Iceland is an amazing country with much to see and do. Thanks to the growing popularity of budget airlines such as Icelandair & WOW air, short stopovers in Iceland are on the rise. I’ve organized the itinerary below to help you see as much of Iceland as you can during your stopover in Iceland before reaching your final destination. Also, don't forget to check out our 10 money saving tips for your next trip to Iceland.
Where to Stay in Iceland on a Stopover
If you’re staying overnight, I recommend staying in the town of Selfoss over Reykjavik. It’s very close to the Golden Circle, less expensive, and a little over an hour from the airport. The central location means you’ll be able to experience more of the stops I describe below. I stayed at a place called the Spirit Farm and had an amazing experience.
However, if you want to stay in Reykjavik, we recommend the Hilton Canopy Reykjavik City Centre. The property can be booked for 70k Hilton Honors points per night.
How to Get Around Iceland
We recommend renting a car. While it isn’t the cheapest option, you’ll be able to spend your layover on your own terms and see much more of this beautiful country. Public transportation is only somewhat available in Reykjavik. It will drop off at other cities but there will be no way to connect from the bus stop to the sites you want to see. The other option is to take a private bus tour from Reykjavik. These tours come with great guides, but be aware of the high price and restrictions on time.
Thrifty Tip #1: Don’t be worried about driving in Iceland. It’s very straightforward and easy to navigate.
Thrifty Tip #2: See our guide on how to rent the cheapest car possible.
Of course, while in Iceland, you must experience Reykjavik! There's plenty of charming cafes, shops, and restaurants around the city. Don't miss the funky thrift stores, flea market, and walking the harbor. It isn't a huge city center so it should only take a few hours to explore at your leisure.
One could easily spend a whole day here, but on a short layover, budget your time so can see more of the island. It's definitely worth getting outside of the city for the breathtaking views.
Visit the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle is about an hour from Reykjavik and it's a great way to experience Iceland's amazing must-see natural beauty in a short period of time. There is so much to see in this area: I recommend coming here versus spending too much time in a car trying to get to anywhere else.
You'll just need to take the ring-road from Reykjavik to Selfoss and beyond. Stops to make include the Kerid Crater (pictured below), Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and Strokkur Geysir. I recommend spending most of your layover exploring these crazy displays of nature. You won't be disappointed.
Thrifty Tip #3: Avoid crowds of tourists by coming in the very early morning or late at night. In the summer, the sun never sets, so make the most out of the midnight sun for the perfect view.
Hrunalaug Hot Spring
A personal favorite of mine was the Hrunalaug hot spring. My group spent hours here relaxing in the hot spring pools and admiring the beautiful and secluded area and landscape. It's not far from the Golden Circle but it's secluded, so this means fewer tourists. It's the perfect spot for a hike followed by a leisurely dip in the pool. You can find the coordinates, as well as those to other hot springs and pools at HotPot Iceland.
Iceland is a wonderful place. Whether it is your final destination or you are here on an Icelandair or WOW air stopover, you'll surely be eager to come back. Budget your time wisely and be sure to make the most of your time on this beautiful island. Looking to book an Iceland stopovers? Make sure to sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium. We send those cheap Icelandair stopover deals right to your email inbox.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.