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By now you’ve probably had a friend (or twelve) shout about the joys of Iceland. We can confirm that all the fuss is warranted, from stunning nature (Waterfalls! Glaciers! Hot springs!), to fascinating culture (Björk! Sigur Rós!), Iceland really is a singular experience. And with cheap flights on Iceland Air or via Icelandair’s layover program (where you can book a trip to Europe and layover in Iceland for up to a week at no additional charge), getting to the Island won’t break the bank.

RELATED: 9 gorgeous hostels in Europe staring at $4

But (cue record scratch) that’s the last time you’ll hear the word cheap associated with Iceland. Being a major tourist destination, you’ll be well taken care of—but you’ll pay for the honor. Still, there are a few steps you can take to assure that your Icelandic adventure won’t break the bank. From selective sipping, to purposeful plunges—here’s a few ways you can cut corners while still having the trip of a lifetime.

Pick your season carefully

Summer is peak season, which means a trip to Iceland will involve more crowds and higher fees for just about everything. Likewise, November, around the time the country hosts their annual Iceland Airwaves festival, means a busy city with more competition for hotel rooms and resources. (Then again, if you like hiking under the midnight sun, or music these might be your key seasons.) For the frugal set, aim to come in early spring or late November/early December. Bonus: Winter is Northern Lights season!

Choose your splurge

Let’s face it—somethings just cost money. If you feel like your trip to Iceland wouldn’t be complete without going horseback riding, or seeing the country via helicopter, then by all means, budget and make it happen. Before you get to Iceland (so you’re not motivated by FOMO or jet lag) make a list and rank every activity you’re interested in. Seeing everything written will help you determine where your heart and money lies.

Visit the drunk pig

Okay, so it’s not a drunk pig—but the mascot for Iceland’s budget grocery store BONUS definitely looks like he’s gotten into something. With multiple locations across Reykjavik and Iceland, BONUS offers your best bet for non-restaurant food, even if it just means stocking up on coffee and snacks. Just keep in mind not all grocery stores are created equal. Beware the sway of convenience store 10-11. Despite its cheery green interior and line of inviting grab-and-go treats, their markup will mean you’re paying nearly 1.5 times as much as you would elsewhere.

Eat the hot dog

This one’s for the meat eaters. But for some reason, despite their reputation as a fish community, Iceland seems inexplicably obsessed with hot dogs. Gas stations? Check. Malls? Ferries? Airports? Check. You’ll find them everywhere—usually made of 100% grass fed, free range Icelandic lamb, and usually at about $3–8 each. For the ultimate experience, visit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a stand so popular it’s even endorsed by President Clinton.

Make your own happy hour

This one might hurt: Booze of any kind in Iceland, is very expensive. Taxes are high—somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of the purchase price—and is passed on to the consumer. If you’re one who enjoys an aperitif, consider buying your drink of choice duty free before leaving the airport. Otherwise, keep a look out for happy hours. Enough bars and restaurants offer them that local English-language newspaper Reykjavik Grapevine created an app to help readers keep track.

Avoid bottled water

Single-use plastic is unnecessary—doubly so in Iceland where some of the best water in the world comes directly out of the tap. Instead, bring a reusable bottle and then (as the name would imply) reuse it. You’ll be saving yourself an easy five dollars each time.

Rent a car

With tour companies charging $100 and up for day trips around the Golden Circle (where the geysers live) and a likewise steep fare to go south (where the black sand beaches and waterfalls reside), it might be worth it to rent a car—particularly if you can split the cost among multiple people. (Just make sure someone has an international driver’s license—which you can get for $20 at AAA.). Bonus: You’re no longer beholden to a large group of tourists, can take your time and skip any site you’d like.

Turn off your phone

Unless you have some kind of magical phone plan that allows you worldwide access at no additional cost (if so—please let us know!), calling, texting and hitting social media will cost you. Instead, turn off your data, or throw your phone in airplane mode, and upload your Instas using the city’s multiple free WIFI networks. If you simply must call home, make programs like iMessage, Whatsapp, and Viber your new besties.

Go for a swim

If the Blue Lagoon is your splurge of choice, great! It’s hard to argue with in-water massages and a swim up bar. But it’s also around $100, so if you’re on the fence about Iceland’s most famous spa, skip it. For those still interesting in getting into hot water (umm…literally) try Secret Lagoon, a geothermic pool located in Flúðir where you can watch the tiny geyser heat your water for a fraction of the price. For the truly adventurous, the country has a wealth of hidden, free hot pools. (Just double check with this map so you don’t accidentally broil yourself!) Finally, don’t discount the local swimming pool. Pool culture is huge in Reykjavík. Many locals treat taking a post-work dip like going to the pub, so it’s a great place to absorb the local scene.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, International, Tips & advice

Laura Studarus

Laura Studarus

Laura Studarus

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From snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure to enjoying the hot springs of the Blue Lagoon, Iceland serves up neverending opportunties to enjoy its coastal and inland waters. The country’s enticing aquatic adventures offer something magical for every age and season. Here’s a look at how to best explore these wonders.

RELATED: Super helpful hiking tips for the initiated

 Snorkel between two continents at the Silfra Fissure

The North American and European tectonic plates meet at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park. Gear up with a drysuit and dive under the glacial water by snorkel or scuba to see up-close where the tectonic plates meet. The amazing crystal clear water allows for visibility to incredible distances under water.

Watch for whales along Iceland’s North Coast

Ride along in a ship from Husavik, Iceland’s whale-watching capital, in the hopes of spotting humpbacks, porpoises and sea birds. Unlike in Reykjavik, where you have to sail farther to find the whales, in Husavik they sometimes hang out within minutes of the harbor.

Kayak calm fjords below steep mountains

The Westfjords in northwest Iceland were made for kayaking. Paddle clear blue waters in the fjords as you take in the towering mountains above. If you are looking for more adventure, consider paddling to another fjord or to Vigur Island, one of the top birdwatching areas in all of Iceland.

ALSO: Book a flight on CheapTickets to grab your CheapCash—you can’t a fjord not to!

Float alongside icebergs as they drift out to sea

At Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon, you can watch as large icebergs float from the Vatnajokull glacier out to sea. For a better view, hop aboard an amphibious boat or take a Zodiac inflatable boat tour to get up close to the larger icebergs in the water. When you’re done, walk amidst the icebergs washed up on the shore; the giant, crystal-like sculptures on the black sand beach make for some very unique photographs. Keep an eye out for seals and porpoises in the lagoon—they often hang out nearby.

Relax in natural geothermal hot springs

No trip to Iceland would be complete without a dip in geothermal pools. While you can find many pools and hot tubs scattered throughout the country, the best and most picturesque are the Secret Lagoon (Gamla Laugin, along Golden Circle), Jardbodin Nature Baths in the north near Lake Myvatn, Landmannalaugar hot springs under the volcanoes, and the popular Blue Lagoon between the airport and Reykjavik. If you need your hot pool fix more frequently, many small towns have their own hot tubs and swimming pools, which they advertise on highway signs.

Witness the dramatic force of waterfalls both powerful and picturesque

You could spend an entire trip to Iceland only visiting waterfalls, and you still wouldn’t see them all. Gullfoss is the closest to Reykjavik along the Golden Circle Route, and well deserving of its fame. In the north you will find Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall. You’ll find Glymur, Iceland’s tallest, dropping into a canyon an hour away from Reykjavik. At Skogafoss in the south you can walk up to the base (be sure to wear a rain jacket). Walk along a cave behind Seljalandsfoss, or take one of Iceland’s most popular photographs of Kirkjufellsfoss with Kirkjufell mountain in the background.

Chris is an avid world traveler with a soft spot for Iceland. He loves finding new adventures off the beaten path, and is an Iceland expert for Kimkim.com.

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Tagged: International, Types of Travel

Chris McCarty

Chris McCarty

Chris is an avid world traveler with a soft spot for Iceland. He loves finding new adventures off the beaten path, and is an Iceland expert for Kimkim.com.
Chris McCarty

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It’s not always such a bad thing when the groundhog sees his shadow. Sure, it means another six weeks holed up with cabin fever. But why fight it? Join that furry little rodent in the rest of his hibernation, or if you are feeling adventurous, climb underground with him. There are plenty of places this world has for us to explore beneath our feet. Check out a cave, hike a cavern, or join some of the many communities around the world that live underground year round. And don’t worry, if Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow, you’ve still got plenty of time before the warm weather returns. Here’s our list of subterranean adventures and cool things to do underground.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. Photo: Shenandoah National Park – Flickr

Skaftafell Ice Caverns, Iceland — Located about four hours east of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, Skaftafell is located at the foot of Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier outside of the polar regions. Ice caverns from in Skaftafell only in the winter, when glacial rivers react and the water freezes. The caves are filled with an azure, glacial light filtering through the ice. New caves are formed every year, and tours are very dependent on the weather.

[captionid=”attachment_7771″ align=”aligncenter” width=”1000″]Mammoth Cave A view of Mammoth Cave in Central Kentucky. Photo: Beatrice Murch – Flickr[/caption]

Mammoth Cave National Park — Located in Central Kentucky near Brownsville, Mammoth Cave is the largest known cave system in the world. It has 400 miles of surveyed passageways, making it twice as large as its next closest competitor, the Sac Atun underwater cave in Mexico. Legend has it the first European to discover the cave found it while on a hunting trip, when he pursued a wounded bear into the mouth of thecave. The National Park Service offers routine tours of the cave.

Whittier, Alaska

Most of the residents of Whittier, Alaska live in this 14-story building. Photo: Jessica Spengler – Flickr

Whittier, Alaska Most of Whittier’s 220 year-round residents live in one 14-story building that was built as somewhat of a bunker during the Cold War. Actually, every part of the town is in that building — the hospital, the school, the grocery store. And for good reason. The southwestern Alaskan town withstands 22 feet of snow a year and six months of rain. Most of the town’s residents are commercial fishermen, and cruise ships come into town sometimes, delivering patrons to the local watering holes. But it’s probably safe to assume that Whittier residents don’t rely too much on the predictions of a groundhog.

 

Marble Caves

Marble Cathedral at Marble Caves in Patagonia.Photo: Javier Vieras – Flickr

Marble Caves, Patagonia — Carved smooth by more than 6,000 years of waves washing against the calcium carbonate, the Marble Caves reflect the blue waters of Lake General Carerra beautifully. The remote, glacial lake spans the border of Chile and Argentina in the Patagonian Andes. The caves are only accessible by boat or kayak, and the weather has to be just right. But the trip is worth it. Catch a tour from the nearby town Rio Ibañez, on the Chilean side of the lake.

 

Ape Cave

A view of Mt. St. Helens from Ape Cave. Photo: Greg Willis – Flickr

Ape Cave, Mt. St. Helens — Ape Cave is the longest lava tube in the continental U.S., stretching over 2 miles. There are a couple different routes hikers can take through Ape Cave, which is open year-round and located about an hour’s drive from the Mt. St. Helens’ visitors center. Upper Ape Cave, the more strenuous of the hikes, takes about 2.5 hours to complete and involves scrambling over boulder piles and scaling an 8-foot lava wall.

 

Coober Pedy, Australia

Many residents choose to live underground where it’s cooler in Coober Pedy, Australia. Photo: Martin – Flickr

Coober Pedy, Australia — Temperatures in this southern Australian town often exceed 100 degrees F in the summer, and most of the residents prefer to live in below-ground residences called “dugouts.” A dugout can be carved into the hillside for about the same price as an above-ground home, but it remains cool in the scorching heat and saves money on air conditioning. The name Coober Pedy comes from the Aboriginal term “kupa-piti,” meaning “white man’s hole.” Most of the shops and restaurants are underground too, including an abundance of jewelry stores. Coober Pedy is the world’s leading supplier of opal, and is surroundedby more than 70 opal fields.

Ordinskaya Cave, Russia — One of the largest underground glaciers in the world lies in the western Ural Mountains outside Orda, Perm Kai in Russia. The area was completely inaccessible to outsiders during the Soviet Union days, as many of the mountainsides around it housed tank and missile factories. The cave stretches 3.2 miles, most of which is under water struck crystal clear by its mineral-rich surroundings. Divers usually have visibility for more than 50 yards. The cave is cold, though, with temperatures hanging well below freezing, facilitating its icy nature.

Tagged: Holidays, Off-season, Uncategorized

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It’s “wave season.” That means from January-March every year, cruise lines and cruise distributors offer their cheapest rates in an effort to get people to book their cruises early in the year. Cheap cruises–we’ll take it! Here are some cruise ports that will take your breath away from the deck of the ship as you glide into port.

Port of Venice, Italy

[captionid=”attachment_5580″ align=”aligncenter” width=”500″]Venice's grand canal at night. Courtesy of Kosala Bandara. Venice’s grand canal at night. Courtesy of Kosala Bandara.[/caption]

By land or sea, Venice is one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever see. People visit Venice to see the canals, to eat the food, to experience the culture and learn some history, before it all sinks beneath the Adriatic Sea. But what visitors don’t necessarily expect is how the water weaving between each and every block plays with the light. In the daytime, the blue of the canals contrasts the color of the architecture, making its orange hue even more vibrant. At night, the lights play on the water, dancing and illuminating the canals to the point that almost becomes a second light source. The best time of day, though, is twilight. That time of day when the sun has dipped below the horizon but it’s not quite dark yet. A purple hue falls over the city and envelopes everything in a way you can’t experience anywhere else. Plan a cruise that docks just as the sun sets to experience the magic.

Port Vell, Barcelona, Spain

A view of Port Vell in Barcelona from Montjuïc. Courtesy of David Merrett.

A view of Port Vell in Barcelona from Montjuïc. Courtesy of David Merrett.

Continuing around from Italy and through the Mediterranean, is Barcelona, the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. Barcelona is steeped in history that remains visible today and is evident as soon as your cruise ship begins making its approach toward Barcelona’s Port Vell (that means “old port” in Catalan). If you can peel your eyes away from the beautifully blue Mediterranean waters and palm trees gently blowing in the sea breeze (and maybe a few topless women on a beach nearby, because, well, this is Europe), you’ll be taken aback by Barcelona’s architecture. To your right as you approach the port, you’ll see the outlines of Antoin Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, the famed yet unfinished church that’s been under construction for decades. To your left, you’ll see the ancient fort perched atop Montjuïc, which served as a lookout for invaders from the sea. The ship will dock at the base of La Rambla, one of the most vibrant and well-known boulevards in the city. When you step onto that Barcelona soil, your adventure really begins.

Port Santorini, Greece

Santorini port. Courtesy of Shane Gorski.

Santorini port. Courtesy of Shane Gorski.

The whitewashed buildings stand out starkly against the vibrant blue of the sky and sea as you approach the Grecian island by way of the Aegean Sea. Tales of Greek monsters are nowhere near your mind as you sail toward Santorini, but you wonder if maybe this is Mt. Olympus because only the gods could tread somewhere this beautiful. The crescent-shaped island is southeast of Greece’s mainland and is the remnants of a volcanic eruption that destroyed the earliest dwellers. As you approach the island’s main port, Athinias, you’ll see the remnants of the centuries-old eruption in the dark, steep cliffs holding up the white towns and villages.

Papeete port, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Tahitian palm with the island of Moorea in the background. Courtesy of Lori Branham.

Tahitian palm with the island of Moorea in the background. Courtesy of Lori Branham.

You may feel as though you’re a castaway finally washing ashore in Tahiti after the hundreds of remote miles you traveled through the South Pacific to arrive. But at least you’ve arrived to paradise. The largest in the Windward group of French Polynesian islands, Tahiti is an explosion of green among the vast blue, with mountains jutting upward and palm trees framing the port. Tiki huts line long docks jutting out into the pristine waters. The island is centered on volcanic mountains, and is famous for its black sand beaches, formed with bits of lava fragments. Much of Tahiti’s beauty also lies beneath its waters. Farming for the Tahitian black pearl is a huge part of the countries economy, and coral reefs surrounding the island teem with colorful wildlife.

Misty Fjords port of call, Alaska

Misty Fjords, Alaska. Courtesy of Andrew Malone.

Misty Fjords, Alaska. Courtesy of Andrew Malone.

Although there are dozens of ports of call in Alaska (and most Alaskan cruises hit several per trip), Misty Fjords is not to be missed. The cruise ship is dwarfed by the rising, snow-capped mountains seemingly enveloping the fjord on all sides. A fjord is a narrow inlet lined with steep cliffs that was formed by a glacier. And this one will take your breath away. There are 1,000-foot waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs, pristine lakes and low-hanging mist in this remote section of the Alaskan panhandle. While you are awe-inspired from the landscape, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as bald eagles, grizzly bears and moose peeking out toward the ship.

Kona Port, Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Kailua-Kona after sunset, with volcanic rocks on the beach in the foreground. Courtesy of Steve Dunleavy.

Kailua-Kona after sunset, with volcanic rocks on the beach in the foreground. Courtesy of Steve Dunleavy.

There are about 150 distinct ecosystems throughout the Hawaiian islands, and you’ll be able to see a slew of them as you cruise into the port in Kona. Ships use the port at Kailua Kona, on the western side of the Hawaiian island. The Kona Coast has been distinguished by recent lava flows that continue to build on top of each other. Lush vegetation grows in over the flows as time goes by, making it possible to go from lush vegetation to a landscape of barren, hardened lava just by turning a corner. Some beaches also feature black sand. Whales are likely to be seen on cruises traveling now through April.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. Courtesy of O Palsson.

Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland. Courtesy of O Palsson.

For being the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik offers some surprising small town charm. Nordic settlers founded the town that has grown up along the pristine Atlantic coastline in 874. Iceland seems to have a little bit of everything, as far as geologic formations go, and cruising into Reykjavik will give you an introductory taste. There are inlets and peninsulas, straits and islands, mountains and glaciers. There are volcanoes and hot springs, ice fields and thermal pools, all engulfed in a bubbling yet sophisticated culture gathered around fresh seafood. Iceland offers snapshots of landscapes that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world, and Reykjavik is the beautiful gateway. Make sure you look up at night for a potential glimpse of the Aurora Borealis.

Story by Ally Marotti

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Tagged: Cruise, Family, Hawaii, International