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Iceland is the most beautiful country in the world, but it’s not my favorite. That honor still goes to Scotland where the food, people, climate, dialect, nature and location come together to make a spectacular package. Iceland is drop-dead gorgeous, the people are friendly and the food is truly unique. So why didn’t it become my favorite?

Blue Lagoon in Iceland

In 2017, I received several invitations for the Trablin summit in Iceland. Trablin (short for Travel Bloggers and Influencers) was a new convention for influencers. I really wanted to get to their first annual conference, not just because attending these conventions is good for bloggers, Instagrammers, vloggers, et al., but because it was taking place in Iceland! At the time, I was honestly concerned that Iceland would pass up Scotland as my favorite country in the world.

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Hotdogs are Too Expensive

I’m no stranger to large figures for prices around the world. In Hungary, I paid 1,325 forints for a hamburger, and a delicious eggs & salmon breakfast in Vientiane, Laos was a staggering 35,000 kip! Yet it’s the conversion of those currencies that matters. The hamburger in Hungary came out to about $5, while the Laotian breakfast set me back $4.20.

When I got to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, I didn’t think much of the 8,100 kronor price tag. I had pre-booked my tickets when setting up my travels and wasn’t looking at the conversion rates. Silly me!

It wasn’t until that night when I was running to catch my northern lights boat tour and stopped at a Subway to get a fast dinner that I found out just how expensive Iceland was. I ordered a foot-long sandwich. While it was being made, I finally had a chance to check xe.com and find out how much the 1,499 kronor converted to $14.25! OMG! I quickly realized one thing about Iceland. If this was considered one of the cheapest places to eat in the country, within a week I would be broke!

I quickly learned that the prices were equally high for other purchases. A night in a decent hostel is about $50, while a good hotel runs for more like $500 a night! It wasn’t uncommon to find meals in town for over $100 a plate. Just the round-trip bus ticket from the airport to Reykjavik is over $50!

Most of the travel hacks to stay within a budget (buying food at a market instead of a restaurant, sleeping in a hostel and hitchhiking) don’t get you very far in Iceland. Food in the stores is not much cheaper than the restaurants. I saw a bottle of water in one of the shops for $5, and a bag of chips was $4.

In contrast, Edinburgh is a far cheaper city to visit or live in. While considered one of the most expensive cities in the UK, a bottle of water is as little as $0.50, a night in a hostel can be found for $9, I’ve found car rentals for under $10 a day, and renting an apartment can be found for under $500 a month.

Hotdogs came to my rescue. There is a world-famous street food stand in the center of Reykjavik called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. They’ve had notable figures like Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian try their hotdogs, and are advertised as the best hotdogs in the world. I don’t think I could call them the best in the world, but they are certainly above average with their lamb meat, fried onions and special sauce. And while they weren’t the best, they were certainly the cheapest meal in Iceland at only $3.80 a hot dog. I’ll admit I had dinner there more than once during my week in the country.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur Hotdogs

If money wasn’t a concern, I would probably be calling Iceland my favorite country in the world right now.

What Continent is Iceland On?

One thing that makes Scotland my favorite country is its global location. Not just beauty-wise, but for the convenience of travel. I can fly round-trip from Edinburgh to Los Angeles or Bangkok for under $500! That’s cheaper than the average domestic flight within the US. Better yet, there are destinations all across Europe where I can fly to for $25 each way!

It’s not to say there aren’t cheap flights from Iceland – many locations in Europe can still be reached for under $100 round trip. But Iceland is relatively remote, and longer trips (those not serviced by WOW Air) are significantly more expensive. There are only 20 countries you can fly round trip to for under $200 (as of today) compared to 46 countries from the UK.

I wouldn’t say it’s the price of the flights that turns me off, but rather just the feeling of being remote. Even in places like SE Asia or Albania, I still felt like I was either in a hub of activity or within easy travel of it. Perhaps Iceland just reminds me of how my mom lives in Montana, which is about as remote as you can get in the US – a full 12 hours to drive to the nearest decent city. Then again, Reykjavik is the only “decent city” in Iceland! Of course, that feels like an insult to Reykjavik, which I consider as a truly world-class city full of beauty, art, innovation and fun.

Church in Reykjavik

But back to the question. What continent is Iceland on? When I was in the US, I was certain that Iceland was in Europe. However, I’ve met many Europeans who insisted it was part of North America. The truth? It’s on both continents! The Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir) National Park contains the land split between North America and Europe. You can even take a tour with Reykjavik Sightseeing to scuba dive down in the trench between continents.

Iceland Lanscape at Sunrise

While I suppose you could consider it being on both continents, I personally believe Iceland is its own little world. It feels like you’ve left planet Earth when you arrive. Perhaps that’s what gives it the remote feeling. While I love that aspect, for my favorite country I prefer it to be slightly more centrally located.

What’s Wrong with Iceland?

So, other than being expensive and kinda out of the way, what’s wrong with Iceland? Nothing! It is a truly incredible country. While I’m staying true to saying that Scotland is my favorite country in the world, it would be a lie not to say that Iceland is the most beautiful country in the world. Between the waterfalls, volcanos, northern lights, thermal springs, glaciers, lava fields, ice caves and puffins, it’s simply stunning. I’d be happy to spend a full year exploring every gorgeous location in the country. After all, some of my favorite Game of Thrones scenes were filmed here. Someday I might even make it to the cave where…yeah, you know the one.

What about the people? In three words – friendly, beautiful and fun. I personally didn’t have a single bad moment of hospitality in the week I was in the country. I did hear a couple stories from two other influencers about trouble they were running into, but from knowing those people, I don’t believe the fault was with the Icelanders.

They were always happy, welcoming and ready to have fun. And yeah, they look like remnants out of some Greek myth. Muscular men and beautiful, blonde woman, both of which affect the fashion of long hair. There was some mention that Icelanders have a problem with being overweight, but that wasn’t readily observable in Reykjavik. However, if you look at some of the meals they eat, well, perhaps that might account for something. Maybe someday I’ll try their jellied sheep heads and sour ram testicles. Maybe…

And the climate? Well, I went in November and it was freezing. I got to witness the first snow that Reykjavik received in two years. More than that, I drove back from one of my excursions in a blizzard that pushed a tour bus off the road (an extremely rare occurrence, don’t let it put you off from visiting). I personally loved the adventure of it as my 4×4 slid from side to side on the road. I also got to see the northern lights three days in a row, and one of them was deemed the best display all year! While they can be elusive, they are seen often enough that locals consider them commonplace and hardly notice them anymore.

When it comes to tourism, Iceland really sets the stage! Every tourist attraction I went to was under renovations to improve facilities. I can think of a lot of places (I’m looking at you, Isle of Skye) which could really learn a thing or two from the tourism industry of Iceland. However, there is one serious problem with tourism there. The tourists! Some of them can be really uncaring for the landscape (moss takes decades to grow back, Justin Bieber) and getting your car stuck on a glacier several times consecutively is just plain rude in any country. Before you go, please read The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland: Tips, tricks, and what the Icelanders really think of youWhy Iceland Didn't Become My Favorite Country in the World 1 by Alda Sigmundsdottir. In fact, you should read that book before traveling to any country in the world.

Selfie with Plane Crash in Iceland

I still love the Scottish accent the best, but Iceland also has a really nice language to listen to. It’s always good to learn some words in the native language before going to a new country. Here’s a great karaoke video you can use to gain a bit of knowledge of Icelandic.

The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World

There was one fact about Iceland which certainly put it above every other country in the world, particularly Scotland and Thailand which are two of my favorite countries. Unlike those countries which are infested with mosquitoes, roaches (Thailand), mice and other insects and vermin, Iceland has none of that. Absolutely none. Not one insect! Perhaps my favorite conversation on the island was in the taxi on my way back to the airport. I commented to the cabby how I loved that Iceland had no insects. He said, “No what?” Haha! He honestly was unfamiliar with the word!

Would I Return to Iceland?

In a heartbeat! I’m already making plans to visit in May. This time, I want to see the waterfalls in the summer surrounded by green. I want to jump into the secret hot spring lagoons. I want to take the drive around the whole country. I want to ride the Icelandic horses, explore Diamond Beach and snorkel in the Silfra fissure between continents. Hopefully I’ll even get to try some home cooking with the locals. I’m wondering if they plan to secretly serve me those dishes mentioned above, but I did already make it through the whale testicle beer from Steðja.

What about you? Have you been to Iceland? Did it become your favorite country? Many of the travelers I talked to said it did. If you haven’t been, I hope you can make it soon. Just make sure you start saving up for the trip now. After all, it’s so worth it!

Oh, and if you don’t think that Iceland is the most beautiful country in the world, just remember that The Mountain comes from Iceland…

Other Activities in Iceland

Iceland is the most beautiful country in the world I’ve been to so far. There are hundreds of attractions around the country, of which I only saw a small handful. Here are some more adventures I went on while there, and a couple other articles I wrote to help you out.

Planning to Visit Iceland?

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Affiliate Disclosure
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Author Skye Class

Hi, I'm Skye. Writer, photographer, adventurer, foodie, teacher, masseur, friend, dreamer, etc. I think "normal" sucks. Let's aim for extraordinary. SkyeTravels seeks to find the good around the world, focusing on adventures, food and wellness. Be inspired. Be yourself.


  1. I just returned from an incredible trip to Iceland! Loved it. The thing that stood out to me was how clean it is. No trash anywhere! Why even look at bottled water when Iceland tap water is the best in the world! The natural beauty of this country is stunning!

    • I couldn’t agree more. Both Iceland and Switzerland (and parts of Scotland like the Isle of Skye) honestly look like locations not from Earth, but just go to show how beautiful this planet can be. I want to revisit Iceland in the summer to see the midnight sun and the land covered in green. Oh, and yes, even the locals think the water bottles are a scam, when the tap water is so clean and fresh. What’s wrong with a tiny bit of sulfur smell?

      • I just got back from Iceland. It was my second time in 4 months, and my 8th trip. Sadly, tourism is absolutely ruining Iceland. Many of the places I visited that were both on and off the beaten path had tissue and toilet paper everywhere. I caught two people just literally doing their business at a map pull off on a main road near the gorgeous Borgarnes and they just threw their tissues down in the ground. When I confronted the family, they said, “Well there’s no bathrooms.” No sense of lave no trace. Just disgusting. Same at the walking path to Hvítserkur- toilet tissue everywhere. Masses of tourist busses, people flooding every area, now cruise ships dropping thousands in Reykjavik and Akureyri- it’s just sad, really. I know Iceland wants to benefit from tourism dollars, but if they don’t get a handle on balance, the industry is going to destroy it. Not that the politicians are going to be that invested- they’re on the take as well.

        • Thank you for your feedback. I completely understand what you’re talking about. Scotland is seeing the same kind of behavior from irresponsibe tourists, as are many other locations around the world. And it doesn’t help with locations charge a high fee just to use the bathrooms. Definitely looking forward to seeing improvements in those locations.

    • Just got back from a week long trip to Iceland, and what’s different about this trip was the feeling of remoteness, freedom, and life of solitude (in a good way) that I experienced when exploring the myriad scenery in different regions of Iceland. The natural wonders in this country is out of this world…truly is a haven for people who want to escape the chaos of life. Iceland exudes a raw, ravishingly untouched beauty in the middle of nowhere, and that’s what I loved about it!

  2. authenticfoodquest Reply

    It’s incredible to read just how expensive the food is. Glad you were able to find decent hotdogs at $3.80. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful country and one that I would love to explore. By the way, good to know that Iceland is on two continents 🙂

    • Thanks. Hopefully the next time I go I’ll be able to try more of the food, as that is one of my favorite parts about traveling.

  3. I visited Iceland December last year and yes its pretty much expensive there, but i did love and enjoy my time and lookinf forward to visiting during summer!

    • Thanks! Me too! I just read another article about the waterfalls in the summer, and now I’m really excited!

      • Don Stauffer Reply

        It’s really hard for me to believe prices in Iceland have come down that much in just five years. I was just there 2 months ago. $500 a night for a hotel room?! What did you do, rent the whole hotel? And I don’t think you paid too much for the hot baths. That you might have done better to choose one less well-known than Blue Lagoon. Maybe the exchange rate has changed but even so, I don’t think I paid 1500 Króna for a hot dog. If I had, the exchange rate would have made that about $10.50. I’m sure it wasn’t that much. And some of the best things you can do in Iceland don’t cost you any money except a car rental which seems like a necessary expense and was a bit pricey for an all-wheel drive. But overall, I did not find Iceland to be any more expensive than the United States. And it was a lot nicer and safer and healthier.

        • It’s true, the prices were from a couple years ago. I went back to the US for a couple weeks last year and was shocked to find that the prices in Seattle were even higher than was I was paying in Iceland! But I also traveled to Iceland after living in SE Asia and Eastern Europe for a few months, so it really was a shock. Now I live in Edinburgh, and I’m watching the prices here go out the roof. Hostels and hotels are 3-10X what they were just five years ago.

          I definitely look forward to returning to Iceland and seeing how things have changed, and what the new prices are. I guess the main point was that Iceland is more beautiful than Scotland (my favorite country), but at that time it was far more expensive. I’ll have to see if that’s still the case these days.

        • Hey there Skye, I enjoyed your article as someone who just got to visit Iceland for 10 days with my father at the end of March, 2022! I would agree the the expense of things was indeed a surprise but you’re right if ain’t the most beautiful and remote country that I’ve personally witnessed! My Pops kept saying over and over again, “it’s like being on the moon!” Haha. We actually drove the entire ring road in 6 days and it was everything we could hope for. Oh, just as a tidbit of information, Iceland does have insects! Theres a famous geothermal bath to the north in Myvat’n. Broken down, My “midge” (those bugs I’m sure you’re familiar with in Scotland that they themselves actually have a song about), and vatn “lake”. This is due to the swarms of midges in the summertime that breed their larvae in the water. The more ya know haha. But moving on, I would highly suggest the Silfra snorkel, it was well worth it. We did it in freezing rain in about 30°F. The water was about 3° warmer than the air but oh boy was it worth it! Pingvellir has about 6 different parking lots so ask before heading out because we ended up on the wrong side of the rift the first go around haha. Also if you’re serious about doing the ring road at some point, rent a camper van! We saved SO much money not sleeping in hotels and hostels and it was comfortable too. We asked other travelers and we paid the same amount for a van that they did for a car. Soooooo yeah, definitely would recommend that. Other than that, don’t stop at every waterfall because there’s FAR too many, and watch out for the one-way tunnels to the north. They’re a bit dicey. But yeah, from one Ronin to the next, happy trails my friend!

          • Thanks! That’s great advice. And I can’t wait to go back myself for another visit, preferably in the summer for the green landscape and midnight sun.

  4. lucywilliamsglobal Reply

    I completely understand about how it is expensive it is in Iceland, it is crazy, but have to been to Norway? As it is just as expensive! I love Iceland in the summer as it is beautiful, if it’s not raining. I’m from the UK, so I’m very happy to hear your favourite country is Scotland. Enjoy your travels.

    • Norway is actually one of my last countries in Europe to visit, and I’ve always heard it (and Switzerland) were the most expensive countries in the world. I’m kinda dreading them, especially after Iceland! Edinburgh is my home base, and I absolutely love it here. Would definitely be hard to call another place better. 🙂

  5. Oh, of course if money isn’t an issue, I would definitely visit Iceland, after all, it’s Iceland. Right? haha One best things to love a specific place or country is the people. If the people passed your interest in this certain place then you’d love almost everything about it. People are fun and beautiful you say, I believe you’re right! Filipinos have a similar character as them, very welcoming but not that a bit overweight! I’m kind of thinking of booking a flight next year, to Iceland! Yay!

    • I certainly hope you do book that flight. Perhaps I’ll even be in the Philippines while you’re in Iceland, as I plan to visit in 2018. But I also plan to return to Iceland next year too. Yeah, the Icelanders I met were really fun.

  6. Cai Dominguez Reply

    Well written and very informative article. Wow! I know travelling in Europe is expensive but Iceland is really expensive. I also learned that its located in both North America and Europe. I thought its just part of Europe. I want to see the Aurora, its one of my ultimate dreams. Iceland is so beautiful l actually watched the karaoke video. So beautiful country! Would love to visit someday!

    • Thanks a lot! I really appreciate your enjoyment of the article. I do hope you see the northern lights someday. They are quite spectacular.

  7. Budget traveling is the key to enjoy the country I am concluding. I guess the sudden spurt of tourists there made them hike up the prices. It is indeed beautiful and as a traveler and as tourist Iceland is high on my list.

  8. I LOVED Iceland, but yes, travel here comes at quite an expense! We did a day road trip around the ring road and were averaging $100 in gas a day. It was pretty intense – but so worthwhile – Iceland is my favorite country in the world, because as nature enthusiasts we were blown away by the landscapes, and the accessibility of incredible natural wonders. Also the lack of tourism once you got outside the main cities and attractions and forged your own path 🙂

    • $100 in gas a day is crazy! I had a car rental but didn’t use it that much. Most of my time in the country was on tours. Next time I’ll have to explore further away from Reykjavik where there are fewer tourists.

  9. I’ve read way too many posts on Iceland and I just have to go there now. I’m afraid it has suddenly become such a popular destination that people are going to crowd there, did you find it crowded when you visited? I’ve heard it’s super expensive but also damn pretty, unlike any other place in the world! I guess I’ll have to see it for myself. I’ll survive on hot dogs, i am sure it’ll be worth it 🙂

    • You absolutely have to visit. It wasn’t that crowded when I went, but that was in November which tends to be a slightly less busy month. I heard April and May are the best for fewer crowds. The hot dogs are certainly worth it!

  10. OK so I have yet to go to Iceland. I will be avoiding the Whale Testicle beer at all costs. And, to be honest, I’m not sure about the Blue Lagoon. But the Scenery is something else and I am guessing I really need to get myself there. I’m pleased you love Scotland so much (my family is from Mull, a Western Isle).

    • Haha. I usually would have avoided that beer myself, but it was a free sample, and I like to try new experiences, as long as they don’t harm me. Feel free to read my post on the Blue Lagoon. I’m jealous you’re from Mull. I might have been named after the Isle of Skye, but that’s as far as my claim to being Scottish goes.

  11. OK so I have yet to go to Iceland. I will be avoiding the Whale Testicle beer at all costs. And, to be honest, I’m not sure about the Blue Lagoon. But the Scenery is something else and I am guessing I really need to get myself there. I’m pleased you love Scotland so much (my family is from Mull, a Western Isle).

    • Haha. I usually would have avoided that beer myself, but it was a free sample, and I like to try new experiences, as long as they don’t harm me. Feel free to read my post on the Blue Lagoon. I’m jealous you’re from Mull. I might have been named after the Isle of Skye, but that’s as far as my claim to being Scottish goes.

  12. Thank you for being so open about this! I’ve seen that Iceland became pretty big this year with bloggers, but I’ve always known that it is pretty expensive. I wasn’t wrong, apparently! $100 on a meal and $500 per night for a hotel? It’s honestly insane!

    • Yeah, there are definitely ways to get by on a budget, but not easily, and I didn’t really explore them while I was there so I can’t exactly write that blog post. But I do hope you can make it someday.

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