The question I get asked a lot when I return from a trip is always, “Where did you stay?”, followed by, “Really? And how was it?” I can pretty much guarantee that my one rule for lodging will never change while I travel, and that one rule is to stay as cheap as possible while still having reasonable accommodations. This is because I don’t travel to enjoy the 4 walls of hotel room or how nice their lobby was. I travel to see the country and meet people. With that being said, I usually am constantly reading reviews of hostels to see if they are popular for other travelers to visit and if they have a shower. Anything on top of that is just a bonus.
Now, where and how to stay while traveling through Iceland. During my planning stage, google maps was my best friend. I was desperately looking for hostels in the regions we wanted to visit, and very few came up in the search results. I was shocked at how few lodging options there were, like 1 hostel every 50-100km apart from each other. It wasn’t until we arrived and began driving around the island did I realize I couldn’t have been more wrong about the amount of lodging. There are places to stay…everywhere!
I am not exaggerating when I state that every 5km, we saw signs for lodging at a hotel, hostel, or guest house. Houses and buildings are spread out quite far from each other in the countryside of Iceland; with that being said, nearly every small town has a place for travelers to stay. I cannot comment on all lodging options, since I only visited 4 of them, but if I can speak from my experience, they will be incredible no matter where you stay. The Icelandic people we met were incredibly nice and accommodating all the time, so I can only imagine that most of the other locations would be just as fitting.
I will categorize the 5 lodging options that are available in Iceland from my experience, what I’ve researched, and what I heard from people when we were traveling the country. The five options, in order of expected accommodations, are Hotels, Hostels, Guesthouses, Camper Vans, and Camping. You will find hotels in the more populated cities like Reykjavic, Vik, Hofn, and Akureyri. Next are the hostels, which we stayed in for 4 of the nights. These will range from the massive hostels in the city of Reykjavic that host hundreds of people, have restaurants in them, and offer an incredible chance to meet other travelers, to the smaller ones you will find in all the other smaller cities that are only 3-8 rooms filled with maybe a common room or even a dining room. Two of the hostels we stayed in all provided, for a cost, a incredible breakfast for us each morning. This was important because meals were far and few between, due to the amount of driving we were doing each day. The third option is the guesthouse, which can vary quite a bit from a small, four person cabin at the base of a mountain in a town of 30 people to an extra, external room attached to a person’s home. This will be much more of a personal experience, since you are essentially becoming a guest of an Icelandic family for a night.
The last two options are the most unusual for some travelers, and maybe quite normal for most others. There are a dozen companies in Iceland that have a fleet of sprinter vans with beds built into the back for two to eight passengers to sleep in, as they travel around the country. We met a few groups that did this and it sounded incredible. As long as you’re not traveling during the tourist season, June-August, you can pretty much park the van where ever you want, and spend the night. For example, want to hike a mountain and get an alpine start, forget driving from Reykjavik, just park your car on the side of the road at the base, and boom, you’re already there when you wake up. When I go back, this is the option I’m definitely going to utilize. Lastly is the conventional camping. We didn’t meet too many travelers who did this, but from what we saw, there were dozens of actual campsites outside the small towns we passed by on route 1. Along with that, you could easily hike up into any of the mountains and pitch a tent wherever you want and you would be the only person in sight for miles and miles. Just be aware that the weather is quite unpredictable and precipitous 75% of the time, along with the fact the entire island is filled with sharp volcanic rock.
In summary, don’t be limited by what the internet says Iceland has to offer. www.Hostel.is is quite helpful; but there are hundreds more out there, and I guarantee that there will be vacancy since most “tourists” wouldn’t ever find them or risk staying in them. For those of you that tend to be more of an adventure seeker, I recommend the camper/camping options, just note that you will standing out as you’re a driving advertisement for the camper van company plasters the sides of the vans with their logos and slogans. What ever options you choose, just note that there will always be a place to stay, so do not feel like a trip to Iceland would be too difficult to plan or execute.