Iceland is quickly building a reputation as an expensive place to travel, but that doesn’t mean a trip there has to break the bank. Some of the best things to do in Iceland are free, whether it’s taking a road trip, watching the Northern Lights or exploring Iceland’s unique landscape. With this list of free things to do in Iceland plus our cheap student flights to Reykjavik, you can plan an epic trip to the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ even on a student budget.
1. Relax in thermal springs. You’ve no doubt seen the pictures of the famous Blue Lagoon, but you can actually skip the fees and find free thermal springs all over the country. Check out Landbrotalaug Hot Springs, located about 2 hours north of Reykjavik, or Hveravellir Hot Springs, located between Langjökull and Hofsjökul glaciers.
2. Chill out in a free Sculpture Garden. Entry to the Einar Jónsson Museum in Reykjavik is just 600 ISK (about $5). However, if you don’t want to spring for the entry fee, there’s a free sculpture garden in the back. The garden is full of bronze casts of the work of Iceland’s first sculptor.
3. Catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, then you’ve definitely seen the ads for the Northern Lights tours. Why spend all that money though when you can see the sky for free? Head down to the Grótta lighthouse on the Seltjarnarnes Peninsula in Reykjavik for your best shot at seeing the Northern Lights for free.
4. Snap a few pics at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Spend some time with your camera at this iconic black sand beach found on the South Coast of Iceland. The beach is known for its rock formations of basalt and is considered to be one of Iceland’s most beautiful black sand beaches.
5. Hike. Iceland has many beautiful trails, hills and mountains, so it’s a great place for hiking! For example, try hiking to Glymur waterfall, Iceland’s second tallest waterfall—just be sure to bring a waterproof jacket.
6. Go to the beach. Nautholsvík Beach is one of the most popular spots in Reykjavík because it is one of the few beaches in Iceland where the water is warm enough for swimming without protective gear. Mixed with warm water, the ocean temperature usually reaches between 64° – 68°C. Also, the beach is serviced and offers great opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, volleyball and sea sports. There is no admission fee, but its opening hours vary seasonally.
7. Take a free walking tour of Reykjavik. One of the best ways to explore a new city is to take a walking tour with a local expert. For example, you can catch a free tour from The City Walk or Free Walking Tours Reykjavik.
8. Explore Reykjavik’s Botanical Gardens. There’s a beautiful botanical garden with over 5,000 plant species in Reykjavik. Each of the plants is labelled with its Icelandic and Latin species name. In the summer months you can grab a light Scandanavian dish made from vegetables grown in the garden from the coffee house and cafe in the Garden’s Gazebo.
9. Visit the Grotta Lighthouse. Take a long, scenic walk from Reykjavik city center along the coast to the Grotta Lighthouse, where you can bird watch and take in a view of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re visiting in the winter, this could be a great place to catch a free view of the Northern Lights.
10. See the Sun Voyager. Snap that perfect insta shot at the iconic Sun Voyager. This sculpture is a tribute to the sun and represents discovering uncharted territory, progress and freedom.
11. Climb Mount Esja. This mountain overlooking Reykjavik is one of Iceland’s most popular mountains for hiking. The highest summit is around 900m above sea level and has great views of the city. The hike will take a few hours, however, there’s different trails so you can pick on that matches your level.
12. Bonus: Drink the tap water. We know tap water is free pretty much everywhere, but in Iceland the tap water is clean and healthy—skip the expensive bottle water and fill up on environmentally-friendly tap water.
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