It feels quite incredible that four years have passed since I founded what is now called Iceland Unwrapped, my Iceland travel planning business. Iceland Unwrapped offers unique travel experiences based on a personal approach, deep knowledge of the country‘s hidden gems and a commitment to help visitors connect with the Icelanders, Icelandic culture and the country‘s natural beauty.
Originally, it was an idea to let me use my skills and soften my homesickness for Iceland. But by now, Iceland Unwrapped has developed to a company that allows me to cooperate with amazing and inspirational people from all around the world.
Over the last four years, Iceland Unwrapped has sent more than 250 travelers to Iceland, each visiting on an itinerary specifically tailored to their personal, family or group interest – all designed to help each traveler get the most of their Iceland stay.
My approach has been one that focuses both on sharing the natural beauty and diversity of Iceland and on connecting with the Icelanders and their culture. More than 150 of our travelers have participated in Dining With The Icelanders – our program of home visits hosted by Icelandic families in every part of the country.
Not only are my hosts excellent cooks, but they are knowledgeable and interesting people with stories to tell and they are interested in hearing about other people and cultures. This is how we make the world a better place.
The missing connection
When I started the business, no one was fully specializing in personalized Iceland itineraries, and few were offering visitors opportunities to meaningfully connect and interact with Icelanders. Indeed, the idea arose when I was at an expat party in Amsterdam. I was talking to some guests who had been three times to Iceland, and, yet, I was the first Icelander they had had a real conversation with, despite their travels.
That shocked me. I realized that most of the tourists coming to Iceland were not connecting with Icelanders or getting the full, authentic experience of being in Iceland. The feeling of Iceland was missing.
My clients come from all kinds of backgrounds, mostly from Europe and North America, but also from further away. An increasing share of the business involves professional and academic groups, along with families, couples and individuals. One customer‘s sentiment is something we aim to achieve with every visitor: “It feels like being a part of the family”.
Part of that care involves developing plans that can be followed safely. Iceland is a land of fire and ice and has to be respected as such. Advice on how to travel around, what to be aware of and where to find information is essential when you are traveling in a country with ever-changing conditions, where anything can happen, and the distances can sometimes be challenging. We therefore make sure that visitors can get in touch with someone who knows where you are, what you need and how to make it happen.
A fantastic team
Even though Iceland Unwrapped is a small business, it takes quite a team to organize, support and engage our visitors from idea to experience. We are a tightly knit network of friends and family in Iceland, Denmark and The Netherlands, including the 16 families across Iceland who host visitors for Dining with the Icelanders.
Meanwhile, this year saw us bring two groups from Iceland to Delft in the Netherlands and one from North America. While we have no plans for world conquest, I do think our approach to travel might actually…travel.
Greetings – Helga Stina Founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina