Planning a luxury trip to Iceland without breaking the bank for 13 women all with varying budgets, travel styles and expectations was the biggest travel planning win I have ever pulled off.
The final cost ended up being less than £850 per person for a three night break at the end of March, flying on Good Friday and arriving home on Easter Monday. We stayed in one of Iceland’s most luxurious hotels, booked private airport transfers, ate out every night, indulged in cocktails, had a private tour of the Golden Circle and indulged in the Premium Package at the Blue Lagoon. And that cost I just mentioned included all of that AND our flights (which were economy class, not business). Can you see why I’m pretty proud of that?!
How to Plan a Luxury Trip to Iceland Without Breaking the Bank
Many people think that to visit Iceland you will either have to downgrade your usual travel style or it’s going to cost you more to maintain it. They are right, but only if you’re not sure/don’t have the time to work out how to not let your usual travel style cost you more OR (to an extent) if you want to visit Iceland in their peak season.
In this article I can help you with the first issue by showing you all of my tips for travelling Iceland in luxury for less and save you some time trying to work it out for yourself.
As for visiting Iceland in peak season, we were travelling in shoulder season, but it was the Easter holiday weekend and the kids were off school (which is why we had to go then). When researching, I did notice that prices were higher for when we travelled than they were the week before. However this also shows that you don’t have to be travelling mid week in January to get these prices!
Side Note: for full transparency, I have included invoices and receipts where possible. I didn’t know I was going to write this when I was in Iceland so haven’t saved any paper receipts. You’ll just have to trust me on those!
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Luxe For Less Tip 1: Choosing Your Travel Dates
We had to go on this weekend and we had to go to Iceland (if you want to read more on why on earth we picked Iceland for a girls trip if budget was so important, you can read the backstory here) so I had no choice but to make it work. However, if you can avoid peak travel dates and travel in the off or shoulder seasons, you are likely to find more opportunities to save.
Related Post: The Best Blue Lagoon Tips: Everything You Need to Know
Luxe For Less Tip 2: Choosing Your Travel Companions
I didn’t realise until I was deep into planning and researching our long weekend in Iceland that travelling in a larger group is actually a really great way for getting luxe for less here.
Why you ask? Well, tours aren’t cheap here, even the budget ones! But interestingly, by comparison, many of the higher end options didn’t seem to be that much more expensive. By leaning towards the side of luxury and booking private vehicles for things such as transfers and tours, it actually started to work out only slightly more expensive (or even less!) per head for a whole lot more value.
Iceland is therefore a great destination to consider if you are going on a girls trip or travelling as a larger family group, because with some planning it could well end up as a cheaper way to visit than if you just do so as a couple or solo.
Luxe For Less Tip 3: Flights
Ok, along with accommodation this was going to be the biggest make or break! Do not muck around with this, set up a price alert with Skyscanner for ideally your nearest 3 airports (you would be amazed how much prices can vary if you depart from a different location) as soon as you have an idea you MAY want to book a trip.
There’s nothing like waking up one morning to an email in your inbox saying that prices have dropped by £103 per person overnight to get you motivated to book (which is when I jumped on it!).
They are good for another reason; gone are the days were you can even close to predict how prices go up and down for flights on a generic basis. Signing up to a specific destination for a price alert will give you a really good feel for how the prices ebb and flow throughout the week.
Getting these price alerts can be a bit like gambling though; it can be tempting after a “reasonable” price drop to see if they go lower; I have *generally* found that they bounce right back up again after a couple of days.
I am not sure whether this is a pricing trick to get you to book as when this has happened to me I usually frantically scramble to book as I’m worried the price may rise again, while simultaneously kicking myself that I hedged when the price was low!
Of course if you can be flexible with your dates, then you have a much better chance of getting a great flight deal.
What We Paid for Flights
For peak travel dates, I recommend you book 6 to 9 months out to get the best prices possible. I booked just over 6 months out after carefully watching the prices for about 4 weeks and when I got that price alert drop, I jumped straight on it.
We flew from 3 different UK airports and return economy flights were between £185 and £238 per person (without luggage), very decent for a 3 hour flight. We flew with IcelandAir, which has by far the best short haul economy product I have ever flown on and better than most long haul as well!
Side Note: 9 members of our party flew from the UK and 4 from New York. My American contingent sorted their own flights so have not been included in this breakdown. I do know they were around double the price.
Luxe For Less Tip 4: Hotel
This is best to do in tandem with you flight research. Have an idea of where you want to stay and jot down in your notes average costs, checking in a couple of times a week to see what’s changed.
The risk you run booking flights without even having a vague ideas of what hotels will cost is that you find limited availability or that the hotels are more expensive for the dates you now have to travel, thereby eliminating any flight savings you have made.
There are surprisingly few luxury hotels in Iceland, so getting a shortlist together didn’t take long (see my three day Iceland itinerary for my luxury hotel recommendations). It then came down to one thing and one thing only, which one offered the most value!
The final choice was Sandhotel as Mr & Mrs Smith (a company that is also my favourite curator of luxury boutique hotels) were running a 30% off all stays over two nights. We booked a mixture of single, standard and superior rooms (the latter fitting three people in). We split it in a bit of a complicated way for a variety of reasons, but for the sake of simplicity here, a standard room worked out as 13,494 ISK per person, per night (approx. £77). I have noticed this hotel have this same promotion on this website since then.
Side Note: There was a mistake on our reservation so breakfast was actually included in our room rate.
Luxe For Less Tip 5: Airport Transfers
The great thing about us travelling in a group of 13 was that when it came to booking transfers and tours, there wasn’t that much difference between the cost of group tours per head and private tours.
For our airport transfers it actually worked out cheaper per person booking private vehicles rather than group ones. There was 9 of us travelling from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik (a 45 minute journey) and I booked a private transfer via minibus with Snæland Travel.
Our journey to Reykjavík was €168 (approx. £17 per person) outbound for 9 people and €142 (approx. £16 per person) inbound for 8 people (includes a 10% discount for booking return trips). A group coach transfer starts at €22 per person (approx. £20).
Side Note: My American contingent travelled separately due to completely different flight arrival times and got a taxi which cost about ISK 25,000 (approx. £165) each way, horror. I’m pretty sure they thought the same of my suggestion to get the bus.
Luxe For Less Tip 6: The Golden Circle Tour
The most common way to experience the Golden Circle is to get a group coach tour, which costs from around £50 per person. Even at this price point these tours are big, with up to 100 people on the same one.
Doing a self drive is becoming more popular as it gives you more flexibility, freedom and a more personal experience. I considered it having read a couple of other people’s experiences of a self drive in Iceland and it seemed like a great way to see the country while on a budget. However, it just wasn’t right for this trip, there were too many people and I didn’t want to be hassled with timings and navigation.
The thought of being herded onto a coach with 99 other people sounds like my idea of hell and luckily, due to the size of our group, a private tour wasn’t that much more expensive. A small group tour in a 16 seater mini bus is around ISK 11,800 per person (approx. £67).
A Luxury Private Tour
We decided we would rather not risk having an extra 3 people join us though, so I negotiated direct with Discover Iceland to have a 14 seater minibus for just the 13 of us for ISK 170,000 (around £74 per person) .
Negotiating directly with a company is a great way to get a discount as many of these companies work with a third party tour operator or “middle man.” By cutting them out of the process you have the potential to negotiate a price reduction.
We ended up in the luxury Mercedes 16 seater anyway! It also allowed us to have total flexibility over our day and our driver also knew lots of hidden spots to take us to without the crowds, something that I loved.
In addition to the standard Golden Circle route, we got to have coffee and ice cream at a local farm, see the black sand beaches on the way back to Reykjavík and stop every time we saw an Icelandic pony. You can read my full review of the Golden Circle Tour here.
Luxe For Less Tip 7: The Blue Lagoon
Ahhhh the Blue Lagoon, not good for Operation Luxury Iceland For Less. No amount of research was going to cut the rather hefty price of this one, it’s too iconic and many people shape their entire visit to Iceland around visiting the Blue Lagoon. It’s got so popular, you must pre-book and tickets are generally sold out days, if not weeks, in advance.
Had to have a slight pout here and then reluctantly pay up. There are 3 different packages; Comfort is from ISK 6,990 (approx. £40), Premium from ISK 9,900 (approx. £56) and Luxury from ISK 79,000 (approx. £450).
When I say the “from” prices, these are very limited and sold for the entry slots an hour or two before closing, which wasn’t going to work for us. We went for the middle tier Premium Package at their peak time and paid ISK 12,990 per person (approx. £74).
It is worth noting that children under 14 go completely free, including return transfers, if booking directly with the Blue Lagoon.
Blue Lagoon Transfers
You then need to pay for transfers; here I decided just to select the add on via the Blue Lagoon booking which was an additional ISK 4,500 per person (approx. £26) for a return trip. This included the shuttle from the hotel to the main bus terminal where the main coach transfer departed from, required as large vehicles are not allowed in Reykjavik city centre.
When you take this into account, I found booking through the Blue Lagoon was the cheapest way to do it.
Top Tip: Be careful when booking tours that they include a shuttle service to Reykjavik Main Bus Terminal if you are not within walking distance. If they don’t, you will need to pay a taxi to get you there and they aren’t cheap! Public transport options are very limited in Reykjavik.
Luxe For Less Tip 8: Restaurants & Bars
Many people would book all the things above and stop there, however to really control your costs, I recommend you plan and book your restaurant reservations before you go.
Happy Hour is prolific in Reykjavik and if you are looking to experience Iceland’s great bars and restaurants on a budget, you will want to take advantage of this. Download the app Appy Hour, it gives a list of virtually all of Reykjavík’s happy hours including location, prices and which drinks are included. We also timed our restaurant reservations to coincide with happy hours to take advantage of the cheaper drinks with our meal.
I thoroughly researched many restaurants in Reykjavik and pre booked all in advance, particularly as you can’t leave it to chance with a big group. I also love good food and didn’t want to compromise this for cost. Every restaurant we ate at was excellent and what I would regard as a reasonable price for the quality.
A small tapas restaurant with a superb view of Hallgrimskirkja Church, Rok is a great introduction to Icelandic food. It worked really well with our group as we ordered loads for the table and if someone didn’t like something, someone else would!
We ordered between 2 and 3 plates per person (including desserts) and they are priced at ISK 1,290 and ISK 2,390 (approx. £8 to £16). There was a great range of sides as well that were about the same size or larger than the actual tapas plates, but priced between ISK 500 and ISK 990 (approx. £3 to £7). We ordered some of these as well, great way to keep your meal costs down!
We also had a couple of bottles of wine for the table (not all of us were drinking and for those of us that were, this equated to around one large glass each), a couple of cocktails for those not drinking wine and various soft drinks. Our total bill was ISK 74,170 for 13 people, which was approx. £33 per person, total bargain!
Top Tip: Rok do a lunch deal every weekday where you can have any 2 tapas dishes for ISK 2,790 (approx. £16).
Sæmundur í Sparifötunum Gastro Pub at Kex Hostel
Don’t be put off be the word hostel, it’s not what I imagine you’ve got in your head! We went more Iceland on a budget rather than luxury Iceland on a budget here, but I have to say I loved it!
This isn’t how I imagined a hostel; smart, funky and great atmosphere. Food was great and service superb. There was also a really wide range of clientele, from families to couples in their 30s, not just gap year students. Definitely what I would call a luxury hostel, something I had no idea was a thing until our trip here.
Happy Hour runs here daily from 15:00 – 19:00 with glasses of wine or pints of beer for ISK 750 (approx. £5). We managed to get a few bottles of wine for the equivalent price and stocked up enough to last the whole meal.
The starters/ bar snacks at Kex are ISK 790 to ISK 1,290 (approx. £6 to £9) and main courses are ISK 2,390 and ISK 2,890 (approx. £15 to £19). Our total bill for the night was ISK 59,450, which was approx. £30 per person.
Most of us had a slightly later night than anticipated here, various bars and on average ISK 10,500 per person (approx. £60) down!
Related Post: A Girl’s Trip to Iceland for my Hen Party
Lava is the more formal dining option at the Blue Lagoon and was the most luxurious and high quality meal on the trip (and also the most expensive). We went for the lunch set menu which is the most cost effective way to eat here; the 2 course set menu is ISK 6,900 (approx. £40) and the 3 course is ISK 7,600 (approx. £43). We all opted for the 2 course and had a complimentary glass of sparkling wine included in the package we had booked for the Blue Lagoon.
The total bill was ISK 89,700 (approx. £40 per person).
Takeaway at Durum and Gló
On our final night, we upgraded our superior room to a suite (I have not included this in our accommodation costs, I paid as a thank you for everyone for coming) we had a girly slumber party in our suite, so it was takeaway night, perfect for Operation Luxury Iceland on a Budget!
Total bill was ISK 20,080 (approx. £9 per person, not including the wine).
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Due to the amount of pre-planning, these were really minimal. Some people opted to go shopping for clothes and souvenirs, these aren’t included in my total cost round up.
There is a charge to go into the Thingvellir Visitor Centre and see the display (we didn’t go in), but none just to walk through the park itself. There is also a charge for the toilets there of ISK 200 per person (approx. £1.15). Entry to Gullfoss and the Geysers are free, so the only extra costs were the coffee and ice cream (ISK 600, approx. £4 per person) and then lunch at the Geysir Centre which on average was ISK 1,000 (approx. £6) a head for a sandwich and drink, very reasonable for Iceland.
Related Post: Three Days in Iceland, A Complete Itinerary
If in Reykjavik, you have to try one of their famed bakeries, which some of us did for a quick lunch at Sandholt before getting our transfer to catch our flight home. A coffee and a Danish pastry came to ISK 1,200 per person (approx. £7).
Final Spend: A Luxury Trip to Iceland
A cost of £825 per person shows it is absolutely possible to travel to Iceland in luxury without breaking the bank or taking a step down from your usual travel style. £825 is actually quite a bit less than what we pay for a regular European city break, never mind what is supposed to be one of the most expensive countries in the world!
This is entirely possible to do, what I will say is it does take a fair bit more planning and a bit of creative thinking to get a great balance of luxury while managing the price tag. We didn’t scrimp either, I have included our rather boozy night (when on holiday and all!) and places like Rok and Lava are among some of the best restaurants in the country.
What I haven’t included is any souvenir shopping spend, I know a couple of people bought some skincare products from the Blue Lagoon shop and browsed some of the boutiques in Reykjavik.
|Item||Purchase Value||Approximate GBP Cost*|
|Golden Circle Tour||13,077 ISK||£74|
|Blue Lagoon||17,490 ISK||£99|
**average cost per person flying from the UK
Disclaimer: The stated GBP flight prices, EUR airport transfer prices and the ISK prices for everything else are what we paid on this trip taken in March 2018. Since then, prices may have changed. Where appropriate, I have provided approximate conversions from the currency paid in to GBP. Exchange rates are ever moving, so these will not be exactly what you would pay today. The conversions are there to act purely as an indicative value to help in your travel luxe for less journey.
Most importantly though, I also had one of the best times of my life, it wasn’t your typical hen weekend destination, but it was perfect for what was important to me.
I hope this gives you a really good insight into how much a luxury trip to Iceland can cost you and I wish you luck planning your trip!
– Check Mr & Mrs Smith for a curated list of the best luxury boutique hotels in Iceland.
– Alternatively, you can view & book hotels in Reykjavik at Booking.com, Agoda or Hotels.com.
– Check flight routes and prices with Skyscanner to find the most affordable and convenient flights into Iceland.
For private tours, we used the fabulous Discover Iceland. If you are looking for a group tour, try Get Your Guide for a great range of different options and easy price comparison.
– Book Flybus airport transfers, or if your are travelling in a larger group or would like a private transfer, try Snæland Travel
– Click here to buy your Lonely Planet Guide to Iceland, my favourite guide book brand that I almost always purchase when travelling to a new destination.
– You can check out my full list of tried, tested and recommended Travel Resources here.