and the sun comes out, you’ll see an incredible rainbow. We weren’t so lucky, but even during the twilight this waterfall looks absolutely spectacular.

Kerið. That’s the name of our fourth stop. No worries, there is a lot to see in Iceland in one day, so there is no need to hurry too much, there is plenty of time in summer, because the sun hardly sets at all. But back to Kerið crater. An interesting place indeed. It is a huge volcanic crater in the middle of nowhere and about 3000 years old. You pay 400 ISK (3€) to park here and you can run up to the highest point in a few minutes.

On the first day we travelled about 240 kilometres by car and our last stop was in the town Hveragerði, where we booked our stay via Booking.com. 1 night for two people in Penzión Bláskógar costs 58 euros, which is a great price for Iceland, trust me. The way how most of the apartments and guesthouses in Iceland work is, that you don’t even come in contact with the owner or reception. You simply get the access codes in the mail and that’s it. They take the money for the accommodation off your card, usually after your stay.

Second day – swimming, waterfalls, black beach

When we planned our trip to Iceland, we agreed to stay alternately in a campsite and in apartments/hotels. We really appreciated the decision to sleep in an apartment our first night in Iceland and I definitely recommend it – you kinda find your bearings, recover from the trip in peace and you’re ready to move on. Our first stop led to the hot springs of Reykjadalur. You don’t need to pay for parking here, all you need is a swimsuit, towel and a bottle of water.

Useful info: Those hot springs seem to be just over the hill from the parking lot, but don’t get fooled. The hike takes 40 minutes over mountainous terrain. I recommend taking a warm and preferably waterproof jacket. After a short hike, you will suddenly arrive at a place where people are taking off their jackets and jumping into the creek. It is very hot to the touch, so be careful.

There are plenty of hot springs in Iceland and most of them are free. Whenever you get the chance, have your swimsuit and towel with you and run for a dip. It will warm you up nicely for whole day.

The second day will be marked by waterfalls, so you need to adjust your clothes accordingly. Wear as much waterproof stuff as it is possible and bring some spare clothes for any case. There was a quite longer journey from Hveragerði to the first stop (87 km). The first waterfall on the way to south is the magnificent Seljalandsfoss, which is famous for the fact that you can walk behind it.

However, I was much more fascinated by the waterfall hidden nearby – Gljufurarfoss. You can reach it through a cave entrance and need to step on stones in the river.

And now créme de la créme of hot springs – Seljavallalaug, Iceland’s oldest hot pool located right under the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Best of all, entry is free and there’s a small changing room right by the pool. Seljavallalaug is located in the mountains between the town of Selfoss and Skógafoss waterfall. I definitely recommend a visit to you. Still not too many people know about it.

We changed swimming for visiting another waterfall. We headed to waterfall Skógafoss. It can be seen directly from the main road and it is another massive waterfall that you definitely should not miss. Parking here is free and you can also camp here if you need to.

The next stop that also impressed us a lot, was Solheimasandur – the wreckage of a US Navy DC-3 plane that crashed here in 1973. It is still a mystery why this plane landed here, but interestingly, the entire crew survived. However, it cannot be said about the aircraft. Local farmers disassembled it completely and sold valuable pieces on the black market. Only the fuselage remains.

But the whole walk to this place is magical. As soon as you park in the free parking lot, you head towards the beach and for a few minutes you even think that you are very close to your destination, but again, don’t be fooled. The journey takes about an hour and it makes you feel like you’re walking somewhere on the Mars. It is nothing around there, just volcanic dust.

The last stop of the second day is the southernmost point of Iceland – the famous Pláž Čierneho piesku near the town of Vík. The whole south is fascinating, offers amazing views and is also home of beautiful and rare birds called puffins. The famous Black Sand Beach is a mystical place but with sad history. Many people have been killed in the huge and unpredictable waves of Vík beach, so take care and respect the warnings.

Vík was also the first place we camped in Iceland. We arrived in heavy rain and poor wind conditions, but this was balanced out by the extremely friendly and hospitable camp staff. We were able to prepare dinner indoors at the campsite, where we could dry our clothes and rest in peace until the storm passed.

We expected that sleeping in the car will bother someone, but in Iceland absolutely no one is complaining about this, unless you’re sleeping in a place where is it explicitly forbidden. The price per night for 1 car was 1500 ISK, that is 12 euros. If you want to take a shower, for example, it costs 200 ISK (2€), everything can be paid by card.

Third day – the most beautiful sunset

On the third day we had a huge journey ahead of us. We planned a trip to amazing canyon and two glaciers. As soon as we woke up, we packed up all our stuff and headed 70 kilometres east, where one of the most beautiful views in Iceland waited for us.

The 2 kilometres long and 100 metres deep Fjadrargljúfur canyon. Again I had the feeling that I had been to this place before. Anyway, the view was perfect.

The next stop on our third day was Svartifoss, which in my opinion was the most beautiful waterfall. Lava pushing up from the bowels of Iceland created the huge rock formations surrounding the waterfall. When you arrive here and see it on your own, you’ll understand that it really worth it. Just don’t walk too close, the rocks are constantly falling so they can harm you.

The following experience, I personally consider as the most beautiful moment of our week-long trip. We arrived in the Fjallsárlón area. You have a stunning view of a glacier here, whose shelves gradually head into the lake right in front of you.

But that was just the beginning. We realised that the sun had already started to set and we still needed to catch one more place – Jökulsárlón. When we arrived, all worries were gone, including the fact that we still had a very long way to go to our campsite in Höfn. We had that opportunity to see absolutely perfect sunset, which we were enjoying until the sun set completely. We were surrounded by twenty other enthusiasts and a few curious seals. Jökulsárlón is a place created by the melting of glaciers due to global warming – huge ice floes are melting here day by day and the water of lake is merging with the ocean.

Fourth day – night in the space capsule

On the fourth day, we knew that we should travel a tremendous amount of miles. However, we also knew that this night we will be sleeping in the beautiful fishing town of Akureyri in the north of Iceland. We found a cool accommodation in a space capsule (see photo below) that cost 69 euros per night for 2 people. We have about 460 kilometers to go.

Just after we left our campsite in the cute little town of Höfn, we started to lose signal on the radio and realized that this part of the island probably will not be anything commercial. We drove through some stunning fjords, where we couldn’t stop wondering. In fact, we didn’t see a single car for an hour but only thing we saw was one abandoned farm house with the lights on inside, so apparently this is how people live happy live in seclusion.

But a good recommendation that is useful all over Iceland: wherever you can, refuel your TANK ON FULL. A couple of times we saw people who had run out of petrol and depended on someone´s help.

Handy tip: Install the Sygic mobile app, download the Iceland map – we couldn’t get enough of it – it showed information about the nearest petrol stations and worked absolutely seamlessly even offline.

We found the N1 chain of petrol stations particularly good for refuelling and resupplying, they’re scattered all over the island and also offer great food at great prices (hotdogs, protein bars, etc…).

We traveled almost 350 kilometers to the most massive waterfall in Europe – Dettifoss. We drove through huge valleys, moonscapes and countryside. The landscape changed incredibly every 50 kilometres. We were very tired from the journey, but after getting off the car the huge euphoria just spread all over our body. You have never seen such a mass of water in your life.

Tip: Parking is free and it’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the parking lot to the falls. However, the path to the parking lot is full of gravel, so walk slower and slow down when you see an incoming car. Flying gravel is dangerous.

Journey from Dettifoss to Akureyri is full of attractions. The area is known for its enormous geothermal activity. It starts with the Hverarond springs, where you can smell the sulphur again and steam hisses from the ground in every corner. Orange-brown clay and bubbling mud all around.

It continues with the Krafla volcano, inside which there is a huge lake. The last activity was recorded in the 1980s, which is not that long ago! Icelanders have learned excellently how to use geothermal energy, that is why you’ll find several power plants in the area.

Along the way there are also the Grótagjá caves, that would be a shame to miss. After all, it will be familiar spot to all those who watch Game of Thrones. The cave has a hot spring, but unfortunately it is forbidden to bathe in it.

As soon as you go over the hill, you will see the huge lake Mývatn. Steam rises from the milky azure water and dozens of people rub the healing white mud in it. A natural spa? People come here to heal themselves in lakes, which belong to the geothermal power plant. The volcanic activity needs to be used on full, because the local water cures skin diseases.

Our last stop of the day is the beautiful Godafoss waterfall. The weather was not in our favor this time. But we were destined to see it in the twilight and in a mystical atmosphere. Either way, it impressed us as much as the previous waterfalls. Amazing place. It would be a sin to miss.

We spent most of the day traveling in the car, but it was perfectly fine. When we felt like relaxing, we simply pulled over at a rest stop, made some tea, ate some snacks and enjoyed the surrounding views. There’s always something to see in Iceland. But at that time we had no clue what could we expect after check in.

It started when we went over the hills and saw the ocean again. The town of Akureyri just revealed to us. On Icelandic standards, I can safely call it a big city. And not just any city. Suddenly we had the feeling that we were back in civilization and could indulge in all the conveniences of modern times. This accommodation, however, looks like something from the future:

Through Booking.com we came across a hostel called Hafnarstræti Hostel. Why is it so special? Free parking in the city centre, very nice and helpful staff and the coolest accommodation. As soon as you check in, you get an entry code from such an awesome space capsule. The price? 69 euros for 2 people for 1 night. The level of experience? The highest. Modern equipped rooms, clean showers and toilets and what I appreciated the most – after locking the capsule, it automatically starts filling with concentrated oxygen. The excellent mattress also put up the quality of a night’s sleep.

Day five – the best ideas are the spontaneous ones

We didn’t prepare any special program for today. We were thinking of going to see the Westfjords, which is the north-western part of Iceland, famous for its not very well maintained roads, breathtaking scenery, Arctic foxes and once again, difficult accessibility. In the end, we decided to head a little further down to Snæfellsness National Park and it was a decision that made our trip incredible.

On the way here we experienced one more cool thing. Or two. We stopped on a peninsula near the town of Hvammstangi, where you can see a formation nicknamed Hvítserkur but we called it Trident all the time. The path to it is a bit of a scramble, but it’s on a beautiful shoal where you can get only during low tide. Otherwise, you can see the rock from a spectacular vantage point.

Snæfellsness. Not many people know (and we didn’t really know either) that this is a national park that hides all the elements of Iceland. That means you’ll find volcanoes, craters, huge rock cliffs, a glacier, fjords, unique species of animals and birds, a black beach, and Iceland’s only bright beach.

Today we only managed to get to the Helissandur hotel. The joke is that we only got a PIN code from the hotel owner to open the door at the reception, and a code to open the room. If we hadn’t had breakfast in the morning, we would have never met the hotel staff. The price? 59 euros for 2 people per night.

Day 6 – The peninsula where you can find everything

We started the day with a delicious breakfast at the hotel, where we ate well and lot because we knew that we have a lot to do.

First stop was already mentioned bright beach. We met almost nobody on it and took a lot of photos. The whole area is dotted with awesome rock cliffs.

We visited the Saxhóll crater. There are metal steps leading to it and you can go directly into the crater, which has been inactive for hundreds of years.

Arnarstapi is another place which cannot be missed by anyone visiting this peninsula. The small fishing village offers great walks by the beach and view on the many exceptional rock formations.

The most famous place in the Snæfellsness National Park is undoubtedly Kirkjufell Mountain, which, in combination with the nearby waterfalls, looks breathtaking and you will certainly recognise it from the photos. If not from photographs, then from television, it appeared in the famous Game of Thrones, where it was given the name Arrowhead. Off screen, it’s a magical place, where you can see the Northern Lights and Iceland’s most photographed mountain.

Day 7 – Reykjavik kind of boring, but…

The last day we reserved for the capital of Iceland – the famous Reykjavik. My first thought was where to park the car for whole day, for free and safely. Please take the word safely with a grain of salt – Iceland is the safest country in the world. Theft is absolutely minimal here and even the cops don’t carry guns.

We parked the car in the old harbour, which is a great starting point for exploring the city. Parking here is free. From there we set off to explore Reykjavik, but we knew from the start that we wouldn’t be as enchanted by it as we were by Iceland’s scenery. Reykjavik is beautiful nordic city but you need just few hours to see it all. It’s extremely overpriced BUT you can find affordable spots.

Right off the bat, we tasted the best street burger in town for a few euros on the way from the parking lot to the center. You can’t miss the place and the food here is delicious. While you’re here, stop by, the burger bar is called Bullan and it’s the only round building around. I also recommend to try Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, where you can find the best hot dog in Reykjavik.

You definitely should ttry the local ice cream. We had it at a nice place in the city centre and prepared in the traditional Icelandic way.

I was probably most impressed by the concert hall, where you can also buy souvenirs and of course, by the huge church Hallgrímskirkja.

At the end we visited the Blue Lagoon. Although, we were thinking about to skip it because the entrance fee is extremely expensive but we saved a lot of money for accommodation and food, so we decided to book a great spa and it was undoubtedly the best way how to say “goodbye” to the Iceland.

One smart tip for everyone: book your entrance at least a few days in advance, you’ll save tens of euros. A classic entrance ticket costs around 80 euros per person, if you book online it might cost you less, like us, we paid half the price. It’s well worth it, Blue Lagoon is a truly perfect spot for ending your holiday in Iceland.

Useful tips for travelling to Iceland

If you want to see our route, I’ve uploaded it to Google Maps.

Map of our 7-day route

Cash in Iceland (and why you don’t need it)

Prior to our trip, we were talking about to bring some cash. You can pay by card absolutely everywhere. From public toilets, to abandoned gas stations, to souvenirs at the market. Iceland is a cashless country indeed.

Curiosities of Iceland

  • Summer is the best time to visit Europe’s second largest island, as Iceland lies in the polar days and nights. The sun does not set during this period.
  • Aurora borealis is visible from early September until March.
  • Iceland officially has no forest.
  • Iceland is the safest country in the world.
  • Among other things, the local population believes in Elves.
  • On average, a volcano erupts here every 4 years.
  • Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989.
  • The warmest period is July and August, when the temperature averages 11 °C, the coldest are the winter months, the average temperature is 0 °C.
  • Babies in Iceland are regularly left outside to nap.
  • The Icelandic language has remained unchanged since ancient Norwegian. This means that 1000 year old texts are still easy to read.
  • Reykjavik makes up 60% of Iceland’s population.
  • Iceland had the first democratically elected female Prime Minister, and she was also openly gay.
  • There is no McDonald’s in Iceland.
  • About 85% of their energy comes from renewable sources and over half from geothermal springs.
  • The national sport is dodgeball.
  • Iceland has no army or navy.
  • 1 in 10 Icelanders has played or plays in a band and 1 in 10 Icelanders have written a book in their lifetime.

Weather in Iceland

Iceland has a much milder climate than its name (Iceland) suggests. This is partly caused by the Gulf Stream, which flows along the west and south of Iceland, bringing heat from the Caribbean. This warmth also means that the mild Atlantic air mixes with the cold Arctic air coming from the north, causing sudden and frequent changes in the weather. There is therefore a lot of wind and changeable weather. Precipitation is also frequent. There is falling more rain in the southern part than in the north.

The weather in Reykjavík averages around 1-2°C in winter and about 12°C in summer. In winter, the temperature in Reykjavík can drop as low as -10°C and rise as high as 10°C. In summer it can drop as low as 7°C and rise to 25°C. Reykjavík is located in the south-western part of the country. As you travel further north, you will encounter increasingly different temperatures.

Transport in Iceland: rent a car

A great choice in Iceland is to rent a car. This way how you can easily discover all of Iceland’s beauties, and because it’s an island, this is the most convenient way to get around.

If you don’t have a car, other options are taxi, bus, walking or bicycle. Reykjavik has a decent and affordable bus system. Since Reykjavík is a relatively small city, taxis are an affordable option. Iceland’s taxis are also very nice and clean. Many hotels offer bike rentals making it a great option, especially when the weather is pleasant.. Reykjavik has a many appropriate bike paths.

Zdroj fotografií: Shutterstock, Dreamstime, Unsplash.com
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