The Land of Fire and Ice is an adventure traveler’s wonderland. There is absolutely no shortage to the incredible tours you can take through the country, even just the ones that are simpler day trips beginning and ending in capital city Reykjavik. With accommodations and dining being so pricey, it would be easy for an Icelandic vacation to cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. While Iceland will probably never be a true budget destination, you can use careful planning to keep your costs reasonable.
Free Things to Do in Reykjavik
Reykjavik is full of excellent museums, such as the National Museum of Iceland, the Saga Museum, and the Settlement Exhibition, but each of these comes with a fairly steep admission. Fortunately, many of the city’s other main attractions are free. Downtown Reykjavik is small enough that conducting your own self-guided walking tour of famous Icelandic landmarks is an easy task. You might start your day at the Harpa Concert Hall. Paid guided tours are available, but there’s no charge for walking around on your own, admiring its colorful honeycomb-esque windowpanes. The Old Harbor is nearby, as well as quiet central parks like Austurvollur and Lake Tjölnin. Save the towering church of Hallgrimskirkja for the afternoon, when the light hits its façade better for photographs, and end your day with a seaside walk and a photo op at the skeletal Sun Voyager sculpture.
Where to Drink
The tax on alcohol is incredibly high in Iceland, so you’ll save loads of cash by not drinking during your visit. But if you can’t bear to miss out on Reykjavik’s famed djammið nightlife – and who can blame you – do as the locals do. Stock up on booze at the duty free store on your way through the airport, or head to a Vinbuðin liquor store upon arrival, and pre-game before going out. Keep your eyes peeled for happy hour specials. Konsull and Micro Bar both offer happy hours where you can get a beer in the $4-5 range.
Day Tours Around Iceland
The country surrounding Reykjavik is well worth exploring, so by saving money on dining and other attractions, you can ensure you have enough dough for a day trip or two. The Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon may be Iceland’s most famous attractions, but consider going off the beaten path for a better value. Snaefellsnes, the island’s western peninsula, is often called “Iceland in a nutshell.” Whether you rent a car and drive yourself, or join a group with one of Reykjavik’s many tour operators, you’ll see volcanoes, glaciers, charming farms and villages, black sand beaches, and plenty of wildlife, including seals, Icelandic horses, sheep, and Arctic terns. There’ll be no need to wonder why Jules Verne chose this corner of the country as his setting for Journey to the Center of the Earth.
If the Golden Circle is an absolute must see for you, consider a tour that combines it with a trip to a lesser visited hot spring such as the Secret Lagoon or the Fontana Baths, or choose a tour like Reykjavik Excursions’ Geysir, Gullfoss, and Ϸingvellir. It hits all the major sights, but with no “brand” name attached, costs far less than other options.
For more on how to save in Iceland, check out our guide to where to eat and stay.