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What Do You Do With An 18-Hour Layover In Iceland


by Debora Edgar



Picture this: You find yourself with an unexpected 18-hour layover in Iceland. What do you do? How can you make the most of this time and turn it into a memorable adventure? Fear not, because Iceland is a treasure trove of natural wonders, vibrant culture, and unique experiences, offering you the perfect opportunity to embark on a whirlwind exploration.


As you step off the plane, the crisp Icelandic air greets you with a sense of anticipation. With its otherworldly landscapes, geothermal marvels, and a capital city buzzing with creativity, Iceland is a destination like no other. From the stunning natural beauty of the Blue Lagoon to the bustling streets of Reykjavik, this captivating island nation is ready to unveil its secrets to those with a keen sense of curiosity and adventure.


So, let’s dive into the details of how to make the most of your 18-hour layover in Iceland. Get ready to discover the best sights, tastes, and experiences that this enchanting country has to offer.


Exploring Reykjavik

Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, is a city that effortlessly blends modern sophistication with a deep respect for nature and tradition. As you venture into its charming streets, you’ll be greeted by a vibrant arts and music scene, colorful buildings, and a sense of warmth emanating from the locals.


Start your exploration at the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, whose striking architecture and panoramic views from the top make it a must-visit. From there, wander through the city center and soak in the lively atmosphere. Discover the unique street art adorning buildings, and be sure to capture the perfect Instagram-worthy shot at the Sun Voyager sculpture along the waterfront.


For a taste of Icelandic history and culture, delve into the exhibits at the National Museum of Iceland or the Reykjavik Art Museum. If you’re a fan of literature, a visit to the Reykjavik City Library is a must, where you can immerse yourself in Icelandic literary works and perhaps even find a cozy nook to enjoy a good book.


As you stroll through Reykjavik, take the time to savor the local flavors at one of the many charming cafes or restaurants. Whether it’s a hearty bowl of traditional Icelandic meat soup or a delicate taste of freshly caught seafood, the city’s culinary scene is sure to leave a lasting impression.


With its welcoming atmosphere and a delightful mix of urban culture and natural beauty, Reykjavik sets the stage for an unforgettable start to your Icelandic adventure. Soak up the city’s energy, engage with its history, and prepare for the wonders that await you beyond its borders.


The Blue Lagoon

When it comes to iconic Icelandic experiences, the Blue Lagoon is a true standout. Located amidst a rugged lava field, this geothermal spa is a mesmerizing oasis that beckons visitors with its azure waters and rejuvenating properties. As you immerse yourself in the warm, mineral-rich waters, you’ll feel all your travel weariness melt away, leaving you refreshed and invigorated.


Upon arrival, you’ll be enveloped by the ethereal steam rising from the lagoon, creating an almost mystical ambiance. The silica and mineral salts present in the water are renowned for their skin-nourishing benefits, offering you the chance to indulge in a natural spa treatment unlike any other. Whether you choose to slather on the silica mud mask or simply float serenely, the experience is nothing short of magical.


For those seeking a touch of luxury, the Blue Lagoon also offers a range of pampering experiences, including in-water massages and exclusive skincare amenities. Imagine being gently massaged amidst the soothing waters, surrounded by Iceland’s captivating landscape – it’s an indulgence that promises to leave you feeling utterly pampered.


As you bask in the tranquil embrace of the Blue Lagoon, take a moment to absorb the surrounding beauty. The contrast between the vivid blue waters and the rugged lava formations creates a scene that’s both surreal and captivating. Whether you visit during the sunlit hours or under the enchanting glow of the midnight sun, the Blue Lagoon is a destination that’s bound to leave an indelible impression.


Before bidding farewell to this enchanting oasis, be sure to explore the Lagoon’s amenities, including its rejuvenating saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation areas. Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, or in a group, the Blue Lagoon offers an experience that’s as serene as it is unforgettable.


Waterfalls and Geysers

As you venture beyond Reykjavik, Iceland’s natural wonders unfold in all their breathtaking glory. The country is renowned for its awe-inspiring waterfalls and powerful geysers, each one a testament to the raw, untamed beauty of the Icelandic landscape.


One of the most iconic stops on your Icelandic adventure is the Golden Circle, a route that encompasses some of the country’s most renowned natural attractions. Here, you’ll encounter the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, where the Hvítá river cascades dramatically into a rugged canyon, creating a spectacle that’s both humbling and exhilarating. Feel the mist on your face as you stand in awe of the sheer power of nature.


Continuing along the Golden Circle, you’ll encounter the Geysir geothermal area, home to the original geyser after which all others are named. Witness the earth come alive as the Strokkur geyser erupts, sending a plume of scalding water skyward in a display that underscores the earth’s geothermal energy. The sight and sound of this natural phenomenon will leave an indelible mark on your memory.


For a more intimate encounter with Iceland’s natural wonders, venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems like the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls along the South Coast. The sheer grandeur of these cascading falls, framed by lush greenery and rugged cliffs, is a sight to behold. Prepare to be captivated by the sheer force and beauty of these natural wonders.


As you stand in the presence of these majestic waterfalls and geysers, you’ll feel a profound connection to the earth’s raw power and unyielding beauty. The experience serves as a poignant reminder of the forces that have shaped Iceland’s landscape for millennia, leaving an impression that will stay with you long after you’ve left this extraordinary land.


Local Cuisine

Embarking on a culinary journey in Iceland is an exploration of flavors deeply rooted in tradition and the island’s natural abundance. From hearty comfort foods to innovative culinary creations, the local cuisine offers a delightful array of tastes and textures that reflect the country’s unique culinary heritage.


One of the quintessential Icelandic dishes that beckons to be savored is the traditional lamb soup, known as “kjötsúpa.” This soul-warming broth, brimming with tender pieces of lamb, root vegetables, and aromatic herbs, is a comforting delight, especially after a day of adventure in the Icelandic countryside.


For seafood enthusiasts, Iceland’s coastal location provides access to an array of fresh and delectable catches. Indulge in the simplicity of “plokkfiskur,” a creamy fish stew featuring flaky cod or haddock, potatoes, and onions, offering a taste of maritime comfort that’s deeply satisfying.


No exploration of Icelandic cuisine is complete without a sampling of the country’s iconic dairy products. From rich, velvety skyr, a traditional Icelandic yogurt, to the delightfully pungent “hákarl,” fermented shark meat that’s a true test of culinary daring, the dairy offerings provide a fascinating window into the country’s gastronomic traditions.


As you dine in Iceland, be sure to also seek out the unique delicacies that showcase the island’s natural bounty. From the earthy sweetness of “rúgbrauð,” a dense and dark rye bread traditionally baked in the ground from geothermal heat, to the surprising burst of flavor from “lakkris,” Icelandic licorice, the local specialties offer a delightful tapestry of tastes waiting to be explored.


Pair your culinary adventures with a visit to one of Reykjavik’s bustling food markets or a cozy countryside restaurant, where you can savor these local delights amidst a backdrop of Icelandic hospitality and warmth. Each dish tells a story of the land and its people, inviting you to partake in a truly authentic Icelandic dining experience.


Shopping and Souvenirs

Bringing a piece of Iceland back home with you is a delightful way to cherish the memories of your 18-hour layover in this enchanting country. Whether you’re seeking unique gifts for loved ones or keepsakes for yourself, Iceland offers a wealth of shopping opportunities that celebrate the island’s culture, craftsmanship, and natural beauty.


As you wander through the streets of Reykjavik, you’ll encounter a vibrant array of boutiques, galleries, and artisanal shops, each offering a curated selection of Icelandic treasures. From hand-knitted woolens, such as cozy sweaters and intricate lopapeysa pullovers, to exquisite silver and lava jewelry inspired by the country’s volcanic landscapes, the local craftsmanship is a testament to Iceland’s rich artistic heritage.


For those with a penchant for culinary delights, Icelandic delicacies make for delectable souvenirs. Consider bringing home a jar of rich, amber-colored birch syrup, a unique product derived from Iceland’s native birch forests, or a bag of the country’s renowned licorice, a beloved treat among locals and visitors alike.


Art aficionados will find themselves drawn to the galleries and studios showcasing Icelandic art, from contemporary pieces that reflect the country’s dynamic cultural scene to traditional works that capture the spirit of Iceland’s landscapes and folklore. Whether it’s a striking painting, a handmade ceramic piece, or a captivating photograph, the art scene in Iceland offers a diverse range of treasures to adorn your home with a touch of Icelandic flair.


For a truly immersive shopping experience, consider venturing beyond Reykjavik to explore the charming towns and villages that dot the Icelandic countryside. Here, you’ll discover local markets brimming with organic skincare products crafted from Iceland’s natural resources, as well as unique handicrafts that embody the spirit of rural Icelandic life.


As you select your mementos of Iceland, remember that each item carries with it a piece of the country’s soul, inviting you to relive the magic of your layover and share a glimpse of Iceland’s enchantment with those closest to you.



As your 18-hour layover in Iceland draws to a close, you find yourself filled with a treasure trove of memories and experiences that have left an indelible mark on your journey. From the vibrant streets of Reykjavik to the tranquil embrace of the Blue Lagoon, and the awe-inspiring natural wonders that dot the Icelandic landscape, your time in this captivating country has been nothing short of extraordinary.


Iceland’s allure lies not only in its breathtaking landscapes and geothermal wonders but also in the warmth and creativity of its people. The sense of wonder and hospitality that permeates every encounter invites you to embrace the spirit of adventure and discovery, leaving you with a profound appreciation for this island nation and its rich tapestry of culture and tradition.


As you reflect on your whirlwind exploration, you realize that your 18-hour layover has been a testament to the boundless adventures that await in even the briefest of visits. Whether you’ve marveled at cascading waterfalls, indulged in the flavors of Icelandic cuisine, or found the perfect souvenir to carry a piece of Iceland home with you, your time here has been a celebration of the extraordinary moments that can unfold in the most unexpected of circumstances.


So, as you bid farewell to Iceland, know that the memories you’ve gathered and the experiences you’ve savored will remain etched in your heart, beckoning you to return and delve deeper into the wonders that this land has to offer. Your 18-hour layover has been a tantalizing glimpse into the magic of Iceland, leaving you with a sense of wonder and a promise of adventures yet to come.