Making the Most of a 24 Hour Stopover in Iceland: Tips for Hiring a Local Guide

When I found out that we could take a trip to Paris and include a stopover in Iceland, I knew I had to book the ticket! Icelandair started doing a stopover for those flying to or from major European countries back in the 60s, but it didn't really start to gain popularity until the 2000s. And heck, even then, I'd say most travelers don't even know this exists! If you book your ticket on Icelandair and select the option for stopover {it's easy to miss, so take caution when you book your tickets!}, you can stay in Iceland anywhere from 24 hours to 7 days for no additional fee. Once I started researching things to do, I realized that 24 hours may not be enough time to see what we wanted to see. At least in the most traditional way. I started to get frustrated, thinking that maybe all we'd get to see was a geothermal lagoon and the airport hotel! But I didn't give up and let me tell you, we saw more of Iceland than most get to see! Want to know how? Keep reading!

icelandair stopover 24 hours what to do

Making the Most of a 24 Hour Stopover in Iceland


When I started doing my research on things to do in Iceland, I found that there are several very popular tours offered, including the Golden Circle Tour and the South Coast Tour. Both are possible to do individually as a day tour, however, digging into tour options I ran into a couple of roadblocks.

Roadblock 1
The airport travelers fly into is Keflavik, which is 50 km from Reykjavik, where any of the tours I found left from. 

Roadblock 2
Transportation, it seemed, was going to be an issue. See also roadblock 1.

Roadblock 3
We had limited time and a lot we wanted to see!

Want to know my solution? 

We hired a private local guide to show us around Iceland. After spending 13 hours with Saga from Viking Women tours, I know we made the right decision!


Why Hire a Local Guide?

When you have limited time to visit a location, hiring a private local guide is your best option. This will often cost more than taking a traditional tour, but this splurge is often well worth the expense. 

Here's why:

Maximize Your Time

On a tour, you are only as fast as the slowest member in your group. With a private guide, you can make the most of your time by customizing the tour for your group. On a tour, some locations could be an hour-long {or more!} stop. After the first ten minutes, you might find yourself ready to move on, but with a tour group, you can't do that. With a private guide, you can maximize your time and spend more time at the places that interest you, and less time in those that don't.

Hiring a Local Guide is Like Renting an Expert

With a local guide, you get more one on one time to ask any questions about the culture and traditions that you might not be able to do in a tour group. We spent hours getting to know our local guide, and Saga told us everything from local Icelandic cultures to superstitions and everything in between. I love getting to know the history of an area, but having the opportunity to ask about everyday things like family traditions and comparing life in another country {from healthcare to college education!}, is something that you'll rarely get the opportunity to do in a group setting.

Check out Saga's Instagram for more information!

You'll Get the Best Tips!

This is something I learned when we booked a Flytographer in Italy a few years ago. A local guide will give you the best recommendations for good restaurants, good shopping, and other sightseeing tips. My best advice {if you have more than 24 hours like we did!}, is to book a private guide at the beginning of your trip, and then you can use their recommendations to make the most of the rest of your trip!

Make the Most of Your Visit

A good local guide will help you make the most of your visit by pointing out the off-the-beaten-path things you wouldn't have discovered on your own. Again, this is something I learned the hard way, and after multiple visits to Pike Place Market in Seattle, I took a food tour, and now visiting the market has never been the same for me! This is true for a local guide in the areas that you visit. They will point out things you wouldn't have noticed or known and will help you make the most of the time that you have while visiting.

Personalize Your Visit

A good local guide can personalize your visit and help tailor your trip to things that interest you and your personality. Our local guide in Iceland realized that we were both very excited about the baby sheep we were passing on our drive, so she made it a point to pull over at a local farm and we watched the sheep in the field before traveling on. This isn't something you could do with a tour group.

24 hours in iceland

Some Tips:

Join travel groups on Facebook for the area you are visiting, to find recommendations to local guides with a trusted reputation

Plan your travel to maximize the hours of daylight that you have during your stay. We were able to take advantage of our whole day since we landed at 6:15 am.

Communication is key! Know what you want to see and what's important to you, and communicate that before you go. Let your guide know your ability/activity level and anything that might make travel harder/easier for you.

iceland travel tips

24 Hours in Iceland with a Private Guide

I had several opportunities to communicate via e-mail with Saga from Viking Women Tours, and she was able to tailor the perfect trip for my daughter and me on our 24-hour stopover. We spent 13 hours with Saga, this is what we saw and what you could see too if you hire a local guide in Iceland. 

Note: Not every guide will attempt to hit all of these sites. Many will tell you that it's not possible. Our guide had led tours for years and never attempted to hit all of this in one day either, but after doing it with us, she now knows it's possible. Saga is your guide to Iceland! 

{I'll be going back to Iceland to take a Laugavegur hiking tour with her for sure!}

Geysir Geothermal Area

Watch jets of boiling water blast into the sky every 5-10 minutes in one of Iceland's greatest natural attractions!

tectonic plates in Iceland

Thingvellir National Park

Stand between tectonic plates and soak in the history of Iceland, you'll see cracks in the land that have been caused by the continental drift of the North American Tectonic Plates and the Eurasian Plates. It was here that the government of Iceland was assembled in 900 AD.

gulfoss waterfall iceland tour

Gullfoss Waterfall

The most stunningly beautiful waterfall taking a 105-foot drop into a canyon and the most unique waterfall I've ever seen! On a sunny day, the water rushing down often has a gold tint, and this waterfall is often known as the golden waterfall.

walk behind waterfall iceland


Walk the pathway behind an unbelievably beautiful waterfall where you can fully walk around the pathway that encircles this waterfall. It's an unbelievable site being able to experience these falls from behind!

black sand beach iceland

Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach

Find enormous basalt stacks and a beautiful black sand beach. Keep your eyes peeled for puffins here and watch out for the waves. It's best to keep your distance and stay away from the water's edge.

Solheimajokull Glacier

The fourth-largest glacier cap in Iceland, it's 5 miles long and over a mile wide! Our guide Saga is also a glacier guide {you need a professional guide to hike the glacier!}, so keep that in mind if you'd like to hike the glacier as well! 

sky lagoon iceland

Sky Lagoon

Unwind with the ritual, a 7-step Icelandic bathing experience, and soak in these beautiful geothermal pools. Our local guide was able to explain all we needed to know before we spent time in one of Iceland's newest geothermal pools. She shared how to bathe and prepare for taking a dip and what to expect {many Americans struggle with having to shower nude communally before entering} when we got there. 



Where to Stay

At the end of the day, our guide picked us up again at the lagoon {just sent her a quick text!}, and she drove us to our hotel for the evening. We stayed at Aurora Hotel at Keyflavik airport booked through The room was comfortable and breakfast was included. It was actually the best free hotel breakfast I've had in ages! When we checked out, we literally walked less than 5 minutes to the airport terminal. It was unbelievably easy, just like I like!

There are a LOT of hotels in Reykjavik. Many will tempt you with deals. We had an early morning flight and make note that Reykjavik is at least a 30-45 minutes drive from the airport terminal. Since we didn't have a car, we didn't want to have to worry about transportation for an early morning flight. Keep that in mind when you book a hotel.

Don't forget to pack:
Travel Outlet Adapter
Waterproof Rain Jacket
Wool Layers
Microfiber towel in case you want to dip in a lagoon!

All in all, we literally could not have planned a better stopover in Iceland. We had the best guide and made the most of our 24 hours! If you are limited on time, or you opt for the longer stopover, take advantage of a private guide. You won't regret the splurge! I promise. 

If you are wanting to reach out to Saga at Viking Women Tours for a custom tour of Iceland with a local guide, her e-mail is or send her a dm on Instagram

disclaimer: this post may have affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing through them, I may receive a small commission. These small purchases help me to continue to keep writing content and creating at Rachel Teodoro. Thank you!

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