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.

  1. 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
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.

Iceland has been the ultimate hot spot the last few years with tourism up by 40% from 2015 to 2016. I’ve dreamt about visiting a destination where I might have the opportunity of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. Literally on a whim, I found myself booking a trip to Reykjavik for the beginning of February 2017. What lead me to taking the plunge was finding a really awesome deal with WOW Airlines. Here’s a glimpse at where we stayed, what we did and some of my recommendations for while visiting.

While I love hotels because of the amenities, there’s nothing like a rental property when away – especially now that I travel with my toddler. I found the perfect rental in Reykjavik via VRBO.com and booked instantly. This apt had 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 separate living room areas, washer/dryer, full kitchen + dining room and had enough space for us (a group of 5 adults/1 child) and for Victor to run around after a long day out in the city. The location was also perfect and that is KEY!

Click HERE to view our rental.

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Since we were visiting in the heart of the winter season, I decided to book tours vs. rent a car and go on our own. While I have heard great things about exploring on your own, I was little nervous about Iceland’s frequently changing weather while traveling with a 17 month old. We booked all of our tours and transfers through BusTravel Iceland. Click HERE to check out some of their top tours! They were so helpful in assisting me book everything as well as super accommodating that we were traveling with a child and even offered a car seat for each tour.

Day 1:

Blue Lagoon + Northern Lights Tour 

A lot of people will go on and on about how the Blue Lagoon is “touristy” and you know what – it is, but in the BEST way possible. While there are a ton of natural lagoons all over Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a must when visiting. I could have spent hours here! It was so beautiful, relaxing and exactly what we needed after that overnight flight and time change.

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Chasing the Northern Lights will always be a hit or miss but I was still super excited to do so. I’m so happy to say that we totally lucked out and were able to see them during our tour even though the activity wasn’t super strong.

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Day 2:

Golden Circle 

For Day 2, we went with the Afternoon Golden Circle Tour. This worked out perfectly because it allowed us to get a good nights rest since we weren’t picked up until about 10am. With this tour we were able to visit and explore the Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, Þingvellir National Park and Kerið volcanic crater. All of these locations were simply breathtaking! It started to snow these huge flakes while we were at Kerið for about 5 minutes and then a beautiful rainbow came out and it was sunny. This was the perfect example of the Icelandic saying “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.”

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Day 3:

Southern Iceland

This was our last full day in Iceland and we spent it exploring Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, Skógafoss Waterfall, Sólheimajökull Glacier and Black Sand Beach. The Southern part of Iceland was amazing and I feel like it is a must see when visiting. I look forward to spending more time there when I return.

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Our flight home the following day wasn’t until the late afternoon so we spent the morning walking around Reykjavik and checking out a few landmarks. We came across some really awesome shops, cafes, street art and hot dog carts (which are super popular in Iceland!)

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A few tips I would give anyone planning a visit to Iceland would be the following:

Book early! Because of the booming tourism, hotels + apartment rentals sell out quickly.

Plan ahead! Regardless if you plan to explore on your own or book tours, there’s nothing like being prepared before arriving and having a list of what you want to do and see. This is key if you have a short visit.

It’s all about the layers! Seriously, I was so surprised how not cold Iceland was. OK… I take that back. The night we chased the Northern Lights it was FREEZING but during the day, I was actually hot in my down coat. The weather is unpredictable so make sure to check the weather forecast before heading out there and remember to pack layers (long sleeves, leggings, snow pants etc.) These items will be easy to put on + take off  depending on how the weather turns out.

Budget wisely! I always try to save a little more than what I originally budget for spending money while away  because… well, you just never know. Iceland is expensive!! I’m talking like $20 for a burger and $15 for a mixed drink expensive. And gas…. it’s $7.50 a gallon!

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To say that I am in love with Iceland would be an understatement. Visually – it is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. The people were so friendly and helpful and I felt safe the entire time. Waterfalls are everywhere and the scenery will leave you breathless. I plan to visit again…. and hopefully soon.

If you have any questions about Iceland – don’t hesitate to reach out!