We decided to spend a week in Iceland for the final leg of our European road trip. Icelandair has a free layover policy for up to 7 days on flights going to or from Europe, so we figured we’d take advantage of the no-cost layover and see what all the Icelandic hullabaloo was about.
It wasn’t long after touching down at the modern and sustainably constructed, Keflavík International Airport in Reykjavik, that I had my first aha moment. It was 1:30 AM, and though I could barely keep my eyes open, I could tell the sun was just beginning to rise.
“How long have we been waiting for our bags?” I asked my husband. “What time is it?”
“Remember what I told you about the sun,” Jonathan said, groggy and tired as hell because it was past his bedtime. “The sun never sets during most of Spring and Summer here.”
Of course, I remembered the ins and outs of “Midnight Sun.” A natural phenomenon by which any land north of the Arctic circle, never wholly pulls away from the sun during the half of the year surrounding the summer solstice. But experiencing daylight 24/7 is unique for me, and, well, most of the world. No matter how late it is, it will always feel like dawn. It takes some getting used to, that’s for sure.
We grabbed our bags and took a shuttle to the Downtown Youth Hostel in Reykjavik. We thought about staying somewhere higher end, but the Hosteling International downtown youth hostel, like many in Europe, was nicer than the those in the US and offered private rooms and baths.
The goal was to find a place where we could sleep for 4 hours (yes, that’s all the time we had) and freshen up, before taking another cab to the domestic airport for the first flight out to Iceland’s east coast.
Domestic Flights to Egilsstaðir
A woman at the front desk arranged for our cab to the domestic airport, and I asked her where the “famous Reykjavik hotdog stand was.” She snorted and warned us, “it’s not as big a deal as everyone makes it out to be,” she said. “The hotdogs at the N1 gas stations around the country are just as good if not better.
We took a small commuter plane from Reykjavík Airport (the name confused us too, but this is the domestic airport, trust me) to Egilsstaðir, the most significant city on the east side of Iceland. The airport had a single terminal, and it was easy to navigate. The flight was on Air Iceland Connect and took about 45 minutes once we were up and could use our electronic devices, the perfect amount of time to enjoy an Appelsín orange soda. It’s Iceland’s most famous non-alcoholic beverage, mysteriously similar Orange Fanta or Orange Crush Soda. When in Rome, right?
By 7 AM the sun was out in full bloom and pushed the puffy clouds north and out of the way, creating space for us to look out the window and marvel at the natural beauty below.
Expansive areas of brown, black, blue, silver, white and every shade of green you can imagine. A tundra on the verge of thawing, where lichen grows, snow forms into ice, and glaciers melt into rivers, streams, and bubbling brooks. If it were a giant glacial canvas painted by God, then I’d say he’s mastered his color-blocking skills, because they were “en flique.”
We landed at the smallest of the three airports we’d seen in the past 24 hours, and the rental car shop was on site. There we picked up two cars (there were 6 of us in total) and headed to our first destination—the seaside town of Seydisfjordur.