Keflavik International Airport, also known simply as KEF Airport, is the largest airport in Iceland, located on the Reykjanes peninsula approximately 40 kilometers from Reykjavik City.
The airport environment in Iceland can often be confusing to travelers, especially in the cases when travelers confuse the Reykjavik domestic airport (RKV) for Keflavik airport (KEF).
This is understandable of course, as the airlines usually print "Reykjavík (KEF)" on their tickets, despite the correct designation being Keflavík International Airport, or "KEF Airport".
Unfortunately, this does cause a fair few mix-ups so, to be clear, Keflavík International Airport (KEF) is the only truly international airport in Iceland, but it's close enough to Reykjavík that the airlines can choose to print Reykjavík instead of Keflavik on their tickets.
The Reykjavik Airport (RVK) is a small domestic airport located in the city's center with regular flights to Akureyri, Egillstaðir, Ísafjörður, Vopnafjörður, Þórshöfn, Grímsey and operates certain international flights to the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
So, make sure to select your car rental pick-up from Keflavik and not Reykjavik.
What Airport is Kef?
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.
The airport terminal has gone through several expansions throughout the years, and as of 2018, carries over 9 million passengers annually. Not bad for a population of 350,000.
What airlines fly to KEF Airport in Iceland?
The primary carrier at KEF Airport is Icelandair, but the following airlines are flying regular or seasonal flights to Iceland:
- Air Canada Rouge
- Air Greenland
- Air Iceland Connect
- American Airlines
- Atlantic Airways
- Austrian Airlines
- British Airways
- Czech Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- easyJet Switzerland
- Edelweiss Air
- Iberia Express
- Norwegian Air Shuttle
- S7 Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Transavia France
- TUI Airways
- United Airlines
- Wizz Air
Another large Icelandic carrier was Wow Air but as of early 2019, Wow Air is no longer operational. A new airline named Play is scheduled to begin operations as early as 2020, composed of much of Wow Air's former executive staff.
What Is At Keflavik Airport?
There is a duty-free store located in both arrivals and departures, where we would recommend purchasing any alcohol you intend on consuming (alcohol is very expensive in Iceland due to severe taxation).
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.
Besides the duty-free store, you will also find the following shops and restaurants in KEF Airport:
Shops at KEF Airport
- 66° North - An Icelandic outdoor clothing store.
- Epal - Icelandic handcrafter home goods.
- Blue Lagoon - Skincare products produced at the world-famous Blue Lagoon resort.
- Penninn Eymundsson - Bookstore.
- Elko - Electronic goods.
- Optical Studio - Eyeglass store and opticians.
- Airport Fashion - Clothing store with labels such as Hugo Boss, Farmer's Market, and more.
- Pure Food Hall - Icelandic store selling food, snacks, and alcohol.
- Rammagerðin - Icelandic souvenirs.
- 10-11 - Icelandic convenience store, located in the arrivals hall.
Restaurants at KEF Airport
- Joe & the Juice - Scandinavian chain with hip, young baristas selling coffee, fresh fruit juices, and sandwiches.
- Loksins Bar - A modern bar serving a wide range of alcohol, coffee, and snacks.
- Hjá Höllu - Wood-fired pizza.
- Kvikk Café - Small cafe with coffee, sandwiches, and pastries.
- Mathús - Cafeteria-style restaurant serving fast and convenient breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Say hi to Praseed, the wide-smiled chef, if you're passing by.
- Nord - Icelandic specialty restaurant. We recommend the lobster pizza.
- Segafredo - Italian cafe.
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 pitstop 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, plus traditional Icelandic seafood restaurants like Kaffi Duus.
There are also many hotels in the area like Keflavik Bed and Breakfast, Hotel Duus and the budget-friendly Base Hotel (located in the old army base now known as Ásbrú, and is painted in very colorful camo).
If you'd like to go for some whale watching, you'll find a tour operator located right by Hotel Duus and Kaffi Duus in the Reykjanes Marina in Keflavik. You can click here to book tickets.
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 European 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 International, 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 Airport To Reykjavik?
Some of you may be renting a vehicle. In most cases, you pick up the vehicle directly from or around Keflavik Airport. So, therefore, you're 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. Our 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 two of the more popular options are Gray Line and Airport Express.
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.
What can I do on a Layover in Iceland?
As previously discussed, there are plenty of things to do in the surrounding area of the airport.
There's the option of renting a car for a few hours or even taking a bus to the Blue Lagoon. There are also regular buses back to the airport.
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.
Renting a Car at KEF Airport
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.
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 agency's 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.