10 Must-Visit Budget-Friendly Attractions in Iceland for Backpackers

Iceland, often referred to as the Land of Fire and Ice, offers an array of breathtaking landscapes, from glaciers and volcanoes to waterfalls and geothermal hot springs. Though it’s known for being on the pricier side when it comes to travel destinations, there are plenty of ways for backpackers to explore its beauty without breaking the bank. Here are ten must-visit budget-friendly attractions in Iceland that promise an unforgettable experience.

1. Reykjavik’s Free Walking Tour

Starting in the capital, Reykjavik, a free walking tour is an excellent introduction to the country. These tours are typically led by locals who share their love and knowledge of the city, covering its history, culture, and best-kept secrets. While the tour is free, tipping your guide is encouraged.

2. The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a popular route for good reason, featuring three of Iceland’s most spectacular natural attractions: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. Renting a car with a group can make this trip more affordable, splitting the cost of rental and gas.

3. Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss Waterfalls

Not far from the Golden Circle, these waterfalls are among Iceland’s most famous. Seljalandsfoss allows visitors to walk behind its cascading water, while Skógafoss impresses with its sheer size and power. Both are free to visit, offering incredible photo opportunities and a chance to experience Iceland’s raw nature.

4. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Located near Vik, Reynisfjara is known for its stunning black sand, powerful waves, and basalt columns. It’s a unique beach experience that costs nothing but is worth every moment. Be cautious of the strong currents and sneaker waves when visiting.

5. Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck

For something out of the ordinary, the Sólheimasandur plane wreck provides an eerie yet fascinating sight. The United States Navy DC-3 crashed here in 1973, and the remains are accessible by a 45-minute walk from the main road. It’s a surreal experience that’s completely free.

6. Hiking in Landmannalaugar

Landmannalaugar, in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve, is a hiker’s paradise with its rhyolite mountains and geothermal hot springs. Though reaching Landmannalaugar can be tricky and might require a 4×4 rental or bus trip, the hiking trails themselves are free and offer some of the most stunning landscapes in Iceland.

7. The East Fjords

Less visited than other parts of Iceland, the East Fjords are a hidden gem with charming villages, dramatic landscapes, and plenty of hiking trails. It’s an excellent area for those looking to escape the crowds and experience Iceland’s tranquility without spending much.

8. Grótta Lighthouse

Situated on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula near Reykjavik, Grótta Lighthouse is an ideal spot for watching the sunset or, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights. The area surrounding the lighthouse offers beautiful coastal walks and is a popular yet serene destination.

9. Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools

Iceland is famed for its geothermal activity, which has blessed it with numerous hot springs and geothermal pools. While the Blue Lagoon is the most famous, it can be pricey. Instead, seek out the many free or low-cost hot springs, such as Seljavallalaug or Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River, for a relaxing soak in nature.

10. Kirkjufell Mountain

Kirkjufell Mountain, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, is one of Iceland’s most photographed spots, thanks in part to its appearance in “Game of Thrones.” The mountain and nearby Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall offer stunning views, especially at sunset or sunrise, and are free to visit.

Recreating the Experience or FAQ

How can I save money on food while backpacking in Iceland?

Consider shopping at local supermarkets like Bónus or Krónan for groceries and preparing your meals. Eating out in Iceland can be expensive, so cooking your own food can significantly cut costs.

Are there any affordable accommodation options in Iceland?

Yes, Iceland offers a range of budget-friendly accommodations, including hostels, camping sites, and guesthouses. Camping is a great option during the warmer months and allows you to connect with nature. Just make sure to use designated campsites and follow local regulations.

Is it necessary to rent a car in Iceland?

While having a car provides flexibility, it’s not strictly necessary. Iceland’s public transportation, including buses, can take you to many of the main attractions. For more remote areas, consider joining a small group tour to split the costs.

What should I pack for a trip to Iceland?

Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, so layering is key. Waterproof and windproof jackets, sturdy hiking boots, thermal layers, and a bathing suit for hot springs are essentials. Don’t forget a good camera to capture the stunning landscapes!

Can I see the Northern Lights on a budget?

Absolutely! The Northern Lights can be seen from many free locations across Iceland, including just outside Reykjavik. The key is to visit between September and April, have patience, and check the aurora forecast for optimal viewing conditions.

Exploring Iceland doesn’t have to drain your wallet. With these budget-friendly attractions and tips, backpackers can immerse themselves in the natural beauty and unique culture of this incredible country. Whether you’re soaking in a geothermal pool, hiking through rugged landscapes, or chasing the Northern Lights, Iceland promises an adventure of a lifetime without the high price tag.

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