One Night Layover in Iceland

My wife and I are traveling to Europe in June 2014 and decided to take a pretty good deal thru Iceland Air and have a one night layover in Iceland before heading to London. Our flight arrives at Keflavik International Airport at 6:30am. We depart the following day at 7:30am, so gives us about exactly 24 hours to see all the hot spots. In terms of what would be the best plan of action in order to take in Iceland in 24 hours I thought that maybe getting a rental car and doing the self guided Golden Circle Route tour would be our best bet. This way we can go at our own pace and see the major points. In your experience is the self guided tour a good option give our tight time table? Or would you suggest to do an actual tour? Finally, in terms of deciding where to stay. Since we leave early the following day (fly departs at 7:30am), I figured our best option would be to make the 45 minute drive back the night before and stay near the Airport so save us time in the morning. But I've been reading that several suggest to NOT stay near the airport as there is not much going on. But that would mean a fairly early morning for when we leave as we would have to make the 45 minute drive, return the car, etc. Thoughts on my logic in terms of the self guided tour and staying near the airport?

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

We visited last September. Although we had 3 nights, we spent the first day doing the Golden Circle. We arrived about 6:00. The car rental company met us at the airport, we signed and were on our way. We did the Golden Circle tour on our own and it was wonderful. We enjoyed all the scenery, and stopped at Gulfoss falls, Geyser, and Pingvellir. We had a beautiful day and it was a lot of fun. I think the tours add some other stops, but they did not interest me as much as having control of how much time we had at each stop. Although we stayed at a youth hostel out in the area, we would have had plenty of time to get back to Reykjavik. We stayed in Reykjavik the other 2 nights, and it did mean getting up early to catch our 6:00 AM plane. However, if you arrive early enough you can enjoy walking through the delightful city and along the water. I don't remember a lot being available out by the airport and it is a little more isolated. However, we did enjoy driving around the Keflavik area one day and it is not without it own scenic charms. However, for your first trip, I would stay in Reykjavik. Driving was easy and quick. If you don't have a GPS, buy a good map and take some notes on how to get to things you want to see and your hotel. I had exact directions. Reykjavik is small, but all the streets have long, confusing names. We drove right to our place, but only because I had step by step turns written down and not just a map with location marked. Have a great time. We loved it there and would like to go back.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

I would stay in Reykjavik - not even sure there's anything by the airport (Iceland is so sparsely populated that I'm not even sure where the closest village is and whether you can stay there). As far as renting a car, I would price out the rental + gas estimate (it won't be cheap) and compare it to the cost of a) taking the flybus roundtrip from/to airport and b) cost of a tour for 2 people. I took several tours and liked them, but you know the downside already (you won't have the luxury of going at your own pace). In June you should have a lot of daylight you can take advantage of. If you can, consider staying in Iceland 2-4 days instead - it will be more than worth it. But one day will probably give you a good taste - I was hooked after a layover and came back again.

Posted by Bob
Rosemount, MN, USA
57 posts

We were in Iceland for 3 days this summer. I would recommend trying to get a few more days. It's an awesome place. We arrived at 6:30AM, got our rental car and did the Golden Circle tour. Afterward we drove to Reykjavik, checked into our apartment, went grocery shopping and walked around the city. If in your case we only had one day then we would have gone to the Blue Lagoon after the Golden Circle tour. We also had an early flight out of Keflavik to Frankfurt and that little bit of extra sleep would have been nice had we stayed nearer to the airport. There was a building right at the Airport that looked like a hotel. Sorry that I don'tknow anny more about it but if it is a hotel that would be a good option because you could drop off your rental car after you're done sightseeing and the next morning walk to the terminal. The downside is that there would be nothing to do but sleep, but if you did the Golden Circle tour and Blue Lagoon that might be all you have time to do.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
675 posts

FWIW, Google Earth shows several places to stay near Keflavik Airport: http://hotelberg.is/ http://www.guesthousekef.com/ http://www.icelandairhotels.com/en/hotels/keflavik http://ravensbnb.is/
http://www.bbkeflavik.com/ There may be others. I can't vouch for any of them but you might find it easier to stay near the airport for such an early flight. I agree with others that another day or two in Iceland would be a great addition to your trip, either coming or going. Besides the Golden Circle, there are things to see in Reykjavik, and many people like the Blue Lagoon which is closer to the airport. As you probably know, Icelandair charges the same fare whether you break your journey there or not.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

We stayed at the Hotel Keilir in Keflavik for 2 nights on our pass through Iceland in 2009. It is not a fancy place, but it was very clean and fine for us. This is the link to the Trip Advisor listing: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g189964-d669107-Reviews-Hotel_Keilir-Keflavik_Southern_Peninsula.html#REVIEWS. And this one goes to the hotel website: http://eng.hotelkeilir.is/English/FRONTPAGE/. Skip the first few TA reviews, and pay more attention to the ones a few days earlier. They are good descriptions of what we experienced. Having a shuttle to the airport if it starts as early as you need is a great option, but if it doesn't, a taxi should work fine. It can be a quiet place if there's no special festival going on, but one of the negative reviewers complained about the bar across the street, so maybe there is something going on there. If you are concerned about the noise, get a room on the water side for a great view. Contacting the owners by email in English works quite well. If you can only do one thing while there, go to the Blue Lagoon and be sure to have a massage in the water.

Posted by Tyler
Oregon, WI
54 posts

Thanks for the suggestions. Here is the temporary plan; please let me know any suggestions. We land at 6:30am at the Keflavik Airport. Our plan is to rent a car and do a self guided Golden Circle tour. With that, is there any best way to go about doing the self Golden Circle Tour? My plan was to use the AVIS self guided GPS (https://www.mywayiniceland.is/)&#59; to help give us some fun facts on all the places. Has anyone used this before? Is this a good idea? In terms of where to stay, we decided to stay near the airport and based on everything I've ready the 1x6 guesthouse seems like it would be a good option: http://www.1x6.is/. Has anyone stayed here? If so, thoughts on the place? I figure the doing the golden circle tour will take us most of the day from when we land at 6:30am to mid to late afternoon. Then we will drive back towards the airport and do the Blue Lagoon and then come back to the room and crash for the night to get up for our 7:30am flight the next morning. Thoughts on the that plan? Any tips?

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

Your latest plan sounds fine except sadly you didn't make room to see Reykjavik itself. Any chance you can stop there for an early dinner and a stroll? Where else were you planning to eat? The restaurants there are amazing and you can do something adventurous like eating puffin (or the lobster, which is super tasty). I don't know how late the Blue Lagoon is open but it should be open in the evening (probably even late) PS. That guesthouse looks great!!! I wish I could stay there. By way of a warning though, almost anywhere you stay in Iceland will feel like a dorm, no matter how cool/artsy it is or how expensive it is. It's just part of their design "sense". Beautiful scenery though.

Posted by Tyler
Oregon, WI
54 posts

Ok so I just checked and Blue Lagoon is open from 9am-9pm. So since our flight lands at 6:30am, that would be about an hour of wasted time before it opens. So my plan would maybe be to do the Blue Lagoon after we are done with everything, since where we are staying is fairly close to the Blue Lagoon. That would leave this as the new temporary itinerary: 1) Land at 6:30am, get our luggage, rental car, etc and leave the airport by 7:30am or so 2) 7:30am- Begin our Self guided golden circle tour...which I heard should take anywhere from 6-8 Hours depending on how many stops, how long lunch takes, etc. 3) 4:30pm (approximate)---be finishing up our golden circle tour and take a pit stop in Reykjavik to take a quick tour of the city and eat some dinner 4) 7:00pm- Head to Blue Lagoon -Couple questions regarding Blue Lagoon 1) Will it be too cold at night to swim in June? 2) I see there are various packages to purchase, will be most basic/cheap package be enough to get the experience? Is there a way to see the Blue Lagoon without buying a package?
3) Is an hour enough time to experience blue lagoon? THANKS AGAIN FOR ALL THE RESPONSES. YOUR HELP IS MUCH APPRECIATED.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

No, it's never too cold to swim in the Blue Lagoon because it's all powered by geothermal energy like everything else in Iceland (you'll see the plant itself in the distance) and the temps are actually quite hot in some areas. If you've been in a hotspring, then that's what it's like - except it's going to smell even more pronounced like rotten eggs and you'll have white silica mud to play with (look at google images and you'll see the steam coming up). I don't know about the packages, but if you just want to soak, then buy the basic entrance fee and just go in and soak...you just need a swim suit, they've got everything else set up (lockers, bags for wet swim suits, towels). One hour should be enough, the entrance fee isn't cheap though, so some folks maximize their time there. If you're totally tight on time and can't make it to Reykjavik, I'm sure the Blue Lagoon has a (pricy) restaurant that can serve as a back up for dinner.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

I don't see anyone else doing it so I will put the link to the Blue Lagoon here: http://www.bluelagoon.com/. You should be able to find the answers to your questions on their webpage if you haven't already by now. IMHO, a one hour soak actually in the water might be enough, but you will need time on either side of that to get your tickets, change clothes, and reverse the process when you come out relaxed as a noodle. We ate at the cafeteria, but there is a fancy restaurant. Remember, in June it will still be daylight long after 21:00 when they close. Under Entrance Packages you can see the prices for towels, bathrobes, swim suits, etc. Be sure to get some of the skin care products. I got mine in the airport and don't remember not being allowed to take them on the plane. I sure was sad when I finished them off on the rest of our trip. We were surprised when we got to Frankfurt and didn't have to go through any kind of security, passport control or anything. Then we realized we'd done all that in Iceland.

Posted by Tyler
Oregon, WI
54 posts

2 more questions....from the time our flight lands at 6:30am, from when we get our luggage and rent our car, does anyone have an estimate as to how long that entire process should take? And then we will driving the golden circle tour between both lunch and dinner. Any suggestions at places to stop for lunch and dinner that are good and fairly priced?

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

It really is a small airport with a limited number of flights coming in at one time - I can't imagine it would take very long at all. Are the car rentals on site? I would check out tripadvisor for restaurants - the ones I went to years ago were quite pricy (but still fair because the food was very delicious). The food during the tours was not memorable (typical tourist stop kind of food), but restaurants in Reykjavik were outstanding. I can't remember Icelandic names unfortunately - they were both fish places and very homey. Prepare to pay quite a bit though because even an open faced sandwich in Iceland is relatively expensive. For the super budget minded, there is a very popular hot dog booth that both locals and tourists seem to love (http://bbp.is/en/)

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

The airport is pretty quick. Our rental agent met us and took us to the car (the place was off site but the car was at the airport ) and we were on our way. (Not sure if all rental places are off site) The main thing is to have good directions so that you can minimize your car travel time. Restaurants: Gulfoss had a really nice looking cafeteria style restaurant. We did not eat there, but it looked really tempting. I believe there was also someplace to eat at geysir. We stayed in the town of Laugarvatn and there really was not much there for places to eat. There is a small eating place before you turn off the main road to head south down to Þingvellir. It was pretty limited (maybe good for a small sandwich or cup of coffee) Those were the places we checked out. Gulfoss would be my first choice for sure. (We regretted not sitting down and having a bowl of hot stew and some of their wonderful deserts.) Prices are expensive everywhere in Iceland. However, you are only there one day so enjoy the food!

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

"Before you turn off the road to Þingvellir" I should say this is going towards Reykjavik. If you are coming from Reykjavik, it will be just past the turn off. I checked my journal. It says: "We landed about 6:30 and the car rental guy was waiting for us. By 7:15, we were on the road" Hope that helps

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

The golden circle is pretty isolated and things shut down by 5:00. In June, when there are 20 hours of daylight? I don't recall going through any booth to see an attraction, so not sure why it wouldn't be "open". My memory may be weak though...

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
675 posts

@ Connie Icelandair is a lower-cost airline than most, and they don't serve free meals, but they will sell you a light dinner or breakfast or snack onboard. So you don't have to bring your own food or pig out before takeoff or starve, just be prepared. @ Tyler, have a great time. You've got a very full day planned!

Posted by G.María
Lima, Perú
125 posts

We also took advantage of Iceland air's specials (yes, you pay for all food & drinks on board, but did save a few hundred dollars vs. other airlines). We decided to stay in Keflavik and glad we did. Our guesthouse/hotel (Hotel Berg - highly recommend it) was only 10 minutes away. Our room was modern, but didn't look like a dorm room. Breakfast was included and was great. Had a great view of the small harbor, which is right in front of the hotel. I also looked into the guesthouse you're thinking of - that was my second choice, but I'm picky and don't like sharing a bathroom with other guests :) Getting in/out of the airport is a breeze. We preferred renting a car to tour at our own pace. Everything is very close - easy to drive around (not many roads). We didn't have enough time to soak at the Blue Lagoon, but stopped by for some pictures anyway. There's a 10 euro charge to "visit" the lagoon; we just walked behind the place and got to see some of the geothermal pools, made for some interesting photography. The place was packed with tour buses and a lot of tourists rushing in/out, probably on the way to the airport. Next time I fly to Europe, I would make sure I extend the layover for at least 3 days. Have fun!

Posted by Tyler
Oregon, WI
54 posts

Does anyone have a suggestion on the best company to go about renting a car at Keflavik Airport? I've been reading some horror stories from others on certain companies (Hertz for example). Just curious if anyone has any tips as to any particular companies to avoid and any other things to look for when renting and returning a car at KEF. I will be landing at 6:30am, and my departing flight is 7:30am the following morning. So not sure if I'm going to have any troubles in terms of renting and returning a car that early in the morning? Thanks for any help!

Posted by Connie
Everett, WA
827 posts

We used SS car rental. The web site is http://www.carrentalss.com/ They met us at 6:30 AM at the airport and told us how to return the car when we were done (no one there, we just dropped it off at the airport.) We flew out at 6 am. We were happy with every aspect of the rental.