A Guide to Iceland's Keflavik International Airport
Updated: Jan 8, 2021
The vast majority of visitors to Iceland arrive at Keflavik International Airport. Capacity at the largest Iceland Airport is much greater than at the country’s other two international airports, serving Akureyri and Egilsstaðir. It will come as no surprise, therefore, if we tell you that 98% of Iceland’s international visitors hub through Keflavik.
Located just 45 minutes from Reykjavik and an easy drive from the country’s top tourist attractions, Keflavik International Airport wins hands down on convenience. Over nine million people used it in 2018, quadruple the arrival figures of 2009 and 2010. Transit passengers are also significant due in no small part to its mid-Atlantic location – flight time to London is three hours and to New York, five. A further 3.8 million passengers used the airport in 2018 on flights between Europe and North America, making Iceland one of the world’s most popular stopover locations. 27 different airlines will touch down on the Keflavik tarmac this summer, including the national carrier Icelandair, budget airlines such as easyJet and Norwegian and big names like United, American, BA and SAS. So if you’re flying to Iceland this year, what do you need to know about Iceland’s most important airport?
Just one terminal to get your head around
One of the most frustrating parts of air travel is the long hike from the gate to the main part of the air terminal, or the aggravation of having to cover a significant distance to make a connection. That’s not the case at Keflavik International Airport. With just one terminal to get your head around, everything’s in one place, making it a sage choice for savvy travellers. Everything you need, whether inbound or outbound, is to hand. The airport is light, bright and clearly signed, with staff on hand to help if needed.
In fact, such customer service was recognised in 2018. The airport ranked highly in the prestigious ASQ Awards in the annual survey conducted by Airports Council International, delivering the fourth best customer experience out of 36 others in its category. Two years before, ACI Europe honoured Keflavik as 2016 Best Airport of its size, a much coveted award assessed by expert judges that reflects excellence and achievement in airport operations. Often, when passenger numbers increase as fast as they have in Iceland, facilities and customer care struggle to cope. It’s a measure of how hard the airport’s personnel have worked that Keflavik international Airport appears on the 2018 award shortlists too.
Everything you need from an airport
Inbound or outbound, travellers can make use of the duty free store for that all important tax-free shopping. Perhaps you might sample Brennivín, a clear schnapps typically flavoured with caraway. Brennivín is the Icelandic national spirit and it has featured on the small screen in everything from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations to the BBC series Vikings. If you’re planning to enjoy a tipple while you’re in Iceland, prices here are more reasonable than elsewhere in the country. Another must is Sóley Elíasdóttir’s range ofscented candles and skin care which take their inspiration from Icelandic nature. This passionate herbalist uses healing locally-sourced ingredients like wild hand-picked birch and yarrow in her products. The airport’s stores have a good range of souvenirs on offer if you’ve been too distracted by Iceland’s magnificent landscapes to have fitted in time for shopping.
Keflavik International Airport also caters well for families. After passing through security, the little ones will receive a gift of animal-themed colouring books and coloured pencils. Pushchairs and strollers can be picked up throughout the airport, meaning you can check yours whenever it’s convenient and of course, make sure you give the kids the chance to have fun at the airport’s play area, located adjacent to the C gates. Plenty of seating close by will please worn out mums and dads, as will the free WiFi.
This Iceland airport also has plenty of food options. You’ll find multinational brands like Dunkin’ Donuts and Joe and the Juice, but as you’re still in Iceland, you should make the most of the opportunity to sample the local fare while you can. On Nord’s menu, choose from Icelandic salted cod, fresh lobster or Arctic char. The wood-fired pizzas at hjá höllu take only a few minutes to prepare, featuring Icelandic specialities like trout and lobster as well as the toppings you’d find back home. For a quick coffee, sandwich or pastry, try Kvikk Café.
Make the journey part of the adventure
For the ultimate freedom to explore Iceland off the beaten track, you’ll need your own wheels. Once you’re ready, the campers are right outside – no need to schlep that luggage across to a distant car park on a shuttle bus.
We all love it when the airport is close to our destination. However, with Iceland’s good roads, light traffic and excellent bus service, it really doesn’t matter that Keflavik International Airport is situated some 50km from the Icelandic capital. The ride into Reykjavik takes you past some wild and rugged lava fields as you cross the Reykjanes peninsula, but you’ll be tempted to detour to the Viking Museum. There, an exact replica of the Viking ship Gokstad, known as the Íslendingur (the Icelander) is housed in a spectacular modern building at Faxafloi Bay not far from the airport. Slightly further out of your way, but utterly worth it, are excursions to see Iceland’s first lighthouse, Reykjanesviti lighthouse, rebuilt in 1907, and the bridge that spans two continents at Sandvik, known colloquially as Leif the Lucky’s Bridge.
Even better, just a twenty minute drive from the airport is the Blue Lagoon, a splendid geothermal spa marooned in a magnificent lava field. With frequent buses calling at the Blue Lagoon en route to Reykjavik, it’s no shock to read that many take a dip on their way to or from the airport. Just thirty minutes after stepping out of the arrivals hall, you can be luxuriating in the warm waters of this unique resort. On-site lockers are sufficiently capacious to hold a large suitcase, while plentiful quantities of fluffy towels and hairdryers mean there’s no fear of arriving at the airport or hotel dripping wet. For many it’s the highlight of their stay: there’s something indulgent about squeezing in one last treat before your plane takes off.
Connecting is easy
For those who need to catch domestic flights, Reykjavik Domestic Airport is a short ride away, in the centre of the city. It’s the base for Air Iceland Connect, Atlantic Airways and Eagle Air, which serve other Icelandic airports and the nearby Scandi destinations of Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Reykjavik Domestic Airport is easily reached from Keflavik International and vice versa. Simply grab a seat on the frequent Flybus service to Rekyjavik’s central bus station and then switch buses for the short hop to the domestic airport. Buy your ticket in the arrivals hall or better still, book a seat online before you leave home. Of course, opting for a rental car or a ride with one of the reputable on-site taxi companies is just as simple. For the moment, there’s no rail transfer, but construction is expected to begin on the aptly-named “Lava Express” in 2022.
If you’re planning on flying to Iceland this year, we think you’ll be impressed with the service and facilities you’ll encounter at Keflavik International Airport.