I flew Iceland Air from Seattle, which I recommend for several reasons. First, the flight is direct and takes approximately seven hours in the air. The shorter flight time is a bonus on top of the smooth transition into the European time zone. The most difficult aspect is that the flights land around 630am, which everything is closed at this hour except for the partygoers munching on some hot dogs at the local mini mart.
Whether you have 24, 48 or 72 hours, here is what I recommend on how to spend your layover in Iceland.
Spend your day with rest and relaxation as a priority. If you get into the city before 8:00am, don't be surprised if the only life you see are drunken Icelandic vikings raiding the streets and the hot dog cart at the local mini mart.
Downtown Reykjavik is an eclectic mix of old and new architecture. It features the same boring globalized stores like Timberland with local cafes and eateries mixed in between. Start your day at one of the many local cafes in pursuit to soak up the local culture.
In 2013, the BBC stated that, "one in 10 Icelanders will publish a book."If I had to guess, the dark and gloomy climate inspires the soul to gravitate toward creative pursuits to stay alive during the winter months. Iceland is a literary country and there is no shortage of creativity here. I recommend the city's oldest cafe, and elderly-hotspot, Mokka Kaffi.
After a nice latte and waffle breakfast, head to the blue lagoon where you can soak earth's powerful geothermal bath. Sit, swim, soak or slap a volcanic face mask and enjoy the warm and sulfur-smelling water. Bring your favorite shampoo as your hair will stink and feel weird. Pre-booking your time slot is now a requirement.
End your day with a beer from one of the local pubs in downtown. Which bar should I choose? Let your spirit guide you as there are too many interesting places to experience.
If you have any gas left in the tank, book a Northern Lights trip. The trip departs Reykjavik if there is a good forecast during the peak season.
If you have one full day in Iceland, escape the city to Iceland's most prized natural gem, Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. Most people spend their extra time at the Golden Circle, but if you have three days go to the triangle on day three.
Day trips from Reykjavik to the glacier is about 15 hours. The tour leaves early and arrives late, but is well worth the trip. On this southern coast tour, experience the vast wilderness and some of the most prominent sites such as Skogafoss falls, Reynisfjara black sand beach, Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Vik Town. Even the rest towns are beautiful situated near volcanic and glacial landscapes. If you are searching for God, you'll become a believer on this trip. It is beyond mind-blowing at how amazing the landscape and natural colors radiate underneath the sun.
The trip is worth the time and the expense.
I recommend two options. If you want a leisurely day, book the free Reykjavik walking tour and explore Icelandic history at The National Museum of Iceland.
If you must see more nature, book the half day or whole day Golden Circle tour. Discover prominent sites such as Gullfoss Waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. I recommend booking a tour that stops where the Icelandic horses roam. Alternatively, book a horseback riding Golden Circle tour. Not a tour person? No problem. Rent a car and see the Golden Circle in about three hours. This offers freedom and flexibility to those who do not like traveling with others.