Our Stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland
ICELAND! From the time I learned there was such thing as a stopover program, I guess you could say Iceland has made my “list” of places I would go, but I wasn’t actively looking to book a flight there. We scored an amazing flight deal to Europe with Iceland Air via The Thrifty Traveler that included a 1, 2, or 3-night stopover option, so we figured well, why not?
Note: This post contains affiliate links. and sponsored visits. For more details visit my disclosure page.
We had a quick layover at Keflavik Airport enroute to London, but not long enough to do anything besides grab a quick juice at the market, use the restroom, and head to the gate for our next flight. On our way home from exploring England and Scotland, we opted to book two nights in Reykjavik. We flew into Keflavik again (which is about 50 minutes or so without stops from downtown Reykjavik), went through customs, and quickly found our pre-arranged bus transportation on Flybus (Reykjavik Excursions). They have buses that depart every 30 minutes, so you can jump on whenever your flight gets in. With stops, it took us about an hour and a half to get to Reykjavik, which was a bit longer than we were expecting. I can’t say that the drive in was all that interesting, either. To be honest, we kind of thought like Iceland looked like we were on Mars. Or in the middle of a lava-covered Wyoming plain.
We had gone back and forth about staying at a hotel or renting an Airbnb in Reykjavik, but ultimately, based on convenience and amenities, the hotel won out. And, we were glad it did because our stay at Alda Hotel was great! The large, modern lobby had plenty of space for lounging or working, there was a popular barber shop and restaurant connected, and they even give you a complimentary cell phone to use during your stay that included free local calls and internet. The room was spacious, clean, and updated, and we were able to use their fitness center to get a workout in!
As I was researching our trip, booking accommodations, and browsing restaurants online, I quickly learned that Reykjavik is EXPENSIVE. Like $27 USD for a burger and no fries type of expensive. And $13 for the equivalent of a Miller Lite. Nevermind constantly dividing ISK by roughly 126 (at the time of our visit) to understand what pricing would be in USD. Ryan and I enjoy our food and drink, so I was glad to find an app to use during our stay called Appy Hour that allowed us to go home without filing bankruptcy. It turns out that most Reykjavik restaurants offer some type of Happy Hour each day featuring food and drink specials. The app allowed us to look up spots nearby, read about their cuisine or vibe, and see the actual specials offered. This saved us a ton of time wandering to find a decent deal!
By the time we got settled in our hotel and freshened up, it was well into dinner time and we were starving. We set out and stopped first at Bastard Brew + Food, which was great! We took advantage of their Taco Tuesday special, which offered your choice of taco combination and discounts on Corona bottles, draft beer, and house wine. To give you perspective on pricing, this happy hour special brought three tacos down to about $12, a corona to $5, and a glass of house wine down to $8. I would say roughly a 50% discount compared standard menu pricing - absolutely doable!
After we ate we popped over to Solon Bistro for a drink, and then to Spankski for a couple cocktails off of their happy hour menu. Both of these spots were found using the Appy Hour app, but many places had tented signs outside on the sidewalk advertising their happy hour specials and hours. Overall I would recommend all three spots for your visit!
We were beat from a long day of traveling, so we walked around a bit and then headed back to our hotel. Again, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really that impressed with Reykjavik. I feel like this post is like one of those movie trailers where, during the actual movie, you realize the best scenes were in the previews. I used my best pictures for this post, so don’t get too excited that there’s all that much more to downtown Reyjavik. In my opinion, at least.
The next day was rainy, but because I packed an umbrella and wore my Hunter Boots, walking around on foot wasn’t a problem. We started the day out by finding some caffeine and then stopped at Joe & The Juice for a sandwich and fresh juice. I opted for the Turkey and Young Blood, while Ryan got Joe’s Club and a Green Shield. I’ve actually never been to this chain before (I’d heard of it) and was so glad we tried it! And, I love the uncensored rap music they had blaring inside. While we walked around we saw a ton of street art, graffiti, and interesting sculptures. In the US, a highly graffiti-ed area might not be the best of neighborhoods, but Reykjavik is known as one of the safest cities in the world, so this stereotype doesn’t hold true!
We stopped back at the hotel after we ate, got a workout in, showered, and set back out to explore. Our first stop was Saeta Svinid Gastropub, followed by appetizers and drinks at Pablo Discobar. I loved the interior decor and food at Pablo Discobar, and would probably make this my number one recommendation (with Bastard Brew + Food as a close second). We snacked on fresh guacamole and banana chips and different, but delicious, cheese sticks. It’s right above a restaurant called Burro that we didn’t get to try, but totally would have! I’m pretty sure both spots share the same owner.
Next up was a drink at The Drunk Rabbit (Irish Bar), followed by a visit to an upstairs spot called Loftid. I really liked the industrial Edison bulb lighting and decorative writing on the walls here. And, they make a pretty good Old Fashioned! We started to get a little hungry again, so we actually went back to Bastard Brew + Food for a second visit and wolfed down dinner. We had an early start the next day, so we stopped at a little convenience market to grab some fruit and breakfast bars for the morning, took a few minutes down by the water, and then retired to our hotel room for the night!
The next day was a travel day back home, but not before we stopped at the Blue Lagoon! There’s a convenient option to book your visit there either on the way to Reykjavik from the airport, or on the way to the airport from Reykjavik. We booked our tickets and transportation directly through the Blue Lagoon website, and were picked up at 6:30AM just a block from our hotel. This small passenger bus took us about 10-minutes away to a main transportation hub for Airport Direct (the company servicing this transportation), and we switched to another bus for the 45-minute ride to the Blue Lagoon. We booked the Comfort Package (which is their basic package) for the opening time - 8AM. I’m glad we did, because it definitely got busier around after 10AM!
Upon arrival, the bus driver told us where to meet, we checked our luggage at a small building near the parking lot for a nominal fee (I believe it was approximately $5 USD per person), and followed the carved pathway through lava rock to the main lagoon area.
We checked in at the desk, received our wristbands and towels, and headed to the locker rooms. I read online prior to our visit that the lockers were a bit confusing, and I can see how they might be, but they weren’t bad. Select your locker and place your items inside, and as soon as you close it, scan your wristband in front of the censor (there’s only one censor on each short wall of lockers). It’ll associate your wristband with the locker that just closed, so when you scan it again, it’ll automatically pop open! The locker room was very clean, modern, and had extra amenities like hair dryers, makeup stations, Q-tips, etc. The lockers were split up into small, separate “rooms” so that you had some privacy while changing.
You DO need to rinse off before you head out to the lagoon, but no one made you do it in the nude like the website described. There were staff in the locker room that seemed to be making sure people did rinse off first, though. There are spots to put your towel near the showers (coordinated by locker number), or there are spots to hang your towel outside closer to the lagoon. I just put mine by the showers!
There was plenty of space in the lagoon and the water felt so warm! Again, I’m glad we went early so that we had plenty of time before our flight and enjoyed some peaceful moments before a lot of people started arriving. It wasn’t rowdy or anything when other people got there, but it just seems a little more relaxing when you have a whole cove of the lagoon to yourselves.
We stayed in the lagoon from about 8:15AM to 11AM, and felt that was plenty of time (if that helps you judge your stay). We got our included drink at the swim up bar (Ryan got an Icelandic beer and I opted for a fresh carrot juice), did complimentary silica mud masks, visited the saunas and waterfalls, and waded around. If you have long hair, it’s probably best to tie it up or put it in a braid as the water can really do a number on your hair. The Blue Lagoon provides conditioner you can apply before going in to help with this (if you want to get your hair wet), but I just avoided it. I used the conditioner after being in the lagoon because it felt like it was in the air, anyways!
We had packed what we needed for the locker room in our backpacks, so we showered, changed, and got ready for our trip home. We returned our towels and wristbands, picked up our luggage, and headed to the parking lot to find our bus - which was there waiting for us and easy to locate! The ride to the airport was only about 15 minutes, and we went through security right away. Ryan and I’s backpacks, luggage, shoes, etc. all got scanned by the machines about three times, and our bags were searched, which took up extra time. I’m not sure why this was the case, because they didn’t take anything out or from us.
We killed a little time eating lunch and hanging out, and found out our assigned gate about an hour before boarding. I would recommend heading to your gate right when it is assigned, because we almost cut it a little close. The gate was a bit further than expected, and there were additional customs checkpoints and searches we weren’t anticipating. Ryan got the go-ahead, but somehow I was selected for “extra screening”, which involved me being pulled into a holding area to await an individual search of my person and my bags. They assigned me a number, took my passport, and eventually directed me into a room to be searched. They weren’t the nicest, and literally took everything out of my carefully packed bags.
I had someone “guarding” me while my items were searched, and there was a lot of ordering me to sit, stand, sit, stand, etc. Afterwards they told me to gather my belongings, and I told them it was going to be a minute since I literally had to repack. I was then escorted to a set of doors leading back to the gates and was finally given my passport back. I met up with Ryan, and we went to the gate, only to have my boarding pass denied. It was fixed pretty quickly by the attendant at the gate and we finally got on the plane. At this point my zen feeling from the Blue Lagoon had disappeared and I just really wanted to leave Iceland and go home!
Though Iceland wasn’t my favorite place I’ve ever visited, I’m still glad that we took advantage of the stopover program and saw something a little different! I mean, how many people can say they randomly went to Iceland?! We didn’t really explore the rest of the country, so I’m sure there are a lot of other beautiful features to see, but for us, we had our fill. I hope this helps you plan your trip, or at least, gives you a little look into what to expect should you ever want to visit. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!