Vikki Rimmer and her family had always dreamed of going to Iceland but were put off by the cost – until they decided to budget for it. Here’s how they made their dream of visiting this magical country into a reality…
My husband, daughter and I had always wanted to visit Iceland but we knew how expensive it was to do so. That’s when we decided to tailor our trip in order to ensure that everything we had to pay for was sourced for the best possible price. From budget airline tickets to holiday accommodation – we found the most affordable options which resulted in us being able to go on this long awaited trip for just over £1100 in total!
On discovering British Airways wanted £1200 for three return flights to Iceland we set about sourcing alternative airlines. We came across Jet 2 who offered the same journey for a fraction of the airline ticket price.
When we arrived in Keflavik (about an hour from Reykjavik) we picked up our car from the Hertz desk and headed for the supermarket where we completed a sweep that Dale Winton would have been proud of!
First on our tourist tick list was a trip to the incredible Thingvellir National Park to see where the powerful Eurasian and North American tectonic plates drift away from each other. Standing in ‘America’ we could see Europa in the distance as they continue to separate at 2cms a year.
The first Icelandic parliament was formed here where the plates divided, and close by lies the stunning Oxararfoss waterfall which we had exclusively to ourselves. Standing beneath the spray in my pyjamas (it turned out that two pairs of leggings wasn’t enough to keep me warm), I was reminded of why we travel to other lands – the spirit of nature and adventure is the most revitalising experience we can enjoy.
We moved further south to our accommodation situated just outside the town of Selfoss. Our cabin was literally off the beaten track where a pack of small horses, and two friendly dogs welcomed us, quickly followed by our host who promised to fill the hot tub for us.
It’s always a little unnerving at first when you arrive somewhere you’ve found on the internet and the semi-erotic paintings on the walls of our cabin did make me wonder if we’d stumbled upon the geothermal centre of Iceland’s swinging scene but as I slipped into the hot tub in my bobble hat all worries melted away; we’d in fact discovered Nirvana at a very reasonable price!
On the second day of our trip, geysers and hot springs awaited us on the Golden Circle, as well as a man who continues the 200 year tradition of baking bread in the geothermal black sand at Fontana in Laugarvatn.
“Icelandic weather is an action movie in real-time – on day four we saw three full rainbows and multiple shafts of colour falling across the mountains”
Siggi, our baker, took us to the lake where the sandy shore bubbled with 100 degree water. Every day at 11am Siggi and friends go to the shore and bury their bread in the bubbling sand, thank nature for her beauty and then dig up the bread from the day before.
Siggi asked us to put away our phones and to see the landscape, hear the sounds and then taste the bread. He explained how for Icelanders, being in the moment, being grateful, experiencing adversity and building resilience was key to life – they have some harsh winters and darkness to get through but gratitude for nature means that spring will always come.
We ate Siggi’s bread with smoked trout and local Selfoss butter and it felt like Christmas.
With a newfound sense of ease we travelled onwards to the popular tourist highlights of Strokkur – a fountain-type geyser located beside the Hvítá Riverthe, then on to Gullfoss – a mind-blowing waterfall and the more beautiful but lesser known waterfall Faxi. In need of a soak in a hot pool we found the free Marteinslaug near Haukadalsskogur close to Geysir.
Day three found us travelling east from Selfoss to the town of Vik (a 200 mile round trip) but despite the lengthy journey it enabled us to see the magnificent south coast, the glacier and more incredible waterfalls.
If you are a Game Of Thrones fan, you may already be familiar with Iceland’s black sand beaches which form the backdrop to the Netflix hit. Reynisfjara beach, voted one of the world’s top ten best ‘non-tropical’ beaches definitely wasn’t tropical – a Thrones fur throw is a MUST over your bikini.
We made it to Vik on diesel fumes. Note to all, never pass a gas station in Iceland, or a Vinbudin for that matter. Alcohol is carefully licensed here and you can’t purchase it in stores or supermarkets, you have to visit the state run Vinbudins to pick up your alcohol and they have strict and slim opening hours.
The glacier produced some incredible waterfalls for us including one we could clamber behind called Seljalandsfoss and the ‘most beautiful’ – Skógafoss.
While we defined our top five waterfalls we decided to blow the budget just once and found the Krisp Viking in Selfoss (close to the much cheaper and excellent Food Hall).
“If you are a Game Of Thrones fan, you may already be familiar with Iceland’s black sand beaches which form the backdrop to the Netflix hit”
The Icelandic respect and revere their brutal landscape and the produce they derive from it, ensuring it’s always prepared with thanks. The Icelandic beef, local Ling fish and Icelandic lamb were the kind of thing the fur clad warriors of Thrones would demolish with verve after a day on the beach. You definitely need your protein to thrive in Iceland.
Icelandic weather is an action movie in real-time; and on day four we saw three full rainbows and multiple shafts of colour falling across the mountains and lava fields of the stunning Rekyanes peninsula in the south east of the island.
Stumbling through steamy and bubbling lava fields and finding our way to the bridge across the two plates of America and Europa was a fitting end to the trip we thought… but then something spectacular happened…the sky turned black, then white, then green as the Northern Lights made an appearance.
As the sun fell beyond the horizon we filled the hot tub and pulled on our wet costumes. I needed my tripod for the Northern Lights shot and underestimated how cold I’d get outside in minus 2 degrees in a wet swimsuit. I faffed with the tripod and failed, ran towards the heat of the hot tub, misjudged my entry and belly flopped face down in the pool. It was the very best (and free) holiday memory. So while the famed Icelandic Lagoon may be considered one of the 25 wonders, there’s nothing better than falling face first into a hot tub while trying to get a picture of nature’s ultimate wonder…
The first thing people think when you say ‘Iceland’ is “I’d love to go but it’s really expensive!”
Here’s how Vikki Rimmer spent 4 nights/5 days with her family for £400 a head.
- Flights: after an internet search we swapped BA flights (£1200) for Jet2 – £388 return for 3
- Accommodation: opted for self catering with Booking. com over AirBnB – bypassing a hefty service charge and winning loyalty discounts after first trip – £380 in total
- Used Iceland’s Firefly car hire booked through Booking.com (extra 10% discount) and rented a Dacia Duster 4×4 for £250 – over £200 cheaper than Hertz. There are cheaper cars but 4X4’s are sensible in winter because there’s often ice in the mornings on the road.
- Food: Kronan supermarket Keflavik, purchasing all meals there – breakfast, lunches and dinners – £70 for five days
- Activities – almost everything on the Golden Circle is free including the geysers, waterfalls, tectonic plates and volcanic landscape
- Diesel: a tank and a quarter cost £70
- Extras: packed flasks and made teas/coffees and picnics first thing for the day ahead. Our bread experience at Fontana was £15 each – free to under 12s.
Vikki stayed at Country Dream in Langholt near Selfoss. Find them here on Booking.com And visited fontana.is for the bread experience and spa.