We have organised a few Iceland Tours in the past and with Iceland holidays becoming more popular our Iceland Tours have now become an annual event. Iceland can be an expensive country for a variety of reasons and the purpose of this article is to give advice to help reduce costs where possible. Once you have done your research you may come to the conclusion that you can’t actually visit all the places we visit any cheaper independently in which case why not contact us to see if we have space on one of our next Iceland Tours? For those who can’t or don’t want to join our group trips we hope the following advice gives you some pointers when it comes to planning your visit to this amazing country.
Iceland Tours – Common mistakes people make
It’s amazed me how many times I’ve met independent travellers who spend their entire time in Iceland in the capital doing iceland tours from Reykjavik by coach to all the ‘must see’ sights. In my opinion this is the wrong approach for the following reasons:
- Reykjavik city centre hostels are expensive.
- Organised Iceland Tours using local coach companies are expensive and don’t give you much time at the sights.
- You will spend more time on the road travelling than you will actually at the sights you want to visit.
A better approach would be to hire a car and change accommodation every couple of days moving around the country. Car hire is expensive though so you will ideally want to make sure you are sharing this cost with other passengers. Another thing to consider is that most hire cars are not allowed on mountain ‘F’ roads. Chances are 80-90% of the places you want to see are close to the ring road so this will not be a major problem but for visiting places like Landmannalaugar or Hekla you will want a 4WD. This is part of the reason why Iceland Tours to places like Landmannalaugar are so expensive.
If you are a group of friends travelling to Iceland together then you will find you get much better value renting a house rather than paying for hostels. Some houses have a short 2 day minimum rental period which can be ideal and they feel more homely than a busy hostel where people are coming and going at all times of the day and night.
Iceland Tours – What are the sights you should see?
Many people visiting Iceland come for a week which is really not enough to see everything. Opinions about the best sights to include on an Iceland Tour are subjective of course but for me the places with the ‘wow’ factor that are almost unique to Iceland are the ones you should consider. Iceland has fjords for example but not like those in Norway so I don’t really include these areas on my own itineraries any longer.
The Golden Circle
One of the most popular of all Iceland Tours that can be done in a day from Reykjavik on good roads is the Golden Circle Tour. The three sights that make up the Golden Circle are Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.
Þingvellir was the site of the World’s first parliament in 930AD but most tourists come to see the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian plates. Typically most people only want to spend an hour or so at this site but those who want to explore in more detail may consider diving in Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake.
Geysir is a famouse 70 metre high geyser. It rarely goes off though and the sight that tourists actually come to photograph is the smaller 20 metre high Strokkur which shoots water into the air roughly every 4-8 minutes.
Gullfoss in English means Golden Falls. It drops in 2 stages, one 11 metres and another drop of 21 metres. With the amount of spray generated by the waterfall on a sunny day you are almost guaranteed to see a rainbow. This is one of the most popular Iceland Tours available and is offered by all the local companies.
Many who come to Landmannalaugar are serious walkers keen to do the famous 4 day trek that starts here and ends in Þórsmörk. For those who don’t have 4 days there a number of marked paths that allow for a simple day walk. The walk to the summit of Brennisteinsalda volcano at 855 metres for example will provide you with some amazing colourful mountain scenery. The blues, oranges, yellows and reds you see here are caused by lava. Landmannalaugar can only be reached using mountain roads and is best approached via the F208 from the north. Make sure you have a 4WD and are covered by your insurance to drive on these roads.
Skaftafell in Vatnajökull National Park
Skaftafell used to be a National Park in its own right but is now part of Vatnajökull National Park. The largest National Park in Europe, it’s a popular tourist destination because of the huge ice cap which is a great place to try glacier walking. There are day tours from Reykjavik but it’s much better to try and find accommodation locally but since accommodation is in such short supply you are advised to book early! On our Iceland Tours we lead most of the walks ourselves but for glacier walking we use local company Icelandic Mountain Guides.
Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon
Just a short drive from Skaftafell further east on the ring road and you will come to the amazing site of icebergs floating out to sea. Jökulsárlón understandably has been used as a setting for a number of films including Bond movies ‘A View to a Kill’ and ‘Die Another Day’ as well as ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Batman Begins’. You can get amazing photographs from the car park but many who visit take either a zodiac boat tour or amphibian boat tour to get up closer and even taste the ice.
Whilst most of the ‘must see’ sights in guidebooks tend to be in the south of the country, one of the best sights in the north is Mývatn. If you only have 1 week in Iceland you probably won’t have time to complete the whole ring road and do the sights justice but if you have 2 weeks you should certainly try and include this special area. Translated the word means midge lake and you should consider buying a hat complete with netting to give yourself some protection when the midges are at their worst. Two sights in the area that I’ve included on previous Iceland Tours are Hverfjall volcano and the mudpots at Hverir.
The Blue Lagoon
One of the most popular Iceland Tours is to the Blue Lagoon. Situated just 45 minutes drive from Reykjavik and 20 minutes drive from Keflavik international airport. The warm waters contain minerals like silica and sulphur that are supposed to be good for the skin. On our iceland holidays the Blue Lagoon is always a popular part of the itinerary. We usually visit towards the end of the trip and it also makes an ideal destination on a wet weather day as the weather conditions don’t really impact on your enjoyment of the Blue Lagoon.
We hope this brief article about Iceland Tours has helped you in planning your own visit to this amazing, unique country. Why not watch a couple of YouTube videos we created from our previous trips?