On my recent trip to Europe I chose to extend my vacation and add an additional day in order to take advantage of Iceland’s stopover program, and I am so glad I did. This country has become one of the most talked about and traveled to locations in the world over the past two or so years, and with good reason! Whether you’re there for 5 hours or 5 days, there is lots to love about this program. Not only has it brought in plenty of tourism for the country, but has made traveling to Europe even more enticing. Here is everything you need to know before planning your next stopover in Iceland!
We flew Icelandair out of Boston Logan Airport and were very pleased with the service. The seats rest very straight when positioned upright, but are comfortable when reclined. The airline provides pillows and blankets to sleep with, and offer plenty of movies and TV shows to enjoy while in the air. Icelandair offers one complimentary drink and a free bag of pretzels, but any additional snacks and drinks must be purchased. My flight was just under 5 hours, so that might be different for longer flights!
The Keflavik airport in Iceland is small, much smaller than you would expect for a location that sees hundreds of flights and stopovers a day. Inside the terminals are so small that many visitors end up standing or sitting on the floor while they wait for their flights. We exited the plane and walked across the tarmac outside before entering the airport. Thankfully the weather was nice in August, but it certainly would have been a different experience had it been snowing. When we were boarding to continue on to London we took a shuttle bus to our tarmac and waited outside before we climbed up the ladder and into the plane. Long story short, be prepared to go outside!
Travel From Keflavik
From the airport we traveled to the Blue Lagoon before continuing on to the city. You can pre-purchase tickets to the blue lagoon that includes a bus ticket, but you do have to pick your ticket up at the desk just before leaving the airport. Your ticket to the Lagoon includes transportation there and back to the airport, or to the city should you choose you venture there.
If you do go to Reykjavik, you will be responsible for your transportation back to the airport. We booked a private car, but there is public transportation as well. It is important to keep in mind that the airport is about 50 minutes from the airport. While it is a beautiful drive, plan your departure time wisely because the bus does make stops! It can easily add another 30 minutes to your drive.
The city is worth a visit if your stopover allows. It has loads of charm, great restaurants and cafe’s to grab a bite to eat, and is completely walkable. Our first stop was at the Sandholt Cafe for brunch. We were really pleased with the food and the service and definitely recommend the scones. There are plenty of smaller stores and gift shops to poke around in if you’re looking to do a bit of shopping.
Another great location to check out is the church known as Hallgrimskirkja. The building offers free admission and is the largest church in Iceland. It’s striking modern architecture towers over the rest of the city from its position on the top of a hill. The building clocks in at 74.5 meters tall making it one of the tallest buildings in Iceland as well.
We traveled to Iceland the last week of August, but the weather was still quite chilly. The temperatures are highest in July and August and drop below 0 from December until March. Regardless of when you go be sure to bring layers, and prepare for the wind. This is especially important to keep in mind if you are connecting to someplace warmer -you’ll definitely want to pack a jacket!
I only got a taste of this beautiful country on my stopover, but my first impressions were positive! Everyone here is extremely friendly and eager to help you. While their main language is Icelandic (and one of the most confusing languages I’ve ever heard) they do speak English which is always helpful when traveling to a new country. Everywhere you look you will find hints of the country’s Viking and Scandinavian heritage. Hay and grass covered homes and businesses like this one can be found throughout the country and were influenced by the lack of native trees.
Much of the cuisine in Iceland centers around fish, but there are plenty of options for the less adventurous. The currency here is also slightly confusing, so be sure to look up the exchange rates before you visit. There are plenty of nods to the viking’s here, which was very cool to see as well.
Overall, I would recommend Iceland’s stopover program. If you are curious about the country but unsure if you want to book an entire trip this is the perfect taster. As I said before, you can make your stop over as quick or as long as you’d prefer. 10 hours here was enough for me to know that I will be back to explore this unique country further!