Complete Guide to a 48 Hour Stopover in Reykjavik

Curbside Ad250x250The other day, I shared all kinds of great tips on how to blog well. At least a couple of those tips are in play today. Specifically, make friends, and guest post up.

In planning for our upcoming family vacation, I was searching for information on Iceland. I’ve been there on a stopover a couple times before, but not with kids and not in ten years. One of the first sites I found was Life With a View, a visually stunning blog full of Icelandic travel advice and photography by an American expat, Jeannie.

I reached out to Jeannie (make friends) and asked if she would be willing to write a guest post for this site. While Icelandic travel may be a bit outside the norm of what we usually discuss here, we do talk about living a life less ordinary, spending on experiences, and doing so without breaking the bank.

It just so happens that I scored a great deal on some round trip tickets to Paris, and in one week, our family of four will be spending 48 hours in the majestic geothermal island known as Ísland by the natives. The following will serve as a guide in planning our adventures, and I strongly encourage anyone crossing the pond to spend some time there en route.

Thank you so much for the guide, Jeannie!

-PoF

 

Complete Guide to a 48 Hour Stopover in Reykjavik

 

Iceland is quickly becoming one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. And with good reason — there’s not much the beautiful country doesn’t have! Huge waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers and volcanoes – there’s something for everyone!

A lot of flights between North America and Europe layover in Iceland because of it’s convenient location between. Icelandair also offers a stopover deal that lets travelers spend up to seven days in Iceland at no extra charge!

Lucky for you we are going to discuss everything you would need to enjoy a stopover in Reykjavik!

» How to get to Reykjavik from Keflavik airport

 

Rent a car

  • There are a lot of options right in the Keflavik Airport. If you’re taking this option, make sure you consider certain factors such as 2WD vs 4WD (based on time of year), navigation, and type of vehicle.

 

Flybus

  • Purchase tickets online, on Icelandair flight, or upon arrival
  • Keflavik to downtown Reykjavik – 2500 ISK / ≈23 USD
  • Keflavik to your hotel – 3000 ISK / ≈28 USD
  • 45 minute ride
  • Free wi-fi

 

Airport ExpressSet For Life

  • Purchase tickets online, on Icelandair flight, or upon arrival
  • One way from Keflavik to – 2400 ISK / ≈22 USD
  • Round trip from Keflavik to – 3900 ISK / ≈35 USD
  • 45 minute ride
  • Free wi-fi

 

» Quick Tips

 

  • Currency: Icelandic Króna
  • Language: Icelandic (although you can safely get around Reykjavik with English)
  • Population: 330,000 – yes that’s in the whole country!
  • Known For: The Blue Lagoon, Northern Lights, safest country in the world.
  • Cost: Expensive (one of the most expensive cities in Europe)
  • Tipping: none!

[PoF: English is actually their third language, after Icelandic and Danish, but the locals speak it reasonably well. Those Scandinavians are some smart folks!]

 

» Where to stay in Reykjavik

 

I can’t stress enough the importance of booking accommodation ahead of time. With the spike in tourism, it’s not unheard of to see hotel and guesthouse listings unavailable. Take my advice and book in advance!

AirBnB rental could be a great option for families since most of the listings can be very affordable.

Here are some other great choices:

highs in the summer reach into the 50s fahrenheit!

» How to get around Reykjavik

 

By foot | Reykjavik is pretty small as far as capital cities are concerned. I am confident that you can easily enjoy the city by foot. Public transportaion is also not as good as most major cities, but there are options.

By bus | The bus system in Reykjavik is called Strætó. You can buy a single fare with cash or a package of tickets. Tickets must be purchased in advance, not while on board the bus. Check this site for a list of places that sell bus tickets.

  • Adult single fare: 440 ISK / ≈4 USD
  • Children 6-18 single fare: 210 ISK / ≈2 USD
  • Children 0-5 single fare: Free
  • 20 ticket pass: 8300 ISK / ≈76 USD
  • One day pass: 1560 ISK / ≈14 USD
  • Three day pass: 3650 ISK / ≈33 USD

You also might want to consider the Reykjavik City Card. Choose between 24, 36, or 72 hours of unlimited travel on city buses, plus admission to major attractions and discounts at certain restaurants and shops.

By taxi | The two major taxi companies in Reykjavik are Hreyfill Bæjarleiðir and BSR. They are more or less priced the same, so it doesn’t matter which company you use. Taxis run by the meter, and accept all major credit cards.

  • Hreyfill: +354-588-5522
  • BSR: +354-561-0000

 

» What to do in Reykjavik

 

The good news is there are a lot of free things to do in Reykjavik. Simply strolling the downtown streets you will find yourself falling in love with the city. Colorful buildings and old houses gives Reykjavik a quaint feel.

 

The main sights | Window shopping on Laugavegur (the main street in downtown), Hallgrimskirkja church (the view from the top gets you the best look over the whole city!), the sun voyager, and the Harpa concert hall. The good news is most things are free! Read this guide for details.

 

Walking Tour | Learn about the Viking settlement in Iceland with this FREE walking tour hosted by City Walk! For two hours, a guide will walk you around the city – rain or shine! Even thouh it’s free, you must reserve your spot ahead of time.

 

For the more adventurous | If you’re up for a day trip, there are lots of beautiful options within a couple hours of the city. Waterfalls, beaches, and jagged cliffs – there’s something for everyone!

 

» Food & drinks scene

 

For authentic Icelandic breakfast | Icelanders are not huge on breakfasts, but they are coming around. Common breakfast offerings at a hotel would be hard boiled eggs, cold cut meats and cheese, and fresh tomato and cucumber. Out and about you can find open sandwiches or a quick pastry item from one of the delicoius local bakeries.

For lunch and dinner | Don’t miss out on kjotsupa (lamb soup) which you can find in a lot of restaurants and cafes. Also, Icelanders love hot dogs. The most famous place is a small stand called Bæjarins Beztu. When you order, say “eina með öllu” (one with everything) to get the full experience with all the toppings – ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remoulade.

 

Traveling on a budget? Iceland is very expensive for food, but there are options if you know where to look! Check out this free e-book  with seven places to get cheap food in Reykjavik.

 

For snacks and dessert |

  • Licorice flavored anything is a staple with Icelanders. That’s right – salty black licorice, they go crazy for it! The most common form are pastilles by a company called Opal.  To ease the blow of salty licorice, I highly recommend þristur – a licorice bar dipped in chocolate. It’s WAY better than it sounds!)
  • There is something amazing about the Icelandic ice cream, so don’t leave the country without getting some! It doesn’t have to be fancy, some of the best ice cream I’ve had has been from gas station soft serve machine! For handscooped ice cream, try Valdís or Eldur and Is.
  • As with all Europeans, cakes are a very common dessert. All cafes will serve a variety of cakes, and you can guarantee that they are homemade!
  • Omnom is a local company that makes delicious craft chocolates that come in a variety of flavors.

[PoF: Omnom is also the sound my mouth makes when I eat delicious craft chocolates]

 

For drinks | Coffee lovers rejoice! Iceland has the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world so make sure to head into any of the small local cafes for a cup of joe.

If you’re into beer [PoF: I am!], you’re in luck – Iceland has a lot of small craft breweries of all kinds of flavors. I personally recommend Einstök and Borg brews. You will find Gull and Víking on tap everywhere – the local light beer. Bryggjan Brugghús is a new micro brewery that recently opened up near the harbor and they have delicious food and lots of craft beer on tap.

And whatever you do, do NOT buy bottled water! In Iceland you can drink the water straight from the tap – it’s from the glacier!

 

» Traveling with kids

 

[PoF: I am!]

 

Museums |

The National Museum and The Settlement Exhibition are both fun options for kids because they are both quite interactive. They also have a play area where kids can dress up as characters from Icelandic history.

I’m also a big fan of the Árbær open air museum. On a good day, it’s just nice to walk around check out the turf houses and they way Icelanders used to live.

Whales of Iceland is a great option for kids to learn all about whales. It’s a really interactive exhibit with replicas of the whales overhead.

*Many museums have free entrance for kids so that is an additional bonus!

 

Tjörnin | Tjörnin is a big pond in the middle of downtown Reykjavik. Besides being a cute area to walk around for fresh air, it’s also fun for kids. Ducks and geese flock to the shore where people are always bringing breads for them to eat.

 

 

Pools |  

The pools are a huge part of Icelandic culture. Adults and children alike love to meet at the swimming pools on the weekends for some family fun. Some pools have big slides or a play area, all very kid-friendly.

Outside of Reykjavík you will find more touristy places like the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon and various hot springs.

 

Petting Zoo |

What child doesn’t like the zoo?! Just note that the Reykjavik zoo has Icelandic animals only – no lions or mokeys here! There’s also a small train, fair activities, and playgrounds. The zoo is right in the middle of Laugardalur valley which has beautiful botanical gardens in the summer. It is also home to the biggest pools in Reykjavik. You could easily spend a day in this area!

 

Harpa 360 |

Get your fill of Icelandic nature with this beautiful 30 minute film that highlights the incredible landscapes around Iceland. A great way to get a taste of Iceland and tempt a return visit!

 

//

No matter what you choose to do or see in Iceland, you will have a great time. Icelanders are friendly, the food is delicious, and the laid back culture will make you feel right at home.

Goða Ferð!

 

[PoF: That means “have a good trip,” the Iceland version of “Bon voyage!” And yes, we will! Thanks again for the overview. We’ll be there in a week — if you and your husband get thirsty, we’ll gladly buy you a pint.]


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27 comments

  • Amazing post, Jeannie! We were looking at Iceland when WOW Air was running that ridiculous sale a few months back. I’ll definitely use this guide if we find ourselves in Iceland on a stopover, and go to your blog if we are planning a longer vacation!

  • Curse you both for adding yet another location to the bucket list ;). But I digress, it sounds fantastic. I’m more of an outdoor hiking type of person. Any specific recommendations in that area?

    • I hear ya – always a new place going on my bucket list as well! There’s so much hiking in Iceland, but you have to head out of the city which would require a few days trip. I have a few suggestions on my blog!

  • Iceland has been on my list for several years now. Every time I read about it, I get more and more excited to go there one day. We have a few other overseas travel destinations ahead of it on our list (New Zealand and Spain) but I can’t wait to go. What time of the year would you recommend going?

  • Ahhh, I never considered the cost of visiting a big city on an island, but it makes sense. After all, many things need to be shipped over to Iceland. Iceland looks like the bomb-diggity! I’ve never visited Iceland, but I would like to check it out. Mr. Picky Pincher is fascinated in the country for its metal music, but I like the geology, of all things. 🙂

    • Between music and geology you two would be in vacation heaven! But yes, just make sure you have some extra money saved up for those “island” expenses 😉

  • One of my most memorable jogs was an early morning run along the waterfront in Reykjavik. I was there on biz, and was fortunate to have our meetings scheduled at the Blue Lagoon (believe it or not, there’s a conf room on the 2nd floor of the building next to the baths).

    It was torture to have to look out at the folks in the baths while I met with the Russians, but I’ll always remember that trip, that run, and that meeting.

    Magical place, planning on heading back when I have time. Gotta do the drive around The Island! Enjoy your trip, Doc, great to tie it in with a trip to Paris.

    • Sounds like you had a great time – enough to make you want to come back! I always recommend a trip around the ring road to get the full Iceland experience 🙂

  • Thanks, that’s great travel guide for the visit. Bookmarked for next year. We’ll definitely try the stopover deal from Iceland Air or Wow Air, another provider with cheap flights to Europe via Keflavik.

  • Stashed away for future reference. Iceland is close to the top of our list, so we expect to make it there in the next 2-3 years. So many places, so little time. We really need to get this early retirement show on the road.

  • Chloe

    I love Iceland. If you have time to leave Reykjavik it gets even better. Going to the top of the church shown in the first picture is very worthwhile. So is the Blue Lagoon. The public pools are amazing. I would add Skyr to the list of really good Icelandic foods–we saved money by buying some food at the supermarket and staying at bed and breakfasts where they let you use the kitchen (there are plenty of these out in the country). Eating out there can be really really expensive, especially if you like vegetables. We only met one person on our 10 day trip who wasn’t fluent in English (that includes children–we were told they learn it from TV before they learn it in school). The second language is Danish, not Dutch, btw. -Have fun! If you are into music–I loved the store 12 Tonar. Buy some random CDs (you can listen before you buy). It’s a very creative country and the music I bought there is very unique.

    • You bring up some great points, Chloe! Sounds like you had a great experience in Iceland. And I agree, I always suggest road tripping out of the city if you have the time 🙂

  • JSA

    Also recommend the Golden Circle drive, consider the 435/360 detour.

  • Thanks for the post Jeannie! I’ve already been on your site since PoF shared it earlier. My son will be in Iceland during Easter break and he’s checked out your site too. We met the Philippine Honorary Consulate General to Iceland (Priscilla) on the beach in Sarasota last year. She gave us some great information too and invited us to visit when we make it there in a few years!

    • Hi Vicki! So glad to hear your son will be making a trip to Iceland soon. It’s a good time of year to visit – some snow on the mountains but clear roads and hopefully the Northern Lights!

  • ENT Doc

    Iceland is an amazing place. Definitely suggest getting out into the country and doing the ring road with excursions along the way. If I had to change anything it would have been to go (unfortunately) in more of the peak season when the smaller roads are all open. Went in mid-May. Enjoy the trip!

  • Arkad

    If you have time to rent a car don’t miss Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. It is amazing as is the drive out to it.

    • Couldn’t agree more – one of my favorite places in the whole country! I usually suggest two days trip out there to be able to enjoy all the beautiful sights along the way.

  • Arkad

    If you like seafood make sure not to miss restaurant Reykjavik. They have an all you can eat buffet with about 10 types of Salmon alone. The salt overload almost killed me but was well worth it.

  • Are you planning to visit Barcelona?

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