24 hours in Iceland

IMG_1409At the beginning of March I decided to go to Germany to visit my family. Getting a good flight deal last minute is a challenge. The cheapest option was to fly with “WOW Airlines”, a young airline based in Iceland. It was obvious that I just had to stop in Iceland for one night on the way back. How can anyone not take this opportunity, even if you wouldn’t be a travel addict like me?  The flight got even cheaper because I chose to fly only with carry-on and I will share the whole WOW experience in a future post.

24 hours Iceland: walk through Reykjavik,  Northern Lights tour at night and  Blue Lagoon in the morning before heading back to the airport.

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So last Tuesday afternoon I landed in Kevlavik, the only International Airport of Iceland. If you don’t want to rent a car, it is super easy to catch a shuttle bus to Reykjavik. You can buy the tickets online at Reykjavik Excursions or Grayline. I took Reykjavik Excursions and it took about 50 minutes to get to the Bus Terminal in Reykjavik. From there you can be picked up from your hotel, take a cab or walk. I stayed at “Igdlo Guesthouse”, a budget hostel that has dorm and private rooms, shared bathrooms and a full equipped kitchen to prepare your own meals. I was greeted very friendly and my room was clean and even had a vanity and a TV. Iceland is VERY expensive and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a hotel where I’d basically only be for about 5-6 hours. The hostel was not within downtown Reykjavik, but only a 15 minute walk from there. The famous church Hallgrímskirkja was only a few minutes away.

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Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran (Church of Iceland) parish church in Reykjavík, Iceland. At 73 metres high, it is the largest church in Iceland and among the tallest structures in Iceland.

First, I contacted the company “Sterna Travel” where I booked my Northern Lights tour and had to learn that my tour was cancelled. They told me that the weather conditions were not favorable and I was super disappointed. They also told me that I could book with other organizers who would still run tours. I booked my tour through Viator, a Tripadvisor company, and I wasn’t sure if I’d get a refund hence I didn’t want to pay double either. The Icelandic tour companies tell you that if a tour is cancelled, you won’t get a refund but can reschedule to any future tour.

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So I started walking into downtown, to the waterfront and got a good impression of the Icelandic capital. I walked past the Hallgrímskirkja, down Skólavördustígur and Klapparstígur to the View Point on Sæbraut, along the water to the Harpa Concert Hall and met some fellow Germans.

Then I walked back into the little streets of Reykjavik and enjoyed the Nordic architecture.

Iceland has a population of about 340,000 and an area of 103,000 km2, making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the Southwest are home to over two-thirds of the population.

Reykjavik has this special Scandinavian flair and it has lots of cool little shops, galleries, restaurants and bars. Most of them are on Laugavegur and Hverfisgata. See here: bars_reykjavik

I went into “Kaldi Bar” which was right up my alley and the folks were my age, too – lol! I enjoyed a Gin & Tonic and free Wifi. Afterwards I went into a couple tour offices and asked about other Northern Lights tours. People confirmed that the weather conditions weren’t great and said that they wouldn’t recommend to book another tour. I was still skeptical because it has been such a nice afternoon. But weather conditions change quickly in Iceland and after I bought a sandwich and a few snacks at  Víðir I came out to snow and wind! So long, Northern Lights. I’ll catch you next time.

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Early next morning I was picked up at my hostel to go to the Blue Lagoon. So exciting!

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If you want to visit this geothermal spa you need to book well in advance. You can choose between four different kind of packages and you pick your arrival time. You can only arrive within an hour of your designated time, but you can stay as long as you like. The price of admission depends on the time of the day and how far in advance you book. You can add the transportation with Reykjavik Excursions to/from Reykjavik or to/from Kevlavik Airport. We were the first to arrive at 8 am and it was magical! The sun came out and the water with an average temperature of 38º C/100ºF is just lovely.

If you ever get the chance, go!

Today I received the refund from Viator and I met a guy on the flight back who went on a jeep tour that night and got to see the lights. Argh! I’m still a bit mad at myself that I didn’t book another tour, but now I have a good reason to come back. Iceland is definitely worth a visit and there is so much more to see!

Here you find some fun facts about Iceland.

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7 Comments

  1. San

    March 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    I am very curious to hear about your experience with WOW airline… I just learned about it and I am looking for flights to Germany in May.

    I wouldn’t mind a quick stop in Iceland at all – it’s on my bucket list 🙂

    1. bellamonte

      March 20, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      Iceland is definitely worth a visit. Depending on the fares, I’d go for another airline. WOW isn’t super convenient, if you want food, drinks and luggage you might end up paying the same. Check out Air Berlin. I love that airline and my parents are coming mid-May paying 480 Euros round-trip, non-stop DUS-SFO. Unbeatable!

  2. incahootswithmuddyboots

    March 19, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    We’ve been there twice. And I hope to go visit again some day. Isn’t the Blue Lagoon just heavenly? We explored all around the city and attended a number of concerts at the Harpa during the Iceland Airwaves. If you love music, it’s a great way to see a different side of this great country.
    I hope all is well with you! 😊

    1. bellamonte

      March 20, 2017 at 5:36 pm

      All is well, back to the routine in CA 😉 I bet the concerts at Harpa were great. I’d love to go back and explore more of that country! Did you see the northern lights?

      1. incahootswithmuddyboots

        March 20, 2017 at 5:51 pm

        No! And that’s just fine with me, because that ensures that we visit again! 😀

  3. Best of March | cöllefornia

    April 3, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    […] 3. Since I flew via Reykjavik with WOW Airlines, I decided to take the opportunity and pay Iceland a one day visit on my way back to the US. It was so great and I have to go back because I didn’t see the Northern Lights.  You can read all about it here in my post: 24 hours in Iceland. […]

  4. A short stopover in Maui - Some highlights from the Valley Island

    June 1, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    […] in Maui the flights were just much cheaper!  Just back in March I had a 24 hours stopover in Iceland and it was awesome. Besides, we have friends that have a place in Maui, just north of Pa’ia, […]

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