Iceland Air has just about the lowest prices from the northeast US to Europe and allows you to add a stopover, as long as you like, for no additional cost. We decided to stop over for 2 nights on our way from New York to London. Here is our suggested itinerary:

Day 1
If you’re traveling from North America, you will arrive in Iceland early, probably between 4:00 AM-8:00 AM. The international airport in Keflavik is forty minutes away from Reykjavik so almost every visitor purchases hotel transfers on the Fly Bus. For $20 US you can get dropped off outside any hotel. Be careful when booking though, there is a cheaper option that only takes you to the central bus station, from which you’ll have to get a cab. In hindsight, it would have been much cheaper for us to have just rented a car the moment we arrived and not paid $20 each for the bus.

Hotels know that you, and hundreds like you will arrive early and want to check in to your room for a shower and maybe a nap. Some facilitate this, others don’t. Our hotel completely refused to let us check in early even for a fee, saying we would have to pay for an extra night to go into the room a few hours early, even though it was vacant. We were tired after our flight so we slept for an hour or so on a sofa in the hotel lobby.

We spent the rest of the day walking around Reykjavik, taking photos and visiting the many museums, shops and cafes. In the evening we went out with a group of people from our hotel to experience Reykjavik’s famous nightlife. It definitely lived up to its reputation!

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Day 2
Iceland is famous for its rugged natural beauty, forged from the violent geological events still underway on this powerful island. Lava fields, beautiful hills and valleys, waterfalls and active geysers all make Iceland a nature lover’s paradise. The best way to see the highlights of Icelandic beauty is to rent a car and drive the golden circle yourself. After the wild night we had, it may not have been the best idea, but we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed over to a car rental shop a block from our Hotel. For some reason, car rental seems to be one very reasonable thing in Iceland. We were in and out in 10 minutes with a nice new car that we would be able to drop back off at the airport to save us paying the $20 bus fare again.

Simply, the Golden circle is a 300 km loop into central Iceland that includes three primary stops: Þingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss and the active geyser region. But of course it’s so much more than that.

Just as interesting as the main sites themselves, the drive across the Icelandic terrain is stunning and dynamic, changing from green valleys dotted with horses to barren lava fields. The first stop is usually at Geysir. The active geyser field is smoky and smelly, the hallmarks of geothermal activity. The real star of the show is watching one of the geysers erupt every five minutes. It may not be the largest in the world, but its consistency guarantees a show for every visitor.

Gullfoss, or the Golden Falls, are the next stop and rival any waterfall you’ve seen around the world. The massive falls are beautiful any time of year, but in winter there is a special stark elegance to it that’s hard to resist. The final stop is Þingvellir or Thingvellir, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it marks the spot of the world’s first parliament in 930. The site is so much more than that though, it holds a special cultural spot in the hearts of all Icelanders and has been elevated to more than just a physical site, but one of intense emotional importance.

On the drive home we parked up by the side of the road and waited until nightfall to try and get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We stopped at about 5PM thinking that since the sun was already low in the sky that it would soon be dark. We soon found out that this is not an assumption you should make when you are somewhere as northerly as Iceland. We waited there for about 4 hours until eventually it was completely dark. We stared up into the nights sky until suddenly we saw some flickering. At first it was hard to tell if it was clouds, but gradually the movement and colors became more vivid and we were certain of what we were looking at. It was beautiful and something that I will never forget, definitely worth the excruciatingly long wait for darkness.

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Day 3
For most people, this is the final day in Iceland and what better way to spend it than at the famous Blue Lagoon. The Lagoon is formed from naturally occurring hot springs deep below the surface. The water is indeed blue, and also murky and apparently full of unique properties that make it a healthy activity. The waters are warm and pleasantly murky and the landscape surrounding the spa is beautiful and otherworldly. Almost everyone who visits Iceland stops at least once at the Blue Lagoon, and I can understand why.

From the lagoon it was only a 20 minute drive to the airport where we dropped off our car outside the terminal.

BlueLagoon