If you live in Minnesota and are looking for a long-weekend break, Iceland isn't the first place that springs to mind.
But why not? Plane tickets won't break the bank and sure, the flight takes a little longer, but at just under 6 hours it's not much different from flying to Mexico, southern California or the Caribbean.
Icelandair flies direct to Keflavik from MSP Terminal 2, but how much you'll spend depends on the time you go, with July and August the busiest and most expensive months.
If you're looking to keep things cheap but not be in pitch darkness (ie. winter), maybe consider October or March (we went in March). Temperatures will be around freezing, but there will be daylight and you can still have a chance of catching the Northern Lights.
FollowMeAway agrees, reckoning you'll find the best balance between cost, weather and (lack of) tourists between March and May, and September-October.
Icelandair is currently charging $465 for a return flight between MSP and Iceland Saturday to Saturday, March 9-16. If you fly midweek, Wednesday to Wednesday, it'll be about $20 cheaper.
If you're going cheap, a hotel in March will set you back around $60-a-night in Reykjavik according to Booking.com. For a guest house you'll likely pay $95-a-night, and a budget hotel will cost you around $110-a-night.
That said, there's more to Iceland than Reykjavik, and if you're renting a car then you'll want to head out and explore more isolated parts of it, and there are plenty of cheap accommodation options outside the capital.
For those Mar 9-16 dates, Sixt.com is offering a Ford Focus Sedan for $27-a-day to rent from Keflavik International, while a small SUV (Toyota RAV4) costs around $41-a-day.
- Eat most meals at local grocery stores to keep things cheap; Kronan was located close to our hotel and we saw a lot of Bonus stores.
- If you’re having a layover at the airport, BRING SNACKS! Airport food is ridiculously overpriced, more so than usual.
- Walk everywhere in Reykjavik, everything's close.
- Book in advance for excursions.
- Choose basic over luxury; you’re there for the adventure.
How we spent our 3 days there
We flew into Keflavik and jumped on a bus for the 45-minute journey into Reykjavik along the beautiful coast. Depending on where you stay during your Iayover, they will drop you off at your door.
We stayed at the eco-friendly Eyja Guldsmeden hotel and it was absolutely beautiful; the perfect location to be able to walk anywhere we desired, but not break the bank.
Start your day by wandering the city streets to do some local shopping, maybe even buy yourself an Icelandic sweater. If you are more of a North Face fan, be sure to check out our favorite Iceland brand, 66° north. Next, be budget friendly and see the city with a free, yes, free, walking tour by visiting Iceland’s Free Walking Tour. No booking required.
End your day by walking up to the glass-domed Perlan at sunset for great views of the city and beautiful photos. We headed back into town for dinner at a local Icelandic restaurant, Potturinn Og Pannan. It’s quickly learned that food is the most expensive part of an Iceland three-day layover, but we got the most of our money here.
The largest church in Iceland, Hallgrimskirkja costs around 9 Euros to head to the top via elevator. You don’t want to miss the spectacular view of the coast, the colorful rooftops, or the Perlan in the distance.
We then took a seven-hour excursion out of Reykjavik, the first stop on which was the Thingvellir National Park, where you walk between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Next, stop at Gullfoss Waterfalls and take in the breathtaking beauty of mother nature, before heading to the geothermal region of Geysir. Here you will wander through the bubbling hot springs, dodge the rotten egg smell as much as possible, and wait for the waterspout Strokkur to shoot 98 feet in the air.
What’s a trip to Iceland without stopping at the famous Blue Lagoon?!
It was overcast the day when we stopped, and since the sun is what makes the water appear blue, it was more of a teal lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with mud masks and a swim-up bar surrounded by lava rocks; no big deal. Relax in the perfectly warm water, book a spa treatment, have drinks at the bar, sit in the sauna with people from all over the world; the possibilities are endless.
We spent roughly 3 hours at the lagoon. If you don't have a rental car and you do not plan to spend the whole day there, then go on your way to or from the airport. This cannot be stressed enough. The lagoon is about a 15 minute bus ride from the airport, and lets you store your luggage, so this is the most convenient way to visit.
There are tiered pricing options, starting from the basic package at about $64, which gets you entry to the lagoon, a mud mask, use of a towel and a drink, while a premium ticket costs you about $90 and gets you more benefits.