Iceland is gobsmackingly expensive. By far the most expensive place I’ve ever visited.
I knew this before I left but that didn’t lessen the shock once I was there and experienced it for myself.
When you’re travelling with Aussie pesos in your pocket, the prices seem astronomical: try $50 to $90 for a main course in a decent restaurant. Ouch. Or $40 for two pastries and two coffees for breakfast. Kaching!
The good news is, Iceland pays you back in spades. The country is so incredibly drop dead gorgeous, you’re rewarded every which way you turn. The stunning scenery is a mix of snow-capped mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, volcanic landscapes, black sand beaches, colourful, picturesque villages and steaming mud pots and geysers. There are so many photo opportunities.
The popular tourist trail focuses on southern Iceland, from the capital Reykjavik, around the Golden Circle (Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss), then along the main Ring Road (Route 1) and onto the town of Vik. At times I felt like I was ticking off my list one attraction after another, along with busloads and carloads of other travellers who were following the same trail.
It’s absolutely worth seeing all those places but make sure you venture into other less crowded spots so you can soak up the emptiness and the silence of this sparsely populated island. Wherever you go in Iceland the landscape is spectacular and these pics are just a taste of what’s in store if you go there.
Hopefully, they’ll inspire you to make Iceland your next dream destination.
It was pouring rain the day we visited the black sand beach of Reynisfjara which only enhanced the black, white and grey colour palette. This is the view from Dyrholaey. I hadn’t seen a black sand beach before and got a kick out of watching the white water rush in over the black beach.
Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon topped my list of the things I most wanted to see in Iceland. It was very late in the day when we arrived there and the light was lovely. The icebergs in the lagoon come from the Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier and eventually flow out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s amazing watching how they flow from the very still lagoon, pick up speed and head out onto the beach and into the open water. We took our time wandering around the shores of the lagoon, away from the crowds, where it was very mellow and peaceful.
There are waterfalls – fossar – all over Iceland, some of them very large and famous. We visited a lot of the big ones and I particularly liked this one, Godafoss in North Iceland. You can access this from both sides and wander right up to the edge. It’s hypnotic watching the falls and the swirling water below.
How pretty is Stykkishólmur, a colourful fishing village in West Iceland on the Snæfellsnes peninsula? Parts of the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, were filmed in this area. You can catch a ferry from Stykkishólmur to the remote West Fjords. We spent a couple of nights here and used it as our base to explore the western peninsula.
Icelandic horses are seen all over the countryside. I thought they looked like supermodels with their thick manes and regal stature.
There are hundreds of churches, mostly small, dotted across Iceland, many of them in the middle of nowhere, like the black church at Budir in West Iceland. Not far from the church is a hotel and that’s about it.
At the opposite end of the country in East Iceland, you’ll find this pretty church in the picturesque town of Seyðisfjörður. Not everyone ventures down into Seyðisfjörður as it’s off the main Ring Road from the town of Egilsstaðir but it’s absolutely worth the side trip. It has a lovely vibe and is the port where ferries arrive from the Faroe Islands and Denmark.
The geothermal area of Hverir, near Lake Myvatn in north Iceland, bubbles and spits and blows out steam. You feel like you’re on a different planet and it looks like a lunar landscape.
The very impressive Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in south east Iceland. The river snakes down between the canyon’s steep walls which are about 100 metres high. There’s a walking trail along the top of the canyon where you can get precariously close to the edge. ⠀
Thick green moss, sometimes as deep as 50 centimetres, covers the lava flows as far as the eye can see in south Iceland. It’s an astonishing sight. The lava came from the destructive Laki volcanic eruption which spewed 120 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.
We drove up to the Hekla volcano, which is due to erupt any day, and it was incredibly eerie. It was so remote, empty and such a harsh landscape, it felt kinda spooky.
The day we visited the Sólheimajökull glacier in south Iceland the weather was wild with strong winds and horizontal rain. We got totally soaked and the steaming hot chocolate in the cafe afterwards was bliss!
This is the view on the way down from hiking up the Snæfellsjökull glacier in west Iceland, the most famous of Iceland’s glaciers. It’s a stunning vista over part of the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The hike itself is challenging and takes about six to eight hours. Read all about our trip up the glacier.
If you like remote and a little isolation, Iceland may well be your perfect match. There are plenty of places like this with jaw-dropping views and not a soul for miles.
Or perhaps this is more your thing. We took a detour down a side track and discovered this grass-roofed timber hut. It was pretty cold outside and this looked rather cosy.
Low cloud over the mountains in the coastal town of Vik. The cloud hung around for hours in the morning and didn’t lift until lunchtime. Sunshine was a bonus in Iceland. Even in summer the weather can be extremely unpredictable, cold, wet and windy.
Boats and fishing are the thing in Iceland, not surprisingly, and Stykissholmur is a major fishing port in West Iceland.
Because Iceland is so expensive lots of travellers stay in self-catering cottages like these which are popping up all over the country.
Thingvellir National Park is part of the popular Golden Circle of tourist attractions and is where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates intersect, creating a massive rift, or canyon, in the earth. It’s also the birthplace of Iceland’s parliament in 930 AD.
To find out more about our Iceland adventure, read our guide to an epic Iceland road trip which includes planning details, our itinerary and tips on what to see and do. For what and where to eat in Iceland, our best food in Iceland post shares our favourite eating places.
Diana created Suitcase & Sneakers to capture her adventures hiking, biking and surfing around the world. She often dreams of relaxing holidays sipping cocktails by the beach but usually ends up actively exploring remote locations.