Published: September 11th 2011June 17th 2011
Average camping cost/night touring Iceland for ~2 weeks: $10 on VISA debit.
Cup of good Gevalia coffee: ~$2 on VISA debit.
The knowledge that you'll soon be somewhere where the summer temperature is above 55°F: priceless.
Some things are indeed priceless, like the sun which did not make much of an appearance in Iceland while I was there. That did not stop me from summitting Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur, at 2109 meters. A relatively low mountain for sure but still a burner since it was 25 km and 12 hours round trip from the parking lot. At least that day was dry.
Travel related details
At the time of travel $1 ≈ 116 Icelandic Kroner (ISK) although Iceland is virtually a cashless society. Nearly everything can be paid for with a credit card the exception being Reykjavík's local buses but the visitor's pass can remedy that problem.
I spent way more time here than I anticipated. I returned to the capital about 4 days before I left the country because I could no longer tolerate the inclement weather experienced at Skógar, Skaftafell, and Mývatn. About half the days were raining, windy, and 40°F. Accomodation and Food
Saved a lot
Burly 4x4 bus needed for Iceland's back roads. Eyjafjallajökull in the background, home of the massive 2010 volcanic eruption.
of cash camping at the Reykjavík campground at the youth hostel - 1100 ISK camping vs. 3300 ISK for the cheapest dorm bed. That was the story all over Iceland, camping for ~$10 and ~$30 for a dorm bed where bed linens cost extra. I did spent my last night in Iceland at the youth hostel so I could send home a dry tent along with other camping supplies that I wasn't going to need in Russia or Turkey. Iceland Post delivered the 3.8 kg package to the US in less than 3 weeks for $43 which included a box. Going out to eat anywhere in Reykjavík can be pricey. Icelandic Fish & Chips goes for 1950 ISK but your basic pylsur
(hot dog, Iceland's national food) is 300 ISK. Many places catering to luxury budgets. A great compromise was Eldhrimnir @ Borgartun 16. Interesting place run by Iranians with an Argentine staff - just what you'd expect in Iceland. The food is amazing and there is an all you can eat lunch buffet consisting mainly of delicious Persian food, fruits, salads, and vegetables. The skyr
(thick Icelandic yogurt, like Greek style) with caramel sauce is the perfect indulgence to
824 meters, close to Þorsmork, maybe 6 hours round trip from the campground.
compliment the savory Middle Eastern flavors. The buffet price is the best deal I found in Iceland - 1690 ISK, including strongly brewed Lavazza coffee. Another great place is right next to the campground called Just Food. I went for the massive breakfast special for 1200 ISK available 8:00 - 10:30 am. It's enough to keep you going until dinner if you tide yourself over with a hot dog in the afternoon. Important to note that both of these fantastic, and for Iceland, budget restaurants are closed on the weekends. For Iceland's best ice cream head to any of the Isbudin chain stores; there is one conveniently close to the campground. Most importantly, the campground has a fancy coffee machine where a basic brew goes for 150 ISK. Transport
Flybus operates from Keflavik airport to the central BSI bus terminal for 3500 ISK round trip which is slightly cheaper than 2 one way tickets. There's an additional 1000 ISK cost for the drop off/pick up shuttle service between the BSI terminal and lodgings (Flybus Plus) but you can save a couple bucks taking a local bus for 350 ISK. The Flybus shuttles don't wait long at the BSI terminal
Getting closer. Can make out the trail on the grassy knoll to the right of the false summit.
so use the local bus if you have business or travel inquiries at the bus terminal. Can store luggage at the bus terminal for a few dollars/day/piece. I left Reykjavík for Thórsmörk on the Reykjavík Excursions bus departing BSI at 4:00 pm and arriving 7:30 pm after a few stops for viewing. The fare for the 3.5 hour ride was a whopping 6000 ISK. Reykjavík Visitor's Pass
The 24/48/72 hour pass is great deal if you are going to be in town for a while and plan on using the pools and local buses. Unlimited internet access at the downtown visitor's center is also included. I bought a 72 hour pass for 2900 ISK and definitely got my money's worth by going to the pool adjacent to the campground every day and surfing the web downtown whenever it was raining which was frequently. I think the shorter duration passes are 1400 and 2400 ISK. Can also get into several of Reykjavík's museums with the pass but not the Saga Museum.
Thórsmörk (Þórsmörk in Icelandic)Accommodation and food
Camping is 1000 ISK and the facilities are excellent. There is also a hostel, showers, and a sauna (fee charged). Kitchen
Looking Back Towards Thórsmörk
Right edge is route up to Fimmvörðuháls Pass and eventually Skógar.
is great and there is a lot of food left behind. Best not to rely on that although the hostel serves meals in a pinch. Transport
Not totally relevant as I walked the 25 km to Skógar in the rain in about 10 hours. Not fun. Did not get any better in Skógar as the 950 ISK campground is woefully inadequate. The shelter barely provides any and is far too small for the large crowds that congregate to get out of the incessant rain. The only electricity is in the bathroom which also happens to be where everyone hangs their soaking wet clothes in a futile attempt to dry them. There is an exposed kitchenette (i.e., a cold water sink and counter top) under the roof which seems even smaller when a group of 17 Austrians takes over the campground. A 5 minute hot shower costs 300 ISK. Next day tried to hitch in the rain to Skaftafell from the Skógafoss parking lot. Several vehicles actually stopped to offer me a ride but they were all headed in the opposite direction to Reykjavík. Soon settled for the 11:40 am Sterna bus which arrived at the park ~2:30 pm and
was also expensive costing 5200 ISK.
There are a lot of hiking trails but the one full day I had at the park was a bit wet. I was also beat after the long, miserable hike from Thórsmörk to Skógar and I wanted to rest up before the Hvannadalshnúkur climb. Accommodation and food
Camping on the grassy field goes for 950 ISK. Again, hot showers are 300 ISK for 5 minutes. The kitchen is also exposed but there are covered picnic benches. Several drying sheds are in the camping areas. The visitor's center snack bar isn't a bad place to hang out when it is raining and the 1000 ISK bowls of soup are very tasty. There is good coffee, beer, and a very limited supply of groceries. Hvannadalshnúkur
I went on a guided trip with Icelandic Mountain Guides for 23000 ISK booked online about a week in advance before I left the US. The trip could probably set up on the spot in the park as there are 2 companies that each go 3x a week every other day. Hence, one day/week there are no guided trips. A bit expensive (not for Iceland, however)
Covers Katla volcano, one of Iceland's biggest.
but it includes a guide, all equipment, and transport. It’s not very technical but it would have been very difficult to arrange on my own especially without a vehicle. The day before the climb I met the guide and 2 other climbers from France and England. On summit day we assembled at the guide hut at 5:00 am, drove off the trailhead, and hit the trail ~20 minutes later. The weather wasn’t bad, no rain and decent visibility. Everyone was fit and there were no issues with pace or needing constant rest stops. Looked promising. Then at the rope up point we met a group descending who did not summit because they could not see anything. We continued to slog up the glacier to the plateau below the summit block where we stopped to put on crampons. Miraculously, the cloud obscuring the summit block began to lift just as we approached the base. We may have summitted regardless because the guide had a GPS and was confident we could navigate in a white out. Fortunately that was not necessary and we were rewarded with 20 dry and surprisingly warm minutes on the summit. The descent took much less time and
Close up of gnarly glacier descending from the icecap.
we were back at the parking lot at 4:00 pm. Transport
Leaving the parking lot I scored a long ride all the way to Egilsstaðir after waiting only 15 minutes. It may have been the highlight of the entire trip, Iceland's highest peak not withstanding. The ride was glorious and it was one of the last sunny days. We stopped at Jökulsárlón for a bit then a beach of the smooth stone variety. North of Höfn the ring road enters the east fjords which are nothing short of spectacular. We skipped one or two fjords by taking the Öxi bypass road (route 939) which heads up from the terminal end of one fjord passing literally dozens of waterfalls on either side. It is a gravel road but suitable for 2WD vehicles under normal conditions.
Pitiful, unlovable Egilsstaðir gets a bad rap but I sort of liked it. It's small, compact, and boring but the pool is nice (400 ISK entrance fee), the library has free internet, the N1 petrol station has a buzzing vibe, and there is free coffee in the new information center lobby. Accommodation and food
Camping is 1000 ISK. There is a
new toilet block with free, hot showers and a small cabin with a kitchen. Also a pricey washer and dryer, each costing 750 ISK/load. The adjacent restaurant serves a mouth watering lamb burger w/ fries for 1390 ISK, really delicious after 5 days of backpacking food in Thórsmörk, Skógar, and Skaftafell supplemented with the occasional snack bar soup. The N1 petrol station has a decent restaurant serving soups, salad bar, fresh bread, pizza, carrot cake, and fantastic ice cream. There are a couple of supermarkets and the one next to the N1 occasionally serves free coffee. Transport
Tried to hitch to Mývatn without any luck. Boarded the 1:00 pm bus for the 2 hour ride. Again, not cheap at 4800 ISK. There are weekday buses to Seyðisfjörður but it is easy enough to hitch there and back. There was nothing going on in Seyðisfjörður when I went but it was a Sunday. Purportedly a livelier town when the ferry arrives and departs.
Another area where you need decent weather to partake in the outdoor activities. I had big plans for the 3 days I intended to stay - bike around the lake, tag a couple of summits,
overnight hike from Dettifoss to Ásbyrgi - but those were all dashed due to fowl weather. Accommodation and food
Camping at the centrally located Bjarg is 1200 ISK. The bathrooms and hot showers are nice but the kitchen tent is cold and there really isn't enough stove space for the number of campers. Not much of a restaurant scene to speak of. The supermarket serving hot dogs seems to be about the only affordable option in town. The pool (400 ISK) is not Iceland's finest but is the only activity when it is raining unless you don't mind getting wet hiking with limited to no views. Transport
Lots of different bus routes to the surrounding area with Ásbyrgi and Dettifoss being the major attractions. I couldn't be bothered anymore with the inhospitable weather, packed up early, and waited a few hours for a ride to Akureyri in the cold drizzle to no avail. After a short lunch break for the ubiquitous hot dog, I got really lucky with a ride straight to the Akureyri airport where I easily changed my flight for free to one leaving very soon after arriving at the terminal. Go standby at the airport
On the way back to camp under rapidly, and very frequently, deteriorating weather.
to change tickets, not online where you are sure to be charged. My ticket from Akureyri to Reykjavík on Air Iceland was ~$53 bought way in advance on line. The flight is 40 minutes while the bus ride is 6 hours and costs over 100000 ISK.
There are more photos below