Iceland for a few hours. What should I do?
December 16, 2014 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I will have a nine hour layover in Iceland. Are there any must-do items I can do in this amount of time?

I have read about the Blue Lagoon, and although I'm not sure how to get there, it seems like something that could easily be done. Getting to the city center seems like a longer (and more expensive) trip and I'm wondering if there is anything there to take in on such a short trip.

I read this, but it seemed better suited for someone with more time.

Any tips? Thanks in advance!
posted by Sheppagus to Travel & Transportation around Iceland (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Deciding on whether to visit the city itself depends on what your interests are. If you have no particular interest in anything in Reykjavik, then I suggest the Blue Lagoon.

There will be plenty of shuttles from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, and they don't need to be pre-booked. The Blue Lagoon is the closest attraction to the airport, and it's a pleasing way to spend several hours. Be sure to put conditioner in your hair before you get into the water, which will dry it out something fierce. Then try everything there is on offer: the swim up bars, slathering on the mud, the spa, maybe a bite to eat.

If you're into snorkeling at all, snorkeling at Silfra could be done with a 9-hour layover. There's nothing like snorkeling in 33F degree water (in a dry suit) in a tectonic fissure. In fact, for just about anything one could do in Iceland, this company offers it. The departure point is on one of the main shopping streets in Reykjavik.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:38 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes the Blue Lagoon is easily doable and is much closer to the airport than the city centre. You can get a taxi from the airport or there are Shuttle buses (current schedule). They have luggage storage there too if you need it.
posted by atlantica at 6:39 AM on December 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

To be safe, you want to figure an hour on each end for airport necessaries like passport control, to that brings you to 7 hours. If you want to come downtown, it's an hour each way, so you'd have five hours. Given that amount of time, depending on the weather, you could walk from the bus station to Hallgrimskirkja, go up in the tower for a great view of the city, have lunch at Cafe Loki (for some traditional Icelandic favorites) or Kol (fancier) just a few steps away, then walk down Skólavörðustígur looking at little shops and such, on your way to Laugavegur and the city center. Then, depending on the time, you could walk over to the pond and city hall (there is a cool giant scale model of Iceland usually on display there), the national museum is close by, and you can complete the loop back at the bus station.

Both Blue Lagoon and downtown Reykjavik are accessible via bus from the airport. A return ticket from the airport to the downtown bus terminal is 3500ISK (about $30).
posted by Nothing at 6:40 AM on December 16, 2014

Yes. Iceland has excellent tourism facilities for layovers with a variety of tours around the country of differing lengths based on the time you have available. Much of these might already be in the pocket of your seat, as I discovered.

Blue lagoon is an option on many tours and it totally depends on what you'd prefer to see. Here's a list from the company that runs buses from the airport into town. Golden circle is a good bet and they can advise you on the best options given your comfort level of how many hours you want to tour and when you want to be back for your flight. I had more time but could see how they made it work for transit passengers like yourself.

Its all very packaged and professional, a wee bit too much imho but it helps their economy.
posted by infini at 6:42 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, you can walk right off your plane and get a pre-packaged tour with no advanced booking needed. You might be able to save some money by getting on a shuttle and going your own way, but it's probably worth the peace of mind to do everything in a package and having someone else handle the scheduling/making sure you are back in time for your flight.
posted by amarynth at 7:23 AM on December 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the Blue Lagoon is gross, and that downtown is lovely and amazing.
posted by Capri at 1:20 PM on December 16, 2014

I went to the Blue Lagoon 15 or so years ago: it was nice, if nowhere near the hype, but still I'd glad I went! I'd personally choose the tour of downtown if I were you but I bet you'll be happy either way. Scandinavian countries are expensive (you know, due to more financial equality, etc. yea!) but you're going to get a lot of bang for your buck. Iceland's awesome and totally geared towards tourists so I agree with Improviseordie that you could play it by ear and choose a tour on the spot.

The airport is tiny compared to any other international airport I've been to so getting around shouldn't be much of a problem. They have some neat items you can purchase without leaving, like this weird mustard, flavored sea salts, chocolate-covered licorice, and more.

An Icelandair tip, just in case you weren't already aware: they don't serve free meals on their flights anymore, just free beverages, so I'd recommend you stock up beforehand or at least be prepared to pay.

Have a lovely time!
posted by smorgasbord at 3:02 PM on December 16, 2014

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