Learn about Keflavik International Airport (KEF), also known as Reykjavik Keflavik Airport, the country’s only international airport. In 2019 alone, almost nine million passengers arrived here. Continue reading about Keflavik Airport to learn about the arrival process, how to get to Reykjavik, and even stop at the Blue Lagoon along the way.
Photo above from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Simon Law. No edits made.
Keflavik International is the primary Iceland airport, located at the tip of the Reykjanes Peninsula, the country’s southwesternmost region.
Although it serves the capital, Keflavik Airport (KEF) is not the same as Reykjavik Airport (RKV). The latter is located close to the city center in Reykjavik and serves domestic flights only.
The leading airlines that fly to Keflavik International are the prestigious Icelandair and budget airline WOW, the two national carriers. Over thirty other international airlines connect the airport to more than ninety different destinations. New travel routes are being added regularly as Iceland’s popularity skyrockets.
Despite being relatively small, KEF Airport is modern and offers the same facilities you’ll find at large airports worldwide, only on a smaller scale. The airport has restaurants, bars, cafes, a convenience store, a VIP lounge (with showers), banks, car rental companies, a smoking area, and duty-free shopping.
Icelandair Saga Lounge accepts non-Business or First Class passengers at a cost, and it also welcomes passengers from other airlines who hold a high loyalty status. At the time of writing, it was not available to Priority Pass and Lounge Key cardholders. There’s free and unlimited Wi-Fi available, and a password is not needed.
Families with small children can take advantage of a dedicated play area in the South Building by the C Gates. Strollers are available throughout the terminal.
Keflavik Airport’s arrivals hall is located on the first floor (ground level). Upon arrival, you can make use of the airport’s free Wi-Fi, and ATMs are available in the baggage claim area and the main arrivals hall.
Duty Free Iceland is also available in the arrivals area before the gates. Considering the price and the lack of availability of alcohol in Iceland, it’s the best place to buy your preferred drink for the trip. Otherwise, you’ll have to locate specialized alcohol shops, which have limited opening hours, are sparse in the country’s remote regions, and have high taxes and duties.
At the arrivals hall, you'll also find four car rental options (Avis, Europcar, Budget, and Hertz), money exchange services, and a convenience store where you can buy a local SIM card. However, if you have a SIM card from anywhere in the EU/EEA, it will work in Iceland as it does at home.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, photo by Antony-22. No edits made.
The airport is 31 miles (50 kilometers) from Reykjavik - around a 45-minute drive. There are many options for transport from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik. If you are renting a car in Iceland, this is probably where you’ll be collecting it.
Otherwise, shuttle buses depart day and night, or you can just book a private airport transfer.
The Blue Lagoon, the iconic health spa renowned for its healing azure waters, is 14 miles (23 kilometers) from the airport, along the route to Reykjavik. Many visitors prefer to visit Iceland’s most famous attraction right after arriving in the country or on the way back to the airport.
Most airport shuttle bus services offer the option to stop at the Blue Lagoon for a few hours before continuing the journey into Reykjavik or the airport at no extra charge.
Keflavik International Airport is a relic from the "invasion of Iceland" in World War II when Allied troops took over the island nation following the defeat of its colonial ruler, Denmark, at the hands of the Nazis. The British laid out a landing strip in the town of Gardur, but considering Iceland’s incredibly strategic position in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, one strip was not quite enough.
Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Superjet International. No edits made.
After taking control of the "occupation," US troops built and opened two airfields for military purposes in 1942 and 1943. After returning the property at the war’s conclusion, the United States reclaimed it in 1951 following a controversial defence alliance with Iceland.
This pact, and the general joining of NATO in 1949, caused decades of national protest, comparable to the "Women’s Day Off" marches in 1975 and the "Kitchenware Revolution," which followed the 2008 economic crash. The circumstances, however, also allowed decades of development of the main international airport in Iceland.
The airport first started to separate civilian and military use in 1987, with the opening of the Leifur Eriksson Terminal. Named after the first European to settle the Americas, it would go on to handle all visitors coming to or leaving Iceland by air.
The arrangement that the US would provide Iceland’s defenses continues to this day, but their permanent bases at Keflavik were left upon the treaty’s expiration in 2006. The airport was thus moved under complete control by Icelanders and has since expanded as a civilian hub, becoming the main airport in Iceland.