Considering a stopover in Iceland?
Last June I spent two days in Iceland on my way back from a quick work trip to the Netherlands. I’d initially planned to just fly in and out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport for my client meetings, but then I discovered that the least expensive flight was on Icelandair.
So I happily took advantage of Icelandair’s free stopover option and quickly planned a last-minute 2-day trip on my way back to the US. I’d been wanting to visit Iceland since I was a teenager, so it was awesome to finally see this beautiful country!
If you’re wondering if Iceland is worth a stopover or what Iceland is like in June, read on. In this post I share what I did in my 2 days in Iceland (Reykjavik and the Golden Circle), what I ate (Icelandic desserts!), and my Iceland travel tips.
Getting to Iceland
I flew Icelandair Boston-Reykjavik-Amsterdam (Jetblue from Raleigh to Boston) and the opposite on the way home. The stopover was free, meaning there are no additional fees for spending up to 7 days in Iceland on your way to or from Europe. However, when I went to book my final Reykjavik-Boston-Raleigh flight, the prices varied quite a bit depending on the day and time. Fortunately, I found a return flight that was the same price as without a stopover. I recommend booking as early as possible so you can select the best flight times for the lowest price.
It was my first time flying Icelandair and I enjoyed the flight experience. I didn’t have to pay anything extra to reserve my window seat, everyone was friendly and helpful, we took off and landed on time, I had a decent amount of space in coach, and the how-to-drive-in-Iceland videos were pretty entertaining. You do have to pay for everything except one beverage during the flight if you’re in coach, but the food was actually pretty good (I had Skyr for breakfast and then a salad on my second flight). You can check out the food selection here, and on some flights you can even pre-order your meal.
Everything I encountered in Iceland worked seamlessly. Once I picked up my suitcase (I had to check it for my Amsterdam-Reykjavik flight), I stopped at the ATM, grabbed a snack at the airport store, and then went outside to catch my shuttle into Reykjavik.
I purchased my round-trip Flybus airport shuttle ticket online but you can also buy one on the plane or at the airport. They make it easy! As everyone poured out of the airport, we were all guided to several waiting shuttle busses. It takes about 45 minutes to get to Reykjavik but there’s wifi on the bus and the view is scenic. The shuttle dropped me off at the bus station and because I paid a little extra (3000 ISK instead of 2500 ISK), I transferred to a minibus that dropped me right at my hotel. As it turned out, I could have easily walked to my hotel from the station but it was lovely to be dropped off at the front door since I didn’t arrive until after 1am!
Iceland in June: Changing Weather and Endless Sunlight
My mini Iceland vacation started with an easy 4-hour Icelandair flight from Amsterdam to Reykjavik. When we took off, the sun was setting in Amsterdam but as we flew towards Iceland, it just kept getting lighter, thanks to it being just a few days from midsummer. When we landed at 11pm it was still completely light outside. Iceland daylight hours in June last pretty much all 24 hours! Technically, the sun did set around midnight and then rise at about 3am but it’s still very light during that time. I loved that there was so much Iceland daylight while I was there!
By the time I arrived at my hotel at 1:30am, this is what it looked like outside…
That’s as dark as it got while I was there! Was it hard to sleep in Iceland in summer? Yep. But not because it was light outside – I wore a sleep mask that blocked the light. It was more because my body just wouldn’t get the message that it was time to wind down and go to sleep. Even though I was tired, I just wanted to keep going.
With regards to the weather, both days were full of gray skies, some wind, and periodic rain. It was chilly enough that I wore jeans and a jacket on both days. But it didn’t really matter! I dressed in layers, wore a rain jacket, and joined everyone else who was enjoying everything Iceland had to offer.
The sun did come out on my third and final night in Reykjavik at around 11pm. Since I couldn’t fall asleep, I went outside for a lovely walk around the quiet neighborhoods. The sky was blue and the sun hung low on the horizon. Beautiful!
What to Pack for 48 Hours in Iceland in June
Layers! Since I was just playing tourist for a couple days I wore jeans, comfortable walking shoes, and layered a couple t-shirts, a cotton jacket, and a rain shell. I also brought a cotton scarf, which I wore when it got windy. I’m glad I brought the rain shell because it did rain off and on and it gave me wind protection. I highly recommend bringing a sleep mask if you find it difficult to fall asleep in daylight.
Click here to get my tips for finding the best travel purse for your next trip!
Day 1: Reykjavik in the Rain
I spent my first full day in Reykjavik. I left this day wide open because 1) I knew I’d be exhausted from travel, work meetings, and arriving at 1:30am, and 2) I was being interviewed for a podcast and needed to be back at my hotel in the afternoon. So, after sleeping in and getting a little work out of the way in the morning, I walked down to the main shopping street to look around.
I found a cute little juice bar called Lemon and grabbed an Icelandic Flirt smoothie (bláberjaskyr, strawberry, raspberry, apple) and a Mozzato sandwich. The food was tasty and reasonably priced, and the cafe was a comfortable place to relax.
It was a cloudy day with periods of wind and rain but there were still lots of people outside. In the town square I found people sitting at picnic tables watching a World Cup game. I love being in Europe during the World Cup!
I then walked to the harbor and immediately wished I’d signed up for a whale watching tour. I missed the last tour of the day by about 30 minutes. Bummer!
I then wandered back downtown, bought the most expensive cup of tea I’ve ever had, and then picked up a cup of creamy Icelandic soft serve.
I spent the next hour or so walking up and down side streets. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is just wander around and see what I find…
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, so I could relate to this mural.
The next day was National Day so there were Icelandic flags everywhere!
After popping into several shops downtown and buying a beautiful turquoise Icelandic wool scarf, I walked to the Hallgrímskirkja church and rode the elevator to the very top for amazing views of the city, sea, and mountains! The church is open every day from 9am-5pm. The visitation deck costs 400 ISK for adults and 100 ISK for kids 7-14. It’s definitely worth a trip to the top!
On the way back to my hotel I stopped at a little shop and ate the most delicious fresh fries with garlic sauce and then stopped at a grocery store for fruit, water, Skyr, and a selection of Icelandic chocolate bars (click here to read my review of 9 Iceland candy and chocolate bars).
I stayed in the rest of the night so I could finish some work, be ready for my interview, and rest up for my Golden Circle Tour the next day. I spent about 5-6 hours walking around downtown Reykjavik, and while I got a good overview of the downtown area, next time I’ll definitely plan some activities, such as whale watching or a food tour. Overall, it was a great first day in Iceland!
Day 2: Golden Circle Tour
My second day was Golden Circle Day. I’d planned to book a tour that used small mini busses but they were closed because it was Icelandic National Day. So, I booked with a larger tour company that used regular sized busses, which actually ended up working out well. Our driver was hilarious and shared tons of cultural and historical information, as well as many jokes. He made the tour a lot of fun. The tour cost 9,900 ISK (they offer discounts for kids) and started at the bus station. If you take one of these tours, make sure you arrive on time. A couple joined my tour after just missing their bus. Lucky for them we had a couple extra seats!
I started the day with Skyr…I ate a lot of Skyr during my 48 hours in Iceland. Yuuuuum.
Our first stop was a farm that grew hydroponic tomatoes but I was more interested in the Icelandic horses. Just look at this guy! Next time I’m definitely spending more time with them.
After the farm we got back on the bus and traveled to the Geysir geothermal area.
We had enough time there for (a very expensive) lunch and a short hike.
Then it was back on the bus so we could drive over to the Thingvellir National Park. There was wifi on the bus so I texted my mom and husband photos in-between our stops. Since I was traveling solo, it was fun to share with them what I was doing and seeing during the day.
On my next visit I’m so going camping!
After seeing the sights I took a snack break to try these biscotti-like Icelandic cookies and sparking water (I think this one was apple flavored).
Our final stop was the Gullfoss waterfall. Wow! My photos just don’t do any of these sights justice.
Our bus driver made several stops at hotels and various locations downtown so we could all easily get where we wanted to go after the day-long tour. I’m glad I went on the tour and got to see some of Iceland outside Reykjavik. If the Golden Circle doesn’t interest you, local tour companies offer a variety of day trips. Or rent a car at the airport and create your own adventure!
After the tour, I found a cute Scandinavian restaurant and enjoyed a delicious salmon dinner…
And since it was National Day, I also ordered their National Day dessert special – apple cake with berries and cream. Delicious! I scarfed this down and could have easily eaten three more slices.
Later, when I couldn’t fall asleep, I got up and went for a walk. It was around midnight and the sun had come out, the city was quiet, and it even warmed up a bit. A late night walk was the best way to end my short visit to Iceland.
The next morning I was up early to catch my shuttle bus to the airport and then my morning flight to Boston. Had my flight left later in the afternoon or evening, I could have easily added a trip to the Blue Lagoon. Maybe next time.
You’ve probably heard that Iceland is expensive. Well, it’s true! I spent more in 48 hours in Iceland that I have in a week – or even two – in other destinations. But there are ways to make Iceland more budget-friendly.
First, book your lodging early and stay a bit away from the downtown. I didn’t have many options because I booked so last minute but I saved well over $100 by opting for a hotel that was a 10 minute walk from the main shopping street. The upside was that I could walk to the bus station, where I caught my Golden Circle Tour bus and the airport shuttle bus.
Second, you can minimize food expenses. I bought Skyr, fruit, and sparkling water at the grocery store for breakfast and snacks, and then picked up a couple sandwiches and fresh french fries for a couple meals. I did splurge on one dinner and enjoyed it immensely.
Third, go easy on the souvenirs. I bought a postcard that I later realized cost $4 and my handmade Icelandic scarf was definitely an investment. Worth it, though. It’s gorgeous.
So you can do things to reduce expenses…or just make Iceland a splurge. 🙂
I’m so glad I decided to stop in Iceland on my way back to the US! Even though I was only there for 2 days, it was a nice introduction to a country I’ve been wanting to visit. I can’t wait to return to Iceland for a longer trip.
Are you considering a stopover? I’d love to hear about your plans!