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Iceland on a budget - backpacking, biking, soaking and northern lights

My girlfriend and I are looking to plan a 6-7 night visit to Iceland. We're on a bit of a budget. We're very into nature and outdoors type of activities. Not huge fans of cities and partying, but not allergic to it either. Looking for some ideas for a 7-8 day itinerary. Could involve multi-day biking or hiking (any recommended tour operators?). Want to see northern lights, but not visit in the middle of winter. 

Accommodations can be 3.5 star, nothing fancy, but doesn't have to be a hostel either. 

Any help is appreciated!

4 Answers

answered by
Justin from Phoenix

If it's cold enough to see the Northern Lights, you probably don't want to be camping in Iceland. Also, many of the interior roads will still be closed. In your situation, I'd probably sign up for newsletters from Icelandair. They offer some really good deals including airfare.

If you skip the Northern Lights and aim for summer, I'd recommend doing the hike from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. You won't need a tour operator - just backpacking gear and a place to stash anything you won't need for a multi-day (probably 3-day) hike. You'll probably still have time to swing out to Jökulsárlón Floating Icebergs and maybe even Thrihnukagigur volcano (the only place I know of where you can go inside the magma chamber of an extinct volcano).

You'll probably have to do some work to figure out your timeframe. Once you have that, I can probably give you some more helpful tips. To recap, Northern Lights = serious cold, closed roads and limited outdoor activity. No Northern Lights = way better weather, easier transportation, more daylight.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Landmannalaugar (attraction)
  2. Þórsmörk (attraction)
  3. Jökulsárlón Floating Icebergs (attraction)
  4. Thrihnukagigur volcano (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Basil from Los Angeles

Northern lights are a bit of a crap shoot and often comes down to luck. Iceland can have weeks of overcast skies and it seems even a 10 day trip could mean no clear skies then if it is clear you're bound to see something but you really want to be lucky enough to have a good solar storm while its clear. A good time if year is around equinox as earth is better aligned to receive more solar wind and there's plenty of darkness at midnight when Iceland is under the auroral oval. Keep an eye on nasas 'poes' web page to see solar activity. If the activity is low you can just pick out the lights from Reykjavik. If the solar activity is high make sure you are out of town and get ready for the show of a lifetime !

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Iceland (country)
  2. Reykjavik (city)
1 thanks

answered first by
Ashley from Calgary

We're heading there Saturday, we'll have to follow up and let you know how it goes! If you want to see the Northern lights it's got to be dark which is mostly during the winter months.  Shoulder seasons would probably be best September/October or end of March/April might be darker and warmer but probably not a whole lot?

1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Camille from Bar Harbor

Hi Ianca

We were there for four weeks in the springtime and saw northern lights when the sun just dipped below the horizon, so  maybe you can have it all! We rented a car and camped for free around iceland, stopping in at thermal baths along the way. Just driving the loop road is fantastic, with lots of little hikes and walks. The only serious nightlife is in Rekyjavik which is definitely worth a visit. Check out Noodle Station and Icelandic Fish and Chips for less expensive great food there and hit a bar called 'Boston' for the cheapest beers in town. Have a great time!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Noodle Station (restaurant)
  2. Icelandic Fish and Chips (restaurant)

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