If you’re anything like me, you’ll be keen to rush off from the airport as soon as you’ve cleared immigration and customs. There’s so much to do and see – why hang around? But actually, when you arrive in Iceland, there’s a good reason not to be in too much of a hurry to get to Reykjavik and beyond as there’s a whole load of excellent sightseeing to be had on the Reykjanes peninsula. Here are a few suggestions for what to do around Keflavik International Airport if you’re one of the estimated 7.3 million passengers annually who fly in or through this conveniently located hub.
Where is Keflavik airport?
One thing that can be a little confusing to first-time visitors is the airport code: KEF. If you see RYK on your boarding pass, that’s actually the smaller city airport in Reykjavik which largely deals with domestic flights. A ticket for REY would get you all the way to South America, as it’s the code for Reyes Airport in Bolivia. Keflavik, situated 50km from the capital, is named after a nearby town and is the nation’s most important airport.
KEF Airport restaurants
If you have an airport layover in between flights, then it’s worth getting access to Icelandair’s Saga lounge if you qualify. This tasteful and stylish lounge is a must for its views: on a clear day, guests will enjoy a breathtaking panorama over the Reykjanes peninsula and also across Faxaflói Bay to the Snæfellsnes peninsula, where if you’re lucky, Snæfellsjökull will be visible.
If the weather outside is wild, the lounge has a cozy fireplace and ample recliners perfect for relaxing and having a nap before the flight. Icelandair Saga guests and travelers with Gold and Silver status are permitted to use the lounge, as are similar tier guests traveling with certain One World partner airlines, Air Baltic and for those traveling to or from North America, United and Alaskan Airlines. Terms and conditions apply, so check eligibility before you set out.
Elsewhere, make the most of your time at the international airport (KEF) by visiting one of its restaurants. Popular international chain Joe and the Juice is represented, but you should take this opportunity to sample something from one of the local providers. Fresh fish is on the menu at Nord, with favorites such as Icelandic salted cod, fresh lobster and Arctic char to choose from. Other Keflavik airport restaurants widen the choice. The menu at hjá höllu offers plenty of wood-fired pizzas, with some typically Icelandic toppings alongside those you’ll regularly see elsewhere in Europe or in North America. For a coffee and pastry, try Kvikk Café or Segafredo; light bites can be had at the self-service Mathús.
Getting to Reykjavik is straightforward
Renting a car in Iceland from the providers at Keflavik International Airport is very straightforward. Pre-booking is essential to ensure you get the right vehicle for your needs, whether you plan on holing up in Iceland’s capital city or exploring further afield. The cars are just outside the terminal too, making it easy to be on the road even if you have lots of luggage with you.
If you don’t wish to drive yourself, the public bus service is convenient and affordable. The Flybus transports visitors to the central bus station in Reykjavik and from there, shuttle buses link up to most major hotels as well as the city’s downtown airport. Ideally, especially at peak periods, book a seat in advance, but if you are happy to take a chance, tickets can be bought at the arrivals hall counter. Taxis are also available for the 45-minute transfer to the city center.
There’s a great deal to see on the Reykjanes peninsula
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to dash into Reykjavik, though. There’s a great deal to see on the Reykjanes peninsula. At Gunnuhver, you’ll soon discover proof that the region is Iceland’s youngest – plenty of plopping mud pools and steaming vents and fissures. Krýsuvík is another geothermal area not far away. Wooden boardwalks through the Seltún geothermal field provide safe access to its boiling pools and hot mud.
The plate boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates is also easy to find on the Reykjanes peninsula at Sandvik. Spanned by Leif the Lucky’s Bridge, this metal bridge is periodically altered to ensure it remains wide enough to link both sides. It’s often windy there, but somehow that only serves to reinforce that nature is untameable in these parts. Pay a visit to the Duushús in the nearby fishing village of Reykjanesbær, where you can collect a souvenir certificate to remind you of your visit.
Things to do near KEF Airport
While you’re in Reykjanesbær, incidentally also not far from the airport, overlooking Faxaflói Bay, visit the Íslendingur (the Icelander). This is an exact replica of a Viking ship called the Gokstad, which transported Leif Ericsson to North America around 1000 years ago. It’s housed in the Viking Museum, a must for history fans. If the past is your thing, then setting out to see Iceland’s first lighthouse, Reykjanesviti lighthouse, rebuilt in 1907, is also going to be an essential part of your itinerary.
That’s not all when it comes to things to do near Keflavik airport
Of course, no complete guide to attractions near Keflavik International Airport would be comprehensive without a mention of its star attraction: the Blue Lagoon. This is Iceland’s – and perhaps even the world’s – most famous geothermal spa. Surrounded by the rugged terrain of a lava field and with the unmistakable smoke from the not-so-distant power station in the background, you’ll be under no illusion as to what fuels this amazing place.
The airport bus calls in en route from and to the city. In fact, the journey from the airport to the blue lagoon takes only twenty minutes. It’s so convenient most tourists are tempted to take a dip on their way in or out of the country. Think about it: how incredible would it be to be wallowing in these health-enhancing waters just a half hour or so after stepping out of the arrivals hall? The resort has given some thought to the needs of those on the move. Big lockers are more than adequate for storing suitcases. Piles of fluffy towels and decent hairdryers make light work of getting dry again before you leave.
Indulge yourself, and make the journey to or from the airport one you won’t forget in a hurry. The Reykjanes peninsula is far too interesting to skip off your itinerary.