Stopover in Iceland – A Complete Guide

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Iceland is an island with its whales as neighbors, gorgeous glaciers, numerous natural hot springs, and many beautiful destinations making it interesting enough to get a turnout of around million tourists every year (2019). One fun fact about Iceland that you can only get to know from a world map is that it falls almost exactly at the midway between the United States of America and Europe. This makes it the perfect place for a stopover for flights traveling between these two stations. Iceland is famous for its scenic beauty and ever-growing tourism. There was a time when this gem of a place was not so much of a hotspot for tourists, but over the recent years Iceland has gained the status of being the perfect holiday destination.

If you are in this country for a stopover and you get a chance to see its beauty, then chances are high that you will end up extending your stopover, or booking another trip, due to the appeal and soulful experience that you’re going to have here. Tourism is a major part of Iceland’s economy, and majestic glaciers, lagoons, beautiful flora and fauna are the reasons behind this.

In this article, we are going to tell you about the things that you can do during your stopover in this beautiful country. Even if you only have a day, you can enjoy it and go back to wherever you are going with happy memories from Iceland.

Explore Reykjavik

view over Reykjavik and Esjan

The capital city of Reykjavik is the center of this beautiful country and this is the closest city from the airport. It takes about one hour to reach Reykjavik from the international airport. This means that Reykjavik is the place where you are going to spend most of your stopover time if you’re on a tight schedule.

Reykjavik has many tourist spots that you can visit in the afternoon, but if you are a true wanderer who likes the idea of exploring cities, then you can always go for a long walk and explore the culture and lifestyle of this city. There are many beautiful cafés and restaurants in Reykjavik where you can dine and eat authentic Icelandic cuisine. Apart from this, you can take walks through the market and get some really good winter clothing that is unbeatable when it comes to harsh winters.

Shopping in Reykjavik can be a fun activity to do, because things that you are going to find here, can hardly be found anywhere else. 

Golden Circle Tour

Gullfoss waterfall in Golden Circle

The sad thing about the stopover in Iceland is that most of the major tourist attractions and scenic spots are a little far from the capital city. But on the brighter side, there is something that is one of the most popular activities in Iceland and that can be explored within a day. The Golden Circle Tour can be reached via a bus or car and can be explored easily if you have just a day to spare. There are three major sights on this tour, first is one of the largest waterfall of Iceland called Gulfoss, which is as majestic as it sounds. It is a major tourist attraction and is visited by tourists coming from all over the world. It is almost impossible to find an individual who has been to Iceland and hasn’t seen this beauty.

The second and another marvel of this tour is the geothermal field, where there is Geyser, which is the first geyser that Europeans discovered. There are several other geysers in his area that were later named. A geyser called Strokkur Geyser is a very popular tourist sight as it erupts every 5-10 minutes sending awe among tourists. One of the best thing about the geothermal field in this area is the Secret Lagoon, located in the town of Flúðir. It is a pool of charming blue water with temperature ranging between 38°–40° C. Secret Lagoon is one of the most favorite and popular spots among tourists as it offers absolute comfort and freshness to the soul. Bathing in an open pool of warm water in a country that is called ICE-land is a unique experience indeed. Thousands of tourists visit the geothermal field every year to experience the warmth and freshness of the secret lagoon. 

The third and the final sight of The Golden Circle Route is called Þingvellir National Park. This national park is one of the most important areas for Icelanders and has major historical significance. This national park is the area where the first Icelandic parliament was established in the year 930. This makes it a protected and historical place for Icelanders who are very proud of the history and culture of their country. Þingvallavatn Lake is located at the national park and is the largest lake in Iceland. The valley where this national park is situated also marks the area where Eurasian and North American plates meet.

These three sites are the reason behind the popularity of the Golden Circle Tour and are totally worthy of popularity and a day’s worth of stopover should give you plenty time to cover them.

The Blue Lagoon

three people relaxing in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Lagoons and hot springs are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland as they provide refreshments and wellness to the body and soul. If you have a one-day stopover in Iceland or even just a few hours, then it is advised to take a day trip through the southwest region of the country and find yourself at the famous Blue Lagoon to refresh.

The Blue Lagoon is located only 20 minutes drive from the international airport and is en route from the airport to the capital city. You can either rent a car or get a direct bus transfer from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. Spending your day in the milky blue water, soaking the true freshness of mother nature can create positive effects on your body and soul. After a bath, you can grab and coffee and just relax, or even have a dinner at the awarded restaurant located at the Blue Lagoon. It may not sound much of a thing to do, but Lagoon baths are extraordinary in every possible manner. The blue lagoon is carrying its name in one of the 25 wonders of the world according to the National Geographic.

  • Going to the Blue Lagoon is probably the most common thing to do on your stopover in Iceland since it is located so close to the airport. 

The South Coast

Skógafoss waterfall on the south coast of Iceland

If you have a stopover of two days in Iceland, then you can easily go for a tour of the south coast and enjoy the scenic beauty of the place. Along the south coastline, you will be presented with some of the mightiest waterfalls of Iceland along with some famous glaciers and mountains. You can also see unique black beaches and several active volcanoes in this region, so make sure that you are carrying your camera. Iceland’s most famous waterfall, Skógafoss, can also be visited during the South Coast tour. This majestic and photogenic waterfall is 60 meters tall and almost 25-meter-wide, making it a massive water body. the best thing about this waterfall is that it produces so much spray that single and sometimes double rainbows can often be spotted here on sunny days. Seljalandsfoss waterfall is another must see waterfall if you are traveling this route. This walk-behind waterfall is famous for it’s extraordinary views, both in front of the waterfall and behind it. 

The south coast will also offer you an opportunity to see the famous black sand beach. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is a volcanic beach with towering cliffs, sea stacks, and huge waves, that offers a unique scenic beauty that no other beach offers. It is recommended to visit the south coast if you want some of the most unique experiences and also if you want to sharpen your photographic skills.

Vatnajökull National Park

boat sailing on Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in south east Iceland

If you are one of those lucky people who have a three-day stopover in Iceland then you can exponentially increase the range of your exploration and adventure. After the south coast tour, if you travel further east then you can reach the Vatnajökull National Park. This is the home of Europe’s largest ice-cap that dominates the view of this landscape. Along with the way, you will several beautiful glacier tongues before reaching the beautiful Jökulsarlón Glacier Lagoon and the Diamond Beach. 

As the name already suggests, this is a stunning glacier lake in which large chunks of ice can be seen broken off from the glacier forming a lagoon. One of the most beautiful and eye-catchy things is the ever-changing shape of this place. As the ice melts and breaks during the summer, these ice chunks keep moving from one place to another providing a spectacular view to photographers and filmmakers.

A stopover in Iceland is different than the stopover in any other country in the world. Iceland offers a wide range of activities and tourism opportunities in the little time that you have in this country. The Icelandic airline has created a policy of no charge stopover in Iceland, it means that you can take a week of stopover without paying any extra among which offers the perfect tourism opportunity. So, next time if you get a stopover in Iceland, make sure you turn it into a vacation and get the best out of this beautiful country.

Notes to help you plan your Stop Over in Iceland

  • If you have less than one day – most people tend to go to the Blue Lagoon since it is only located around 20 minutes drive from the international airport. 
  • The International Airport is located in Keflavik – a 50 minutes drive from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.
  • The Domestic Airport is located in Reykjavik, close to the city center, but if you are traveling from abroad, you are most likely not arriving on that airport. 
  • You can get a bus every hour from the International Airport to Reykjavik City Center.
  • Taxi from the airport to Reykjavik are way more expensive than the bus. 
  • Most guided tours departure from Reykjavik, not Keflavik. That means that if you are coming to Iceland on a stopover, you will have to get yourself to Reykjavik before you start your tour. 
  • There are few tours that are available from Keflavik, but those tours are usually way more expensive. 
  • It is possible to go on private tours that pick up you up at the airport. 
  • Most guided tours departure in the morning. However, there are some tours that departure in the noon. If you are arriving at other times, we do recommend that you rent a car to get the most out of your stopover. 
  • You can find plenty of good hotels in and around Keflavik. However, there is much more to do in Reykjavik. A local advice would always be to travel to Reykjavik and stay there. 
  • If you want to make the most of your time on your Iceland Stopover, we always recommend that you rent a car and explore on your own. Find the best car rental, pick it up from the airport and find the best stopover itinerary for your trip. 

We hope that this article has helped you plan your stopover in Iceland. Some travelers only have few hours while other have few days and a lot of time to explore. If you have any questions, we are always happy to help you and we would really like to introduce our beautiful country to you on your stopover in Iceland. Drop a comment below with any questions or send us an email to info@icelandtravelguide.is and we will happily assist you. 

See you in Iceland! 

airplane flying over Iceland
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