You don't need DAYS for a road trip, just an opportunity...and a moving vehicle.
THE FIRST 12 HOURS
5:30 AM I arrive into Keflavík (KEF) Iceland's major airport. Despite the early time, the airport is buzzing, so I hustle to make sure I get through all the formalities and on with my day. I want to just use a backpack for the day so I drop my carryon at luggage storage.
$ Luggage Storage Iceland I spend 2000ISK (approx 15USD) for one piece, one day
6:30 AM I'm on a shuttle towards the Blue Lagoon which is 20 minutes away.
$ I spend 5500ISK (approx 40USD) on a roundtrip shuttle taking me from the airport to the Lagoon and then the Lagoon into Reykjavik
7:00 AM I know. I KNOW. The Bue Lagoon. Isn't it a tourist trap? Yes, it is. Or at least, it can certainly feel that way. I've been there when it's crowded. People trying desperately to find a secluded corner to snap a seductive selfie. The is water lukewarm. It's more stressful than relaxing.
But here is a PRO TIP
The Blue Lagoon's reservation system works on a time scale and each slot is limited in the number of people allowed in so if you score the first timed reservation of the day, you pretty much have the place to yourself AND the water in the morning is so deliciously steamy.
I splurge on the Premium ticket which includes a bunch of stuff, which you can see here, but mostly I wanted the robe and slippers to chill out in. My ticket also includes a glass of bubbly which I would normally not turn down but it's so early in the morning I swap it for a freshly made smoothie. I sneak upstairs to the second floor where there are cool lounge chairs that overlook the lagoon and grab a restorative snooze before I head out.
$ Blue Lagoon I spend 64USD entry ticket
10:00 AM I am restored and I am hungry. I hop onto a shuttle headed into Reykjavik. The buses in Iceland are lush, equipped with luxurious seats and WIFI. It's about 50 minutes to reach Iceland's capital city so I use this time to reconfirm all that I want to do for the day.
11:30 AM Once in the city, I make a beeline to Islenski Barinn, The Icelandic Bar. Reindeer burger served with camembert cheese, lettuce, bell pepper, wild berry jam, garlic mayo & waffle fries
Their hreindýraborgari, reindeer burger. You know you're eating something good when you are plotting out the next time you will eat it again while you are eating it.
All the food here is delicious and the menu focuses on traditional Icelandic flavours. You can try fermented shark, puffin, lamb, and they do have vegan options.
The price tag is...Icelandic. Close to $30 for a burger which seems outlandish but it's Iceland so it's not.
$ Islenski Barinn I spend 36USD on lunch, 3700ISK (approx 27USD) on the burger + a beer
12:15 PM After lunch I stroll over to Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. The architect, Guðjón Samúelsson, Iceland's most influential architect, designed the structure to resemble the basalt lava that flows in Iceland.
In 2016, the church bells were sent to the Netherlands for repairs and returned modernised with the ability to be controlled by an app.
$ Church of Hallgrímur I spend 1000ISK (approx 7USD) for access to the tower
1:30 PM Next, I make my way to Kolaportið to do a bit of eclectic shopping.
I am not sure how I managed to summon the will power not buy some LP gems
This flea market is indoors, near the harbour and only open on weekends. You can find everything from second-hand records to Icelandic liquorice. A sure sign that you have arrived is if you take in a deep breath and get a whiff of the unique aroma of fermented shark, sweat, old books and ice cream.
Fun Fact Kolaportið loosely translates to The Coal Yard. The story behind the name is that the Kolaportið first opened in 1989 in a car park that originally served as a coal processing plant, called Kolaport. When Icelanders no longer needed coal, the plant was changed into a car park and now it serves as Iceland's only flea market.
$ Kolaportið I spend $0 because there's no cost to enter and I'm just browsing
2:45 PM It's time to head back to the airport but not before the rúsínan í pylsuendanum.
Rúsínan í pylsuendanum means "the raisin at the end of the sausage." Similar in usage to the cherry on top of a sundae or the icing on top of the cake, this Icelandic saying is used to express a good thing that happens in addition to something that's already awesome.
Signature hot dogs are cooked up at this renowned little food stand dating to 1937
Last stop is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur translated literally into "the best hot dog in town." In winter or summer, you will see a line as locals and visitors alike frequent this tiny stand.
Order your pylsur ala ein með öllu - with everything - as most Icelanders do and yours will be served on a warm, steamed bun topped with raw white onions and crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet brown mustard called pylsusinnep as well as a remoulade which is a special sauce made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs.
$ Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur I spend 470ISK (approx 4USD) for one hot dog
3:15 pm I make my way back to the airport by bus which I take from the BSI terminal.
$ Flybus I spend 24USD on a one-way ticket
5:30 PM I'm off! I'm at my gate, getting ready to board my flight out.
THE SECOND 12 HOURS
11:00 PM I'm back a week later and this layover is going to be very different. Off to get my rental car and snacks.
$ Rentalcars.com I spend 80.63USD and 25USD on snacks for the drive.
12:00 AM I'm on the road headed east on Route 1 with no real clear destination in mind. I am determined to make it as far as Vik which is just under 3 hours away.
3:00 AM I reach Seljalandfoss which is normally insanely busy but in these wee hours it's literally just me and IT IS MAGICAL.
Front row seats for sunrise at 3:30 in the morning
6:20 AM Eyjafjallajökull. Eyja (Islands ) + Fjalla (Mountains) + Jökull (Glacier ) = island-mountain-glacier. In 2010 Eyjafjallajökull dramatically erupted causing quite the scene, with ash clouds reaching all the way to Europe and its smoke grounding all air travel for five days! These days you can hike it, snowmobile on it, fly above it, camp below it but for this trip, I have to settle for drive by it.
6:50 AM Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland and you can walk right up to it but be prepared to get drenched. During the day, it will get a fair share of tourists but as it's still sleepy time for most campers and tourists, I have uninterrupted access.
Climb the 370 steps to the top of Skogafoss waterfall and you'll be rewarded with an awe-inspiring view and don't forget to turn around! The area around the waterfall is as equally stunning.
8:00 AM I make it to Vik. Even though I've reached my goal, I see Reynisdrangar in the distance and I'm inspired for more.
Áfram með smjörið =
On with the butter!
To carry on, forge ahead, keep on keepin' on,....you get where I'm going with this.
9:20 AM I arrive at Reynisfjara black sand beach just as the tour busses do. It's a dramatic end to the finish line as I sprint to the beach to beat the crowds.
Speaking of drama, Reynisfjara is all of that - a volcanic beach rising out of the icy-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, black volcanic sands, smooth pebbles, unique rock formations.
11:00 AM I'm back on the road, headed towards the airport. I hope this inspires you to book your flights with a sprinkle of excitement. Iceland layovers on a transatlantic route add an unforgettable dimension to your journey. PRO TIP Check out Icelandair's Stopover options. You can stopover in Iceland at no additional airfare