Sabrine Donohue

For students, a trip to Iceland might sound unattainable given its high prices. But with some planning, a short getaway is entirely possible.

The country is known for its rocky landscapes, geysers and spas. Unfortunately, public transportation outside of the capital Reykjavik is sub-zero.  So, to arrive at popular tourist destinations like the Golden Circle (which hosts the clear-water spa ‘The Secret Lagoon’), the Thingvellir volcanic national park or the Gullfloss or Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, you must hire a car – a small 4×4 car averages around €100 per day.

Transportation to and from Reykjavik airport or to and from any tourist attraction is facilitated by private bus companies in the absence of a car. A one-way trip by private bus averages €50.

If you don’t mind staying in or around the capital during the duration of your trip, the city hosts small restaurants such as the famous Sægreifinn (Sea Baron) fish restaurant. The boat-themed restaurant offers a cup of lobster soup for €10, or choices of grilled Icelandic salmon, redfish, trout, shrimp, scallops, or whale meat at €13 a skewer. If the waiting time doesn’t turn you off (which may be up to 30 minutes), this restaurant is a bargain considering fast-food eats like Subway fetch around the same price for a sandwich.

There are several modern-art attractions in the capital which come free of charge, such as the Sun Voyager, a  ‘dream boat’ sculpture by Reykjavik’s northern seafront and the Harpa conference hall and concert theatre, with its distinctive purple-navy glass facade reflecting the colours of the Icelandic landscape.

The main church in the city, Hallgrímskirkja, is of the Lutheran parish and is named after a famous Icelandic poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson. Its creator was inspired by the shapes of lava rocks, hence its angular and sloping shape. The church tower stands nearly 75 metres and makes the church the largest and one of the tallest buildings in Iceland. It is open to the public from 9am to 5pm during the winter and until 9pm in the summertime.

Walking around the city, you can see Reykjavik’s beige-coloured houses with the almost ubiquitous ‘northern light’ star-shaped lanterns dangling from every window. Around many corners are colourful paintings on the side of buildings as well as numerous record shops, which add colour to what may seem as a bland capital city.

Iceland’s geothermal spa, the ‘Blue Lagoon’, is the country’s most popular attraction and is within the Reykjavik region. The spa sits upon a lava field in in the south-west of Iceland near Grindavik. Although there are a number of less touristic spas and pools, the Blue Lagoon’s 39° milky-blue water infused with volcanic minerals, surrounded by dark lava rocks encompasses the utmost form of relaxation, and as cliché as it sounds, it is well worth a visit. The spa is the largest in Iceland, so even when it’s booked-up there’s always a comfortable distance between you and the other guests.

The prices are equally as luxurious and must be booked up to two months in advance. But for a student, you could spend the best part of a day at the spa at a starting price of €86 for the cheapest package. This includes one free drink (a beer, rosé, juice or smoothie) and as many silica mud face masks as you would like. If you book early, you can enjoy the spa for as long as you want until closing time at 10 pm.

The midnight sun is visible during the summer, and if you’re lucky, so too are the northern lights during the winter.


Sabrine Donohoe

Image Credit: Sabrine Donohoe