The airport in Iceland can confuse a lot of travelers. I say this because a lot of travelers confuse the Reykjavik airport for the Keflavik airport.
This is understandable of course, as the airlines usually print "Reykjavík (KEF)" on their tickets, despite the airport actually being Keflavík International Airport, or "Kef Airport" as some dub it.
Unfortunately, this does cause a fair few mix-ups. To be clear, Keflavík International Airport (KEF) is the only true international airport in Iceland, but it's close enough to Reykjavík that the airlines can justify printing Reykjavík instead of Keflavik on their tickets.
The Reykjavik Airport (RVK) is a small domestic airport located in the city's centre with regular flights to Akureyri, Egillstaðir, Ísafjörður, Vopnafjörður, Þórshöfn, Grímsey and even the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
So, make sure to select your car rental pick-up from Keflavik and not Reykjavik.
Many rental agencies will meet you in the arrivals zone of the airport, whilst others have a free shuttle service running every 15 minutes to the car rental area (look for the 'car rental shuttle service' signs).
There are some agencies based in Reykjavik, and they might either charge a fee to pick you up from the KEF airport or provide you with a Flybus ticket from Keflavik airport to the bus station (BSÍ) in Reykjavik where they would then pick you up.
The bottom line is, make sure to get familiar with which pick-up process is valid for your booking. This is usually stated on your voucher or on the page where you booked the car.
A Brief Introduction To Keflavík Airport.
Keflavik International Airport (whose original name was Leifur Eiríksson International Airport) was originally built by the United States Military during World War II.
It consisted of 2 runway airfields, both named after separate pilots who had died in Iceland. After the war, the airport was returned to Iceland's control.
Though the US military would later return in 1951 after a defense agreement was signed between Iceland and the US. The terminal opened in 1987 as a separate entity to the military base and was used for civil traffic.
It has been extended throughout the years, and currently, its main flight operators are WOW air and Icelandair, though many more companies have been added through the years such as Wizz Air, Norwegian Airlines, EasyJet, Delta Air Lines and more.
What Is At Keflavik Airport?
There is a duty-free store with access from both arrivals and departures, where I would recommend purchasing any alcohol you intend on consuming (alcohol is very expensive in Iceland).
It is here that I would also recommend you purchase the Icelandic candy you wish to try or take home to your family and/or friends.
Beside the duty-free store, you will find many Icelandic stores such as:
- 66° North - An outdoor clothing store.
- Epal - Furniture and home goods.
- Blue Lagoon - Skincare products.
- Penninn Eymundsson - Library and bookstore.
- Elko - Electronic goods.
- Optical Studio - Opticians.
- Airport Fashion - Clothing.
There are also restaurants such as Joe & The Juice, Loksins Bar, Dunkin Donuts, Ginger, Mathús, Nord and Segafredo.
Most of the stores and restaurants are located on the second floor, as you will see in the image below. (Photo from Kefairport.is).
A popular travel destination at the airport is the tax refund desk. I would recommend getting to the airport extra early if you intend on claiming tax back, as the desk is always extremely busy.
What Is Close To Keflavik Airport?
Keflavik is a very small area, and also quite remote. There isn't a lot, but it does have all the necessities and is usually a great stopping point for late night and early morning arrivals. It is also the last stop for many travelers, before their departure.
You will find all the regular grocery stores such as Hagkaup and Bónus.
The rock and roll museum shows the great history of Icelandic music as a whole, dating back to the 1920's whilst Viking World is a five exhibition museum along with a settlement zoo, a playground, and an outdoor classroom.
Keflavik is also home to a large indoor water park called 'Water World', which has a heated activity pool. This is a great place for children to play and have fun.
For the nature lovers out there, there are some great spots, such as:
- Gunnuhver (mud pools and steam vents)
- Krýsuvík (recreational area with popular hiking paths)
- Bridge Between Continents (bridge between the Europe and North American continental plates)
- Keilir (a cone-shaped mountain)
- Kleifarvatn and Katlahraun (a lake and a lave a field).
These destinations are part of the 'Reykjanes Peninsula'.
The most popular destination, which is around a 20-minute drive from Keflavik, is the world famous Blue Lagoon, A geothermal spa named by National Geographic as one of the 'wonders of the world'.
How Do I Get From Keflavik Aiport To Reykjavik?
Some of you may be renting a vehicle. In most cases, you pick up the vehicle from Keflavik. So, therefore, you are then free to drive into Reykjavik at your own accord (around 40-45 minute drive).
However, if you are not renting a vehicle then there are 2 options: take a taxi or take a bus transfer. My recommendation would be to take one of the bus transfers as a taxi from the airport to Reykjavik can set you back around 17,000 ISK (€134).
This is why most travelers will use one of the many bus transfers. The most popular is the 'Flybus'.
This service is provided by 'Reykjavik Excursions' and tickets can be purchased at the airport, it's also common for tickets to be sold on the airplane (so try asking one of the cabin crew).
The Flybuses depart 40 minutes after every flight and will take you to the bus terminal known as BSÍ.
It's possible to purchase 2 types of tickets, one which takes you solely to BSÍ and the other which takes you to your hotel (though, you will still be taken to BSÍ first and then switch to a smaller bus).
There are also transfers available with other companies too, such as Grayline (similar procedure as the 'Flybus' except they take you to their own bus terminal).
Both services are available for return to the airport and provide a 24/7 pickup from your hotel.
For those of you that have rented a car, most agencies are based in Keflavik and offer 24/7 return. However, there are some located solely in Reykjavik. Though, the agencies may offer to drive you back to the airport or to BSÍ bus terminal so you can get a bus transfer.
I Have A Layover In Iceland. What can I do?
As previously discussed, there are plenty of things to do in the surrounding area of the airport.
There is also the option of taking a tour with some of the local travel companies, such as this 'Reykjanes Circle' tour.
On this tour, you will be taken to some of the best places that Reykjanes has to offer, including some of those listed previously. The tour heads to Garður, A Bridge Between Continents, Sandgerði, Reykjanes Lighthouse, Grindavík, Hvalsnes Church and Gunnuhver.
Check out the other available 'Layover Tours' here.
Returning To Keflavik Airport
If you are renting a vehicle then there are usually 3 varying return procedures. Returning directly to the airport, returning to the agencies office in Keflavík and then being driven to the airport or returning in Reykjavik and getting one of the bus transfers back to the airport.
We always recommend that you return your vehicle AT LEAST 2 and a half hours before your flight time. This is because Keflavik airport is very busy, and can take a long time to check in, get through customs and visit the tax refund desk.
The process for returning your vehicle and then being driven to the agency may sometimes take upwards of 30 minutes or more, so be sure to give yourselves plenty of time to prevent last-minute panicking.
The same goes for those of you returning by taxi or by bus transfer, ensure that you will arrive 2 hours before your flight. Especially if you intend on heading to the tax refund desk. The queue for this can be very long.
I hope you found this article helpful if you have any questions then don't hesitate to contact us.