Gray Line Iceland - Keflavík Airport Guide

Posted by Admin on 04 Apr 2024

KEF Airport Guide - Keflavík International Airport

Welcome to Keflavík International Airport, your gateway to the “Land of Fire and Ice”, the largest airport in Iceland and the primary arrival point for most international visitors.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Leif Erikson Air Terminal (Flugstöð Leifs Eiríkssonar), an award-winning airport named after the Norse explorer who sailed to North America from Iceland five hundred years before Columbus.

Where is Keflavík?

Keflavík International Airport is located on the Reykjanes peninsula in southwest Iceland, 48 kilometers from the capital city, Reykjavík.

The airport is linked to the city by a fast two-lane road (Route 41, known as Reykjanesbraut in Icelandic). There are no trains or monorails in Iceland!

Route 41 takes you on a thrilling ride across marvelous moss-covered lava fields, giving you your first sight of Iceland’s incredible landscapes.

Volcano in Iceland from an airplane

Take a look to your right for glimpses of the recent volcanic eruption sites at Geldingadalir and the road to the world-famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.

On your left, you’ll see signs for the little coastal towns and villages that line the Reykjanes peninsula, including Vogar and Hafnarfjörður.

KEF or RVK?

Like many other countries, Iceland’s primary international airport isn’t very close to its capital city, partly because of its unique geography and unpredictable weather.

But unusually, there is another airport right in the middle of Reykjavík!

Domestic flights connect with a smaller airport in the capital and other towns around Iceland.

Also built during World War II, the “domestic” airport is a connecting point for propellor-engined flights to other places in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.

So, KEF is for Keflavik, while RVK is the city’s domestic airport code.

When was Keflavík built?

Constructed during World War II, Keflavík used to be an American Air Force base.

Originally built to protect the vital Atlantic convoys between the USA and Europe, Keflavík became crucial in Iceland’s postwar modernization, serving both military and civilian flights.

Now exclusively an international airport, Keflavík has undergone significant expansions to accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors to Iceland since the volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajökull put the country on the map in 2010.

Iceland’s mid-Atlantic position makes it the perfect place to break a journey between America and Europe. Many visitors use Icelandair’s “Iceland Stopover” program, which enables passengers to explore Iceland for up to a week without paying more for their plane ticket.

How many visitors use Keflavík?

More than 7.7 million people passed through the airport in 2023, with more than 76 thousand departures and landings.

What does the airport look like?

Keflavík is situated on a spectacular peninsula, so your flight will approach over the sea, offering splendid views of impressive lava fields, including sights of some of Iceland’s most recent volcanic eruptions.

KEF is a single terminal airport, so getting to the Arrivals hall from your plane doesn’t take long. Most flights will disembark via jetways, but occasionally, bus transfers will be used.

Its modern design and style reflect Icelandic traditions, with wood panels and volcanic-looking stone decorated with beautiful murals and fascinating facts about Iceland.

History facts inside Keflavik Airport

One of these is a work by the Icelandic artist Erró, made of hand-painted ceramic tiles, depicting legends of the skies and the air terminal as a place of adventure!

Leif Erikson Air Terminal is one of the best airport terminals of its size in Europe, ranking highly for customer experience, and you’ll enjoy its simple layout and accessible walkways.

History facts inside of Keflavik Airport

The terminal offers several sit-down restaurants and cafés, fast food options, souvenir and clothing shops, banks, currency exchange services, and free Wi-Fi.

These are primarily for departing passengers, but you will also find refreshment options after you leave the baggage reclaim area.

Get ready for the Exit to Iceland sign!

Just before taking the stairs down to the baggage hall, there’s an iconic sight for your Instagram feed.

Exit to Iceland sign at KEF airport

Strike a pose at the “Exit to Iceland” sign – now you’ve really arrived in the “Land of Fire and Ice”!

Don’t forget the duty-free shop!

You might have heard that some things are more expensive in Iceland, so take advantage of the lower prices in the sizable duty-free shop immediately before the baggage carousels.

You’re allowed a personal limit of six units of alcohol and a carton of cigarettes – the locals love these discounts, so don’t miss out on these savings!

Baggage Claim

Once you’ve finished your duty-free shopping, pick up your bags from the carousels and leave the arrival hall. The baggage hall has been expanded recently, so you won’t have to wait long for your cases.

Look out for free copies of the Reykjavík Grapevine, the excellent local listings paper, and other helpful tourist information available to collect.

Look out for the Jet Nest Sculpture!

Just before you leave the terminal, take a walk around the corner on the left to look at the iconic Jet Nest sculpture.

Jet Nest Sculpture at KEF

A large steel egg perches on a nest of rocks, with a “new-born” jet aircraft hatching from it, towering high into the sky.

If you’re a fan of sculpture, you’ll enjoy Áttir, four aluminum figures on basalt columns facing in each of the primary compass directions. Which way will you go?

How does the airport transfer work?

Keflavík is well-served by frequent shuttle buses that speed you to the capital city as soon as you’ve cleared customs and collected your bags.

If you haven’t pre-booked your airport transfer, you can buy your tickets from the Airport Direct counter as soon as you pass through the exit.

It’s the most straightforward and cost-effective way to get to the capital. There’s no need to rush from the baggage hall to grab a seat because the coach departures are timed to connect with arrivals at the airport.

But it is wise to book in advance, to reserve your seat.

If you miss the coach you booked for, you can jump on the next one instead.

The guide will check your booking reference, so ensure you have your confirmation email ready.

The driver or guide will help you load your larger bags into the coach’s hold – but you can take handbags or small rucksacks on board. 

Then you can sit back and enjoy the view! This is one of the most beautiful airport transfer journeys you’ll ever take!

The journey will take around 45 minutes, with one stop en route at Kópavogur. You can request an additional stop if your accommodation is elsewhere outside the city.

Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world and one of the smallest too.

There are restrictions for larger vehicles in the historic city center, so the Airport Direct coaches will stop at the Reykjavik Terminal at Skógarhlíð.

You can request an additional service to drop you closer to your accommodation in the city.

After picking up your bags, you’ll jump into a smaller minibus that will quickly take you to your final destination. You won’t have to walk very far, and there are more than a dozen stops in the city center!

This service has a small increment and is well worth it for the convenience.

The overall journey from the airport to your accommodation should be about 75-90 minutes.

Taxis and private transfers are also available, but these are very expensive – Airport Direct is the best option for saving money on airport transfers.

Car Rental

Several vehicle rental agencies are located at the terminal, and many more offer convenient collection services to their offices nearby.

You can choose from well-known international car hire companies or a selection of independent local operators.

If you’re considering vehicle hire during your time in Iceland, it’s best to book ahead, particularly during the peak summer season.

Are there Left Luggage Lockers?

Yes. As many flights arrive in the morning, several hours before you can check into your accommodation, there are Left Luggage lockers in several locations, including the airport and the bus terminals.

  • Reykjavik Terminal / Bus Hostel Reykjavik, Skógarhlíð 10
  • Reykjavik Domestic Airport, Þorragata, open 24h
  • Reykjavik Campsite, Sundlaugavegur 32
  • Mjódd Bus Terminal, Þönglabakki 4, Vesturgata Car Park
  • Traðarkot Car Park, access from Traðarkotssund

Most hotels and B&Bs will allow you to drop luggage off before check-in.

How do I check on my flight?

You can check on forthcoming arrivals and departures by visiting this link.

https://www.isavia.is/en/keflavik-airport

When should I arrive for my return flight?

When you return to Keflavík at the end of your time in Iceland, allow at least three hours for the departure process. 

In most cases, you’ll make your way through baggage drop and security within 30-45 minutes, leaving plenty of time to grab something to eat, shop for souvenirs, or at the famous 66°North clothing or Bue Lagoon shops.

VAT refunds on larger purchases can also be processed here.

But as Keflavík is a single terminal airport, it can get busy sometimes, so it’s sensible to give yourself plenty of time, just in case.

Passport control is further into the terminal for most departure gates, so remember that you have another process to complete after passing through the main departure hall.

Once your passport has been checked, more shops and refreshment options are on the lower levels, so you won’t go hungry!

How much time do I need for my passport?

Before you travel to Iceland, check that your passport is valid for at least six months after your planned departure date from Iceland. Some visitors may need a visa. Check your requirements before booking.

Pro Tips

  • Clothing: the weather in Iceland is unpredictable, and there may be frequent changes in conditions. Dress in easy-to-change layers with a waterproof jacket.
  • Charging: feel free to use the multiple power outlets around the airport to help you keep your devices fully charged.
  • Preparing: if you’ve read this guide, you’ll be ready to make the most of your time in Iceland!

Velkomin til Íslands (Welcome to Iceland)!

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