Iceland is a well-known destination due to its incredible landscapes and natural beauty, yet it is often overlooked because of its isolation in the North Atlantic Ocean and the high costs associated with visiting. Active volcanoes, lava fields, black sand beaches, full days of sunlight, renewable energy, glaciers and geysers are all aspects that make this island country stand out from the rest of mainland Europe. It also has a relatively temperate climate compared to other countries at the same latitude owing to its position along the Gulf Stream. Experiencing all these Icelandic wonders can come at a cost, but there are ways to keep those costs down.
Like most tourist destinations, Iceland is most visited during the summer months from June through August and with the surge of tourists comes the ever-familiar swell in prices. To stay within budget, visit Iceland during the off peak seasons of fall, winter and spring. Iceland is a completely different experience in the winter, which is mild for its northern location. Winter offers a chance to enjoy the snow-covered views of the country as well as the Northern Lights. The Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon, two of the most popular day trips from Reykjavik, are still able to be visited despite the weather. Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and horseback riding are also popular activities in the winter.
The most popular sites are cheaper during off-peak seasons, but when visiting in summer, there are still options to keep you within budget. Consider seeing alternative sights to the country's most popular and expensive spots. The Blue Lagoon is considered a tourist trap by some and if you can bring yourself to skip it, there are other options. At the heart of visiting the Blue Lagoon is the idea of enjoying Icelands geothermal pools of which there are many. In the northeast of the country there's the Myvatn Nature Baths. If staying closer to Reykjavik, check out the hot river in Hveragerði, which involves a bit of a hike, Seljavallalaug, a smaller but more secluded hot pool, or the Laugarvatn Fontana Steam Baths with outdoor baths and steam rooms next to Lake Laugarvatn along the Golden Circle route. In lieu of paying for a guided Golden Circle tour and seeing Gullfoss, one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, head south and stop at two less crowded and just as stunning waterfalls, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
Being an outdoor nature-focused destination, there is plenty to see in Iceland at no or very little cost. Many cities have community geothermal swimming pools at very reasonable prices. Don't forget to bring a towel to avoid an extra rental charge. In south Iceland you can visit black sand beaches and basalt columns near Vik. There's also plenty of bird watching including puffins at Dyrhólaey, a nature reserve and rock formation. Driving along the southern road youll have the opportunity to admire and photograph plenty of Icelandic horses, the only horse breed in Iceland and known for having two additional unique gaits than other breeds. Another option for spending a day outside of Reykjavik is to take a ferry to Videy Island, a great spot for an outdoor picnic and a chance to see Yoko Ono's Imagine Peace Tower, only lit up during the fall and on other special dates.
Youth hostels are a great way to save money when visiting Iceland. However, both hotel and hostel prices inflate during the summer so travelers with really tight budgets going during peak season should consider camping. There are plenty of campsites all around the country available at little or no cost. A step up from this is a sleeping-bag accommodation in which travelers with their own sleeping bag or linens can save money at guesthouses and other various accommodations. No matter the type of accommodation, always book ahead especially during the busy summer months.
Car rental is the ideal way to see Iceland as it provides the freedom of mobility to see the most on your own time. The best way to save on this cost is to rent a car from a company that rents out used cars that are still well maintained, in good condition and insured.
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Auston grew up in Phoenix before escaping to Chicago in 2008. After 4 years working as an engineer, he sold his belongings and embarked on a round-the-world trip. After traveling non-stop for a year, he finally settled in Spain with his husband where he now calls home. When he's not traveling or writing guides about events, festivals or the best LGBT destinations, he enjoys the long sunny days and nightlife of Madrid. Read Auston's blog at Two Bad Tourists, or follow him on Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.
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