More than two million tourists visit Iceland each year, and for good reason: the Nordic island is captivating with its volcanoes, hot springs, glaciers, geysers and lava fields. The country's capital, Reykjavik, runs on geothermal power and has museums that feature Iceland's Viking history.
Iceland is a country that seems drastically different from where many people live, so the adventurous long to explore it and maybe catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
Traveling to Iceland can be pricey, but with more than 500 home exchanges in the country, it's easy to save money and vacation affordably. When you house swap in Iceland, you can live like a local, save your money for hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and Brennivín (Iceland's signature distilled drink, clear schnapps), and enjoy the dramatic, breathtaking landscapes the island has to offer.
Here are some of the best ways to spend your vacation in Iceland!
Visit Iceland's south coast for a black sand beach
The south coast of Iceland isa popular destination for travelers, known for its black sand beaches, waterfalls, glaciers and volcanoes. The most famous black sand beach is Reynisfjara, just beside the small fishing village Vík í Mýrdal. You'll see two basalt pillars known as Reynisdrangar and nesting puffins in the summer.
Spend time in one of Iceland's geothermal pools
Iceland is famous for its geothermal spas, most notably Blue Lagoon. However, there are plenty of options to choose from. These geothermal pools are heated by the earth's crust, providing energy to much of Iceland. The hot springs are also believed to have health benefits and therapeutic properties.
See the northern lights in Iceland
September through March is peak season for viewing Iceland's northern lights, since the nights are longer and it is never truly dark in Iceland during the summer. Take a guided tour to see the lights, or rent a car (or find a home exchange with one included!) and take the magical trip yourself. If you don't want to travel far from the capital city, locals recommend viewing the lights from Grotta Lighthouse not far from Reykjavik.
Visit one of Iceland's fascinating museums
When you're cold from a week of whale watching and touring Iceland's famous Golden Circle, warm up indoors by touring one of Iceland's many museums. A few favorites include The Icelandic Punk Museum, Aurora Reykjavik, Tales from Iceland, and Perlan. These one-of-a-kind museums provide a good introduction to the country and its history and geological landscape.
Find the end of the rainbow at Skogafoss waterfall
Skogafoss is one of the largest waterfalls in Iceland, with a drop of 62 meters. You can walk right up to the waterfall (but get ready to be soaked!) and, on sunny days, will see a rainbow. You can even climb to the top of the waterfall, a steep climb of about 500 steps. This day trip provides a great chance to take dazzling photos and wonder at the beauty Iceland has to offer. You can get there from Reykjavik by car in only two hours, and many guided tours stop there as well.
Where to stay (inexpensively) on your vacation to Iceland
When it comes to finding a place to stay in Iceland, we have a few tips for you as you choose your accommodations.
- Choose somewhere with a beautiful view
You're in Iceland, enjoying the beauty of nature and the spectacular landscapes— if you can, get a house swap that offers a stunning view so you can truly enjoy Iceland at all times.
2. Choose somewhere that will keep you warm
Even during the summer, Iceland temperatures are usually only around 50 degrees F, and much colder during the winter. Lots of home exchanges in Iceland feature a hot tub, sauna, or fireplace, so you can stay toasty and comfortable no matter the season.
3. Find a house in Reykjavik if you want lots to do
Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland and the most populated city in the country. If you're looking to stay in an area with plenty of restaurants, bars, museums, public transportation, and other attractions, Reykjavik is a great option. Many tours to other parts of Iceland depart from the city too.
4. Ask locals for northern lights recommendations
When you contact your house swap partner, ask them whether their home is in or near a good area to see northern lights. You might be able to avoid a long drive into the country if you can find a house the locals say is a great viewing spot!
5. Find accommodations for the whole family
Even downtown in an apartment, you can find a place to stay in Iceland that is perfect for the entire family. For example, this home is in a quiet neighborhood and includes three children's bedrooms, a garden, a kid's playhouse, trampoline, and is around the corner from a playground.