A Fashion Person's Guide to 24 Hours in Iceland

How to make the most of an extended layover in the Land of Fire and Ice.
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Whitney Bauck
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How to make the most of an extended layover in the Land of Fire and Ice.

If you've tried to book a flight to or from Europe recently, you might have noticed that some of the best deals across the pond come courtesy of Icelandic airlines. The only catch to those great prices? They usually include a layover of at least 24 hours. It's probably some deal the Icelandic government worked out with the airlines to increase tourism to the out-of-the-way country, which is a pretty sneaky trick and could be annoying if it weren't for the fact that, honestly, who wouldn't want to spend a day in Iceland?

Here, we've rounded up a few of the best spots to hit up if you're a fashion and beauty junkie making a quick Iceland pit stop.

Visit the Blue Lagoon

Start by heading straight to the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in a lava field that's about 12 miles from the Keflavik Airport, where all international flights come into the country. The outdoor lagoon's naturally heated water is rich in minerals like silica and sulfur, as well as algae, all of which purportedly have positive effects on skin, especially for those suffering from ailments like psoriasis. For an extra-luxurious experience, book an in-water massage ahead of time. And don't worry about the weather — the geothermal heating means that being in the lagoon will be a pleasant experience, even if you're visiting on a cold winter day.

Pick up a yoke sweater

These hand-knit sweaters may be an Icelandic folk classic, but they're not just some kitschy relic only favored by tourists. They're genuinely popular with the coolest of locals, too, who often pair them with slim-fitting jeans and funky glasses. They can be purchased from a range of local retailers like the Handknitter's Association of Iceland or a design and clothing brand like Farmer's Market.

Stay the night at Kex Hostel

Sure, you could stay at a fancy hotel instead, but why would you when you could be enjoying the quirky vibes at Kex? Head to the hip spot in Reykjavík, about an hour from the Keflavik Airport, to be near the center of the capital city. The well-loved hostel combines amazing food (as in, so good that locals go there just to dine), great live music in the evenings and infinitely Instagrammable interiors everywhere you look. And don't worry — if sleeping in a room with 15 strangers isn't your cup of tea, you can always book a single or double room. 

Take a hike

There's gorgeous scenery all over the island nation — why else would "Game of Thrones" film there? — but luckily, you don't have to go on a day-long bus tour to reach it. Hike one of the shorter trails near Reykjavík to tackle your fitness goals and take in breathtaking views at the same time. If you only have a few hours, climbing Mount Esja (also called Esjan) is a good bet. Less than 30 minutes from the city by car, the mountain is riddled with hiking trails of different lengths, making it easy to find one that's right for the amount of time you have allotted.

Check out local vintage shops

Thrift store junkie? Head downtown to check out some of the locals' favorite vintage spots. Spúútnik, located at Laugavegur 28b, features a mix of individually priced and by-the-kilo selections, and also runs a warehouse store called Fatamarkaður with even lower prices. Next door you'll find the local Red Cross store, which has a good, low-priced selection and funky interior decor. For a slightly more curated (albeit a little bit pricier) experience, check out Nostalgía, also on hip shopping street Laugavegur.

Get your Icelandic beauty product fix

If you loved the Blue Lagoon experience and want to take it with you — or wish you could share it with your friends who weren't along for the trip — head to the Blue Lagoon beauty shop in downtown Reykjavík to pick up some products inspired by the geothermal spa and Iceland's naturally occurring healthy skin agents. With algae masks and silica and lava scrubs to choose from, you'll be able to relive your Blue Lagoon experience even after you're safely back at home.

Check out local design

Iceland may be a small country, but like its Nordic cousins Sweden and Denmark, this Viking-descended nation is proud of its design heritage and even hosts a fashion-week-like festival every spring to celebrate local talent. In your last few hours in the country, check out some of the best Icelandic brands, like Eyglo, Helicopter and Geysir, for unique designs.

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