How to Make the Most of Your Iceland Stopover

how to make the most of your Iceland stopover

The Land of Fire and Ice: such majestic beauty!


If there is one thing I recommend to people who are looking to travel to Europe (besides these packing hacks, of course), it is that you should look into flying through Iceland with WOW Air. First and foremost, every trip I have taken with WOW has cut the cost of my flight in half. So that alone is worth it to me! (And not going to lie, I like having a little break between the two legs of the flight).


However, Iceland is now a tourist destination in its own right. So to be able to take advantage of a stopover in Iceland on the same ticket you were already going to buy to get to Europe, well to me it’s just a no-brainer! Turning one trip into two…and saving money while doing it? Done and done.


Here’s how a stopover works: you fly to Iceland. Leave the airport and travel around for however many days suits you best. Go back to the airport and continue on to your final destination with the same ticket. Easy enough, right?


My friends and I chose to do a two-day stopover in Iceland on our way to Paris, but I think three full days might be the ideal stopover length. We were going non-stop while in Iceland – there were so many things we wanted to see and do that we barely slept! However, I do feel like we were able to squeeze in pretty much all of the biggies we wanted to see. So, here are my tips on how to make the most of your WOW Air stopover in Iceland!


Pick 1-2 group tours / expeditions.

How to make the most of your Iceland stopover: pick 1-2 key tours

Ever wonder why everyone in Iceland is so beautiful? THE LIGHTING IS AMAZING. We did a full-on photo shoot here at Skogafoss because we couldn’t believe how good our skin looked!


I would highly recommend perusing the Grayline Tours website. We had a list of ~4 tours we really wanted to take, and honestly had a tough time deciding which one to go for. The options are so diverse, and they all look amazing! Since we had 2 days, it was really only possible for us to chose one of them. Most tours are at least a half a day, if not longer. In the end, we chose the South Coast and Waterfall tour…we felt that it gave us the most diversity of sites (we stopped at 2 well known and highly Instagram-able waterfalls, the black pebble beach near Vík, and a glacier, along with seeing a really diverse landscape along the way). It also fit our timeframe (the 10-14 hour tours seemed way too long). Our tour guide was highly interactive and knowledgeable, and told us folk stories, facts about the economy, and Icelandic history all throughout the 9 hour tour. Definitely worth the time and money!


Do a walking tour of downtown Reykjavik.

how to make the most of your Iceland stopover: tour downtown Reykjavik

It’s hard to pick a “capstone” picture for this section because the city is just so cool. Walking along the waterfront with the symbolism of the Viking history on one side and a volcano on the other was such an amazing experience.


There are many formal and informal guided walking tours of the downtown area (just Google it and take your pick!). I’m sure the guides give some great context and point out many things we never even noticed…but we chose to plot out our own path. We wanted the freedom to roam and see only what was important to us, and we wanted to maximize our time (i.e. we didn’t want to have to wait for a specific start time and move at the pace of everyone else). So, thanks to Instagram and The Google, we found and plotted all of our main points of interest. Normally, we probably would have explored a little more freely, but given our compressed time schedule, we wanted to be as efficient as possible. And it worked! We started early in the am and saw basically everything we wanted to in Reykjavik within half a day! If you’re interested, here’s a Google map of our path. We visited:


  • Hallgrimskirkja
  • Reykjavik Roasters
  • The Sun Voyager (and walked along the waterfront walking path)
  • The Harpa
  • Baejarins Beztu Pylsur (do it. Even if you don’t like hotdogs or all the toppings, you have to get one with everything!)
  • The Official Tourist Center (right in the middle of the downtown area)
Plus, we shopped and ate all along the way! If we wanted to stop in somewhere, we did…especially along Laugavegur (the main shopping street).


Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

how to make the most of your Iceland stopover: make friends and ask questions

Just ask and your host will tell you what #reykjavikloves! Another cool thing about the city is that their social media game is on point – hashtags abound for businesses and the city’s tourist initiatives alike.


Regardless of if you’re staying in a hotel or at an Airbnb, if you have specific questions (or just want recommendations!) before you go, shoot the front desk or house owner an email. We found that the Icelandic people were super friendly and happy to help. I exchanged probably 5 emails with Garry at the front desk of our hotel before we left, which helped so much in our planning and prep for the trip and allowed us to hit the ground running when we got there. We asked a lot about store opening and closing times – we were there over the weekend, so we wanted to make sure we scheduled our tour times wisely so we’d still be able to hit the shops.


If you’re staying in Reykjavik, you probably don’t need a car.

How to make the most of your Iceland stopover: be prepared to walk!

Tiny, quiet streets on the way to the center of Reykjavik. Not a lot of room for cars, but plenty of room to walk!


Caveat – if you are trying to travel AT ALL outside of the city or around the country, you likely will need a car. However, if you are staying within the city and have a few excursions, don’t rent one! The city is extremely walkable, and any tour you purchase will include a bus transfer that picks you up at the doorstep of your hotel. #convenience. (oh – and we didn’t see any other noticeable public transportation…so just know you will mainly be walking).


Go to the Blue Lagoon. 

how to make the most of your Iceland stopover: go to the Blue Lagoon

We stayed at the Blue Lagoon from mid-afternoon until it closed around 9pm (picture is around closing time)…we had such a beautifully moody sky while there, and the waters were calm as people cleared out.


This should really not need to be said. I mean, honestly. Yes, it is super touristy. BUT WHO CARES. You will get amazing pictures (I used this iPhone protector and it worked like a charm), and it will feel better than you can imagine.


A few specific tips for the Blue Lagoon:


  • try not to dunk your head. The silica in the water is not great for your hair and will dry it out like whoa…so either pre-protect it with layers and layers of conditioner before getting in (they will provide this, with instructions, in the locker room), or wear a swim cap (they have cute retro ones for purchase / rent).
  • go for the in-water massage. Oh my. Oh my oh my. You guys. The in-water massage was such a surreal experience. You are already in Iceland at a geothermal spa soooo might as well go all out! (That’s my personal theory at least.) It almost feels like partial sensory depravation – you float on this light water mat with a warm, wet towel over your body and a smaller one over your eyes. The massage area is somewhat secluded so there is little to no noise. And a viking (ok, maybe only my masseuse was a viking…the rest were pretty normal people) somehow massages your body from underneath the mat. My dude was whispering quietly in Icelandic (stories? sweet nothings? chitchat to the other massage therapists? I’ll never know…), which just really added to the whole experience. Also, when they re-dunk your body to keep the towel warm, it will feel like you are falling into space. The first time took me aback, but after that, I wished that he’d dunk me every 5 minutes!
  • Most resources say about 3 hours at the lagoon is perfect. We stayed in the water for 5. Miiiiight have been a little excessive (when we got out we need food and water like none other). But, we felt like the extra time was needed with our massages. Plus, we had to decide between rushing out to catch our bus once we looked at the clock…or wait an extra 90 minutes and relax before the last bus. We chose to wait it out, for obvious reasons. #wheniniceland
  • The Blue Lagoon is about 20 minutes away from the Keflavik airpot. Most people try to plan their trip to the lagoon right upon arrival or right before departure. We wanted to use that strategy, but the timing didn’t work out with our flights – our flights got in and left super early (when the lagoon was closed), so we did have to do a bit of backtracking.
  • We chose to go with the Comfort package – and I would say that’s the best value. The Standard option feels a bit barebones…with the Comfort package, you get an extra mask (the algae mask), a drink at the swim up bar, and towels / slippers. The next package up is the Premium, which also includes reservations at the restaurant (note: NOT a meal). We didn’t feel like that was worth 2.100 ISL more, and we still had a great experience!


Save up for an authentic Icelandic sweater.

how to make the most of your Iceland stopover: come back with an authentic sweater

This overcoat is just flat-out gorgeous and well-made with a perfect fit.


One thing I was really surprised with was how much “high fashion” Reykjavik had. Not labels like Dior and Chanel, but really amazing leather goods (purses, boots), modern jewelry, and of course knitwear from contemporary designers and brands that you can’t find in America. The only thing I regret about the trip is not coming back with a poncho from Farmer’s Market…buuuut every time I look at the price tag I remember why I skipped it initially. I was ready to pull the trigger during a layover on my second trip (the airport is amazing and has a decently extensive gift shop with local goods), but the colors I liked weren’t available. Hopefully next time I stop over ; ) That said, my friend Emily got the most amazing, gorgeous wool overcoat from The Handknitting Associate of Ireland that was 100% worth the price of admission.


So what are you waiting for?

And there you have it! There are probably a million more little things I could say about Iceland – it is such a beautiful country, and I would love to spend more time there. Even though it can be quite cold and snowy, there are so many activities!


I will also say, if Iceland is your final destination rather than a pass-through, your trip might look a lot different than mine. I have quite a few friends who have spent upwards of 6 days touring all around the country on their own…and in that case, making use of a car, Airbnbs, and tours would be quite different. Maybe I’ll have to spend some more time there and make a longer-term guide in the future ; )


What do you think? Is Iceland on your radar? If not – do a little more research into it and you just might be surprised at how breathtaking (and affordable!) it can be. Happy traveling!


how to make the most of your Iceland stopover: travel with WOW Air

Contrary to what it might look like, WOW Air does not actually sponsor this blog (#sadness). It is 100% my preferred way to travel to popular destinations in Europe! So WOW, why don’t we make this official, huh? Hook a sista up!

You Might Also Like

Previous Story
Next Story

Leave a Reply