Explore Iceland for less than P100,000 or less (with a side trip to Paris)
ICELAND GETAWAY for P100,000 or LESS with a side trip to PARIS! You can check our video here Every time someone mentions “Iceland”, the one thing people will always have in mind is that it is “EXPENSIVE”. That was what I thought before our honeymoon as well. Last Year - to be honest, because I thought Iceland was a SUPER expensive place to go to, I thought I’d be going there when I was in my mid 30s or something, I guess I was not entirely correct. Iceland is expensive – but not super expensive. BUT if you’re practical (like us), you can spend a couple of days in Iceland, with tickets and see the Northern Lights (if you’re lucky) for less than P100,000 for 2 people. So let me tell you about our Icelandic Getaway (that saved us a whole lot!) 1. AIRFARE The initial honeymoon destination I planned was Paris, fortunately it was given to us as a gift from my parents, BUT based on research, the cheapest airfare you can get for Paris is actually pretty affordable. It can go as low as around $580 that’s around P31,000 (depends on the dollar exchange as well, so this can actually go lower.) Unfortunately for us, our airfare would sometimes be a more expensive compared to airfares direct from Manila (that was then, thank God for the new airlines that opened in Cebu), but in spite of incoming carriers, a trip to Iceland from Cebu or Manila is still more expensive than a trip from the Philippines to Paris (or another city) then to Iceland. (Not sure with the new promos now, I’m sure better airfares are available, but last year this was the PH-Paris-Iceland fare was just the better option.) I booked a lot of my tickets via KAYAK, they’re very reliable when it comes to promo fares, so be sure to watch out for price drops.
One more thing - Always book plane tickets ahead! It comes out way cheaper, try aiming for the yearly travel fairs too, they have extremely good deals! Here’s the price point comparison when booking straight to Iceland as compared to having a quick stop, so you can see the difference (from today’s rates, it would be cheaper during promo periods, so just watch out for it.)
2.VISA APPLICATION If you’re from a different city other than Manila (like me), one of the most tiresome
things to do is visa application, since you need to book airfare tickets to go to the embassy. Of course prior to applying for your visa, you would be needing a couple of documents, from photos (which you can have taken in VFS), bank certificates and more. I won’t be discussing it here in detail, but basically the cost for getting a bank certificate is around P100.
All in all though, with our Schengen visa cost we spent around P7-8,000 each.
2.ARRIVING IN ICELAND AND RENTING A CAR
Although we stayed a couple of days in Paris, I won’t go into detail since this post is all about Iceland. For Paris though (we probably spent around P30,000 each, more or less)
We landed in Keflavik International Airport. The moment we landed, hail started falling, of course that time I was super excited (not because it was my first snow fall, I’ve experienced snow when I was a kid), but because it was our first fresh snow fall together as a couple. From the airport, we went straight out and lined up for the car rental facility shuttle. We rented our car from DOLLAR. Before
finalizing our rental, Rap had to make sure that we get a car that is great when it comes to driving in snow. It was November that time which is why he had to make sure we’d be safe considering that it would be his first time driving in snow and in Iceland. Keep in mind when renting a car: 1. Safety and INSURANCE – Pay extra for insurance, this is crucial since a lot of things can happen! PLEASE CHECK http://www.road.is before driving.
3. Obtaining the car necessary for the season - Driving in Iceland is a bit nerve wracking since you can experience so much weather changes in one day. There was a day that it was literally sunny in the morning then it started snowing then there was a blizzard, then everything calmed down and it started snowing again all in less than 7 hours. Yup, true story.) The total cost of our car rental for 5 days was around 380-400 USD, that’s around P20,000 so for each person it would be around P10,000. It’s cheaper when you would stay longer though, or you’re more people. Rap kept saying that the next time we’d come back it’d be better if we were four (4) people since the magic number for cheaper car rent is four. If we were 4, we’d be paying only P5,000 each – that’s really affordable!
Our first stop was Blue Lagoon, we found it more practical since it’s in between Keflavik
(where the airport is stationed) and Reykjavik, the main city where you can access the Golden Circle and all the other sights to see. We pre-booked our access to Blue Lagoon 3 hours after our ETA. We didn’t want it to be too late in case there will be a delay and we didn’t want it to be too far-off so we wouldn't wait too long.
Since we arrived earlier than expected, after getting the car, we drove of to the nearest
supermarket. I read about it on the WOW magazine when we were on board the plane. So we decided to drop by knowing that dining in Iceland would start at around P1,000 per head (according to a family friend we talked to, per meal, per person, so for a week that would be around P21,000 per head, yikes!)
This wasn’t really a problem for Rap and me since we weren’t really heavy eaters, but we also wanted to make sure that we would be able to eat since everything is so far away and we didn’t know what time stores would close.
Swimming in Blue Lagoon It was EXTREMELY COLD. It was the first day of snow when we arrived and it was so cold, but see that’s the beauty of Blue Lagoon, even if it was ridiculously cold, when we got inside the water it was so warm – it was the best of both really. It felt so nice! Rap and I met up in the lagoon right after. It’s best to discuss a meeting point since it’s not really recommended to bring a phone and the place is really so big and during night time it’s hard to see. We got our free drinks and free facial masks and basically swam around for an hour just enjoying the scenery without our phones. We had a go pro though, so we were able to film and take photos, it was night time thought and it was snowing hard, so there’s not much to see. I realized it’s better to go there before 4PM during winter since days in Iceland are shorter. Rap and I really enjoyed our time in Blue Lagoon. It wasn’t only romantic, but the scenery was so beautiful. Truly one of a kind, and we were just lucky that it snowed, it made everything look more magical. The ONLY problem -ROCK HARDHAIR!!! Don't forget to tie your hair ladies! I’d wanna go back and swim in Blue Lagoon but the only problem I had was my hair!!! Before getting inside the lagoon, they actually give instructions to cover your hair with serum or repair cream, which I actually did. But I guess the sulfur content was really too strong that right after an hour swimming around, my hair literally hardened. I was so worried that I’d have to cut my hair. Thankfully I remembered I brought 3 minute repair and miracle creams and for the next 5 days I had to leave it on for around 30 minutes per day before washing it off.
Our photos weren't too clear, so we didn't take too much since 5PM there was already night time. Hopefully next time we'll see it during the day. But all in all, our experience was really memorable. Is it worth visiting? YES! Definitely. It’s better to visit the lagoon during the day so you can see it more, but it was still beautiful in the dark. So this is an excursion worth doing.
4. HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS We booked two (2) hotels. One in Reykjavik and the other in Keflavik. The reason being,
Reyjavik is best when touring around the Golden Circle and other Iceland spots and Keflavik because its nearest to the airport since the flight to Paris is early in the morning, so once we drop off our car, we can just take the free shuttle directly to the airport. For some reason, the best rates we found during our visit was from booking.com
IcelandAir Hotel Reykjavik Natura.
Since it was our honeymoon, I wanted it to be special, so instead of getting an AirBnB which is really the more practical alternative, I found a 4 star hotel that was actually quite affordable. Per day it costs around $100 USD, which is around P5400.00 per day with taxes. So for a stay of 3 days, we paid around P16,200. So per person it was around P8,100. The rooms were actually pretty big, so it could fit around 4 people, and it would have cost less if we stayed in a 2-3 star hotel or even an AirBnB, but hey, a honeymoon is once in a lifetime. I’ll be posting more Iceland Hotels alternatives soon. PROS:It is positioned In the middle of Reykjavik so everything is a drive away.The Grotto lighthouse is nearby and this was where we saw the northern lights in full blast. You can check the northern lights forecast here. If the forecast is around 5 (high) you have a better chance of seeing the aurora!! Very homey set up and parking is free CONS:
The hotel did not have any microwave so we seriously had to use hot water from the faucet to cook our food We actually enjoyed our stay here. Next time we visit, we would want to stay in this hotel again since it's clean, beautiful, modern and at the same time it's quite accessible.
Also the parking is free which is very important!!!
Park Inn by Radisson Reykjavik Keflavík Airport
Rap and I decided that we should stay in Keflavik on our last day since our flight to Paris would be very early the day after. We stayed in Park Inn and it was the best choice since it was close to the airport, the parking was free and it had accessible restaurants nearby since we were expecting to arrive late since we would be going to the hotel straight from our self-drive Iceland tour. The daily rate was also around $100 USD (P5400) so for each person it would be around P2,200. The place was also pretty big and it could fit around 4 people. PROS:Accessible to the airportGas stations and Restaurants are nearby
Try OLSEN OLSEN
The furnishings were a bit too old
5. SELF DRIVE TOUR
For our self drive experience we wanted to go to the following places.
Thingvellir National Park
Þingvellir National Park is one of Iceland’s most significant historic and geological sites. Iceland’s first parliament, Althing (Alþing), was founded there in the year 930 AD. Althing is the oldest still-operating parliament in the world.
Thingvellir is also renowned for its geology. Here, you can see where the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates meet as well as the way those plates have been drifting apart. A visit to Thingvellir will allow you to become better acquainted with Iceland’s greatest historical site. As you explore, more natural wonders will be revealed with each step you take.
Geyser Geothermal Field
The geothermal field around Geysir is a world-renowned area for geothermal hot springs. The Great Geysir is the hot spring that many other languages named all other spouting hot springs after. The geothermal field is believed to have a total surface area of approximately 3 km.
Most of the springs are aligned along a 100-meter-wide (328 feet) strip of land running in the same direction as the tectonic plate lines, from south to southwest. You can explore the hot springs, see the steam rising from the ground, and smell the sulfur in the air at this phenomenal natural wonder!
Here you will experience some of the rarest manifestations of underground volcanic activity. A frequently erupting geyser is a sight that is sure to fill you with wonder and awe. Walking along the footpaths, you will see the incredible power of the Earth. Furious fumaroles, bubbling mud pots, boiling hot springs, and steaming ground covered with colorful minerals can be found everywhere.
The next stop on the Golden Circle Route is the majestic Gullfoss Waterfall. It is, without a doubt, one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland. The name Gullfoss directly translates to 'Golden Falls' or 'Waterfall of Gold.' It stems from the glacial river, Hvítá. The waterfall cascades stunningly down two huge steps (11 and 22 meters or 36 and 71 feet, respectively), descending into a deep gorge. Gullfoss possesses immense power, which you can experience for yourself when you walk towards it. Here you can feel the spray of the glacial water on your face and, on sunny days, it is very likely that a rainbow will appear. Standing next to this amazing waterfall and watching enormous quantities of water tumble with great fury into the deep and meandering canyon, you will appreciate the power of Icelandic nature. Gullfoss Waterfall is a magnificent natural site that no visitor to Iceland should miss.
Kerið is one of most recognizable volcanic craters in Iceland. It was once a typical cone-shaped volcano, but after an eruption some 3000 year ago, the top has collapsed into its empty magma chamber. Keriðd has a very recognizable caldera. Its steep walls are approximately 55 meters (180 feet) deep. The caldera is 170 meters (560 feet) wide and 270 meters (890 feet) across. There is a small lake inside the caldera with a strikingly vivid aquamarine color which is due to minerals in the soil. You should not miss out on this natural wonder during your Golden Circle trip.
Entrance Fee: 500 ISK or P217 Here are some photos we took from our Golden Circle Tour:
3. Reykjavik Tour
Hallgrímskirkja church and look out for the Icelandic Wren (type of bird you can find only in Iceland)
Walk around Reykjavik
Eat Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hotdog
See the Northern Lights in Grotto
3. PIT STOP AT BUUBBLE HOTEL (The Five Million Star Hotel) under the Northern Lights
Before we continued to our Southcoast tour, we headed to Buubble hotel since it was already late. We already calculated the itinerary when we plotted it via google maps and doing a Golden Circle- Southcoast Tour straight simply is not possible during winter since days are shorter during winter. You can read more about it here.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is one of the most popular sites in Iceland. The waterfall cascades from ancient sea cliffs, dropping over 60 meters (197 feet) with intense power into the pool at your feet. The water flows from the Seljalandsá river, which has its origin at the infamous volcano glacier, Eyjafjallajökull.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is unique because it is possible to walk behind the waterfall, where you can see the world from the other side through the falling water. The views and the sounds from behind the waterfall are astonishing!
Skógafoss waterfall is one of Iceland’s most well-known waterfalls. It is 60 m tall (197 ft) and 25 m wide (80 ft), making it one of the largest waterfalls in the whole of Iceland. It is located near the village of Skógar along the Ring Road, around a two-hour drive away from Reykjavík, making it the perfect place for a day out. Skógafoss is a very powerful waterfall, and due to the amount of spray it produces, single and even double rainbows are often seen on sunny days.
Reynisfjara Black Beach
Reynisfjara has nothing to envy from the typical golden-sandy beaches. This volcanic beach with basalt columns, lava formations, towering cliffs and basalt column caves is totally unique and breathtaking. In fact, it has been ranked as one of the ten most beautiful non-tropical beaches in the world by the American journal, Islands Magazine. Reynisfjara is located very close to the fishing village of Vík, which is only a two-hour drive from Reykjavík (180 kilometers).Vík VillageThe small seaside village of Vík, also known as Vík í Mýrdal, is the southernmost village in Iceland. It has around 300 inhabitants, making it the largest settlement in the area. It is situated 180 kilometers from Reykjavík, along the ring road. Vík is surrounded by beautiful valleys, black beaches, cliffs and mountains, offering extremely varied landscapes. Mýrdalsjökull glacier is very near to the village of Vík, this glacier has the threatening volcano, Katla, lurking beneath it, for sure this is one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes.
Vík is an important local commercial and service center for the travel industry and the local people. You can find lovely cafes, restaurants, accommodation, shops and all of the most important services.
One thing you can’t miss when you are in Vík is its white church with the red roof, named Víkurkirkja, it is located at the top of the village. Built in the years 1932-1934, it has become, nowadays, a totem of the village and an important stop for tourists. The cliffs around Vík are one of the best places in Iceland to see puffins and other seabirds, mostly during the summertime.
The South Coast is beautiful, it's falloff Waterfalls, Glaciers and even a beach! Unfortunately, when we went there, the weather was extremely unstable. It would change every hour so we were not able to do a lot of things. However, when we drove to the South, it made us realise that if we just had better weather, we could have done so much more and we would have save a lot considering that the tours to the South were quite expensive! When we headed South, we didn't spend anything. We actually brought our own snacks inside the car. Then every time we would see a site, we would stop by, take a picture and just gaze at its magnificence. No one was rushing us, we enjoyed every minute of it - at our own pace. I'll write more about it some time and the drive going there. But for now, this'll do.
Here are some photos we took from our Southcoast Tour:
SAVINGS AND ADVANTAGE
To be honest, Rap and I could have made it even more affordable if we didn't stay in 4 star hotels, but it was our honeymoon and aforementioned, a honeymoon is usually once in a life time. So yes, there are better alternatives. You can check it on booking.com
But for what it's worth, through renting a car, you can save Time, and do everything at your own pace, you can even drop by more places and take more photos because no one will rush you!
Also, if you are a group of four (4) you can save more.
Here's a sample calculation of the cost for tours are in Iceland: Golden Circle Tour : P3233 per person Southcoast Day Tour: P6,073 per person City Bus Tour: P1,500 per person Northern Lights Deluxe Tour: P9,070 per person (I placed this simply because it is a known fact that when you are in a tour, time is crucial. A lot of times the northern lights does not show up early, a lot of my friends visited Iceland a lot of times and joined group bus tours and missed out seeing the aurora. However, for those who know where to go, even without spending a lot, and with a car, you can see the Northern Lights. Just make sure that you have the tracker.)
To be honest with two (2) people, we were still able to save up, but we could've saved more with a bigger group. But nonetheless we were still able to save and oct importantly do things at our own pace and take a lot of photos, which is the most important factor!!!
Before ending this entry, don't forget to do the following: Eat a Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hotdog - This is seriously the best hotdog I've ever had in my life! I would go back just to eat this