Want to visit Iceland but not sure how to do it affordably? Here are 13 incredible free things to do in Iceland that will help you stick to a budget.
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When we started planning a trip to Iceland, we were prepared to spend a ton of money. After all, Iceland is one of the most expensive countries on earth!
However, we actually found we were able to stick to a relatively reasonable budget. The main reason for that was because there were just SO many free things to do in Iceland!
Almost all of our bucket-list items were things that could be visited in nature for free!
So if you have plans to visit Iceland but you want to keep costs to a minimum, you’ll want to visit some of these incredible free things to do in Iceland.
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Is Iceland Expensive?
Generally, Iceland is considered to be quite an expensive country. In fact, Iceland was rated the third most expensive country in the world, just after Norway and Switzerland.
This is because most things have to be imported due to the country’s isolation. Products like alcohol, cigarettes, and cosmetics are especially expensive, with the average cost of a bottle of wine being about $30.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy your time in Iceland on a budget. There are actually quite a few free (or almost free) things to do in Iceland, and you can easily enjoy your time here without spending a lot of money.
Iceland is mainly known for its stunning landscapes and natural wonders, so it’s no surprise that most of the free things to do involve exploring the great outdoors. But there are also free museums and cultural activities that you can enjoy.
Here are some of the best free things to do in Iceland that will help you save some cash while still having a great time.
Free Things To Do In Iceland
1. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
Located on the Southern Coast of Iceland, this world-famous black sand beach is a must-see for anyone visiting the country.
The beach is surrounded by high cliffs and basalt sea stacks, and it’s definitely one of the most unique and beautiful beaches in the world. You can easily spend a few hours here just taking in the stunning scenery.
The beach is free to access, so it’s a great option for a budget-friendly activity in Iceland.
It’s also located just a short drive from the small fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal, where you can explore even more of Iceland’s natural beauty and maybe meet some of the locals.
2. Skogafoss Waterfall Hike
Skogafoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and it’s absolutely FREE to visit!
The waterfall itself is an amazing attraction and it’s worth a stop on any Iceland itinerary. While you’re there, you can also hike along the gorge at the top of the waterfall.
To get to the gorge hike, take the stairs to the right of the waterfall. You’ll first reach a viewing platform. After the platform, continue along the path for as long as you’d like.
The full hike is 16km (10mi) roundtrip but you can turn around at any point along the way.
I have a full post that covers everything you need to know about visiting Skogafoss Waterfall here.
The waterfall and hike are completely free to enjoy, but you may need to pay a small fee to use the bathrooms in the parking lot.
3. Spot Puffins at Dyrhólaey viewpoint
Dyrhólaey is a beautiful viewpoint near Vík. At the top, you’ll have sweeping views of a black sand beach, a natural lava arch jutting out into the sea, and beautiful black lava sea stacks.
The highlight of this viewpoint for us was the opportunity to see puffins. If you visit Dyrhólaey in the summer, you may be lucky enough to experience the puffins nesting on the cliffs.
The best time of year to see the puffins is April to September. It also helps to go early in the morning or later in the evening.
We got there around 7:30 pm and we were able to see several puffins. One even landed a few feet away from us!
4. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
One of the most incredible free attractions in Iceland is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon.
The lagoon is filled with huge chunks of blue ice that have broken off from a nearby glacier. It’s an amazing sight and it’s definitely one of the highlights of any trip to Iceland.
There are several ways to enjoy the glacier lagoon. You can walk along the edge of the lagoon to get up close to the icebergs for free.
You can also take a (paid) boat tour which will take you right into the middle of the lagoon. Sometimes, you can even see seals swimming by in the frigid waters!
A trip to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with one of Iceland’s most incredible natural wonders.
5. Diamond Beach
About a five-hour drive from Reyjkavik, along the South Coast of Iceland, you’ll find Diamond Beach. This striking black sand beach gets its name from the icebergs that wash up on shore and sparkle in the sunlight like diamonds.
The sand at Diamond Beach is formed from sediment from volcanic activity around the country that has been eroded by glaciers over millions of years.
The best time to visit Diamond Beach is during the summer months when there’s 24 hours of daylight. However, even in winter, the beach is a beautiful and otherworldly place.
Visiting Diamond Beach is free, but keep in mind that it’s located quite far from Reykjavik. If you’re short on time, it might be better to visit one of the other beaches on this list. However, if you’re visiting Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach is just across the street!
It’s also a popular spot for photography, so be sure to bring your camera!
6. See Reykjavík’s Botanical Gardens
Reykjavík Botanical Gardens is a collection of over 3000 different species of native Icelandic plants and blossoming flowers, located in the Laugardalur district of Reykjavik.
The gardens feature a wide variety of plant life, including Icelandic moss, native wildflowers, and even cacti! The idea for this garden was to create a space where the country’s native living plants could be preserved for education, research, and enjoyment.
The best time to visit the gardens is in the summer when everything is in bloom. However, the gardens are free to visit year-round.
If you’re visiting in winter, you can still enjoy the beauty of the gardens, though you might not see as many flowers.
7. Arnarstapi Arch
This iconic natural stone arch is located on the Snæfellsnes peninsula, between the villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar.
The arch is formed from two basalt columns that have been eroded over time by the sea. Its Icelandic name is Gatklettur, and it is also referred to as “Hellnar Arch”.
The arch can be reached by a short hike from either Arnarstapi or Hellnar, and the route up to the arch is incredibly scenic.
The trail is well-marked and relatively easy to follow, and should take about 30 minutes to reach the arch from either starting point. Once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding cliffs.
8. Kirkjufellsfoss Waterfall
Kirkjufellsfoss is a small but beautiful waterfall located near the Grundarfoss region on the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
The waterfall is formed by the Glacial River flowing over a basalt cliff. Kirkjufellsfoss gets its name from Kirkjufell, the mountain that it’s located near.
Kirkjufellsfoss is a short but mighty cascade, that stretches over 15m tall and is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland.
9. Ingjaldsholskirkja Church
Ingjaldsholskirkja Church is a beautiful wooden church located in the Ingjaldshol region of Iceland, near the town of Grundarfjörður.
The church was built in the early 19th century and is the oldest concrete church in the world, not to mention one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region!
The church is free to enter and there is a small museum on site that details the history of the church and the area. This is the perfect way to spend a day in Iceland on a budget!
There are also beautiful fields of Lupines in front of the church during the summertime. It makes for a really gorgeous photo spot!
10. Gljufrabui Waterfall
Gljufrabui Waterfall is a hidden gem located in the southern part of Iceland. The waterfall is tucked away in a canyon and can only be reached by hiking through a narrow cave.
Once you reach the falls, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful cascade of water tumbling over moss-covered rocks. This massive waterfall stands over 40 meters high and its rushing waters plummet down into a small pool below.
Gljufrabui is free to visit, but finding it can be a bit tricky. The best way to find the falls is to go to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall and head north from the parking lot.
Gljufrabui is about a 10 minute walk form the parking lot of Seljalandsfoss. The cave can be a bit slippery, so be sure to wear proper shoes and bring a flashlight.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland, and for good reason!
Located on the Southern coast of Iceland near the town of Selfoss, this magnificent cascade plunges over 60 meters over the edge of a cliff into a pool below, making it the tallest waterfall in Iceland.
Visitors here can even hike behind the waterfall for a unique view of the falls, which I definitely recommend! It’s such a great way to get a unique view of Seljalandsfoss and see the falls from a different perspective.
12. Gulfoss waterfall
Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls and is often referred to as the “Golden Falls” because it takes on a pretty golden color on sunny days.
The falls are located in the Hvita River Canyon in the Golden Circle region of Iceland and plunge over 32 meters into a pool below.
Gulfoss is an impressive sight to behold and is definitely a must-see on the list of free things to do in Iceland.
13. Geysir Geothermal Area
The Geysir geothermal area is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions and is home to the famous Strokkur geyser.
This impressive geyser erupts every few minutes, shooting a column of boiling water up to 40 meters into the air!
The Geysir area is free to visit and is located in the Golden Circle region, just a short drive from Gulfoss waterfall.
Tips For Visiting Iceland On A Budget
Cook Your Own Meals
One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to cook your own meals. This can be a challenge when you’re on the road, but it’s definitely doable in Iceland.
There are plenty of grocery stores around the country where you can stock up on food. The grocery store Bonus has the most affordable prices and a really great selection.
We recommend sticking to simple meals that you can easily make in your Airbnb or hostel kitchen. This way, you won’t have to spend a lot of money on restaurants and you’ll be able to put it towards other activities.
Drink The Tap Water
Yes, the tap water in Iceland is safe to drink! This is great news for travelers because it means you won’t have to spend money on bottled water.
Just fill up your water bottle before you leave for the day and you’ll be all set.
Travel With A Group
There are plenty of free things to do in Iceland, but accommodation and car rentals can add up. The best way to save money on these bigger expenses is by splitting them with more people.
We traveled to Iceland as a group of four and found that we saved a TON of money on gas, accommodation, car rental, and even food.
Compare Car Rentals
If you’re planning on renting a car during your stay in Iceland, be sure to compare rates from different companies. Car rental prices can vary significantly, so it’s worth taking the time to find the best deal.
We rented our car through the company Northbound and found them to be much more reasonable than other companies.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is taxed heavily in Iceland, so it can be quite expensive to drink here. If you’re on a budget, I recommend limiting your alcohol consumption while here.
If you really can’t do without a few cocktails while on vacation, consider bringing your own alcohol from home. This is completely legal and it will save you a lot of money in the long run.
Just be sure to pack it carefully in your suitcase and check the size allowance for liquids on your airline and Iceland’s alcohol import regulations.
This post was all about free things to do in Iceland. Hopefully this gave you some ideas for how you can save money on your trip to Iceland!
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