Iceland is not the first place you would think about backpacking in Europe. But it’s one of the most interesting. The country with population of only ~300,000 on large territory offers northern experiences that you can’t find anywhere else.
One of the problems of budged backpacking in Iceland is that the country is scarily expensive. At least for people on budget of course 🙂 So to go around the whole country and visit glaciers and wild nature you’ll need to be the guy with piles of cash.
If that’s not you, let me offer you a small region near the capital Reykjavik that’s interesting enough to experience.
Reykjavik itself, in my opinion, isn’t at all the most interesting place in Iceland. Sure, it’s nice to see a capital with so few people and there are few interesting buildings and parks to check. That’s almost all you could do there however so don’t plan for more than a couple of days.
Do: walk around the sea, view the Opera, check some museums. Eat some hot-dogs, it’s the cheapest food you can find outside.
Don’t do the mistake to spend your whole time in Iceland only in Reykjavik. Even if you are on a thin budget, there are few nice places around to visit.
Here I want to give you some advice about the bus system in this part of Iceland. The buses are divided by zones, and Zone 1 covers the whole city plus Kopavogur and (I think) going to Hafnarfjordur. The ticket is a bit expensive (euro 2) but it’s valid for given time. During this time you can catch more buses with the same ticket. You can buy tickets from the driver but only if you have the exact amount, as they have no change.
If you buy tickets for Zone 2 or Zone 3 (like the case with going to Hveragerdi), have in mind that you can also use these tickets for Zone 1. They are usually valid for at least 2 hours, so that’s a good way to save some cash. Tickets for zone 3 are around euro 6.
Hafnarfjordur is a very nice small town 10km away of Reykjavik. I highly recommend you to visit it. You will see real Nordic houses, nice empty streets, and the nature much closely than in the capital.
Do visit the museum, it’s free and very nice. Get a city guide from your hotel or hostel, there are surprisingly many interesting landmarks in the city.
Speaking about hostels, I recommend you to stay in the town instead of Reykjavik. We did so and saved quite a lot of money. We used this hostel, I recommend it fully.
There are not many supermarkets in Hafnarfjordur – one small is in the mall, and a bigger one is at North on the way to Reykjavik.
Hveragerdi is a little town 40km away of Reykjavik. While in the capital you should go to Mjodd bus station and get the bus from there. You need tickets for Zone 3. There are buses each 1-2 hours going to Hveragerdi.
Do visit the geysir park and try the bread made on geysir heat there. It tastes great. Later you can buy almost the same bread from supermarkets in Reykjavik.
The town is really small and you can easily go out in the wild to see some more geisyrs, horse farms, abandoned barns, camping site and more.
This is actually the town where the Iceland international airport is – it’s not in Reykjavik. As there are no buses who go to Keflavik from the airport, most visitors miss to visit this nice port town. I recommend you not to skip it. You can get a bus from Reykjavik BSI bus station and go to Keflavik.
What we did was to spend the last night in Kevlaink, in the B&B Guesthouse and they offer free airport transfer, so it was perfect. It’s not as cheap as the Hafnarfjordur hostel, but its location is great and they offer bread, butter, milk, tea, etc all the time for free.
Do: enjoy walking on the path near the sea, see the old abandoned ships, drink some polar beer.
So here you go, four towns, each with its own character, and all that on really low budget. It’s hard to beat this experience in Iceland.