Iceland was a bucket list travel destination I’ve longed to visit for about 6 years. I finally was able to go with my mother as a college graduation trip May 2018. Did it live up to my expectations? Yes! Was it expensive? Very! The nickname the locals joke about rings true, Iceland is “Price-land$$$”, but there are plenty of inexpensive things to do. Actually, I found a few pricer tourist-trap restaurants and excursions a let down, while cheaper foods and places geared towards locals more enjoyable.
Not everything lives up to the hype in Iceland like visiting Harpa and grabbing a coffee inside. Harpa is an architecturally beautiful place to stop by and walk around for a bit, but the coffee inside the music hall is not special (TripAdvisor suggested otherwise). Its the same coffee that’s sold everywhere else in Iceland ––– just regular stuff in a small cup. Also, its important that if you visit Harpa and take the shuttle bus that you stand right in front of the bus stop rather than near it because its easy to miss the small shuttle when large two-story tour busses block it. I actually missed the bus twice and had to learn this the hard way. 😦
I enjoyed visiting the blue lagoon, and the in-water massages my mother and I had were wonderful. I recommend it to anyone who is able. We went really early and beat the crowds, by the mid-afternoon when we packed up to leave the entrance had long lines that almost reached the front door!
Things to eat:
- Sea Baron – langoustine soup and bread (The soup is very flavorful, and the bread and butter is delicious. Iceland does bread and butter well.)
- Café Loki – bread ice-cream (I recommend sitting upstairs by the window to get a view of Hallgrimskirkja, a famous Lutheran parish church)
- *Also, check out traditional Icelandic hot dogs made of lamb, bread baked in the ground, lamb soup, and dried fish with butter
Things to do:
- Visit black sand beach
- At least one major waterfall
- Walk around Reykjavik, see Hallgrimskirkja in person
- Visit Perlan museum for a view of the famously colorful building roofs
- Browse vintage clothing stores
I do not recommend eating dinner at the pricy Kol, or in spending too much at corner stores. Kol is a famous and highly rated restaurant that’s known for whimsical seafood presentations. See our food from that restaurant below. I personally thought the food was so-so, I enjoyed the presentation but the flavors and seafood freshness could have been better. I liked the local lamb soup in Reykjavik way more. See bread bowl lamb soup pictured below from Svarta Kaffid.
Stay far away from Noodle Station, the soup made us sick! That restaurant is hyped up because its cheap, but to save your stomach the agony, I think its better to just eat fast food or an Icelandic hotdog to save money.
I think corner stores are super overpriced in Iceland. When I planned for my trip, I noticed many people recommended saving money by eating simple things from corner stores. Its true that some foods are much cheaper than a full meal at a restaurant but its still very pricey. I think its better to just eat a pastry from a bakery because there are many delicious affordable bakeries in Reykjavik! Then to eat things like chips and cookies from the corner store because they end up costing about the same. For example, like two bags of chips, one pack of gum, and a soft drink, can amount to $30 at the corner store.
My recommendation if you travel to Iceland is to be well prepared for the cold and changeable weather. Even through I traveled in May it was extremely cold. It rained, hailed, and then became sunny again at least four times a day. So expect the unexpected! I also recommend sticking to restaurants the locals like because they’re cheaper and heartier. Some places are hyped up either because its cheap or expensive, so its important to scout places out.
I definitely will travel to Iceland again! Next time I plan on doing more adventurous things in nature. Have you ever been to Iceland? What’s your top three bucket list travel destinations? ❤