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Iceland sights for those on a budget
A breif orientation to Iceland
Iceland is not one of the cheaper countries to visit within the EU, however, due to their economic crisis, the value of the Krona has fallen so significantly that Iceland has become far more affordable for tourists. There are many ways to visit Iceland while on a budget.
Iceland is a small country, with a population of only 320 000. There are some challenges however in getting around Iceland, as the roads to the interior are not necessarily paved, and may be quite narrow. The ring road which circles around the perimeter of the island, makes for easier driving, since it is wide and paved.
Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland, with a population of 120,000 and over 200,000 in the area. It is well known for it's nightlife on the weekends, which tends to begin at midnight, lasting well into the early hours of the morning - until 7 or 8am. This would make for an interesting experience during the days of the midnight sun.
The Golden Circle
Other than experiencing Reykjavík, the Golden Circle is very popular for tourists. There are many tour companies which offer a day trip to the locations in the Golden Circle. Prices of these tours range, as do the number of people on the tour, and the quality. I would suggest looking at Travelocity's reviews to make your choice.
The main destinations in the Golden Circle include:
The Gullfoss- The Golden Falls - a spectacular waterfall where the river Hvítá plunges down a double cascade to create what many people believe is the most beautiful waterfall in Iceland.
Geysir- A geothermal hot spot , which gave the namesake of all geysers but is no longer active. However luckily its neighbour Strokkur erupts every five minutes or so.
Þingvellir National Park - A beautiful park featuring a landscape of water-cut lava fields. It is also the site of Iceland's parliament from 930 AD.
A visit to Iceland
Other sites worth visiting
The Blue Lagoon is the most famous sight in Iceland. Likely its proximity and ease of access from the airport allows for it to be a perfect destination for those with a short stop over in Iceland. There are buses which pick people up from the airport, take them to the Blue Lagoon (which has luggage storage), and then returns them to the airport. What can make for a more refreshing way to break up a long flight then a visit to hot springs?
DIY Overnight trips
Landmannalaugar is a region in the interior of outstanding natural beauty reachable by bus (or 4x4) from Reykjavík. It is your destination if your looking for natural hot springs, some good hiking, and wonderful landscapes. Expect to share a hut with many other visitors (if you book early), or plan on camping next to the hut if it is already booked. You could also plan to take the Laugavegur hike, a 55km hiking trail well known to take you through the amazing natural landscape of Iceland, from hot springs to waterfalls.
The Southwestern regionis home to many wonderful sites as well. Taking the bus 112 from Reykjavík will take to past the sites of the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, then on to the Skógar area with the Seljalandsfoss waterfall and the folk museum Skógasafn, the village of Vík, and finishes at Skaftafell National Park,which is one of Iceland’s most popular hiking and mountain climbing regions with sights such as Svartifoss waterfall, deep valleys, tall mountains, lush Arctic flora and Iceland's highest mountain, Hvannadalshnúkur.
My favourite part of this bus, 112, is that it is not an expensive guided tour - it is a bus for transportation, but also happens to stop at the sights along the way. For more information on this bus route click here. There are also tour companies which operate day trip tours to this area.
Hints to help with your budget
Iceland is a very expensive country. However with the recent challenges their economy has faced has caused an extreme devaluation of their currency. The result of this devaluation allows for Iceland to be a far more affordable country for tourists.
Hotels in Reykjavík are expensive. There are two hostels in town, Reykjavík Backpackers and a HI Hostel, and one campsite. The campsite is your cheapest option, and it's located next to a large, warm pool which is frequented by the locals. Though with the ever changing climate of Iceland, camping may not be your most appealing choice. There are two cabins located at this campground however, which can be booked in advance. Whether or not you choose the campsite option, be sure to visit the warm pool next door - the best way to 'do as the locals do'.
There are many other hostels on Iceland outside of Reykjavík, many of which offer private rooms. Another very common accommodation type is called "Sleeping bag accommodation". Some hostels and even hotels offer such accommodation, which just means they'll offer you at least a mattress and a roof over your head, and, usually shared facilities. You just need to provide your own sleeping bag.
If you want to get the most out of your trip while staying on budget, bus travel may or may not be your cheapest option. It depends on the number of people traveling together, what sights you want to see, and how much time you have. You may find some tours are cheaper than the cost of bus tickets, and with time constraints, this may be the easiest way to see as much as possible. Prices of tours really do vary so look around.
If you are travelling in a group of three or more, you cheapest option may be to rent a car, as most of the sights you visit are free. Car rentals are not cheap, nor is petrol in Iceland, but it may be comparable to bus travel. However, if you intend to visit the interior, be sure to rent a 4x4, have experience driving in such conditions, and check which roads you are and aren't allowed on in your rental insurance.
At the time of writing this, Blue Lagoon entrance is 20 euros. I haven't found any discounts, however one way to save money on your visit to the Blue Lagoon is to visit the Blue Lagoon on the way to or from the airport with the airport bus. The Blue Lagoon is between Reykjavík and the airport, so you would save yourself some of the transportation costs to the Blue Lagoon, as well as leaving more time to spend elsewhere in Iceland.
Finally - make sure your remember to relax and enjoy Iceland! Plan ahead so you don't have to stress over your budget while you are on vacation.