My $280 Solo Trip To Iceland!
Okay, so it wasn’t EXACTLY $280, but you’ll get my point.
I can’t remember what initially sparked my interest in Iceland or when, but I’m pretty sure (like others) it was affiliated with the Blue Lagoon or Northern Lights.
Any time I would check pricing for flights to Iceland, they would be around $700ish. I still kept my eye open for potential deals. I still considered this trip being farrrr down the line of my solo adventures.
Anywho, one day, I found a deal for $280 ROUNDTRIP! WHAT!? This is my moment. So, I booked it! The only “catch” is the flight deal was via WOW Airlines & they don’t service Atlanta so my flight deal was roundtrip from Chicago. This wasn’t a huge issue because my flight to & from Chicago was only about $135 & even with this, I still paid much less than the typical roundtrip fare to Reykjavík. This trip was booked 7 months in advance so I had plenty of time to plan.
I read a lot of other blogs about solo travel so I used them for my inspiration on this trip. Iceland is ranked as the safest country in the world with a crime rate of less than 1% & is a great place for solo travel.
As far as getting around, every blog suggested renting a car to experience the country in full so I did…until I calculated the amount of driving I would be doing & the crazy weather I would’ve been driving in.
Everything I wanted to see in Iceland was anywhere from 1hr to 5 hrs away so driving was canceled for me. Instead, I just booked guided tours which honestly came out cheaper when considering rental fees, gas, etc. I think driving is great for the not-so-typical traveler but even in that case, I would suggest getting a rental for specific days. Tour groups turn out cheaper when traveling solo & staying in budget in most cases. (In MY opinion) Also, I learned so much about little things we passed by that driving wouldn’t have given me. If you DO decide to drive, all of the natural attractions are free & have plenty of parking.
So anyway, Im sure you mostly care about my photos & specific highlights so I’ll get to the point lol.
I landed in Iceland at 11am GMT at the coolest, most beautiful, modern airport I’ve ever seen. Keflavík International Airport is about 45min from Reykjavik (Capital of Iceland) & about 15-20min from the Blue Lagoon.
I booked my airport transfer via Airport Direct (about $35 one-way) & hopped off at Bus Stop 1 which is at Reykjavik City Hall. This was a 5min walk to CenterPlaza Hotel where I spent my Icelandic stay ($740.22 for 3 nights). I checked in & went to sleep! lol I was drained. I left Atlanta 12hrs ago at this point.
I couldn’t sleep for long, though. I booked a 3pm “Free” Walking Tour. Free is in quotations because at the end of the tour, you pay whatever you feel the tour was worth. So, kinda like a tip. Speaking of tips, it’s uncommon to tip in Iceland because the wages are considered enough. I don’t believe they will necessarily turn it down, but it’s not the Icelandic way.
The Walking Tour was great, actually. It was 3hrs long & it covered the downtown Reykjavik area stopping by the Parliament building, churches, local neighborhoods & Tomas talked to us about the Iceland government, cultural traditions, etc. I learned a lot of things I wouldn’t have gotten from Instagram lol. This tour also introduced me to Icelandic weather first hand. In one second, we had rain, 3 minutes later it’s sunny, about 6 min after that, we have heavy winds & only moments later, there was hail coming down. This is completely normal & typical weather for Iceland so bring a good hoodie, down jacket & rain jacket just in case, lol. The frequent rain resulted in very common rainbows all over the island. Fun Fact: Iceland has rain 360 days out of the year.
An interesting stop on the walking tour was at the most popular food spot in Reykjavik: A HOT DOG STAND lol Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur which translates from Icelandic to English as "the best hotdog in town" became extremely popular internationally in 2004 after Bill Clinton describes the lamb based hot dog as the best hot dog he’s ever had. It was good, but not the best I’ve had.
Honestly, with the cost of everything in Iceland, this was my dinner a couple of times. A plain hot dog with ketchup only costed me a little under $5.
I woke up at 7am-ish, grabbed my FREE breakfast from the hotel which varied daily, but consisted mostly of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, oatmeal, cucumbers & orange juice.
I had to be at the City Hall bus stop by 8am to catch the bus of my 14hr day tour to the South Coast of Iceland. 14hrs is a long time, but trust me..the tour was worth all $156.
The 1st stop was Skógafoss. A 200 x 49 ft waterfall that you can walk right up to! (I didn’t, but Im just saying…YOU can) I didn’t get too close to it because the steam reaches really far and I didn’t wanna get soaked. I took one of my favorite selfies here. See below:
After the waterfall, we stopped for lunch around 11:30am in a town called Vik which was along a black sand beach. Black sand beaches are all around Iceland & the sand is black due to volcanic lava that covers much of Iceland. I grabbed a lil waffle snacky snack & walked over to the beach. I even caught glimpse of Icelandic horses!
About 3hrs later, we finally arrive to Vatnajökull National Park. This is the home of Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon which is considered one of the Natural Wonders of Iceland. Literally breathtaking, y’all. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Shout out to the lovely couple from Texas that took my photos in exchange of me taking theirs. That’s usually how I get my photos taken when I’m solo. I also use my iKlip tripod (https://amzn.to/2A3DeAp) which literally is a lifesaver.
Directly across the street/under a nearby bridge is Diamond Beach which is another black sand beach, but with glaciers. Apparently, the chunk of ice that I’m sitting on is about 1,000 years old.
Funny Story: So, there were a couple of food trucks at the glacier lagoon & by this time I was starving. I went to the truck selling Fish and Chips, but they didn’t accept AMEX so I decided not to order anything. My American Express card doesn’t charge Foreign Transaction Fees. Since the food was already pricey ($23 USD for fried Cod & fries) I didn’t want to add an additional 3% to my transaction using one of my Visa cards.
I sat down at the eating area just scrolling through the pictures I took & the guy at the food truck called me over. He said “Are you traveling alone? You must be hungry. Don’t worry, I will put something together for you.” He gave me fish & chips for free! The platter normally comes with 2 pieces & a lot of fries so he basically gave me half the normal serving. This was totally fine with me because I get full pretty easily & this was enough to hold me over for the 5 hour ride I was about to have. I won’t call out the food truck (for his protection, lol) but it was the freshest fish I’ve ever had. Idk if it was good because it was good or if it was good because it was free, haha. Also, Fun Fact: They use Fry Salt instead of ketchup in Iceland which seems to be a combination of Sugar, Paprika, Salt & Onion Powder.
The Glacier Lagoon was the primary attraction of the tour so, this was the end of the excitement for me. Back to Reykjavik we go.
I got back to my hotel around 10pm & I was drained. I was drained pretty much everyday, though. I always move fast & stack my activities when I’m traveling alone. It’s all worth it because I’m in control of every hour.
I booked an 8 hour guided tour of the Golden Circle ($64.25), so just like every other day, I grabbed my FREE breakfast & headed to City Hall for my bus. The Golden Circle is a 190 mile long route that passes though three of Iceland’s most popular natural attractions.
Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park where you can walk directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. So TECHNICALLY, you’re in two continents at the same time. Cool, right?!
Tried some Paprika flavored Pringles from the gift shop & they were spicy with a sweet kick. Kinda like BBQ.
The next stop in Þingvellir National Park was the Öxarárfoss waterfall which is a man-made waterfall (according to historians) developed to provide water for the members & visitors of the Icelandic parliament in the 9th century.
The water was crystal clear! I read that 95% of all water in Iceland comes from natural springs in the ground, so it never comes in touch with any pollution & is free of nitrate, calcium, and chlorine.
Iceland has a water fall at what it seemed like every mile. I can’t lie, my excitement dwindled a little after each one. They are VERY beautiful, but we saw a lot of them. With that being said, the next stop on our tour was Gullfoss which was honestly my favorite out of all the waterfalls I visited.
When I booked this tour initially, I was mostly excited about seeing the geothermal region called Geysir, known for its hot springs and geysers.
The most popular geyser is Strokkur, a waterspout that shoots as high as 98 feet in the air every 2-3 minutes. It actually shot 3 times back to back when I saw it.
I made an image time lapse so you can see how a geyser looks in slo-mo when it erupts.
On the way back from Reykjavik, we made two more stops that weren’t part of the default itinerary.
Both stops were in a little town called Bláskógabyggð.
Stop 2 was…YES A WATERFALL, LOL I believe this one was called Foxx.
Once I got back to Reykjavik after the tour, my FREE Fish & Chips had worn off.
I was hungry & I already knew where I wanted to go. Cafe Haiti!
I read on a forum that Cafe Haiti was black-owned & has great carrot cake. It was a short walk from my hotel. So, do you know what I did? I went and bought the last slice of carrot cake.
The cake was good, but I needed FOOD food. So, I got another $5 hotdog.
I went back to my room to rest because my day wasn’t even over. I booked a 9pm Northern Lights Guided tour ($52.57). My tour was initially scheduled for my first night, but the weather was bad so they re-booked & canceled it literally everyday. Tonight was my absolute LAST chance! THANK GOD the weather cleared up & the tour commenced! (They don’t charge to re-book)
If you decide to book a Northern Lights tour, I highly advise you to book it for your first night & expect to potentially not see them to avoid disappointment. You should also stay for multiple days because there are a series of things that have to happen for them to be visible & it was just my luck that it happened on my final night in Iceland.
Without giving too much detail, we drove about an hour away from Reykjavik to find the lights. Apparently they weren’t as bright as they have potential to be, but it was perfect for me.
You actually can’t see the lights with the naked eye. I didn’t even know this. What you actually see is a bright semi-yellowish streak in the sky. You have to have a DSLR camera to capture them…OR SO THEY SAY!
I did my research & was able to capture them on my iPhone!!! See instructions below:
How to Capture Northern Lights on your iPhone
Have an iPhone. (I used an iPhone X)
Go to the App Store & Download Slow Shutter Cam App ($1.99)(https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slow-shutter-cam/id357404131?mt=8)
Launch the app, use the below settings:
Tap gear icon
Set capture mode to “low light”
Turn noise reduction all the way down by toggling to the left end
Set shutter speed to 2 seconds (this may need to be adjusted
Set ISO all the way down by toggling to the left end (this may need to be adjusted depending on how bright the northern lights are). Ex: If they’re weak, turn it higher until you get the results you want
PLEASE use a tripod. Unless your arm is stiff, your pictures won’t turn out right. Keep in mind that the Northern Lights appear in complete darkness.
Alright, show’s over. Time for bed. I got back to my hotel a little past midnight. Drained is an understatement.
So, it’s my last day in Iceland & all I want to do is sleep in. I did.
Checkout was at noon so I took full advantage. ESPECIALLY considering the cost (100% funded myself, btw)
I had a 1:30p scheduled bus ride to the Blue Lagoon ($40 for the Lagoon, $43 for bus ride to lagoon & then to the Airport) so before I left, I walked up the street to the absolute center of Reykjavik where the largest church in the country stands: Hallgrímskirkja
Alright, my feet hurt, I’m carrying this heavy backpack & if you’ve read this far, I REALLY appreciate it. Seriously.
I arrived to the Blue Lagoon around 3.
The Blue Lagoon was amazing. The water was VERY hot, but my body adjusted right away. I relaxed here for about 3 hours & as soon as I got out, I was freezing again lol. It was around 40F degrees my entire time in Iceland, but in the Lagoon, you can’t tell what the weather is.
I met other solo travelers here which was cool.
Ladies, PLEASE go to the locker room shower, pre-wet your hair & apply the conditioner they have. If you don’t, your hair will be VERY stiff from the sulfur & silica. They suggest it at check-in, but please take the advice. I saw another girl who was traveling solo and before I even got in the water, she told me to do it & Im grateful. Lol
I highly recommend visiting the lagoon on your way to the airport. It’s a great source of relaxation before a long trip home.
This was the end of my trip & reality was starting to set in. BACK TO AMERICA.
I saw the Northern Lights again on my flight while we flew over Greenland which caused excitement all over again.
I landed in Chicago around 11p & stayed overnight at Hyatt Place Chicago/O’Hare Airport ($65.50 FREE using my Hotels.com FREE night reward).
I was too tired to explore the city the next day so I went to Lou Malnati's & grabbed a personal sized deep dish pizza & went to the airport to return to home.
Once I returned to ATL, I enjoyed my weekend off (SLEPT) & returned to work on Monday *sigh*
Thank you SO much for reading & please support by purchasing my signature “Travel Solo” T-Shirt here: http://uhhlicia.bigcartel.com/product/travel-solo-t-shirt
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I put together a gallery of some of the miscellaneous things that I saw on my trip: