There are certain people who regard ‘tours’ as ‘not real travelling’. Please do not listen to this snobbish garbage. Tours are awesome. Sure, there is something more adventurous about hiring a car and discovering everything by yourself, but sometimes tours are the most cost-efficient and time-efficient way of seeing what a country has to offer. Plus there’s no need to worry about flat tyres and arguing about directions. Win/win.
Our trip to Iceland was short and limited to a relatively tight budget (no £300pp helicopter lava tours for us!), so we went to the local tourist information centre and, after looking through the vast array of tours, decided on just 3: The Golden Circle, The Blue Lagoon and The South Coast Tour. Here’s a rundown of what each tour had to offer…
- The Golden Circle Tour 8360 ISK (£46 pp)
Surprise surprise! Of course we were going to pick The Golden Circle Tour! You can’t speak to any Icelandic tourist without hearing them say ‘Oooh have you done The Golden Circle yet?’ So, we had to see what all the fuss is about. The trip included:
Þingvellir National Park
- Þingvellir National Park. UNESCO world Heritage site.
Iceland is smack bang in between two tectonic plates. At this amazing place, you can see the gaping crater where these two plates are tearing apart from one another. It’s also where the old Viking Parliament used to gather. Cooler than the Houses of Commons, that’s for sure.
You know all those people who go on holiday to Iceland and come back with super cool snaps of an erupting geyser? They almost definitely took them here. Strokkur is the name of the geyser which erupts every 8-10 minutes. So get that camera at the ready!
Gullfoss (meaning ‘Golden Falls’ in English) is often considered one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It certainly is beautiful, but if you go in the winter, pack your coat; the water spray in the arctic wind is brisk!
Overall: It’s not difficult to see why The Golden Circle Tour is the most popular day tour in Iceland. We booked our tour through Sterna Travel, and we were so happy we did. Our tour guide was truly a fountain of knowledge, with a real passion and energy for Icelandic history.
*A bonus with this trip*: it departs from The Harpa, so arrive an hour early and take a look around Reykjavík’s beautiful concert hall!
- The Blue Lagoon 9700 ISK (£53 pp)
Another classic. But…a pricey one. Like The Golden Circle Tour, The Blue Lagoon is synonymous with Icelandic tourism. It’s world famous and on every must-see Iceland guide going. It was for this reason, that we knew we’d visit the Blue Lagoon before we even departed the UK. But is it worth the price? 9700 ISK got us:
- Bus transfers to and from Reykjavík
- Admission to The Blue Lagoon
And that’s it. Compared with The Golden Circle, this can seem pretty steep. But you have to remember that The Blue Lagoon is a spa, and spas are expensive. In fact, in relation to other spas around the world, this price actually isn’t that bad, especially as it includes transport. To make the most of your money, incorporate your visit in your airport transfer– you will zoom right past it on your journey from Keflavík Airport to Reykjavík anyway!
*Tip*: Visit The Blue Lagoon at dusk (season permitting!). It is a less busy time and you will get to see the Lagoon’s beauty both in the daylight and darkness.
- The South Coast Tour 12,255 ISK (£67 pp)
This tour was the best value for money by a long shot. It was a 10-hour trip, which stopped off at five locations, each of them better than the next. Here’s the rundown of what to expect:
Jo behind Seljalandsfoss
This is a beautiful little waterfall that you can actually walk behind. Bring a waterproof jacket though, there is no avoiding the spray behind the falls; this is the first stop and you do not want to begin your 10-hour journey cold and wet!
Another waterfall! Skógafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland. It’s English translation is ‘forest falls’ (“because of all the trees” our tour guide claimed sarcastically). This is a really impressive waterfall that has an almost constant rainbow effect from the masses of gushing water. If you don’t mind heights, you can even climb up the side of fall- watch your footing on the wet rocks though!
Jasper sat on the rock formations at Reynisfjara
This south coast beach is known for it’s charcoal-black sand and beautiful basalt rock formations. It is also known for its aggressive waves, which only this year fatally swept up a tourist. This is a beautiful beach, but keep a safe distance from the unpredictable water.
This is the southernmost point of Iceland and offers beautiful views of the ocean, more volcanic back sand and amazing arched rock formations. Depending on the season, this is also a popular puffin hangout.
This was the last stop on our tour. Sólheimajökull is a large melting glacier, and although our tour did not include the glacier walk (maybe next time!), simply viewing it was amazing in itself.
Overall: This tour was jam-packed with awesome sights, and well worth the money. Again, we booked this through Sterna travel and were really pleased with our guide, who taught us loads about Icelandic culture. We went away inspired!
To sum-up: tours are great, Iceland is great, we love Icelandic tours.
.:. Jo & Jasper .:.