My first visit to Iceland was back in February of 2017 and tourism was booming then and even more so now, so I’m not surprised by the amount of people taking advantage of a 24 hour layover before continuing to their final destination. I loved my time in Iceland so much that I did just that a few months later on the way to Paris. This was my first time experiencing a 24 layover anywhere and since my time was limited, I made sure to put in that work to research exactly what I wanted to do. Headed to Iceland on a layover soon and not sure what to do? No worries – here are some of my suggestions to make the most of your time in the Land of Fire & Ice.
First, I want to note that I would encourage you to rent a car/truck – depending on the season. With only 24 hours, tours will limit what you can see but if you’re headed there in the winter and nervous about the ever-changing weather, booking an all day tour will work too. While you can make Reykjavik your home base (this will be your ideal location if you decide to book a tour), I personally would suggest staying local to Keflavik Airport. I like the Grindavik area but there are a lot of other surrounding towns that will work as well.
- Snorkeling Silfra – This has to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had during my travels. Silfra is one of the top dive sites in the world and situated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Thingvellir. Silfra is a freshwater fissure about 200 feet deep, where you can almost see end to end as the water is so clear. It’s also one of the few places where you can dive or float between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are gradually drifting farther apart. The experience is cold, beautiful and one of a kind. I went with snorkeling in a drysuit but you can also dive. You can read more about my experience HERE and check out a short video I captured on my GoPro HERE.
- Visiting the Blue Lagoon – I love, love, love the Blue Lagoon. Is it touristy? YES but who cares. It’s beautiful and so relaxing… oh, and they have a swim up bar! There’s also a ton of add-on services such as spa amenities, in water massages and 2 separate spots to grab some food. I would say to either do this at the very beginning of the day or at the end of your busy day to wind down.
- Northern Lights Tour – If your layover happens to be between September and April, this would be a great way to end your evening before catching your flight the next morning. There is never a guarantee that you will see them, but chasing them is thrilling and the reward if you do end up being able to see them is priceless.
- Drive the Golden Circle – This is the perfect driving route when you do not have much time to explore. You will be able to visit Þingvellir National Park, Geysir, Gullfose Waterfall and Kerid Crater.
- Explore Southern Iceland – If you chose this route, it will take all day but it will be worth it. The southern part of Iceland has to be my favorite. You will be able to visit Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skógafoss Waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier, Black Sand Beach and the village of Vik.
If you decide that taking a tour is better for you, click HERE to checkout my favorite tours. I’m partial to the tour company mentioned in that post because I booked multiple tours with them during my first visit there but you can also check out TripAdvisor and Viator to see others that people recommend. You may have also noticed I left out exploring Reykavik. With only 24 hours, I personally would say skip it as you can always do that on a later trip. While the downtown is nice, the restaurants and bars are very expensive and in my opinion, you can spend your limited time there doing something more thrilling.
A 24 hour layover isn’t for the faint of heart but it’s a great way to get out there and experience a little bit of a place that you always wanted to visit – so to me, it’s totally worth it.
The snorkeling looks so amazing. Do you plan to do more of these? I have a layover in Paris and would love some tips on how to maximize my time there. Thanks!
Snorkeling Silfra is an absolute highlight while visiting Iceland. I would love to and plan to do more of these. Paris is always on the top of my content ideas – it’s just been a little hard to pump the content out right now but definitely soon! Feel free to shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can provide you with some tips in case your trip is soon. Also – check out my post on my favorite tour there https://www.pearlsandparis.com/2018/11/05/the-tour-you-cant-miss-in-paris/
Gorgeous! All of it!! xo, Jessica
Thank you! xo
I just did a layover in Iceland a few months ago and these are great tips. So bummed I missed the snorkeling
Thank you! Add snorkeling on your list for your next visit.
Awesome post, Shareen. I know a lot of your travel recaps are usually 3 days but this is super informative. Would love to see more of these type of reads.
Thank you for the kind words. Absolutely plan to do more of these
We went to Iceland in January and loved it so much! I would happily go back even if it was only for 24 hours on the way somewhere else! Some great tips here if I do one day!
Yes! Same here – I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Such a great post! I always wonder how to make the most out of my layovers. This looks like a great use of a layover! The Blue Lagoon looks amazing <3
Thank you! While layovers can be rough, they are totally worth it!