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A Guide to Accommodation in Iceland

Posted: 6th April 2017 08:49

While you may find it difficult to travel through Iceland on a shoe string, cheap accommodation, with the added bonus of glorious surroundings, can be found with just a little hard work and effort.  When planning your trip it’s important to remember that the tourist season lasts from June to August – it may be short, but expect the prices to skyrocket dramatically, so booking in advance is always a good idea.  Also, be mindful of the ‘star’ rating system; hotels and guest houses enter into this classification system voluntary, so a lack of stars might not necessarily mean you’ll be sharing a bed with a cockroach or bathing in a stream outside!

The phenomenon of chain hotels has yet to really take off in Iceland, meaning that most accommodation options are far more traditional and far kinder to the wallet.  To make things all that easier for you, we’ve put together a handy little guide of some of the typical accommodation choices that will be available, because we know that a trip to Iceland is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  You don’t want it ruined by a dodgy hotel.

Guesthouses

Locally known as ‘Gistiheimili’, guest houses are a time-honoured Scandinavian institution and a bit like a ‘bed and breakfast’ option.  Usually found in private homes, they are far cheaper than the average hotel, but be warned – private bathrooms are often a rarity.  However, for your money you will get personal cooking facilities and a decent family sized apartment that can usually sleep up to six.  About half of Iceland’s many guest houses include breakfast in the room price (delicious, traditional fare that will set you up for the day) and standards of cleanliness are always high.

Farm Holidays

A stay in a farm house is the classic Icelandic way to travel, and will definitely help you feel “at one” with nature and Iceland’s cultural traditions (not that many people travel to Iceland to find themselves, but hey.) Farmsteads are the origins of Icelandic civilisation and society, and you’ll enjoy all of the comforts of home, with quite possibly some additional luxuries such as farm-based activities.  All accommodations are rated from ‘basic’ through to ‘category IV’ (see the website for more info) enabling you to choose a farm that best suits your needs and, more importantly, your budget. 

Sleeping Bag Accommodation

No, this doesn’t mean sleeping rough; for the tough traveller on a strict budget, the Icelandic custom of ‘svefnpoka gisting’, or ‘sleeping bag accommodation’, will seem like a gift from Meili, the Norse God of Travel.  In many guesthouses, farmsteads (and an increasing number of hotels) travellers with their own sleeping bags can get up to 50% off room rates.  For the most part, the beds, rooms and amenities on offer remain the same; you simply spare housekeeping the trouble of changing the sheets! You probably won’t be granted the luxury of a private bathroom, but come on, 50% off. 

Hostels

Iceland boasts roughly 32 youth hostels.  If that seems like a little too much choice for you, don’t worry; standards of service, cleanliness and safety are all pretty much equal across the board.  Many offer double rooms, though you’re most likely to be in a shared room, with up to five other hostel dwellers.  Private bathrooms are next to none existent, but guest kitchens, a laundry service and readily available tourist information will make up for that.  Choose from lugging around your own sleeping back or ‘renting’ linen.  All hostels in Iceland can be compared and booked through one handy website.

Camping

The seriously adventurous amongst you will probably be tempted by Iceland’s many campsites.  The people of Iceland love the great outdoors, and this is clearly evident in the sheer number of campsites – virtually every town or village has one close by.  Ideal for travellers on limited means (the price per person per night is incredibly cheap) you can also be sure of safety and cleanliness.  Many campsites are found close to farmsteads and hiking trails; the keen campers among you might find it more cost-effective to hire a car and enjoy an extended camping holiday across the country.