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Iceland, 2 adults, 10 days, Ring Road

Total Cost: $5375
Airfare Each: $1045 Icelandair Saga Class (like premium economy, regular economy with seat selection and checked bag $350 less, used 2 checked bags per person as allowed in Saga Class, in addition to 1 checked bag each, checked a cooler greatly used, checked additional bag of warm clothes not needed and 2 bottles wine needed)

Car: $703 for hybrid Kia Xceed (size between Corolla/Civic and Camry/Accord; $88 day w/basic insurance included, used credit card insurance for deductible but not needed), 8 days, Blue Car Rental (nice people and walking distance from Radisson Blu, return at airport one way fee only $10)

Fuel: $188 for Ring Road plus extras like Troll Peninsula, $23.50/day

Lodging: $1525, avg. $170/night (5 nights @ Airbnbs on farms, 1 night Radisson Blu Reykjavik, 1 hostel w/private bath, 1 guesthouse on farm, 1 hotel in Reykjavik suburbs)

Everything else $866: Restaurants, groceries, admissions, airport shuttle, covid tests, parking for Thingvellir, Seljalandfoss, Skaftafell NP, includes $104 for 2 for Myvatn hot water spa (not recommended unless you are a party type, large pool tepid, other pool just warm, only hot water in animal trough shaped thing jammed with young couples)

Like all my recent trips, never used cash. No PIN required at unmanned gas stations. Like Singapore, Iceland can be considered English speaking.

Recommended restaurants Ring Road, counterclockwise:
West of Skógafoss: Gamla fjósið
West of Höfn: Guesthouse Nýpugarðar for lamb dinner
Myvatn: Vogafjós
Siglufjörður: TORGIÐ for the lunch buffet
Borgarnes: The Settlement Center for the vegetarian lunch buffet

Supermarkets:
Nettó (very nice but uncommon)
Kronan (very nice and common)
Bonus (Walmarty, avoid)
Except for eggs, pricing very competitive to USA pricing. All dairy products lactose free, everywhere.

Posted by
113 posts

I’m surprised you said avoid Bonus as every single guide I read said to shop there because it was the cheapest. I wouldn’t say it’s Walmart as much as it’s just like an ALDI. I didn’t see anything wrong with shopping at Bonus. Although there is a store just like a Walmart, it’s called Hagkaup and is really a one stop shop and is great if you don’t know what specific store to go to for something (for me is was sunglasses).

Thanks for the restaurant suggestions. I will definitely have to bookmark those. Especially the vegetarian buffet. Hope you had an amazing trip! Sounds quite lovely

Posted by
6697 posts

I'm guessing you didn't eat out all that much (at restaurants), else your costs would have been a lot higher. How many meals a day out approximately? Dinner only? Lunch only? On my two trips, eating out was definitely expensive (lobster was off the charts but oh-so-good) and alcohol was even worse. I didn't do any groceries.

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345 posts

It is always interesting to read how other peoples trips went and what they spent. I look froward to reading more about your trip. We are due to head out in a couple weeks and are cautiously excited;) We are a party of 5 though, so our costs are quite a bit more. Ouch;)

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3151 posts

Bonus: the baguettes were wrapped in plastic and baked who knows when, at Kronan they were fresh and in the normal sleeves open on one end, the sliced lunch meat looked a lot better at Kronan also. Both these items are picnic staples. Kronan also carries McVities brand cookies which are kind of a pan-European treat for us. And Kronan sells raw hamburger patties AND THE CORRESPONDING NUMBER OF BUNS ALL IN ONE PACKAGE! How nifty is that?

Alcohol: we brought 2 bottles of wine in our warm clothes bag. As in Norway we eschewed buying alcohol except for the house beer in Myvatn which was $10 each, not terrible.

Meals:
Breakfast by us except once provided at the guesthouse. Hotels charge $15-20 for breakfast.

One meal eaten out every day, but tried to make it special. The other one was a picnic often at a nice overlook.

We just had one dinner out in Reykjavik and it was pizza. The other night we picnicked in the Botanical Garden (just past the covid testing site so good to pair the two outings). Last day used the Saga lounge for lunch at Keflavik so that meal is part of the $1045 airfare.

5 people: 3 years ago I took 5 to Norway, stayed half of the time on fjords in cabins and cooked a lot of fish. We crammed into a Toyota Auris, it was very tight (there was only one way to fit in the luggage so I used my phone to photograph the exact placement of the bags in 3 stages else I never could have repeated it). Cars and food similar costs Norway and Iceland but I think the lodging in Iceland is higher. You are facing a challenge there to keep down costs.

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345 posts

Tom--Thank you for the grocery store details. Burgers and buns together is brilliant! Also taking a photo of luggage and how we store it is a great idea. We are renting a Land Cruiser so should be somewhat comfortable. We are taking backpacks vs suitcases so that we can pack them in the vehicle easier. We have been to Norway and Denmark before, on the same prior trip to Iceland, so I know what we are in for for costs. Thankfully our car is paid for from last year and a few of the hotels and airfare of course. We will do picnic lunches along the way and breakfast ourselves at the cottages, but dinners will be a mix depending if we are at a cottage vs a farm hotel etc. Husband and son want to fish, so hoping to make a dinner or two from that.

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3151 posts

All supermarkets have free WIFI, which we used on the fly, and made screen captures of Airbnb directions and lockbox combinations. We never had cellular service.

Supermarkets close around 6pm so plan your day around that, sometimes starting the day shopping for food stored in the car for late arrival at Airbnb. We used one of the gel plastic frozen things that come with Blue Apron type shipments and are intended to be discarded, which is good because ice isn’t as readily available. Then refroze it overnight at each location.

Premade salad dressing is not sold in Iceland, so bring your own with you.

Pillows are uniformly soft, thin down so bring your own if looking for support.

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Did you try/ like Skyr? I gotta say, the restaurants were amazing in Reykjavik, but very expensive - still worth it. My hotel breakfast was almost inedible (wonder bread and other stuff geared toward Brits - bangers and mash type of stuff). Coffee was undrinkable too (instant coffee from a machine); same with "juice". And the hotel was close to $200 per night and looked and felt like a dorm room, albeit in great location - back in 2006.

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3151 posts

Yes, we had several types of Skyr, starting the first morning of arrival (note there is both a small Bonus and Kronan in central Reykjavik, and a big beautiful Kronan by the Whale Museum).

The small ones are like Dannon, jam on the bottom, the large ones are premixed and I think better tasting. We tried the blueberry and the apple (a bit odd). I liked it but I normally eat plain Greek Fage yogurt so I found the Skyr a bit sweet but good texture.

The Radisson Blu was $195 (cancelable rate) for a 4 star hotel and they let us check in at 9 am. I wonder if jumping on a trip right in March when Iceland opened I got some good pricing on this hotel and the rental car.

I carry the ability to make coffee at all times, a kettle, coffee press, and grounds, because it’s sometimes necessary. And I don’t carry spare toilet paper so you can see my priorities!

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Hikes:

Aside from the usual short hikes to waterfalls and about an hour of walking at Thingvellir, we did two 90 minute hikes (45 min each way).

Dyrhólaey: This is a very pretty area on the sea just west of Vik, almost like a butte, walked to the lighthouse on the top (NOT 10 minutes each way, Rick Steves Guide incorrect here). Was terrifically windy, a recurring problem in Iceland. Views of arched rock over the water and the black beaches east and west well worth it, puffins easily seen right at the top of the cliffs, even easily seen at the short cliff by the parking lot (few people noticed them). This area has the weird color contrast of black (beaches) green (verdant grassy slopes) and white (enormous icecap).

Skaftafell National Park: One of our 3 pay parking areas, 90 minute hike to Svartifoss, kind of a crowded hike, popular with Italians and French, waterfall pretty but not a lot of flow. I don't really know what to say about the area, if you have seen glaciers elsewhere (Banff, Alaska, New Zealand) it's nothing new, maybe not worth the crowds and fee?

4 must see waterfalls:

2 with very impressive flow:

  • Gullfoss on the Golden Circle
  • Dettifoss on the NE of the Ring Road, very dirty, ugly water but so massive, so much flow. Many struggle up the east side on a stony road for that view, but the paved west side has the best views and free toilets.

2 that are quite pretty:

  • Skógafoss on the South Coast, impressive and in many ways the perfect waterfall (size, proportion, location) easily seen right from the highway
  • Goðafoss on N of Ring Road, pretty twin falls with different heights

Thermal Areas
The most impressive aspect of the thermal areas is how they are used to generate power, try to get a power plant tour. The one at Krafla has a short movie and sign displays. There’s another by Thingvellir. The other very notable thing is how bad the smell is, much stronger than Yellowstone or New Zealand.

As to visual interest or thermal activity excitement, it’s nothing compared to New Zealand, which itself pales in comparison to Yellowstone. So if you’ve seen Yellowstone or NZ there’s not much to see in the Iceland geothermal areas, but worth a walk around.

Pretty Drives

The country is full of WOW! Moments, but I liked the fjord areas, pointing out that we had sun for them: The East Fjords, don’t rush to Egilsstaðir (there’s nothing there), drive the fjords one after the other. The one place I would have spent more time in is Stöðvarfjörður, had a youthful hangout feel to it.

Also loved the Troll Peninsula, perhaps the prettiest fjord views in the country are here north of Akureyri (before the long one-way tunnels).

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3151 posts

Mulling over the costs, I am thinking it was not the expensive outing I expected it to be. Except for the high car rental cost which is expected in a very high new car cost country (and to be fair was less per day than I will be paying in the US later this month), the only high cost item was lodging. The 2 AirBnBs in high demand areas, South Coast and Myvatn, were just over $200/night. Both had bedrooms so small they couldn't be used for putting on clothes, much less accommodating even one closed suitcase, so the living area became the suitcase area/dressing room. The room with private bath (with moldy smell) in a hostel in Seyðisfjörður at over $140 was too much, but then this whole town is overpriced and not really that special (and we saw 3 huge cruise ships in port in 18 hours).

Tent camping would be one approach to the high lodging costs, but the campgrounds are pretty grim: no trees, no fire spots, no tables, and tiny spots. They looked like parking lots or small cemeteries to be honest. Often located on a vacant block in small towns right on the main highway. Another approach could be guesthouses, with breakfast included and then the ability to buy onsite a nice dinner-- $200/night for all that might be the way to go.

Buying Saga Class was a splurge, but did save a lot of small costs that would have added up (3 meals, extra baggage), and it was a deal since normally Icelandair or Delta charge on this run about $2000 for the higher class ticket (Saga Class or Premium Select using their terms). Getting to sample Icelandic gins for no additional charge is worth something, and with the 3-3 seating in coach we were saved the inconvenience of dealing with a third person in our row. Note that on the plane we flew, the 737 Max 8, Row 1 is the preferred location for Saga Class.

Breaking down the finer meal costs, which were all completely reasonable:
Gamla fjósið: 2 nice burgers with salad $49
Guesthouse Nýpugarðar: 2 large lamb dinners (lamb from the guesthouse farm) with 2 beers $60.50
Vogafjós: We were turned away the first time for not having a reservation, so went across the highway to a pizza place and got a great large pizza for $19 (it was discounted because it was their anniversary), then at Vogafjós the next day we split a great beef dish (cow from the farm) and a vegetarian black bean dish covered in a tasty strawberry curry glaze, with 2 local draft beers, only $75. (NB: I think eating the whole black bean cake for one person would have been too much).
TORGIÐ: excellent lunch buffet with soup and coffee, $19 each
The Settlement Center: excellent vegetarian selections, lots of choices and tastes really in the full Scandinavian smorgasbord tradition, with coffee or tea, $19.50 each.

Other sites:
National Museum in Reykjavik. Went on our last morning, free parking, very interesting exhibits with free smart phone audio guide.

The lakes at the foot of the glaciers with the icebergs: We stopped at both, the small one has a 10 minute hike but is less crowded, very striking on a cloudy day with the blue ice intact on some of the floating icebergs, both lakes were busy but not overwhelmingly. Felt no need for the expensive boat ride at either lake.

Posted by
235 posts

Thanks for the detailed report! We are heading to Iceland (fingers crossed) in mid-September for ten nights. We are finding comparable costs to yours--lodging averaging $150/night with breakfast for all but two mornings; car rental slightly more (but for twelve days due to flight arrival/departure times). I do have a couple of questions--are there one or two locations where you wish you had been able to spend more time? Also, what was your Covid test timing for the return flight? We are thinking we'll take the rapid test when we arrive back in Reykjavik a day before our flight (departs 5 pm)...but I am wondering if that is cutting it a bit close. Perhaps the DIY tests?

So agree about the wind! We were in Reykjavik/Golden Circle area a couple of years ago; the most useful piece of clothing I packed was a pair of rain pants. Didn't need them much for rain, but they sure kept me warm when we made a couple of stops along the South Coast!

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3151 posts

I thought 7 nights on the Ring Road was the right amount. With an 8th night would have spent a 3rd night on the South Coast and visited the Westman Islands. 2 nights at Mývatn is probably too much but 1 isn’t enough.

We scheduled the rapid covid test at 3 pm and had results by 4. Getting it the afternoon before is not leaving it too late. It does leave you back in Reykjavik with a car to deal with, but the National Museum worked out well. Also you can drive to the Perlan for the lookout over the city, free.

We skipped the volcano because live cams were showing clouds or no visible lava.

I didn’t mention that speed cameras aren’t common but they are about. It isn’t always easy to tell what the speed limit is.

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183 posts

I’ve been to Iceland twice- 7 nights in early November 2018 and three weeks in July of 2019 (we also spent 6 nights in the Faroe Islands). We rented a camper van the first week and drove most of the Ring Road. It was very inexpensive (except for the day in Reykjavík where we eat and drink our way up one side of the main shopping streets and down the others).

The second time we did two big backpacking trips: The first one we started at Eyjafjallajökull, after climbing it, ending in Vatnajokull The second was the Laugavegur which is of course very popular. While nice, I much preferred the first. We also drove quite a bit and the east side of the island is so pretty, especially Seydisfjordur.

I love Iceland and the people. We had the best mushroom soup there. We are very cheaply because we shopped and cooked and camped in our MSR backpacking tent. We liked the campgrounds, as backpackers we don’t make fires anyway but we loved the bathrooms and the excellent hot water and the cooking amenities. It was like a great car camping trip (which we also enjoy.) The only part I have not explored extensively is it northwestern fjords. Someday.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

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Tom, thank you again for more information. Especially about the grocery stores. I have an insulated Trader Joe's bag that we are bringing, so that should suffice. Good to know about not shopping in the evenings, thanks! As for pillows, that is kind of funny. because we are all bringing our backpacking pillows. That is my business, so we are covered;)