Frugal Iceland Vacation |For what it's worth

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Frugal Iceland Vacation

Iceland was on my bucket list and now I can happily tell you about my  Icelandic adventure. My daughter and I traveled together to spend four days packed with Icelandic winter activities.  I’m sharing our travel plan, activity schedule, costs, and photos.  I can’t wait to share how I saw Iceland for under $2,000 with you!

Iceland church view

My daughter is a travel lover.  She travels everywhere and is very good at it.  I on the other hand have had a secret fear of traveling abroad most of my life but I really desired to overcome that fear and see some amazing places.  Mission accomplished with this trip.  In a conversation with my daughter about my fears she asked me if I could go anywhere in the world where would I go.  With no hesitation I told her Iceland.  That was only a few months ago. 

About mid October she called and asked how much money I had in my travel budget.  I responded with “how much do I need?”  That made her laugh before she asked how long I needed to prepare for a trip to Iceland.  My heartrate jumped and I quickly responded with, “I can be at the airport in 3 hours!”  She burst into laugher and gave me a couple of dates that were two weeks away.  While we talked she booked a trip on line at a terrific rate.

Akranes Iceland lighthouse on volcanic beach

The next week I was ablaze with planning and preparations. The first thing I did was scour the web for information about Iceland.  Hours were spent viewing Instagram photos of other travelers and reading travel blogs. I noted the winter temperatures are not all that different from my location in Texas during winter which aided me in deciding what clothes to pack. *I’m grateful for the bloggers who suggested waterproof hiking boots-we hiked in rain, snow and hail.

As a habitual list maker I started a list of necessities that would all fit in the two carry on bags Delta Airlines allowed.  We traveled  two days by plane from Texas to New York with one layover both ways. There were four fun filled awe inspiring days spent in Iceland – though if I did it again I’d stay longer.

Our plane landed in Iceland where we caught a transport bus to pick up our reserved rental car.  By the time the sun began to peek at us we were on the road headed through a lunar landscape along the Atlantic coast. 

Our first destination was the beautiful Rekjanes light house perched high on a hill where we gawked at crashing waves against a spectacular cliff.  It was cold as a light rain fell on us and we admired numerous rainbows and sundogs.  Close by we walked to a roaring steam vent with some interesting folk stories about a lady named Gunnuhver.

Reykjanes lighthouse - Iceland

Our ATV tour was an exciting race through lava fields to a black beach where we hiked a short distance to some ancient Viking ruins.  I can’t even imagine several people living in one of those tiny stone dwellings during a cold Icelandic winter. 

view through ancient Viking ruins

We caught some amazing views from the top of a volcanic hill before our two hour tour ended.

ATV tour from Grindavik Iceland volcanic mountains and fields

We ate a nice seafood meal  ($$$) at Blue Lagoon before soaking away our weary travel bodies in an unbelievable milky blue pool of hot water.  They say it has medicinal properties, and I believe it.  Like most of the other patrons we indulged in slathering on Silica and algae mud masks right in the pool.  Who knew mudding could be so much fun! It was a perfect ending to our first day before lights out in our hotel outside Rekjavik.  

relaxing in Blue Lagoon hot pools Grandivik Iceland

Bright and early (and by that I mean about 8:00 AM Iceland time) we ate a hearty breakfast provided by our hotel.  We were anxious to see more of this beautiful country.  I am in awe of the cleanliness.  No billboards cluttered out view and I saw no litter anywhere.  The roads were in perfect condition.  Because signage is minimal we relied on our guidebooks and Garmin mapping system a great deal.

Thingvellir Iceland National Park

Thingvellir Park is an amazing panoramic view of moss covered lava fields, streams of glistening clean water, pillars of steam clouds rising from hot springs, dark volcanic mountains and snowy mountains.  The significance of this park is the rock where Viking Clans gathered annually for governing business.  But I enjoyed walking between the continents there and it is free.

Our next destination took us through a very long tunnel through lava rock to tour Akranes Lighthouse.  We climbed up narrow steep flights of stairs for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean and the charming town of Akranes.  The Light keeper told us how to maneuver our way to a shipyard close by where we spent a lot of time taking lots of photos of old retired ships.  Another great free afternoon.

Akranes lighthouses Iceland

Ship graveyard in Akranes Iceland

We located a grocery market where we purchased some snacks and checked out a BBQ sheep’s face in the deli.  Nope, didn’t buy or eat it, but it was interesting!  After driving the few streets around this small village we ate one of our expensive meals in the only restaurant we found.  That is where we experienced Mink Whale.  Not my favorite flavor of meat, lol.  It is very gamey tasting and was similar to venison or caribou.  Not at all what I expected whale to be like.  However the Salmon was fantastic!

Mink Whale dinner

I wish I’d read about the interactive Viking museum we happened upon there.  It was already after 5:00 PM when we saw it, I’m sure it would have been even more of a highlight of the day with a tour guide.  There was a boat building exhibit, primitive house structures and more.

The third morning of our stay I stopped by the hotel concierge to ask for a map of the Golden Circle and Ring Road.  The clerk advised me to alter our days plan because a fierce storm was expected.  We decided to head out anyway as she said the worst of the storm was expected later in the day.  We learned quickly that her advice was sound and turned back to Rekjavik before getting many miles out of town.  Even though the winds were gusty and cold with some rain and snow we made a discovery voyage around the capital city.  Along the harbor road we saw lots of touristy things worth a day in town. 

Rekjavik Iceland Viking ship sculpter

We decided on a whale exhibit museum that was very well done and reasonably priced.  After a couple of hours we found a quaint cafĂ© with views of ships and boats in the harbor taking a beating from the winds and rain.  The fish we ordered was fresh and absolutely delicious.  The best part - it was the last day of a summer concert season so we were entertained by a local couple called Bell Stop.  They were so good and yet another free event!

whale museum Iceland

Bellstop music duo

The storm ebbed about midnight which put us back on track for our last day of driving.  Because it was our last day we pushed ourselves pretty hard and put some miles on the rent car.  We took the Ring Road route South to Vik.  All the beautiful sights are free with good bathroom facilities and plenty of friendly Icelanders. We were concerned about driving back in the dark with the weather, but Iceland road keepers were amazing and it was quite manageable. 

Seljalandsfoss waterfall Iceland

stone barn with Icelandic sheep

Eyjafjallajokull Glacier Iceland

Windy Black Beach at Vik Iceland

Packing For My Winter Iceland Vacation

  • Warm winter coat
  • Cold weather gloves
  • Warm waterproof boots
  • Comfy shoes to wear on plane
  • Thermal pants/shirts
  • Warm socks
  • Jeans
  • Long sleeve cotton shirts
  • One sweater which I wore on the plane
  • camera with extra batteries
  • energy bars for snacking
  • cash
  • toiletries
I packed frugally and used everything I took. 

I had planned to purchase a wool sweater made locally but didn’t find one I felt was worth the price for me. I did purchase some local wool at a little village craft store that I’ve already crocheted into ear warmers and scarves.  We actually spent very little time shopping because there is so much to see. 

Other than the air fare,hotel  and rent car our largest expenses were an ATV tour, Blue Lagoon Spa, and one nice meal each day ($40-100 each).

Iceland rent car

We rented a car which saved a lot over taking guided tours.  *Something good to know is they drive on the right side of the road like we do in the USA.

The hotel was very nice about printing a map of the Golden Circle and Ring Road for self touring.  They also provided us with a free map of Iceland but we relied a great deal on the Garmin mapping device we added to our car rental. The parks and sight seeing were free.  If we stayed longer we may have taken another tour or two which would add about $100+ each person per tour.  I read on numerous blogs that food was very expensive but I found it wasn’t that much different than eating out in the USA.  Fine dining is costly but we saw chain fast food places we were familiar with.  We took energy bars and grabbed a few snacks at gas stations and market during our days out.  *Gas is more expensive than we were used to in Texas but our rental was economical and we only filled up once plus a top off when we turned the car back in.

Iceland Trip Expenses-Frugal Spender

  • $1400 through Groupon for Airfare/hotel/rent car with mapping device/ATV tour/Blue Lagoon Spa were all booked and prepaid before we went.
  • $300-350 eating out (our hotel provided a great breakfast free)
  • $150 post cards/postage (international postage is high), whale museum entry fee, plus a precious few souvenirs.
This trip was very therapeutic for me personally.  I am in love with Iceland and wish we had more days to spend there.  If you have questions about our trip experiences, leave a comment or email me. 

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