9 or 10 day Iceland trip on a budget

  Traveler visited Iceland in March 2017

“This will be my first solo trip out of the country, and I chose Iceland, mainly because I don't know much of anything about Iceland. I'm hoping to spend most of my time hiking and sightseeing, eating, relaxing, and just finding out what Iceland is all about. Would love to stay in hostels or small hotel. Really excited to do this on my own.”


Chris McCarty, a local specialist from Iceland, helped this traveler put together a customized itinerary based on Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Southern Highlights, and Golden Circle: 7-9 day Itinerary.

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Trip planning highlights

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Trip planning conversation

Chris

Hi, welcome to kimkim! I'll help you plan out your trip to Iceland. To get you started, here are are few example itineraries we have put together in the past. 2 are 5 days, 1 is 9 but we can customize it based on what parts of them you would be most excited about.

Traveler

Hi Chris! Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. These itineraries are awesome. I especially like the Southern Iceland option. I'm thinking I want to stay for 9 or 10 days, but I like to have at least 1 or 2 days with nothing planned. Just in case I need a rest day or something unexpectedly awesome crosses my path. I plan on renting a car, but I would love to do some guided excursions. I'm 23, and this will be my first time traveling solo Internationally. What can I expect as far as accommodations? I'm on somewhat of a budget. I would prefer hostels or a couch surfing type deal. I'm sorry I don't have more educated questions. This trip is kind of my little pipe dream I never actually thought I could actually do. Any and all information is incredibly helpful! Thanks again!

Chris

Iceland is a very easy international destination. Everyone speaks great english, is very friendly, and everything accepts credit cards, even in the rare case where you need to pay for a public toilet. Some larger towns have hostels, but for the others we can find guesthouses or budget hotel options. For hostels, do you prefer private rooms or are larger dorm rooms ok?

I can reserve the rental car, maybe for 7-8 days since you won't need it in Reykjavik. For the itinerary in the article, it goes over what's called F roads which are 4WD only, and in March there may still be some snow. If you don't care as much about day 6, then we can skip that part and stay on normal roads.

with the few extra days, I'd recommend a few alterations based on the past week I just spent in Iceland. It would be great to add the Snaefellsnes peninsula, which is north west of Reykjavik. Lots of cool volcanic things there and it's a pretty quick drive from Reykjavik.

I can put together an altered itinerary for 7-8 days of stuff (to do over 9-10 so you have flexibility).

If you like the looks of the direction so far and want to move forward we ask that you put down the service fee to book all the accommodations, rental car, and put together the plan.

Traveler

Chris, this all sounds great, I feel like we can pretty much follow the itinerary, and I'll just spend my last couple days in Iceland exploring Reykjavik free-style. Day 6 looks cool, but it's not a huge deal. Is there a significant price difference to rent a 4WD? I'm pretty interested in a horseback riding tour. I was reading some articles about the Blue Lagoon, and it kind of sounds a little overblown. Is there a smaller geothermic pool near Reykjavik that might not be so touristy? I'm getting excited. Thank you for all your help so far. I'm happy to put down a deposit. What's the best way?

Chris

Hi, yes it can be more expensive for a call with 4WD. I will get you quotes for both an economy car and a larger one. Do you drive manual? those are also less expensive. I'll find a few options for horseback riding as well, there are many locations do to it. The Blue Lagoon can definitely be crowded, there are other options for hot springs, heated pools and hot tubs along this route, I'll add in all the best ones to the itinerary and you can pick the ones you like (or visit all). You will go by "secret lagoon", which isn't so secret anymore, but it shouldn't be as crowded as the Blue Lagoon.

A few other questions:
1) Do you have your flights into/out of Iceland booked yet? I will need to know the exact dates you will be here (times would be great too) so that I know when to get the car and which hotel for which day
2) Do you have an accommodation style/budget preference? If you are trying to keep to a budget, how do you feel about shared bathrooms?

You can add your payment information here: [redacted]

We will deduct the kimkim service fee, and then use the card to book the rental car (once we settle on the best option) and accommodation, along with any other activities that you want to do (horse riding, and I'll send a few other options too).

Chris

Hi, for 4WD I will need to check with a few companies, because generally you must be 23 to rent a car with 4WD (but some companies may allow it). For 2WD, 20 is the minimum age so you should be fine there.

There are lots of people at Blue Lagoon. I'd recommend a place called "The Secret Lagoon" which is one of the oldest pools in the country. It's no longer such a secret, but if you go later in the day the crowds are small. I was just there about 3 days ago and there were only about 20 other people in the pool. There are a few places where hot water comes off the the rocks into the large pool area and a geyser that goes off every 10 minutes or so (it's about 3-5 feet high).

This place isn't far from other attractions on the Golden Circle. I know a great horse farm about 20 minutes away where you can stay and then see Geysir geothermal area (5 min) and Gullfoss falls (5 min other direction) in the morning before the tourists arrive. I was there 2 days ago at 9am and only 1 other person was there. By 9:45 4 large busses had shown up.

Chris

Sorry, I meant that some places have an age limit of 23, and some of 24. But we should be able to find one that works for you. In my experience the 4WD can be around 50% more expensive. Here's an itinerary where you wouldn't need 4WD:

Day 1: Arrive, check out Reykjavik. Stay in Reykjavik.
Day 2: Glymur waterfall. Stay in Borgarnes.
Day 3-4 Snaefellsnes Peninsula, drive a bit back towards south. Stay around Selfoss area.
Day 5: Drive to Vik, stop at things along way on south coast (waterfalls, black sand beaches, cool formations).
Day 6: Vik to Glacier Lagoon, Skafell hiking, Svartifoss Waterfall. Stay around Hof.
Day 7: Hof to Secret Lagoon, Stay around Gullfoss at horse farm (stop at things along south coast skipped on way out).
Day 8: Ride horse from horse farm, Gullfoss, Geysir, Kerid crater, Thingvellir, back to Reykjavik.
Day 9: Reykjavik area

I'll get you an estimate for 7 day car rental (4WD option and 2WD option) and accommodations.

Chris

Ok, I have some estimates. For about $880 (I picked some random dates in March, so it may change a bit once we know your exact dates), I could find accommodations for 8 nights plus a compact car rental for 8 days. Lodging was a mixture of hostels and guest houses. For the hostels I looked for around 6 person dorm rooms rather than the cheapest rooms which was sometimes 14 in a room.

For a SUV, the car rental goes up from $286 to $554. In that case it would be more cost effective to get the car for 7 days and take the flybus to the airport on your way out (for compact car, the price of another day for the car is the same as the flybus, so the added flexibility of the car wins out).

Chris

Let me know what you think about this once you have a chance to review it all. A number of the lodgings are already booked up for March, so we should move fairly quickly on this to secure the best places and prices.

Traveler

Hey Chris!! Sorry for the delayed response. It's been quite a week, BUT I did book my flights *yay*! I will be landing in Reykjavik at 6:30 am on sat march 25 and flying out at 8:30 am sun april 2. So that gives us 8 full days to work with.

Traveler

The itinerary looks great so far. Thanks fir checking out the car situation. I'm going to stick with the compact car, but unfortunately I can not drive manual very well. So automatic would be much preferred.

Chris

Great. I'll book all your accommodations and car today and send you the confirmations. Then I'll send a few options for horse riding trips.

Chris

Hi, a few updates for you:
- I charged your credit card the kimkim service fee (that's the "Paid" you see directly below)

There were a few changes for the hotels compared to what I previously quoted you, since I didn't know exact dates at that time. The good news is that I was able to find some better deals, saving about $120 in total (more that you can spend on other activities in Iceland, or food!). See the notes below where I have a few questions if you prefer to stay in a different spot I can change it back.

- 3/27: I found a better deal that previously quoted to stay in a hostel with 4 bed-dorm. It was $20 less (can change back to original if you like).
- 3/28: Found a room (dorm) that was $55 cheaper than previously quoted.
- 3/29: I chose a room 5 miles outside of Vik that was $28 cheaper. If you prefer, I can change it to one in Vik (both are private rooms)
- 3/30: Hörgsland Cottages was booked up, chose Klausturhof Guesthouse instead (a little further to drive that day, but it means the following day will have less driving, also $10 cheaper).
- 3/31: Found room for $8 cheaper than previously quoted

Chris

Now I will look at the rental car and airport transfer on 3/25. I will email you all confirmations, but I entered your email address already so you may have received most of them directly from Booking.com, where I booked the accommodations.

Traveler

Wow! I'm excited to check out all of these lodgings. The only thing I would change is I would like to stay in town the day I'm in Vik.

These look great so far. Thank you!!

Chris

ok, I will make the change for 3/29, not a problem. The flybus transfer is also booked (they leave every 30 minutes from airport). Once you arrive at the bus terminal there will be a smaller van shuttle to take you to the HEX hostel where you can drop off your bag and maybe crash on a couch in the lobby area if you need a bit of rest.

Chris

I cancelled the room on 3/29 and got you the one in Vik instead.

Chris

I wanted to check on one thing for rental car. I found a compact for $240, and an SUV for $359. so the difference in price is much smaller than previously found. Do you still prefer the compact? If so, I'll book it tonight and then look into some horse riding opportunities for you.

Chris

Hello, I've uploaded all confirmations for your lodging and the airport transfer on your first day (you may have also received these in your email).

Chris

Have you had a chance to think about the rental car option that I sent over the weekend? It's still more expensive for the SUV option, but not as expensive as the previous quote, so I just wanted to double check.

Traveler

I think I'm going to go with the SUV. I think it'll be worth it. Thanks!

Chris

no problem--I'll get that for you tonight and send the confirmation. Then I'll look for a few horse riding options.

Chris

no problem--I'll get that for you tonight and send the confirmation. Then I'll look for a few horse riding options.

Chris

Ok, car reserved, you will receive a confirmation via email.

Chris

And finally, on to the horse riding options, I will send those later today.

Traveler

Lovely. So, I pick up the car as soon as I land in Reykjavik?

Chris

No, in this case you would get it around 9am or so the next morning, since you wouldn't need it for your first day to explore Reykjavik. You will still take the flybus hotel transfer from the airport that I booked for you. You would drop off the car back at the airport when you leave.

Chris

Based on the rest of your itinerary, I think the best places for a riding tour are while you're in Vik (along the black sand beaches) or along the Golden Circle near Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir. I am getting some quotes for you now. Does one of those sound more appealing? Would you be interested in both options?

Chris

There's a 1 hour tour in Vik the morning you are there that starts at 9:30am for about $78. That day you would then drive to Skaftafell where you can hike to a waterfall, and continue to the Glacier Lagoon with floating icebergs where you can see the glacier tongue.

Chris

I also found a horse riding option along the Golden Circle route where you will be on March 31/April 1. It's pretty close to the Secret Lagoon where you can stop in the hot springs.

8000 ISK = $70 for 1 hr tour
12000 ISK = $105 for 2 hr tour

There's a farm next to your hostel at Skjol (I stayed there a few weeks ago). They won't have started their tours for the season, but they said that you could stay at the farm and meet the horses if you like. I believe the hostel is refundable, so I can change it to the farm if you like (it's very close by).

Let me know what you think of the Horse riding options at Vik and the farm. I think the one near Vik may fit better into your schedule, but if you want to do both then I can reserve both for you.

Traveler

Let's go with the 1 hour tour in Vik. Great suggestions.

Chris

Sure no problem. I'll reserve the one at Vik and send you the confirmation this evening.

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