A long layover doesn't have to be an exercise in boredom. Make the most of your extended stay by escaping the airport and checking out a new destination with these incredible tours—some are free!

South Korea

If you find yourself at South Korea's Incheon Airport for more than three hours, take a free transit tour and escape the airport for a little while. (Passengers on the tours can enter the country without visas.) The tours, which range from two to six hours long, are totally free (although you'll have to pay for food and any attractions that you wish to enter). Stay close to the airport with the Temple Tour in Incheon, or venture farther out with the Highlight of Seoul City Tour.


Get two trips for the price of one with Icelandair's great stopover fares, which let you land in Iceland for up to seven nights on your way to Europe (from the U.S. or Canada) at no additional cost. Make the most of your time in the country by booking one of Icelandair's tours, including a transfer to the Blue Lagoon, an Aurora Adventure to see the northern lights, and a Reykjavik Grand Excursion to see the capital city.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

See Dubai without having to pay for a visa with Emirates' stopover offer, which includes a free visa for a one-night stay. Since you're saving money on the visa, go ahead and spend some cash on a tour, which will let you maximize your short stay. Take the Dubai City Tour or go for the A Capital Adventure tour of Abu Dhabi. Or head out into the wild with the Secrets of the Desert expedition or the Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari—Emirates has a ton to choose from in its Dubai Stopovers brochure.

Paris, France

Get to the Eiffel Tower, even if you only have seven hours at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport. Book the Paris Transit Tour from Aeroports de Paris and get a tour of the City of Light. On this luxury bus journey that leaves from Terminal 2F, you'll pass by the major monuments and even enjoy a lunch break at the foot of the Eiffel Tower before continuing on your onward flight.

Istanbul, Turkey

Flying Turkish Airlines and have a layover in Istanbul of six to 24 hours? Then you qualify for the TourIstanbul program, which takes international flyers on a tour of the city—for free. Instead of wasting money at duty-free shops or airport eateries while you wait for your connecting flight, you'll be picked up at the airport, treated to authentic Ottoman cuisine, and taken on a whirlwind visit of Istanbul's historical sites and natural wonders before getting shuttled back to the airport in time for your continuing flight.

Beijing, China

If you've got a layover of eight hours or more in Beijing, you've got time to see the Great Wall of China! Beijing eTours will pick you up at the airport, store your luggage, and drive you to the Great Wall (just an hour away!) for a tour of the Mutianyu section, before returning you to the airport to catch your onward flight.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

If you have between six and 12 hours of transit time in Abu Dhabi, get outside the airport and explore some of what the island city has to offer. Etihad Airways offers a number of "transit experiences" for just $61 each. You can have a spa day on Yas Island, get an adrenaline rush at Ferrari World, or hit the beach on Saadiyat Island before returning back to the airport relaxed and invigorated.

Hong Kong

Get a taste of Hong Kong even if you only have a few hours between flights. Two great transit tours are on offer (don't worry, departure tax is waived if you're only visiting for a short time). Choose the Hong Kong Island Orientation, which goes to The Peak (the highest mountain on Hong Kong Island), Aberdeen fishing village, Repulse Bay lookout, and a local market; or the Lantau Island and Monastery Tour, on which you'll get to see the world's tallest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue, a fishing village with stilt houses, and the Ngong Ping Cable Car.

London, England

Really into Harry Potter or James Bond? Take a themed tour of filming locations if you have between six and 10 hours to kill at London's Heathrow or Gatwick airports. The London Taxi Tour will pick you up in the arrivals area (in, you guessed it, a traditional London black cab) and take you to see all the city's famous spots from either the Harry Potter or James Bond series. On longer tours, you'll get to see some of the more iconic London sites before being returned to the airport.

Bangkok, Thailand

Even if you have just six to 12 hours at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can still see the classic sights of the city—transit travelers don't have to clear immigration to take a tour with Oriental Escape. The short tour includes an overview of Bangkok and its temples and museums as well as a boat trip along the river and canals; the longer version features the same, plus time for shopping, a massage and spa experience, and after-dark fun at a night market and bars.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Great Tours You Can Take on a Layover.

Follow Caroline Morse on Google+ or email her at editor@smartertravel.com.

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