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What to do during a long layover in Iceland: Blue Lagoon + DIY Golden Circle driving tour

On the way home from our anniversary trip to France (more on that later), my husband and I had the chance to explore a bit of Iceland during a long layover in Reykjavik.  Today, I am sharing our tips on getting the most out of a long layover in Iceland, including a visit to the Blue Lagoon and a DIY driving tour of the Golden Circle route.

Our layover was 22 hours long, which allowed us to spend the night.  We decided to rent a car, which I recommend, as taxis are quite pricey, we arrived too late for the Flybus to take us where we needed to go, and it allowed us to DIY our sight-seeing tours based on our timeline. 

Check out this YouTube video of our DIY Golden Circle driving tour, and save it for quick reference:

Quotes from Björk and other notable Icelanders on the windows of Keflavik airport 

From our experience and what we learned prior to our trip, it is pretty quick and easy to get out of Keflavik airport.  Therefore, you don't need a 22-hour layover to get out and explore.  I've heard of people leaving the airport to explore with much less time than that.  Here are the things that we did during our long layover in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Blue Lagoon

If you've ever wondered if a visit to the Blue Lagoon is worth it during your long layover in Iceland, then trust me when I say IT IS!  This natural wonder was seriously awesome, and one that I would happily do again the next time I visit.  The Blue Lagoon is actually closer to KEF airport than Reykjavik city, so it's worth it even if you have a very short layover.

As we went in early July, Iceland was experiencing the Midnight Sun.  Therefore, we were able to take advantage of a discounted entry time of 10:00 pm, and it was still bright outside (it was bright even when we left at midnight).  Despite it being cold outside and raining, the water was so comfortable that no one seemed to care at all about the cold or rain.  It was so nice and relaxing!  We especially enjoyed the swim up bar (you have a wristband that acts as a charge card) and the complimentary silica mud mask that came with our Comfort Package.

Golden Circle

The Golden Circle is a popular 300 KM route in southern Iceland that hits several natural tourist attractions.  There are many bus and private tour options that will take you along this route during a long layover in Reykjavik, or any vacation in Iceland.  We opted to rent a car, which allowed us to see all the sites on our own timeline.

The driving route for Iceland's Golden Circle is incredibly scenic!  Green rolling hills and valleys, unique geological formations, and colorful wildflowers surround you.  The roads are well-maintained, and the driving conditions (including the other drivers on the road) felt safe to us at all times.

The first stop on our DIY Golden Circle drive was just off the main road: Kerið crater lake. A quick walk from the car park allows you to either view the turquoise blue lake from above, or by hiking down to the bottom.

Our second stop on the Golden Circle is Geysir, a site which apparently gave the name to all geysers in the world.  Multiple hot spring pools and geysers can be found with another short walk from the parking area.

The most active geyser in the area is Strokkur, with blows faithfully approximately every five minutes.

Gullfoss Waterfall
About 10 minutes by car from Geysir is one of Iceland's most famous waterfalls, Gullfoss.  This huge, multi-level waterfall has a crystal blue color.

The area around Gullfoss and Geysir is very scenic, with beautiful panoramas, rivers, and pretty purple wildflowers.

As we drove, we saw several beautiful Icelandic horses (a unique breed native to the area).  There were even a couple spots where the owners allow you to park and pet the horses from beyond their fence.

Þingvellir National Park
The final stop on our Golden Circle tour drive is Þingvellir.  Not far from Reykjavik, this National Park has both historical and geological significance.  Historically, it is the site of one of the world's oldest parliaments.  Geologically, the park is in a rift valley created by the separation of two tectonic plates.

Moss-covered lava rock makes for a stunning landscape in the park.

The park is actually situated on the continental drift between North America and Eurasia.  There are parts of the park where you can walk or dive between the two continents.  

Speaking of diving, the park is also home to some of the most impressive dive sites in the world.  The water, much of it coming from glacial runoff, is naturally filtered through the volcanic rock, making the pools of water crystal clear for extreme visibility.  

I would have loved to have spent more time in Þingvellir National Park, but we had to get back to Keflavik airport to catch our flight home.  I look forward to visiting again with our kids!  

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