This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Exploring Iceland.
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Keflavik Airport terminal building (via Tvr dude123 on Wiki)

Normally when I’m booking flights, I look for those without layovers. There’s nothing worse than waiting around an airport for hours, for your next flight, unless it’s running, breathless, from one terminal to the next, before your gate closes. But this summer, when flying from Brussels to Halifax, Canada, we had an incredible layover. In fact, it was so good, we’re hoping to do it again on our next transatlantic flight.

What could be so great about a nine hour layover? Well, for starters, we spent it in a thermal pool, surrounded by incredible scenery, with access to a swim-up bar. Where was this magical airport you ask? Reykjavik, Iceland – my new favourite transatlantic layover destination.

Andrew and I always look forward to our trips home to Eastern Canada. What we don’t look forward to are the flights. Normally we fly with Air Canada and on a good trip we fly from Brussels to London to Halifax. But, you know how it goes when you’re trying to save money. The more direct the flight, the more expensive it is. Often we end up flying from Brussels to Frankfurt to Montreal to Halifax. By the time we arrive, we feel like we’ve been travelling for weeks.

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Usually our airport layovers look like this…

This year, I heard that Iceland Air was reviving its flight to Halifax and, as I had always wanted to go to Iceland, I was curious how much more expensive it would be. I was shocked to discover it was slightly cheaper than Air Canada and we would only have one layover. Nine hours is a doozy of a layover, so I started researching what we could do with our time at the Reykjavík-Keflavík Airport. That’s when things started looking even better.

You see, Icelanders are smart. They knew they had a captive audience and decided to make the best of it. They did two really smart things to attract transatlantic tourists and their tourism dollars and Euros.

First, the company Reykjavik Excursions will pick you up at the airport and take you and your carry-on baggage on one of two trips. The first trip will deposit you in central Reykjavik, where you can spend the day sight-seeing. The second trip, the one we opted for, took us to the Blue Lagoon.

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But what if they all could be like this…

The Blue Lagoon is an incredible thermal spa, I will be writing more about in my next post. To whet your appetite, here’s a little video Andrew made of our day there.

The World’s Best Airport Layover – Reykjavik, Iceland from Alison Cornford-Matheson on Vimeo.

One of the great things about these layover excursions is you don’t have to worry about your luggage, as it is all safely checked through to your final location. Your carry-on bags can either be stuffed into your locker in the changing room of the Blue Lagoon, or a separate locked storage facility run by Reykjavik Excursions.

But I said the folks at Iceland Air did two smart things. Here’s the second. You can turn your layover, into a stopover of up to 7 days – for no extra cost. So, on our return flight to Brussels, from Halifax, Andrew and I were able to stay in Iceland for 4 days of sight-seeing before we continued on our way home.

So with cheaper flights than Air Canada, the Iceland Air flight must have been pretty bad right? Wrong! We had better service, food and more space than we normally do with Air Canada. The ground crew at Reykjavik Airport were efficient and helpful too.

In fact the only hiccup of the entire layover was a bit of confusion about the Reykjavik Excursion buses. Our only complaint was it wasn’t entirely clear where to wait and which bus to take. Luckily we asked a few of the drivers and found where we had to be.

Needless to say, after a day at the Blue Lagoon, we felt relaxed and renewed. Because the flights were divided into four hour segments, our bodies had more time to adjust to the time difference too. It was the first time we flew transatlantic and didn’t suffer from jet-lag.

So if you’re a North American Expat who travels home regularly, a business traveller or you’re taking a transatlantic holiday, consider flying with Iceland Air and making a layover or a longer stopover in Iceland. Just remember your friends at CheeseWeb when you’re soaking in the Blue Lagoon!

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Let me tell you, Iceland was amazing. We can’t wait to go back. Over the coming days, we’ll be writing more about Iceland, including the Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik and Thingvellir National Park. We’re also releasing a special bonus edition of our CheeseWeb Escapes Ezine focused on Reykjavik. So if you’ve ever thought about taking a trip to this incredible country, make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter!