5 ways to spend an Icelandic Layover
Iceland is a unique and exotic destination. Settled by Vikings thousands of years ago, the country is a natural treasure trove. She has weaved her way in and out of history, starting of course with the Viking settling, playing a small role in WWII (housing the British), and is also home to singer Bjork. Largely though, Iceland has been out of the way, isolated way up north. Along then came the brilliance of stopover flights from the States to Europe and vice versa on Icelandair. You can catch cheap flights from cities like Boston, New York, Denver, and Seattle, stop over in Reykjavik, and then carry onto others like London, Paris, Oslo, and Amsterdam. Unique and exotic Iceland is now not hard to get to, and the stopover flights aren’t too expensive. Score! That’s how I found myself in Iceland, on my way to Paris.
Reykjavik's Old Harbor
Here are 5 great things to do if you find yourself on a stopover flight to or from Europe.
1. The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon thermal pools are a highlight of many people’s trips. The water is heated to a warm 98-102° Fahrenheit. Around the edges of the pools are massive buckets of gooey, white Silica mud. Take a glob full and rub it around your face. The mud cleanses the face, and makes your face baby butt soft. Check out the Daily Mail as they give you a run down of what spending a few hours at the Blue Lagoon is like.
2. Snorkeling Between the Tectonic Plates
In Thingvellir, Iceland’s First National Park, the North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates meet, or well, met. Every year, the two plates move about two inches from each other. Dive.is has started snorkeling and diving expeditions through the incredibly glass clear rift valley, Silfra. The water is near freezing, and may borderline on crazy, but is insanely amazing and something that you’ll take to your grave. Read Nellie Huang’s post about her experience here.
3. Golden Circle
The Golden Circle Tour is by far the most popular tour visitors do while in Iceland. It showcases Iceland’s natural side; a usual tour will include a horse show (the Icelandic horse is the most purebred horse in the world because of its isolation), a stop at Gullfoss Falls, Geysir and a trip to Thingvellir to see Europe’s oldest Parliament (formed 930 AD). You can also pair up your Golden Circle tour with other excursions like the snorkel/dive, The Blue Lagoon, or as this blogger did, a snowmobile adventure. Read about her adventure and trip through the Golden Circle here.
Puffins are by far the cutest birds you’ll ever come across, if you can catch a glimpse of one. They are incredibly fast, and border on being flightless. They beat their wings 400 times a minute to stay airborne. These black, orange, white charmers can be found only in the chilly waters of Norway, Iceland, and parts of Northeastern Canada. They’re water birds, and spend a good majority of their lives on the ocean, only coming to shore to give birth to their young. To read of a vagabonder’s time aboard a puffin cruise out of Reykjavik, click here.
A fairy-talesque town with a modern twist, Reykjavik is a hip, fun town. In the square, by the harbor, lies a great TI where you can book any and all of your tours. Icelandic people speaking impeccable English (who would even try to learn Icelandic?), and will be of great help in finding the tour perfect for you. Reykjavik is a small town, walkable. Tons of great shopping and food. I highly recommend flaneuring, or wandering, the small cobblestone streets. It’s a great way to spend a few hours. Reykjavik is an adorable town, and leaves an impression on you. Check out this man’s impression and his time in Reykjavik here.
Harpa Concert Hall
Here is a hot tip if you do end up making your way to Iceland one day. Everything there is expensive. Very. Upon arrival at the airport, there’s a massive duty free shop right by baggage claim. Buy anything you need—toiletries, snacks. The biggy to purchase is alcohol.
Iceland has tourism figured out to a science, meaning you’ll be able to see and do so many of the things seamlessly. I highly recommend it for anyone. Global trekkers passing through, or people traveling overseas for the very first time, will find it fun and adventurous and beautiful. But just so you know, half of the population believes in folklore creatures, so keep an eye out for those trouble-making elves.
Austin Weihmiller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
All photos courtesy and copyright Austin Weihmiller