Iceland may not sound like the most exciting place to have a layover, but in the last year it has become the “it” spot for layovers. Icelandair offers to have everything from a few hours to days of layover in Iceland. It’s a great way to explore a place you might have never otherwise visited. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Iceland myself with a 10 hour layover. I can tell you it wasn’t nearly enough time to explore this beautiful country, but it sure was the BEST layover I’ve ever had. Let me walk you through what my layover looked like. Granted we had already done some planning to enjoy the hours to the fullest. Also, we had a schedule before arriving that was not followed at all due to unforeseen things, this is the accurate version of what happened.
6:30 – Landed in Iceland
After some moderate sleeping on the plane we arrived and were ready to make the most of our layover in Iceland.
TIP: Always be sure you’re ready to go as soon as you arrive. Also, early mornings in Iceland are cold, dress accordingly.
7:30- Picked up rental car
Picking up our rental car took too long because it was two people taking care of several reservations. Be sure to allot a good amount of time, we definitely underestimated the wait time.
TIP: Our car rental place had free bottles of water that we kept and refilled for a good part of our trip.
8:00- Hit morning Traffic
While we were driving we forgot that not everyone is a tourist and that some people actually had to go to work. Not realizing that we would be hitting the morning commute we got stuck in traffic which threw back our whole schedule.
TIP: Don’t forget to plan for unexpected traffic.
8:30- Arrived in Reykjavik
Besides the traffic make sure you enjoy the views on the drive in. We drove around Reykjavik mostly to try and find where we were supposed to go, but it was nice to see the city from the warmth of our car.
TIP: Drive around a bit when you arrive in a new city. It helps you see more of the city and get acquainted with how things work.
8:45- Found a parking garage on the corner of Hvertisgata St and Smidjustigur St.
This parking garage is called Traoarkot, but really you can’t miss the huge blue ‘P’ sign. The first hour of parking is 80 ISK ($0.62 currently) and every hour after is 50 ISK ($0.39 currently).
TIP: Park your car and walk along Hvertisgata and the neighboring streets, because this is where all the cute stores and attractions are.
9:15- We had breakfast at Grey Cat Cafe (Grai Kotturinn)
While driving around to find where to park and eat, we saw this cute red door that was slightly underground. After we parked and walked a bit to check out the restaurants in the area we settled on the cute Grey Cat Cafe we had seen from the car. Make sure you don’t miss it, it’s a few steps down from the side walk. Red doors and green walls means you are in the right place. While there we had just your average breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes. Let me tell you , I have never had better bacon in my life. It might have been the hunger talking, but from what I remember it was pretty delicious bacon. And the company was quite wonderful. We met some other American tourists who had actually been in town a few days so we asked what we should do, eat and try before leaving. Some of their recommendations: Blue Lagoon, Boli Beer, and Rye Bread Ice Cream.
TIP: When you are in a location with other travelers, never be afraid to talk to them and get recommendations from them. Travelers love to share stories.
10:00 – Walked to Hallgrimskirkja while getting distracted by cute stores and colorful roads.
On our walk to this famous landmark in Reykjavik we made sure to enjoy our walk by stopping into a store that hadn’t been open yet, several souvenir shops one of which we purchased a shot glass made of lava rocks (I collect a shot glass from every place I visit), and a rainbow road. It was a lovely walk in a brisk fall morning.
TIP: When looking for a souvenir try to find things local to each place. Also stop into even the unlikeliest stores.
10:30- Got to the top of Hallgrimskirkja.
After arriving and taking pictures outside we entered the beautiful church where the paying system is on an honor system. I was a bit shocked that they trusted tourists this much, but this is after all Iceland where the people are wonderfully kind and trusting. The view from above is just gorgeous. You get to see all of Reykjavik and beyond, it’s quite beautiful.
TIP: Take a minute to just look out at that view. It’s a beautiful peaceful moment when you’re on a crazy busy schedule.
10:45- Walked back to car while trying Rye Bread Ice Cream
We decided to follow the recommendation of our fellow traveler and try the Rye Bread Ice Cream. It is not something that I would typically order, but it was actually pretty good. It was sweet and had a little bit of a grainy texture to it. I definitely recommend you at least taste it.
TIP: Always try something that was recommended to you by another traveler or local, even if it sounds totally bizarre. Also, walk into a store and ask the local for something that is native to the country or city you are in. (Example: My sister asked me to get candy from every country I visited, and the store workers with the help of other locals gave me recommendations on what to buy. It was fun and educational.)
11:00- Got lost on our way to the Blue Lagoon
In every trip, there is always a moment where we are totally lost in a country we don’t speak the language of and have to stop and ask for directions. In our case, we were already late for our Blue Lagoon ticket time so we stopped at a pizza shop for directions. I, literally, stumbled into the store because I didn’t see the bottom of the door frame to ask for directions. They were very nice and even showed on a map how to get there. Without their help, I’m not sure how we would’ve gotten there.
TIP: When you get lost, always remember to stay calm and reassure yourself that everything will work out. It is not the end of the world. It also makes for great stories!
11:30- Check in at Blue Lagoon
With every situation you get lost in, you always find kindness on the other side. For us, it was the amazing hostess at Blue Lagoon who not only allowed us in past our ticket time without a penalty but also helped us change our reservation at the restaurant.
TIP: Even when you’re stressed out, worried and behind schedule, always remember to be kind to those who you meet, they might just turn your day around. Also, always carry safety pins, you never know when your bathing suit will decide to break….
11:45- Head to the bar in the Blue Lagoon
After arriving, getting our lovely bathrobe, flip flop and goody bag we headed to the locker rooms to change. We quickly changed and headed to the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon. It was a much needed relaxation. Our ticket offered a free drink from the bar. I had the rose wine cooler and it was delicious! They also offer non-alcoholic drinks such as a slushie called Krap, which my friend had. The great thing is everything from your free drink, to lunch to extra drinks you might want to purchase are all go on your bracelet, so make sure you don’t lose it. Grab your drink at the Lagoon Bar in the water then enjoy the steaming hot waters. Make sure to stop by the small waterfalls too.
TIP: Alcoholic or not, always try something local. The walls are all made with rocks so there are some places with natural seating if you just want to sit down and relax. Also buy a waterproof bag for your phone so that you can enjoy taking pictures.
12:00- Do the Silica Mud Masks
I’ll let the description from the website do the talking: “The white face mask that you’ve probably seen in photos is the Silica Mud Mask. The mask is delivered at the Silica bar, located in the lagoon. You can apply as much as you want to your face and body, before leaving it on for at least 5 minutes. When you wash it off, you will feel a significant difference in the softness of your skin.”
This “Silica Bar” they refer to is a wooden box with slots just big enough to fit a hand through and grab a handful of it and spread it on your body. The great thing is everyone does it, so we all look ridiculous together.
TIP: Just do the mask. Trust me.
13:00- Lunch At Lava
On site the Blue Lagoon, there is a wonderful restaurant called Lava. At first it feels extremely weird walking into a fancy restaurant in a bath robe, but soon enough you see a few other people in bathrobes and then you realize that you are too fancy to be wearing real clothes anyways. It was a strange but awesome transition of feelings. We had a wonderful lunch, where we did rush it a bit to get back to the water before leaving.
TIP: When you are allowed to go have lunch in your bathrobe, take advantage of it. How many people can say they’ve had lunch at a fancy restaurant in a bathrobe?
13:45- Headed back to the water
We couldn’t leave without one last dip in the water.
TIP: It’s hard to leave the water, but keep track of time so you don’t miss your plane.
14:45- Rushed out of the Blue Lagoon
Realizing we over stayed, we rushed out of the Blue Lagoon after showering and changing back to our travel clothes. When I say rush, I mean we ran to the car as fast as we could after paying.
TIP: Be prepared for situations that might make you uncomfortable like nudity and see-through showers or showers with no curtains. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. (PS- this was all in the a same sex locker room)
15:15- Arrived at Airport
It was a mad dash from dropping off the car to getting to the gate.
TIP: Having everything already packed and organized while driving over to the airport, made the car drop off a lot faster.
15:30- Waited in line to board with a Boli
While we were behind on our schedule, thankfully so was the airplane, giving us enough time to try one more recommendation, Boli. Boli is a very popular beer in Iceland and we couldn’t leave without trying it. It was very refreshing after a day of relaxation. It almost took us away from the craziness of an airport.
TIP: Remember the water bottle from the car rental we spoke about earlier? We asked around until we found water fountains to refill our bottles. Every airport should have something that can refill bottles, look for them.
16:35- Take off
We were satisfied with how much we got to do and getting the chance to experience Iceland, even if it was just for a little bit.
TIP: If you can extend your layovers to explore some of this beautiful place, do it!
Like you see above, you can do a lot in a layover as long as you plan accordingly. If you’re planning on going to the Blue Lagoon, plan your tickets in advance they do sell out. If you plan for your layover at night you can drive out to see the Northern Lights. Also, car rentals aren’t necessary to get to Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon they do have buses available, we just preferred to have the freedom to be on our own schedule. Iceland is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to explore more of it!
Enjoy your adventure!