by Alyssa Ramos
Reykjavik was honestly the last place I wanted to stay during my trip to Iceland, which is why I decided to stay in a small town that was void of any crowds or late night parties. The experience I was seeking in Iceland was all about adventures, the road less traveled, and pushing my own limits, none of which I would have accomplished by staying in the main area where over two thirds of the population lives, not to mention the majority of tourists.
If you drive just a mere five minutes north of the airport, you’ll find the most charming little town that sits serenely on a bay that’s painted cool hues of blues, purples, and grays. The town is called Keflavik, it’s the area you land in, but it’s so much more than just an airport town.
It’s a tidy town, with a quaint street by the water that’s lined with little shops, restaurants, and a few hotels. There’s no insane traffic, or any problems with parking, and you definitely won’t have to deal with the clusters of tourists or noisy bachelor parties (there’s an unusually high amount of bachelor parties in Reykjavik).
Here’s a few things that I loved about Keflavik:
Hotel Keilir, where I stayed during my trip to Iceland, is right on the main street and was not only easy to get to and from during my week of adventures, but a comforting sanctuary away from the irritating bustle of the typical touristy capitol area. Twenty four hours of sunlight is hard enough to sleep in, but the added noise and commotion of constant people outside would have driven me crazy!
Instead, after each long day of random roadtrips, I retired to my comfy down-feather blanket and calming views of the water-color-painted bay outside of my window. An added comfort was that it was family-run, which means the owner and her family are not only accommodating, but extremely friendly and caring as well! Every morning they wake up to set up breakfast in a sunny dining area next to the lobby starting at 5am; which is ideal for people waking up early to go on adventures, or checking in for a brief layover.
Every morning if I could pry myself out of the comfy bed in my humble abode before 9, I’d head downstairs for some hot tea, and a typical European-style accommodation breakfast of hard boiled eggs, cheese (and meat but I don’t eat that), yogurt, breads with jam, cereal, and fruit.
What I loved too was that I could literally walk ten steps and be at either a Thai restaurant next door, or my favorite go-to dinner spot, a classy pizza restaurant across the street. Although the wine selection isn’t large (not just there, but all of Iceland), their pizza options more than make up for it. It probably took me about twenty minutes to read through all of the options, and then there were even more non-pizza options as well!
Aside from the extremely extensive and diverse array of pizza options, I also was intrigued by how late they stayed open, and by how many people were still coming to eat around 11:00pm. I know it’s because it stays light out, but I wasn’t expecting a restaurant to adjust working hours because of it!
There are a few other restaurants on the same street, including an Irish bar next to the pizza joint, and a rustic Icelandic spot down the street that seemed like it had a dining area that overlooked the bay. There’s also a “10 11” which is the equivalent to a “7 11” that’s like a convenience food mart that stays open 24 hours, and highly beneficial for when you get home late because you didn’t realize how late it was due to the light.
Did you know that the only place you can stand in the middle of America and Europe in Iceland is in Keflavik? It isn’t a well-known site for most visitors, and there’s not much around it, but that’s what makes it all the more special to see if you can manage to find it.
It’s a straight shot south from Keflavik, down the main road (44) along the west coast, right after the town of Hafnaberg. Make sure to keep your eyes (or navigation) on the lookout for the small sign pointing to it, or more noticeably, a few cars parked in an open area for what seems like no reason.
Once you park you’ll be able to see the actual bridge that crosses over a short, narrow valley of black sand. That’s actually the continental divide between the two continents, and the bridge over it is there to distinguish the rare gap. You can walk across to both continents, or climb down to the black lava sand valley to take some fun pictures “holding up” the bridge, but be sure to read the informational post they have there to get a full understanding of what it is!
Just 20 minutes or so from Keflavik is the infamous Blue Lagoon, a must see site whether you’re visiting Iceland for a few days, or just for a long layover. The Blue Lagoon is one of the Wonders of the World due to its unique color, composition, and geothermal heating. You can buy a day pass and hang out in the cool yet heated milky blue water, or if you don’t have enough time, you can still check it out from a distance, and at least get some great photos!
Towards the west end of the main street in Keflavik is a little bay front park area, with a massive metal sculpture of an artistic anchor that stands valiantly amidst the cool-colored background. Further down is an old steam boat that has sailed its last journey onto the banks of Keflavik, and now stands as an iconic area that also plays home to a museum, restaurant, and even candle-making factory!
This is a charming area to take a walk or drive around, especially if it’s at dawn or dusk when the natural colors of the sky are drastically changing!