When we last travelled back home to the states, we had to buy the cheapest last minute tickets we could find…Which weren’t actually that cheap since I waited three weeks before the trip. Oops and definitely won’t happen again!
As soon as I saw the flight that included an 8 hour layover in Reykjavik, I jumped on the opportunity. Z thought otherwise and prefers shorter layovers, but he finally came around. This was our chance to see Iceland without having to plan a big trip! And you best believe next time I fly back home I will be picking the flight that includes a layover in Reykjavik.
City Sightseeing or Nature Sightseeing
If you have a layover in Reykjavik you have three options. You can take the airport shuttle which takes you directly to and from the Blue Lagoon, you can take a bus into the city of Reykjavik (about an hour away), OR you can do what we did, and rent a car and go visit Iceland’s spectacular Golden Circle. Pack something warm to take with you once you get off the plane because the weather can quickly change even if it is summer.
Golden Circle Route in car
The Golden Circle is a route between three beautiful natural wonders just northeast of Reykjavik. This includes Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss waterfall, and the Haukadalu geothermal area, which includes two geysers. You can also choose to do this route with a tour which you can book last minute if you have to. But keep in mind that these tours have strict hours at which they start and may not be flexible with your layover.
Another word of caution, ~heed~ my warning before you find out by surprise like we did: If you are renting a car, gasoline is expensive!!! About $7.50 per gallon. You can imagine the looks on our faces when we filled up the car and we saw the bill. I’ll spare you the dirty details, but the receipt definitely had a number with three figures. 0.0
But eff it I guess, it was hell of an adventure and now it’s a funny story to share with my friends.
We ended up renting the cheapest car we could find at the airport, dishing out the extra cash for a GPS, and lastly asking for a free map before hitting the road. I would also recommend you to not be a cheapskate and buy a damn road map so you don’t get lost like we did. Or don’t, and embrace the uncertainty of the backroads of Iceland! (and of losing your flight at that too..)
Driving through Iceland
Once we got the hang of starting up the GPS and heading out on the road, it was soon obvious that the notion of traffic in Iceland is relatively unknown. As soon as we left the airport and began to catch glimpses of the countryside, I started squealing in delight because my gosh is the scenery beautiful!
Þingvellir National Park
From the Reykjavik International Airport to Þingvellir National Park there is approximately 50 minutes. We took a bit longer because we kept stopping along the way to take pictures and frolic about. Þingvellir National Park has many hiking trails to enjoy and if we had had more time then, we would have definitely jumped on the opportunity.
From Þingvellir National Park to the enormous Gullfoss Falls there is about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it did take us a lot longer due to nasty weather. I had checked the weather the day before, but sunny skies were quickly replaced with some rain and strong winds.
The size of the Gullfoss Falls alone can take your breathe away. It made me want to never return to the airport and possibly find a job herding sheep or something. As long as I could see natural beauty like this on my day to day..
Haukadalur geothermal area
The Haukadalur geothermal area which is a speedy ten minutes away from Gullfoss falls offers two geysers; the one and only Geysir and Strokkur. I’m also pretty sure the northern lights can be seen in this region at nighttime if you have the luck of elongating your stay. By the time we reached the geysers we were running out of time so we had to quickly look at everything, take a picture and rush back to the car.
From the Haukadalur geothermic area there’s about an hour and forty minutes, plus the extra time needed to return the rental and go through airport security again.
If I were to be honest, I felt a bit sad to leave Iceland with still so much to see, but by managing our time as wisely as we could, we still managed to get an eyeful of natural beauty before heading out to the LA concrete jungle.