8 Things To Do When You Have An 18-Hour Layover In Iceland

Iceland Air and other airline companies have been in the news lately for offering CRAZY GOOD deals from the US to Europe. A quick search on WOW airlines shows flights from Boston to Paris with a stopover in Reykjavik for around *drumroll* US$150 ! That’s around US$700 cheaper than a round-trip flight, and it’s like you get an extra vacation day for FREE.

So, what is there to do in Iceland for less than a day? Plenty. Here are 8 things to do when you have an 18-hour layover in Iceland:

1. Pick up your new whip.

After you touch down at Keflavik airport in the wee hours of the morning, head over to pick up your rental car. Although you can take tour buses to many Icelandic tourist traps, by far the best way to travel the country is by car. It is relatively inexpensive to rent a car for a day – around US$100 for a car that can hold you and four friends. I would recommend getting a car with four-wheel drive, as there are certain roads in Iceland called F Roads, where you must have a four-wheel drive car.

Pick up your new whip
                                              Don’t forget the GPS!

2. Head to the Blue Lagoon.

The Blue Lagoon is extremely touristy; however, it is also breathtakingly beautiful. Make sure you buy your tickets prior to your arrival, as this natural geothermal hot spring with milky blue water will be sold out if you don’t. It is tucked into an area of Iceland that is surrounded by volcanic rocks, and it is truly an oasis in the middle of a desolate landscape. Don’t fret if it is cold outside as the water is naturally around 100°F (38°C). Put on a mud mask, sip your favorite drink and recover from your flight. Make sure to bring a Go-Pro or a dry-bag for your phone, and take along your bikini if you don’t want to rent one.

Head to the Blue Lagoon
                                                            Mud masks, hot water and a cold drink. Ahhhh!

3. Have an early lunch in Reykjavik.

There is a tiny hotdog stand in Reykjavik named Bæjarins Beztu that sells the best priced food you will find in the country. It is about US$5 for a hotdog and a coca-cola, and these dogs are made with lamb, so they are different than what you might be used to.

About 70% of all Icelanders have eaten at this tiny restaurant, and 70% of Icelanders can’t be wrong! My favorite was the “Bill Clinton” dog enjoyed by the former US president when he visited in 2004, but if you like onions, order a “eina með öllu,” or “one with everything”!

Have an early lunch in Reykjavik
                                                                                    Best dog ever.

4. Climb up the Hallgrímskirkja.

This Lutheran church is one of the tallest structures in Iceland, and at the top, you can see for miles! This will also be good for working off those hotdogs you just ate.

Climb up the Hallgrimskirkja
                                                                                Camera is 100% necessary.

5. Tour the Golden Circle.

This is a must-do tour for any tourist in Iceland. The main things to see are Þingvellir, a national park, Gullfoss, a giant waterfall and Geysir, a geyser. The best advice I can give you is that these areas are further apart than you might expect, so if you want to catch a tour later in the day, be prepared. I know this from experience.

Tour the Golden Circle
                                                     Fun fact! Geysir smells like bad eggs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

6. See where glaciers meet the Atlantic Ocean.

Jökulsárlón is a glacier lagoon in the south-eastern part of the island and home to hundreds of icebergs floating in a lake that connects to the ocean. This is a pretty far journey, about a 4.5 hour drive from Reykjavik, but the drive will be by Iceland’s rugged coastline, and well-worth the trip.

See where glaciers meet the Atlantic Ocean
                                                                        #goals #views #travelblogger

Depending on when you are in Iceland, it will either be dark nearly the entire day, or the sun will never set. These last two ideas are for summer and winter months respectively.


In the summer time, puffins flock to Iceland by the thousands and set up camp on Puffin Island. This excursion will need to be done by boat, but it is only a 15-minute trip from Reykjavik Harbor. Bring a camera with a good zoom lens to truly take in the cuteness. If birds aren’t your thing, you can also take a whale-watching excursion in the same area of Reykjavik. Some of these tours even guarantee whale sightings or you get your money back!

Puffins! Whales! Cute animals!

8. Northern lights.

The Northern Lights are visible from October to March if the night is clear and there is a good solar storm. These lights can appear as several colors, but the most common are white or green. If you want to take photos, bring a DSLR camera with a remote and a tripod, but it’s also fine to just live in the moment. Look up to the sky. Take in the beautiful view of the Milky Way. Ponder the deeper meaning of life. Hold your friends close for warmth and be amazed by all that Iceland has to offer.

Northern Lights
               Feel utterly insignificant under countless stars and never-ending space…but like, in a good way.


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Emily Thomas

Emily Thomas is a globe-trotting blogger sticking it out in Corporate America until her next big adventure. Her day job is a marketing specialist for a financial technology company in the Chicago suburbs, where she creates case studies, coordinates trade show displays and organizes marketing emails for campaigns, among other creative endeavors. As a strong writer with an eye for design, Emily has also been published both domestically and internationally in newspapers, magazines and other print and online media. She studied abroad in 2013 in Beijing, China, and has been country-hopping since she was a child. Emily holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Purdue University in English and Communication and is looking to pursue a master's degree within the next few years.


    1. Apparently there is a sanctuary that you can visit that helps orphaned baby puffins!! It’s marketed towards children, but I’d be first in line!!

  1. Currently on a two day layover out here and definitely did a couple of these!
    Alternatively if you can’t drive, the Esja mountains visible from the city are an hour away on public transport 🙂

    1. Yay!! I wish you good weather! The first few days I was there last winter, it rained. 🙁 I am going back in August and I can’t wait to see what Iceland is like in the summertime!

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