Iceland on the Cheap: Horses, Picnics, Fish, Factories & Other Random Fun Things To Do For Free

You may well imagine that Iceland is a pretty expensive country to travel in. It’s cheap enough to get here…..I think it’s a conspiracy…..the airlines give you screaming deals for trips to Iceland, and then when you get here it breaks the bank to do anything, or to eat anything…..or to stay anywhere…..seriously…..

If you’re a budget traveler you need to think of ways to do stuff on the cheap, and that’s what we are up to this very day. The way I see it, when you’re on a road trip you just need to stop at random places and see what’s happening. 

And so it is that as we are barreling down the Ring Road we see a sign for a horse farm called Gauksmýri. We pull in and find that indeed we are allowed to go into the barn to check out the horses. Now that’s called free entertainment, which suits me just fine. Maybe the horse farm operators are irritated at us that we don’t want to go horseback riding, but they don’t show it. 

I have to tell you, I went horseback riding once as a teenager and nearly got thrown off my horse. My horse started galloping and my feet fell out of the stirrups. Now as you might imagine, the stirrups kept whacking the horse as it galloped, which made the horse run faster and faster. I pulled on the reins, crying desperately, “Whoa Jeremiah! Whoa!” He stopped just in the nick of time before a cliff. I have never dared to go horseback riding again. 

There is a restaurant and lodge here too. I wonder what they serve at the restaurant. Maybe I don’t want to know. 

This way to the barn, kids…..

Gauksmyri Icelandic horse farm

Before we can go into the barn we have to put on blue disposable shoe covers. I am not sure if it is to keep our feet from making the barn floor dirty, or if they are trying to prevent our shoes from getting dirty. So we take a seat in this kind of unusual lounge inside the barn to put on the shoe covers. Behind the glass you can see a large indoor riding arena. 
Gauksmyri Icelandic horse farm

Ugh….What’s that? Seriously? A horse hide hanging on the wall? I am not too sure what to think of it, but in a country where it is perfectly normal to eat horse meat……who am I to judge? 

Gauksmyri Icelandic horse farm

There are a couple of cute dogs on this farm…..
We are in the barn now to see the horses!Gauksmyri Icelandic horse farmGauksmyri Icelandic horse farm

I love this wild mane!!Gauksmyri Icelandic horse ranch

There you see it…..our shoe covers….Gauksmyri Icelandic horse ranch

We have not had a chance to spend too much time in the barn when all of a sudden they tell us to leave the barn. Obedient as we are, we leave the barn and find these beautiful horses. They are so pretty!Gauksmyri Icelandic horse ranch

There must have been some kind of misunderstanding because someone comes to tell us that we can go back inside the barn if we want. So in we go…..Gauksmyri Icelandic horse ranchGauksmyri Icelandic horse ranch

You may notice that these horses are kind of small in stature. Based on their size they are almost like ponies in the United States. I guess Iceland has laws against importing horses, and once they are exported from Iceland they can never return. Over the years the Icelandic horse has developed into a very hardy breed with very few diseases. 

What’s a farm without a little barbed wire?

Once we are done with our free entertainment in the barn we hop back in the car and head on down the road. We don’t get too far before we veer off the highway to make a brief excursion to little fishing village called Hvammstangi, which is located on the shores of a fjord. They have a seal museum here, but we don’t bother to go in because it costs money. We just head straight to the water’s edge to make some lunch. Lucky us…..there is a picnic table right where we want to have our picnic! Our lunch consists of nothing less than Icelandic hotdogs. What could be tastier on a cool summery day? And cheaper….

David brings the kids exploring while I cook up a storm. 

I know…..he looks like a celebrity dad…..

This is super exciting, waiting for hotdogs to boil! It’s so windy that I have to hold onto the pot so it doesn’t fall off my cookstand. Picnic in Hvammstangi Iceland

Let’s dig in guys!Picnic in Iceland

The kids rarely get soda so it’s pretty exciting…..

You may remember that I told you that we bought these camping dinner sets from Walmart that include these cool collapsible cups. I love them. It only costs $3 per set, and they are super awesome! The cups are great for cold or hot drinks, which makes them very versatile, and they fold away neatly. They are super easy to clean, too!

This wild girl always has her hair in her eyes!

There is the fjord…..beautiful!

Just across the way from our picnic site there is a traditional Icelandic fish wind drying site. I don’t know if this is just here for tourists to view, or what, but we venture over to check it out. I guess they hang fresh fish out to dry on racks like this and once the fish is dried it is packaged up for your dining pleasure. I have to say that I do not have a desire to taste wind dried fish….just seems to me that it would be really fishy, or something…..on second thought, I am really tempted to reach up and grab a piece of fish…..just kidding….Wind dried fish IcelandWind dried fish Hvammstangi Iceland

Dude…..this fish has like a ton of teeth….Wind dried fish Iceland

We don’t get very far down the road before we find ourselves stopping at the Kidka wool factory. Unfortunately no one is at work today because it is Sunday, but the doors to the shop are open and we are allowed to go in and check out the operation. Kidka wool factory, Iceland

Colorful spools of Icelandic wool yarn catch my attention. Kidka spools of wool yarn, Iceland

Oh look…..knitting machines! Bjorn, the scientist, is very interested in how this thingamajig works.  

My mom used to have a knitting machine like this when I was a kid. Well, it was not totally this huge or anything, but she did have a knitting machine and I remember her using it. I have to marvel at my mother. If she ever had a spare moment she would sit upon her rocking chair and take out her knitting. Click clack, click clack…..her needles would move very quickly, and soon beautiful patterns would emerge. A pair of socks. A pair of mittens. A sweater. A scarf. Always her knitting was perfect and orderly. I tried a time or two to learn how to knit, but the edges would always be uneven because I could never keep the tension consistent. Kidka wool knitting machine Iceland

There is a little shop on site as well. Icelandic sweaters are beautiful, but as you may know I live in Arizona, and you just don’t need sweaters there…….luckily……otherwise I just may have spent $150 on a sweater….which would have been an expensive end to my free entertainment. 

This little puffin hat is super cute, and I am slightly tempted to buy one…..but I don’t need hats either……I set it back down on the shelf, and we leave the shop empty handed, the disappointed shop salesperson watching us as we leave. Kidka wool hat Iceland puffin

We head south on the Ring Road, and break away to take a less travelled route to our destination for today, Þingvellir. Country road…..take me home….

We stop to look for a hot spring that I found on a map. It ends up being too small to swim in. It’s hot, all right….but we skip the swimming idea. 

When we hike up to the spring we see this beautiful flower. This is by far the most beautiful and colorful flower we have seen in a natural setting in Iceland. 

The bummer about our country road idea is that the road turns to dirt…..and it’s really dusty! I cringe just thinking about our air mattresses in the trailer. I am sure everything is getting coated with a fine film of dust back in our trailer. 

Finally we arrive at a gas station and restaurant that is at our destination, Þingvellir. It’s getting to be evening. We are going to grab a camping spot here, and then head on over to the Þingvellir National Park area to see where the original parliament was located so many years ago. We have to still make some dinner, too. Let’s go kids….

Before we can go anywhere we grab some ice cream for everyone. That’s pretty cheap entertainment, right? 
And that’s it folks! That’s how you get free entertainment in Iceland. It’s not terribly earth shattering or exciting to say the least, but it has been interesting! And the little picnic on the fjord was a super memorable and romantic family activity! 

In the end here I would like to clarify the truth a bit. While our activities of the day were cheap enough, it still is an expensive day in Iceland, for the car rental and gasoline prices are enough to send a person to the poor house. Our car rental alone is $300 USD per day……and gas costs over $8 per gallon…..but hey…’s fun here……and beautiful…..