Reykjavik, Iceland for 24 hours
December 19, 2014 5:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to London in early February for work and thinking of taking advantage of the fact that Icelandair doesn't charge extra for stopovers in Reykjavik. Would this be worth doing in early February for 24 hours on a pretty small budget, and on a Sunday?

Have you done this? What would you recommend doing with such a short amount of time?

As far as what I'd be looking for, I really just enjoy wandering around cities, checking out markets, etc. I'd love to see the Northern Lights if possible. I'd be coming in on a red-eye from the east coast of the US, so I'd probably want to sleep for a couple of hours but spend the rest of the time wandering.

I'd want to do this for under a few hundred (US) dollars, including hotel/hostel, transit to/from the city, etc.
posted by lunasol to Travel & Transportation around Reykjavik, Iceland (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I did a five day layover two years ago, late October, on the way to Ireland. The next time (early fall 2015) I am staying two weeks. I absolutely loved Iceland but I would not recommend it if I had less then three days. It is a bit of a transition due to limited daylight hours, minor jet lag and cloudy skies. You are most likely substantially younger than I am so you may be more adaptable. Also, figure travel time to Reykjavik from the airport (31 miles) and returning for an International flight.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:58 AM on December 19, 2014

Yes! IMO, it's worth it just for the Blue Lagoon alone. It's a thermal spa located between the airport and Reykjavik.
If you're arriving early morning, there is a public thermal spa that is open in town that you can spend a few hours in (in lieu of sleep, I suppose but it's relaxing and refreshing) I don't remember the details, because it's been several years since I went, but I'm sure a quick google will find it.
They do circle tours of the big natural attractions, or you can probably rent a car and do it on your own timeline.
Accommodations tend to be pricey, but february is off season so you might be able to find a deal.

If the choice is between brief stopover in Iceland and never seeing Iceland, definitely don't miss Iceland and do the stopover.
posted by newpotato at 5:59 AM on December 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Oh absolutely, do it! I've done two weekend trips to Reykjavik, both in winter/early spring. In February it's not *that* much darker than, say, Boston. (Right now: yes, it's much much darker.)

On both trips, I had no trouble checking into my hotel first thing in the morning (like 8AM). You can get a decent twin or double room in a hotel near the city center for well under $100, or there are a couple of hostels that are a little cheaper. Restaurant meals are expensive but not outrageously so. The bus from the airport is like $40-50 round trip, a bit less if you take it to the bus station instead of directly to your hotel.

And Reykjavik is a great little walking-around city!
posted by mskyle at 6:25 AM on December 19, 2014

I vote yes! I did a 24-hour layover (Saturday-Sunday) in October a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I got in late enough on Saturday that a lot of the shops were closing up when I arrived in Reykjavik, but I still had a lovely time wandering around and going out for a fantastic dinner. On Sunday I woke up early, walked around a bit more, and then caught a shuttle to the Blue Lagoon. The shuttle took us from the hotel to the Blue Lagoon, and then from there straight to the airport. My takeaways from this short trip were (i) that the Icelandic landscape is unusual and beautiful and (ii) that Iceland is an easy place to be a visitor, as most Icelanders also speak English.

In sum, I agree with newpotato: If the choice is between brief stopover and never seeing Iceland, definitely don't miss it! I want to go back.
posted by pril at 6:28 AM on December 19, 2014

Yes, worth it. The airport is a bus ride away from the city proper, although IIRC Blue Lagoon is sort of out towards the airport. It is worth going to if you want to relax.

The city itself is quite cute and worth walking around, assuming you have warm clothes. Check out Hallgrímskirkja church (big tower you can see from basically everywhere within the city) and the government buildings if you like architecture and public spaces.

Eat cheese and ice cream; everything else is quite expensive, but dairy is heavily subsidized (or at least it was when I was there last, granted that was 10 years ago).
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:58 AM on December 19, 2014

Seconding the Blue Lagoon. I did a 3 day layover, and I was pretty cranky most of the time due to the aforementioned jet lag, strange daylight hours, and difficulty in finding enjoyable food, but the lagoon made up for it all.
posted by jordemort at 7:01 AM on December 19, 2014

Spent 8 days in Reykjavik earlier this year, and it is now one of my favourite cities in the world. The downtown is vibrant enough to hold your interest for several days, but small enough to get a feel for quite quickly. The food was delicious - eat skyr, eat cheese, eat baked goods, eat fish . . . and the geothermal public swimming pools! In addition to the Blue Lagoon, right by the airport, Reykjavik has three of them. Two of them are outdoor; the water is kept at 27 celsius, and it is a absolute trip to swim laps out in the open air as cold rain or snow falls around you. And then to relax in one of the many hotpots alongside the locals . . .!

And go visit Harpa, down on the harbour front! Just go in and wander around. What a spectacular building.

Warning: booze is extremely, extremely expensive, so if you want a celebratory "I'm in Iceland!" drink either be prepared to pay hugely or bring it with you (within customs limits, but I can't see needing all that much for a single 24 hour visit).

Iceland is amazing. 24 hours is only enough time to do either Reykjavik or the Golden Circle tour, really. Golden Circle is also quite amazing,; we did the bus trip that IcelandAir runs, and our guide was fabulous.
posted by erlking at 7:09 AM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Did you see this question from two days ago: Iceland for a few hours. What should I do? from two days ago? (Not trying to be snide with this answer -- I looked because I wanted to make sure I didn't have a pre-cognition of your question -- I saw no overlap of answerers, so I just thought I'd put this here in case it was of value.)
posted by mean square error at 7:27 AM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the great tips! It sounds like there's a lot I could do in a short amount of time. And I've lived in Minnesota and Seattle, so cold and dark don't really bother me.

Did you see this question from two days ago: Iceland for a few hours. What should I do? from two days ago?

Somehow I missed that one, so thank you! and also thank you for the lack of snark
posted by lunasol at 1:26 PM on December 19, 2014

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