A 101 Guide to Keflavik Airport for First Timers

Updated: Aug 18

If you’re headed to Iceland, then you are pretty much guaranteed to begin your adventure at Keflavik International Airport (KEF): one of three international airports in The Land of Fire and Ice.

The other two are in Akureyri in the North and Egilsstaðir in the East. However, it is Keflavik that welcomes about 98% of international flights into the country. So, odds are you’ll be spending at least a few hours in and around this airport.

When you arrive at Keflavik, you will find that it is quite a diminutive airport with just one terminal. It is actually a real relief to deal with such a compact space and not have to rush between terminals. Even so, Keflavik has had to handle a huge increase in visitor numbers over the past decade.

Keflavik airport signpost

While this does not include the major Covid period, the airport was welcoming about nine million visitors each year pre-Covid. This figure is approximately quadruple the number of arrivals touching down just a decade before.

Despite this exponential increase in footfall, the Keflavik Airport staff and management went above and beyond in terms of their service. In fact, the airport team has won several awards for exceptional airport facilities and customer care.

They were even shortlisted several times in the prestigious Airport Council International ASQ Awards. So, it is safe to say that you’ll be in good hands once you touch down on Icelandic soil.

Where is Keflavik International Airport

Keflavik International Airport is located close to the town of Keflavik on the Reykjanes Peninsular. It is in the region of Reykjanesbaer and is about fifty kilometers from the capital city of Reykjavík.

Is Keflavik Airport the same as Reykjavík Airport?

No, there is another airport much closer to the city center of Reykjavík. However, this one is for domestic flights only, so be careful not to go there for your flight home!

Finding your way around at Keflavik

As mentioned earlier, the airport is quite petite, which makes it quick and easy to navigate around. With only one terminal and two runways, it is simple to find your way.

There will be none of that confusion with last-minute dashes between terminals or long walks to your departure gate. Baggage pick-up and onward flights are well signposted, too. As far as airports go on the stress-o-meter, Keflavik is very relaxed and things generally run smoothly here.

Keflavik airport exit sign

Airport transfers from Keflavik to Reykjavík

Most visitors arriving in Iceland will likely head directly from the airport into Reykjavik city center. Some might choose to head straight off on a road trip or take a connecting flight to the north.

But we recommend, especially for first-timers, to spend a couple of days in the capital. The journey from the airport to the city center takes about forty-five minutes. Let’s look at the various options for airport transfers.

Keflavik Airport Shuttle bus service

This is certainly the most cost-effective and convenient way to get from the airport to a hotel in the city.

KEF Airport shuttle bus service is run by a company called Flybus and is specifically set up to cater to visitors. The buses run regularly throughout the day and night, both to and from the airport. There is plenty of space for luggage on board and the buses run pick-ups and drop-offs from outside the terminal.

The drop-off points in the city center are particularly convenient for the main hotels and guest houses in the capital. You can also book your passage in advance to correspond with your flight arrival time. In this way, you know that you have a guaranteed seat on a conveniently timed bus.

Keflavik airport shuttle bus sign

However, if you don’t get around to it, don’t worry. You can simply hop on the next available bus, and with more frequent departures at busier times, you shouldn’t have to wait long for a spot.

The cost of a return journey between the airport and any stop in the city is around $30 USD. So, the price for the service is pretty economical as well as very convenient.

Taxis in Iceland

Of course, the other option is to take a taxi from the airport, or vice versa. Taxi drivers are very reliable in Iceland, and fares are strictly by the meter. They are on the more expensive end of the spectrum, though.

A one-way trip from the airport to central Reykjavík will cost approximately$130 USD. Therefore, the decision will depend on your travel group and their preferences.

Motorhome, campervan or car hire

There is another option open to you if you will be renting a campervan for a road trip around Iceland.

Many Iceland RV rental companies offer a service where you can pick up your rental vehicle at the airport or close by. This works well if you are planning on heading straight off on your Iceland adventure.

Keflavik airport camper rental area

In fact, even if you would like to spend a few days exploring Reykjavík first, then it’s a good bet. There is an excellent RV campsite just a twenty-minute walk from the city center. The Laugardalur Campsite makes a great base from which to explore. And you’ll be able to get to know your RV and get into camping mode straight away!

Things to do at Keflavik Airport

Duty Free Shopping

As in all airports, a spot of retail therapy can be a great way to kill some time before a flight.

There are lots of great souvenirs to choose from in the various outlets at Keflavik. From that bottle of Brennivín you fancied, to that puffin toy you forgot to pick up for your niece. Snapping up last-minute holiday gifts is a mainstay of duty-free shopping before your final leg home.

But don’t rush through the duty-free too quickly upon arrival in Iceland, either. Especially if you like to enjoy a drink or two on your holidays and you’re traveling Iceland on a budget.

Yes, we are talking about alcoholic beverages. We don’t want to advocate heavy drinking, of course. But for many people, enjoying a glass of wine in the evening is one of the pleasures of a good holiday. If you like to regularly partake in such pleasures, then it can get quite expensive in Iceland.

Duty Free at Keflavik airport

That’s why stocking up on a few bottles of duty-free wine or spirits is one of our top budget-friendly Iceland tips.

Restaurants at Keflavik

Another good way to while away your time at the airport is by enjoying a meal or a drink.

Keflavik has several good restaurants, cafes and bars where you can grab a table or pull up a seat. There are many well-known international brands dotted about the airport, such as Dunkin' Donuts or Joe and the Juice.

But for some Nordic fare, head for a sit-down meal at Nord. If you are after a quick bite, hjá höllu dishes out delicious pizzas at a good pace. Choose from the usual toppings or go for something with an Icelandic twist, such as trout or lobster.

Families at Keflavik

Families are really well catered for at Keflavik Airport. Small children, in particular, can get quite fed up with all the waiting that is usually necessary at an airport. This, in turn, impacts their parent’s experience, and it’s not much fun for anyone. Therefore, the Keflavik Airport team has come up with a few solutions to combat this.

Once you have passed through security, kids are presented with coloring books and pencils. There are then plenty of comfortable and spacious seating areas where you can all relax together. To blow off some steam before your flight, take small children to the play area next to Gate C.

Adults and teens can kick back on the nearby seating and connect to the airport's Wi-Fi. Pushchairs or strollers are available as well if your little ones get sleepy.

Kid's play area at Keflavik airport

Things to do nearby Keflavik

In recent years, Keflavik International Airport has become a popular stopover destination for flights between the US and Europe. Often you can stay a night or two in Iceland at no extra charge en route between the two. This is a great option as there is so much you can do in Iceland in a day or two, especially without straying too far from the airport.

Even if you only have 4-5 hours between flights, there is much to do in the immediate vicinity. You can easily head out on a mini Iceland adventure and return for your onward flight in good time.

The most popular option has to be a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon. This is just a twenty-minute journey from the airport. You can arrive by taxi, but the cheaper option is the shuttle bus that stops at the spa before continuing to Reykjavík.

An incredible destination that will give you a real flavor of Iceland in a short space of time, just remember to book your time slot in advance as the Blue Lagoon is very popular amongst tourists.

Blue Lagoon Hot Spring Spa

Another great place to visit is Viking World in the town of Keflavik. It is less than a ten-minute drive to the museum, so a taxi is a good bet. You can also catch the 55 bus, but you’ll need to walk and the whole journey will take something like forty minutes each way.

The museum houses an impressive Viking boat and offers a fascinating insight into Iceland’s Viking past.

KEF Airport is Iceland's main getaway

Keflavik International Airport has become Iceland's main hub over the years, so its services have been gradually improved and extended. There are other international airports in Iceland, such as Akureyri and Egilsstaðir, but Keflavík Airport sees perhaps the most foot traffic.

It is a reasonably easy-to-navigate airport that promises a hassle-free arrival in Iceland. If you still need more information or directions, there are several informational points you can head to, so there's nothing to worry about. Just focus on enjoying Iceland to the fullest!

Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? KEF Airport is prepared to welcome you, arms wide open!


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