Keflavik Travel Guide
Contrary to what many may think, planes arriving in Iceland do not land in Reykjavik. Instead, their wheels hit the tarmac in Keflavik, 50 kilometres to the southwest. For many visitors, their experience with this place is solely about the airport.
However, if you have the time or interest, this sizable town has plenty to see and do. From museums to storybook trolls, this place has it all!
Come check out our Kelflavik travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Keflavik, Iceland.
Got tonnes of time to kill before your flight, or during a layover? Make time for a trip to Viking World. Of the many museums in Keflavik, this institution stands out the most physically. As the name suggests, its creators dedicated this place to covering the exploits of this nation’s Viking ancestors. Centuries ago, they set sail for this barren volcanic isle, setting up a society that persists to this day.
As they set up North Atlantic colonies, they sailed on transports other European kingdoms would take centuries to replicate. A replica, which historians sailed to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the Newfoundland colony, is this museum’s biggest attraction.
This specimen enjoys a canopy that defines the architecture of the building that holds it. However, it isn’t the only thing worth seeing here. There are also exhibits on Norse mythology, Icelandic history, and outside, there are replica turf houses. In summer, a petting zoo makes this place especially family-friendly.
To make the most of your time here, pick up an audio guide at reception. Doing so will provide context that the displays and captions can only hint at. Finally, eat at the cafe before leaving. They put on excellent breakfast buffets, and at lunch, their soup earns raves from visitors.
Got a bit more time on your hands, or visiting Keflavik as part of a comprehensive Iceland trip? Head over to the Duus Museum next. This large wooden structure is the centre of arts and culture for the entire region.
Within, you’ll find a variety of galleries, exhibits, and displays dedicated to local artists, history, and nature. Without question, this attraction is best known for its collection of model ships. Through these creations, you’ll get to see the various fishing boats used through the ages.
Meanwhile, this building’s art galleries have enough modern portraits and sculptures to keep you busy for hours. When you do finish, though, end your stay by checking out Keflavik’s role during the Cold War.
Despite being home to only a few hundred thousand people, Iceland has quite the vibrant music scene. Learn about it by spending an hour or two exploring The Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Inside, you’ll get to trace the roots of Icelandic music, which dates back to the early 19th century.
Of course, many of the names enshrined within its walls will be unknown to you. But, recognizable names include internationally-known artists like Of Monsters and Men, Bjork, and Sigur Ros.
Finally, ensure that Stekkjarkot also makes onto your Keflavik itinerary. This outdoor attraction features the turf houses that the ancestors of modern Icelanders lived in almost without exception. As recently as the mid-20th century, locals were still living in these abodes (albeit, versions that their owners modernized).
Today, Icelanders live in houses made of wood, metal, or concrete. But, many turf houses remain as a reminder of the not-so-distant past. In Keflavik, Stekkjarkot is a group of turf homes that travellers can visit. Up close, you’ll see how packed earth managed to keep out the elements for generations of Icelanders.
Travelling as a family, or want to see something odd? Make time in your Keflavik trip to see the famed “Giantess in the Mountain”. This attraction has its basis in Icelandic legend. Rife with faeries, elves, and trolls, this nation’s folklore has given authors plenty of writing prompts.
One of them, “The Giantess in the Mountain” by Herdis Egilsdottir, had long captured the imagination of Icelandic children. Named after a troll who befriended a local girl, it turned into a 16-story series. In the last one, the pair made their final voyage together to Reykjanes, a town in the Keflavik area.
In keeping with the popularity of the series, a local art group carved a real-life incarnation of the troll. Standing over five metres tall inside a cave carved into a rocky hillside, it is quite the sight. The touches added by caretakers are amusing as well. Sound effects like snoring help bring this legendary character to life.
Clear your head after a long transatlantic flight with a walk along the coastal cliffs of Bergid. These volcanically-formed wonders will astound you – as you walk along its edge, your jet lag will begin to clear. That’s how all Icelandic holidays should start!
Finally, take time to pay your respects at the Anchor Monument before leaving Keflavik. Before tourism took over the economy, fishing was the primary industry here. For many, it still provides steady employment.
This simple monument pays tribute to the unlucky seafarers who failed to return home to their families. The sea gives much, but tragically, it taketh away – this memorial captures this sobering truth.