By Derin Solu
There is nothing more taxing than a long layover in a crowded airport after a trans-Atlantic flight. Unless of course, you are smart enough to plan your connecting flight through Reykjavik, Iceland. Icelandair has many affordable flights to various European destinations and promotes stopovers in Reykjavik, enabling you to plan your layover with ease. There are many exciting activities to choose from in Iceland, but below is an itinerary including some of the best features of Reykjavik and the surrounding areas, all of which can be completed within a 24-hour layover. Depending on the length of your layover, be sure to either pre-book organized tours through various companies operating out of Reykjavik airport, or rent a car to indulge in these activities through a self-drive.
After a long flight to Europe, there is no better remedy than a luxurious bath complete with a cocktail and a relaxing massage. Enter, Reykjavik’s beautiful geothermal spa, the Blue Lagoon. This spa is located in a lava field just 20 minutes outside of Reykjavik International Airport and consists of warm, milky blue waters rich in healing minerals. At the Blue Lagoon you can partake in any number of the available spa activities and amenities. I highly recommend putting on the silica mud mask and swimming over to the cocktail bar placed conveniently in the middle of the lagoon. Then, you can enjoy a rejuvenating in-water massage before embarking on a tour of Iceland’s Golden Circle and Reykjavik city center.
Once you have bathed off the airplane smell and relaxed in the Blue Lagoon, you can hop in your rental car and do a self-drive through the Golden Circle route. Alternatively, you can visit the Golden Circle sites through an organized tour; however, due to the ease of driving in Iceland and my personal dislike of large tour busses, I recommend a leisurely self-drive through the countryside at your own pace. The Golden Circle is Iceland’s ultimate tourist route consisting of three of South Iceland’s most famous attractions: the impressive Gulfoss Waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, and the geothermally active region of Haukadalur, which is home to the geysers Strokkur and the eponymous Geysir.
After you have driven the Golden Circle route and experienced some of Iceland’s most beautiful natural wonders, you can head into Reykjavik city center to amble around the city streets and discover the myriad of uniquely Icelandic shops and cafes. For dinner, do not miss the opportunity to partake in the delectable seven course tasting menu at Fiskmarkadurinn Restaurant (The Fish Market). This tasting menu was hands down one of the best dinners of my life and included fresh sushi, delicious minke whale, succulent lamb, and a sumptuous assortment of desserts, among other surprises. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time as this is a very popular restaurant.
If your layover lasts into the night during winter months, you may have the opportunity to drive outside of Reykjavik city limits and witness the awe inspiring northern lights. The best way to view the northern lights during your limited time in Reykjavik is through an organized northern lights tour. I recommend the northern lights 4×4 super jeep tour that various tour companies offer. These guided tours take you outside of the city to decrease light pollution and go off-roading up the mountainous terrain in order to get the best views of the lights. During these tours, you will get the chance to snuggle up in the cold with a cup of hot chocolate while taking in the majesty of these mystical lights.
Once you have visited these sites, you can drive back to the airport for your connecting flight to your final destination taking comfort in the knowledge that you have experienced a thorough taste of the many wonderful activities available in Iceland.
About the Author: Derin Solu is an avid traveler and lover of all things food and wine related. During her travels, she can often be found seeking out animal encounter adventures and unique dining experiences. She is originally from Istanbul and currently works as a consultant in New York City.