We ended our time in Europe with a twelve-hour layover in Keflavik, Iceland. Out of all the crazy things we did on our trip to Europe, when I look back on our trip, this is the one thing that doesn’t seem real. We had a night flight from Madrid to Iceland that was so strange because the later it got, the lighter it got outside as we got closer to Iceland. I think I mentioned in my last post that it was very hot on our last day in Madrid (101°F). It was hot in the airport and it was hot on the plane, so I was still wearing shorts and sandals when we landed and I was OK being cold (40°F) as we walked from the airport to a rental car agency at 2 am.
Something to know if you are planning on exploring Iceland a little during a long layover, all the rental car agencies that we looked into require you to pay for a minimum of two days. If you want to explore on your own it won’t be cheap. If you land during the day, there are shuttles that will take you to the famous Blue Lagoon if that is what you want to do on your layover. There are not many other options when you land at 2 AM. So, we got into our very expensive rental car and drove to our expensive, lackluster, hotel where we crashed for a few hours and took VERY hot showers before heading out to see as much of Iceland as we could before it was time to go back to the airport and finally head home.
We found a guided driving tour of the Reykjanes Peninsula on the free app Locatify SmartGuide. It took us around the volcanic features, lakes, and hot springs and told us about the geology as well the some of the local legends about trolls and fairies. Our first stop was an overlook on Kleifarvatn, the largest lake on the Reykjanes Peninsula. The interesting think about Kleifarvatn is that most of the water comes from underground. The water level has diminished greatly since the Icelandic Earthquakes of 2000.
Our next stop was the Gunnuhver Hot Springs, a collection of mud pots and steam vents with an intense sulfur smell that took me right back to the hot springs of Yellowstone. The name Gunnuhver comes from a local legend about an angry ghost, Gudrun, who legend says, was trapped in a hot spring by a local priest 400 years ago. Iceland’s largest mud pool can be found at Gunnuhver and unlike the other geothermal areas in Iceland, the groundwater is 100% saltwater which gives a different look to it.
Our next stop was Krýsuvíkurkirkja, a historic church (above). It was built in 1857 and closed in 1929 but has since been used as a residence until being transferred to the National Museum. The original church burned down in 2010 but it has since been rebuilt in the historic manner.
One of the final stops of the trip was at the bridge between the continents (left). This is the place where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart. Visitors can stand on a bridge separating the two plates. One side of the bridge has a sign that reads “Welcome to Europe” while the other says “Welcome to North America”. The giant fissure the bridge scales really drives home the tectonic theory that the plates are shifting a few centimeters each year.
After that, we headed back to the airport, dropped off our rental car, and flew home. Even though we got to the airport several hours early, we really didn’t wait around much at all. Since we were leaving the Schengen area (a group of 27 European countries where you don’t need to show your passport to cross their borders. This is the area that will be requiring a visa for Americans to visit at some point in the future) we had to go through passport control and additional security screenings. The boarding process was very complicated and involved multiple escalators and a bus to the plane. If you are flying out of Keflavik to a non-Schengen country, give yourself more time than you think you will need.
My one complaint about this experience is that Icelandair seems to be expanding its U.S. service faster than Keflavik Airport can support. It was very crowded in the area after passport control. There was only one set of bathrooms and one food option, but that seemed to be where all the people in the airport were. There weren’t even enough gates for all the flights. We had to be bussed out to our plane.
Overall, we had an amazing time in Iceland. I feel like we barely scratched the surface. If you are thinking about a trip to Iceland, be aware it is VERY expensive and it is not easy to convert Icelandic Kronas to U.S. Dollars in your head like it is with the Euro. The few meals we had there were pricey for what they were and the hotels were outrageous. The sights are unlike anything else I had ever seen, just make sure you budget appropriately for your time in Iceland or you may be in trouble.
Thanks for stopping by! This marks the end of my recap of our Cruising the Atlantic to Portugal and Spain trip report. Next week I will post a final recap, so keep your eyes out for that. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
Last spring we visited Puerto Rico as the embarkation port for our Southern Caribbean cruise and fell in love with the beautiful island. Ever since we got home we have been watching flight prices just waiting to return. When we started brainstorming ideas for a Christmas trip with my mother-in-law, we were looking at a few warm-weather destinations and we were shocked to find flights to San Juan for less than Florida or New Orleans. I’m not going to lie, the flights were awful. They had overnight layovers in both directions at some of the largest and busiest airports that were made even busier thanks to Southwest’s meltdown before Christmas. But, we made the best of it because we got to return to sunny Puerto Rico!
The first leg of our journey had an overnight layover in Orlando and we left security and slept in the Hyatt Regency at the airport knowing we would have to go through TSA again. There were so many people trying to get to their flights in the morning that the sign advertised a 65-minute wait to get through TSA. I am very glad I checked the airport’s website when I got up because we got ready quickly and got in line. At one point, the line stopped moving completely and we thought we were going to miss our flight, but we got to the gate right as they started boarding. We were told it was a full flight but there were only half of the seats filled. I’m guessing we left some people behind in that TSA line. If you have an early flight (I think this one left at 5:55 am), don’t assume the airport will be empty. Most airport websites will tell you how long the TSA wait currently is and if you’re checking a bag, remember to add on time for that line too. Since this was a layover, we didn’t have to worry about that line.
This was our first time flying Frontier and overall, it was a pretty good experience. We have flown Spirit many times so we are used to budget airlines, but they are not exactly the same. Frontier has more legroom. It is not as cramped as Spirit is notorious for. Everyone we encountered was friendly and each plane has an animal mascot. We liked flying on Max the Lynx. Frontier does not have wifi on their planes. If you need to work while in the air, look for a different airline. Every single flight we had left 10-15 minutes late and they were not good about communicating the delays. When we got to our departure airport, we got a text saying our flight was delayed but when we got to the gate the board said the plane was on time and that didn’t change until after our departure time passed so there were a lot of confused people standing around. For one of the flights, we got a text saying the flight was delayed after we had already taken off. We got to the airport in San Juan early and there was no one at the Frontier desk for probably an hour. The line got very long but we got to the plane with plenty of time. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but the next cheapest flight to San Juan for the same dates was several hundred dollars per person more expensive. Personally, I will take a little bit of hassle to get where I want to go and save money.
Here is an outline of what is to come on this trip report:
Day 4: El Yunque National Forest
Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.