Hello, everyone! I have just returned from Iceland. This isn’t a destination we sell here at Down Under Endeavours, but I was intrigued by everything I had heard about this small island. Known for glaciers, geysers, and hot springs, it almost sounded like a mini New Zealand! My top reason for traveling to Iceland was to see the Northern Lights, but I was also interested in seeing how this destination would stack up to New Zealand, one of my favorite places in the world.
I did find several similarities between Iceland and New Zealand, but there were some key differences as well.
Icy waterfall at Skalakot in Iceland
While the flight to Iceland is shorter (only 5-7 hours depending on where you are flying from), I find that the airlines flying to New Zealand offer substantially superior service. I’ve flown with quite a few airlines all around the world, and it’s hard to beat Air New Zealand’s inflight service.
Nature and Experiences
Iceland is a beautiful country with a lot to offer: glaciers, lava caves, volcanoes, waterfalls, black sand beaches, geysers, hot springs, and lots of natural beauty. However, it is a relatively small island and I found that 8 days was plenty of time to explore everything I wanted to see. On my trips to New Zealand, I have always stayed at least 2-3 weeks and continually find myself wanting more!
New Zealand has many similar attractions—glaciers on the West Coast; volcanoes and interesting geothermal attractions in Rotorua; fascinating glowworm caves in Waitomo; plenty of waterfalls in Milford and Doubtful Sounds; and black sand beaches around Auckland—but in addition to all of that, it has a wider array of landscapes and experiences. You won’t find the equivalent of Abel Tasman National Park or the Hawke’s Bay wine region in Iceland!
Left: Me hiking on a glacier in Iceland. Right: Our travel expert Katie hiking on a glacier in New Zealand
Hiking on an active volcano in New Zealand
Both countries are wildly affected by weather. I traveled to Iceland in the middle of winter, as this was supposed to be the best time to see the Northern Lights. But based on my experience (practically enduring a blizzard at the famous Blue Lagoon!), I would only recommend traveling there between March and October.
Meanwhile, I would go to New Zealand any time of year, and actually quite enjoy traveling there in the winter. Of course, you will be limited in some areas and some of your scheduled activities may be cancelled due to weather, but even in the middle of New Zealand’s winter, you can find fabulous experiences.
Left: Winter weather at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon (my ears were so cold!). Right: Winter weather at New Zealand’s Huka Falls
While the flights to New Zealand will be more expensive than those to Iceland, New Zealand is more budget-friendly once you land. In my experience, everything in Iceland was about double what I’ve paid in New Zealand. In Iceland, a glass of wine started at $18 USD and meals (for one entrée) started at $30 USD with no drinks.
Based on my experience, if you have 2 travelers with a total budget of $10,000 (including flights), that will probably be sufficient for 7-8 days in Iceland and 10-14 days in New Zealand.
Iceland vs. New Zealand
At the end of the day, I’m glad I visited Iceland and saw some of the spectacular scenery here, as well as the Northern Lights (although I wasn’t aware that in real life, your naked eye doesn’t capture those bright greens and pinks you see in the photos—it’s more of a white glow). But New Zealand’s beautiful scenery and friendly people always make me wish I had more time there. This is a country I will keep visiting again and again.
I would love to chat to you about traveling to Iceland vs. New Zealand! Give me a call at (312) 951-8517 and be sure to ask for Shannon. You can also use our trip planner to browse New Zealand vacation packages.