We decided to take advantage of a one day stopover on Iceland on our way to Munich in June. What is reasonable to expect to be able to do in less than 24 hours? We arrive in the morning (over night flight from Seattle) and fly out the next morning. We would plan on staying at a hotel closest to the airport to make the next morning easier. I'm sure we could drop bags there and head out for the day, maybe come back for a nap and then head out again for the light-filled evening. Thanks for any recommendations!
Do the Golden Circle. Either find one of the many tours or rent a car and do on your own
The airport is a 45 minute drive from Reykjavik. So staying at an airport hotel, visiting Reykjavik, and then popping back for a nap will be very expensive. (Taxi is about $100 each way, Flybus is about the same for 2).
Reykjavik Excursions is the largest tour operator in Iceland and the operator of the Flybus airport transfer service. They offer package tour deals that include airport transfer. (All tours and the Flybus arrive and depart from the Bus Terminal. )
For a hotel, I can recommend the Hotel Aurora. It is basic, clean and only a three minute walk to the terminal. I've stayed there twice. The included breakfast starts at 4 AM for those with early morning flights. None of the other airport area hotels offer free transportation. If you stay here, you could go to the hotel, drop your bags, then get the bus into town. Return later and get a good night sleep. The hotel has a restaurant but its nothing to write home about.
To find the hotel, don't exit the terminal at the exit area. Go to the arrival area, out the front doors, through the parking lot in front, and the hotel will be on your right.
Is there any way that you could make it a two or three day layover? You'll be jet lagged when you arrive, so jumping in a rental car would not be advisable. And the tours all leave from Reykjavik City Center.
Maybe you could go to the Blue Lagoon to rest and relax, then get hire a private tour guide to pick you up and take you on a tour of the Reykjannes Peninsula. But having a few more days would be lots better.
I would go into Reykjavik and wander around in the morning, and then do a full or half day Golden Circle Tour. Those leave from Reykjavik. You would be back in time for dinner and to wander the city, and then head back to the airport in the morning. If your light to Munich is very early though, then get a hotel near the airport to save the 45 minute drive in the morning.
There are numerous tour companies, but I know Reykjavik Excursions has a sort of half day Golden Circle Direct tour that is only 6 hours vs a full day. The full day is great, but you would really have to know the timing of flight arrival and transportation into Reykjavik to be sure that you would not miss the bus.
Another option would be to contact RE. The reason I say this is if you took the Flybus from the airport to the bus station where you would normally transfer, but stay put. The RE tours do all meet up at this station before heading out, so that could save you a lot of time and you could catch a full day tour that way. You should be able to store your luggage there.
If you do want to do a full day tour and leave from a reykjavik Hotel, then I would hurry out of the airport asap and take a taxi into Reykjavik and drop your bags at your hotel. You would then have time to catch the full day tour. The flights from Seattle tend to arrive earlier than said (all of our trips have at least). Last February we took a taxi back to the airport and it ran us $120. Flybus is cheaper, around $70 for two, but you have to stop at the center bus station and transfer buses, and then those stop at bus stops within Reykjavik so you may still have a bit of a walk. The taxi costs more, but is door to door.
I hope I haven't confused you too much. At a minimum, you could easily do the half day tour and still get to see Reykjavik.