Where to stay in Iceland? We stayed at a horse farm!

View from our window when we woke up

This is what accommodations in Iceland look like. I’m not sure the country was prepared (or, honestly, ever wants to be prepared) for such an influx of travelers. 

The UN estimates Iceland’s population at 338,000. The Icelandic Tourist Board estimates 2.2 million tourists visited the country in 2017.  

That’s a big number for such a small country! 

So where do all those tourists stay? 

We stayed at a horse farm one night! It was the closest place to where we planned to go ice caving the next day (Jokulsarlon). 

They just walked right up to us!

This was in a very rural, but still accessible part of Iceland. This was on the south eastern shores near Hofn. 

If you need room service, a heated pool, a spa and valet this might not be your style. But the benefit to staying in guest houses, like this horse farm, are that you will meet people from across the globe. 

In just this one night stay…we met a family from France, a couple from Taiwan and 3 childhood best friends from South Africa.

We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drinking gin and tonics and admiring the Northern Lights together. It was an unforgettable night. And thanks to social media we still stay in touch with many of them. 

RELATED: The 3 waterfalls you can’t leave Iceland without seeing!

I won’t lie. This place was hard to find. We got distracted stopping at waterfalls on the way there. And whatever Siri told us was wrong, it took much longer to drive to this spot. We had not seen a building or light (other then our own headlights) in 3 hours. But when we saw lights up on a hill we knew that was our horse farm. 

This may sounds absolutely crazy to some people. But for me, I find this far more exciting than staying at a fancy hotel. Though we do make sure to fit in a few nights here and there because let’s be honest, we all love those amenities sometimes too. 

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Falling for Iceland’s waterfalls

The signs are small. The waterfalls are not. You will see the waterfalls before the signs.

It’s best to map these must see spots out in advance to make sure you don’t drive by them without stopping. 

The 3 waterfalls you can’t leave Iceland without seeing…


My favorite by far, and we nearly skipped it, was Gullfoss. I rode the Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls, but to me this waterfall was more impressive. 

Gullfoss is on the Golden Circle in southwest Iceland in the canyon of the Hvítá river.


You walk up to Gullfoss Falls and the falls appear to open into the earth out of nowhere. 

The steps down to Gullfoss

One thing that makes Iceland’s massive waterfalls so unique is how close you can get. On the flip side, be careful not to get too close. 

Ice forms on some of the paths in the winter. But all that separates curious tourists is a polite thin metal chain with a sign that says ‘closed.’ As you can tell…not everyone listens.  

Don’t expect much at these sites when it comes to amenities. A toilet is likely to be a portable style – if there is one at all. Hot water, guess again. My advice, keep hand sanitizer on you. 

The view at the top of Skogafoss

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are very close together. Which makes it easy to see both on the same day.

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are in the South Region of Iceland. Both are right off Route 1.

Seljalandsfoss is near the road that leads to Þórsmörk Road 249. FUN FACT: This waterfall is part of the Seljalands River, which starts in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull —- Yes, this is the volcano that erupted in 2010 and shut down air travel across Europe.

Skogafoss is on the Skoga River just about 20 minutes further east down Route 1.

Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss are also on the way to Vik, which is one of my favorite spots in Iceland. Along this route you will also pass the US Navy DC3 wreckage which is still laying mostly intact on a black sand beach. Though you really need to know where to look so you have the right path – more to come on that soon in another post.


At Skogafoss, you can take a walk up the stairs and see the waterfall from above. The path also continues if you’re up for a hike. The views are incredible. 

The stairs up to the top of Skogafoss

At Seljalandsfoss you will see the main waterfall right away. You could snap a selfie from the car park and say you’ve been. But if you walk for a bit you will come across some unique spots formed into the same cliff. I say it’s worth a bit of a walk, if you have the time. If not, I would say the walk at Skogafoss is more of a must. 

Walking along the cliff at Seljalandsfoss

Iceland has many more amazing waterfalls but these 3 are on the main path most tourists find themselves on. You won’t have any issues driving to these spots. But for the more adventurous types there is a lot more to explore if you head into the more desolate areas further into the center of the country. Keep in mind there are what’s called ‘F roads’ and you need an off-road vehicle to legally drive on these roads. 

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No. Really. How safe are hostels?

It depends where you are. It depends how they’re designed. And it depends how much luggage you travel with. 

Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland
Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland


Some have rooms with bunks lined up next to one another. 

Our private room at Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland

Some have private bedrooms that lock and shared bathrooms down the hallway. 

Shared bathroom, Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland


In Iceland, our hostel, Heraosskolinn, was nicer than some hotels we visited. Though we did have to use a shared bathroom. A good question to ask when booking, how many rooms/people share the bathrooms. Because the last thing you want is lining up to shower and wasting precious time you could be using to explore. 

View from our private room, Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland

In New Zealand, we rented a room at Funky Green Voyager with two beds with a door we could lock. We shared a bathroom.

Funky Green Voyager Hostel, Rotorua, New Zealand

Honestly, these were both amazing experiences because we met so many incredible people from all over the globe. 

Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland
Héraðsskólinn Hostel, Laugarvatn, Iceland


If you have a suitcase and decide to stay at a hostel where you share a room with other travelers you don’t know, think about where you will keep your luggage secure while you go off exploring for the day. 

If you have a rental car, you can secure your things in that. But bottom line, if you don’t travel light a shared room at a hostel is likely not your best option. 

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