Having a great first day in Iceland after a long flight requires a bit of planning. We recommend starting your adventure on the right foot by diving right into all the great things Iceland has to offer. Based on the experience of travelers and the expertise of our local specialists, here are some useful strategies to make the most of your first day in Iceland.

Many travelers who arrive at Iceland’s international airport (Keflavik or KEF) head straight to Reykjavik, either by rental car, airport shuttle (Flybus) or private transfer. If you have the time, we recommend making your first few hours in Iceland more memorable by following some of the suggestions outlined here.

Explore Reykjanes Peninsula

Reykjanesviti lighthouse
Stop at Reykjanesviti Lighthouse on the Reykjanes Peninsula near Keflavik International Airport

After picking up your rental car at Keflavik, initially, follow the route towards Reykjavik. After about 5 km / 3 miles, head right on Route 44, leaving the main road to Reykjavik and its many tour buses. 

On this scenic route, you will pass interesting geological features, like the bridge between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates, and Gunnuhver Hot Springs, which has seen increased geothermal activity in recent years. You can also stop at Reykjanesviti lighthouse, which stands on a hill providing a first taste of the many epic views Iceland has to offer.

From there, head to Reykjavik, or continue to the small fishing village of Þorlákshöfn where you'll find a small, quaint coffee shop called Hendur i Hofn.

Pro tip: If you are up for coffee and a quick bite before hitting the road, we recommend Keflavik Cafe located about 2.5 miles / 4 km from the airport in the town center of Keflavik. The address is Hafnargata 28. (Closed Mondays, opens at 9am on other weekdays and 10am on weekends).

Beat your Jetlag in the Blue Lagoon

Recover from your long flight in the Blue Lagoon

For better or worse, the Blue Lagoon has become one of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions. While it’s a unique place, it does feel a bit like a mass market attraction that, to some, looks better on pictures, than it does in reality. Travelers who choose to see what the fuss is all about often visit upon arrival since the Blue Lagoon is conveniently located between the international airport and Reykjavik. If you have a rental car, it’s easy enough to just drive there. Flybus also stops here. If you have luggage you can easily store it at the Blue Lagoon for a small fee.  Just make sure you have reservations, since it books out often.

Tip for early morning arrivals:
If your international flight arrives very early in the morning (as many do), the cafe at the Blue Lagoon opens at 7:30 for breakfast. If you are staying at the nearby Silica Hotel , they serve early morning breakfast. starting at 8. You can check luggage at the Blue Lagoon for about $5 USD/bag if you are traveling by flybus transfer.

Early morning in Reykjavik

Enjoy early morning views at the Sun Voyager

If you decide to head straight to Reykjavik, call you hotel or apartment and ask if you can check in early. If they can accommodate this, drop your bags and embark on an exploration of early morning Reykjavik. On clear mornings, take a stroll to the Sun Voyager (Sólfar in Icelandic), a statue on the shoreline in downtown Reykjavik. For early morning coffee and breakfast, we recommend Sandholt (opens at 7 am).

Recent Trip Reviews

Related trips planned by kimkim specialists

How to make the most of your first day in iceland, Iceland - Dec 24 - Jan 1, 2018

Traveler: isobel s. - Local specialist: Sveindis María Sveinsdóttir

We used KimKim for our December 9 day self-drive of Iceland. I feel like we received a hotel, vehicle rental and tour booking service. This is very convenient, although I was hoping for a detailed itinerary with a realistic schedule and addresses. We were given a broad general itinerary with points of interest. We found ourselves backtracking unfortunately and took roads to keep from backtracking and ended up losing an entire day (there are just 5 hours of daylight in winter) trying to... read more

We used KimKim for our December 9 day self-drive of Iceland. I feel like we received a hotel, vehicle rental and tour booking service. This is very convenient, although I was hoping for a detailed itinerary with a realistic schedule and addresses. We were given a broad general itinerary with points of interest. We found ourselves backtracking unfortunately and took roads to keep from backtracking and ended up losing an entire day (there are just 5 hours of daylight in winter) trying to take a different route. KimKim stated that hotels were booked since we contacted them just a few weeks ahead of the trip but we passed many hotels closer to the points of interests and feel as though we spent much to much time with limited daylight driving to our hotels. The hotels booked for us were great, no complaints about the accommodations just far from where we had been sightseeing.

We had an amazing time nevertheless Iceland is gorgeous and we realize in retrospect that we could have booked the hotels etc ourselves but didn't want the hassle. The weather was fantastic. cold of course (so wear many layers) we were fortunate to never have more than a snow flurry. I highly recommend Iceland in December!

One thing worth mentioning -
We also wish that Kimkim advised us against doing both the Ice cave tour and Glacier Tour. The Ice Cave tour was a disappointment and a waste of money given the glacier hike takes you into an ice crevasse which was absolutely amazing in comparison to the cramped tourist ice "trap" - hole. I requested the Ice cave tour. Caveat - the photos online are three years old. It has since shrunken and is not at all like the images. Ice melts and changes shape!