We left the US on June 18th! First stop: Reykjavik, Iceland.
When you have no job and unlimited funds (I wish!), how do you decide where to travel to? Our solution was to each individually make a list of places we wanted to visit, then compare. The places that were on both of our lists are places that we are trying to definitely visit on this trip. Other countries we will visit we lined up to coincide with friend and family vacations or are just happen-stance because we can travel there on a budget. Iceland was not on my list of places to visit, but it was on Jeff’s. And our trip there was coincidental to the airline ticket we bought…
Last January we were looking for flights for Finland and the cheapest ones we could find were through Icelandair. If you fly with Icelandair from almost anywhere, you will have a layover in Reykjavik. In order to support tourism in Iceland, the airline will let you extend your layover for up to 7 days with no extra fee to the ticket. We decided to take a redeye out of Boston, stay in Reykjavik for a night, and take the next redeye to Helsinki, Finland, giving us 2 full days in Iceland.
Tourism seemed to be booming in Reykjavik. Personally, I thought the whole place was a giant tourist trap. I’m not sure if it was because everything was so expensive, or because I felt like we didn’t see any locals during the time we were there. 2 days in the city was plenty- you can walk from one side of Reykjavik to the other in about 20 minutes. It is small and very walkable.
After taking the Flybus from the airport to the city (45 min), we dropped our bags at our hostel, Guesthouse Aurora, and found a park bench to take a nap on (it was about 8 am). Later we sat in a café and had tea to use their internet. In the early afternoon we met a CityWalk tour guide at the parliament building (in Reykjavik you sign up online up to 5 days before your tour to reserve a space). CityWalk tours seem to be available in most European cities and they are free! You tip your tour guide at the end of the tour whatever you feel it was worth. The best part was that they didn’t make you feel awkward about it so the guides appreciate whatever you give them (aka Jeff and I only gave about $16 for the two of us, which may have been a low-ball, but we don’t have a lot of extra cash!). I would give the tour about 7 out of 10 stars- not as good as it could have been, but definitely worth our time. We learned more about Icelandic culture than we did Icelandic history, and it gave us better insight to why tourism is so necessary. Their economy suffered from a bank crash a few years ago and they haven’t really recovered. Tourism seems to be their fast answer, and especially in Reykjavik they can’t build hotels fast enough.
Speaking of hotels- we stayed in town at Guesthouse Aurora which was about $165 USD for 1 night for a double bed and shared bathroom. A little pricey, but cheap compared to other places in town, and they offered a nice breakfast. I would definitely recommend it! Since we spent a lot of money on the hostel and on the Blue Lagoon (keep reading), we didn’t have a lot of wiggle room in the budget for food. During our tour our guide told us that locals eat in the same places as the tourists, so there weren’t any restaurants that really caught our eye. Instead we ventured to a small grocery and had rice cakes with cheese and ham for dinner!
The next day we did a lot more walking around Reykjavik (most of the same places we had walked the day before) and then we took the Flybus to the Blue Lagoon on the way to the airport. I thought the lagoon was pretty cool (I think Jeff was a little put off by the zillion busses of Asian tourists…). The lagoon is a ‘natural’ (pretty sure they dug to make it larger) geothermal pool that they turned into a destination swimming hole. The water is very warm and has lots of minerals and silica. We stayed for about 3 hours (plenty of time) and hopped on the bus to the airport!
Modes of transportation used: Plane, bus
Total amount spent in Iceland (excluding flight): $449.43 USD
Avg.: $224.72 USD per day (Ouch!)