Summer is coming – Golfing in the midnight sun

NEWS FLASH: There are six and a half month until the beginning of summer in Iceland!

Why not start planning now? After all, even thinking of the midnight sun can add a bit of sunshine to life .

It sounds crazy but the only time I have been golfing in my life was in the North of Iceland on a beautiful summer day in July and it was midnight. Magical view and great company. Golfing did not become my passion but I will never forget this experience.

Fishing at midnight is also one of the things Iceland has to offer and what a way to end the day by a beautiful river, in spectacular surroundings, with fresh air and time standing still.

I also went climbing up a mountain at 8 AM in June when I was a young woman. No time to waste in summer. Everything is possible and the feeling of energy is endless.

It´s a fact that during the summer, visitors and locals are filled with energy during the time of the midnight sun where everything is possible. So why not go golfing, horseback riding, swimming, hiking, sailing, kayaking or dancing at midnight. You can even play chess outside in the midnight sun and I´m certain you could find someone to play with you.

The feeling of peace, space and excitement when you manage to use your day to the fullest while in Iceland during summer. There is nothing like it.

I reccomend it.

Summer 2018 is just around the corner.

Time to start planning your visit to magical Iceland.

I can‘t wait to hear from you – Greetings from Helga Stina owner an founder of Iceland Unwrapped.

Iceland Unwrapped 

(Photo by Frida Hjaltested)

Golfing in the midnight sun

Have you ever thought about golfing in the midnight sun in a magnificent location?

Go fishing in a beautiful bay and have your catch cooked for you in a an amazing authentic restaurant?

Have you had a dream of attending a concert in someones home?

Are you in for kayaking in a deserted fjord?

Would you be interested in meeting the Icelandic horse and explore Iceland peacefully?

If any of this is appealing to you or if you would like to experience something completely different, contact Helga Stina for making your personal dream come true.

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HUH – Football Iceland style

At the moment the Icelanders are waking up after a dream coming true, after the Icelandic football team managed to get a space in the World Cup in Russia in the summer of 2018.

It‘s an unbelievable results for a nation of a bit over 300.000 people.

I have been  thinking since I saw one of the games of this team in France last year at Euro 2016, how it was possible for these guys to manage to get to where they are and I think that is a very important story to tell.

The fact is that the guys who are playing for Iceland in the World Cup next summer are known for a good group spirit where no link is more important than any other. This is an ideology and management approach used in many workplaces in the world with success.

But why are these guys so humble? Why are they not flying around in a cloud of self love and arrogance because of their acheivements?

I think the answer is that they have had to work for it and they know that football isn´t life.

I have a personal experience, where I actually was the boss of one of these players. He was 21 years old at the time and starting his career as a starter for his team. To be able to keep on playing, he had to attend two practices every day. One in the morning and one at noon because they had games in the evening. To be able to do this meant he had to get special permission from his boss to attend these trainings. It wasn´t easy to make it work but boy I am glad that I gave him that permission.

Distances pay a big role too. If it takes only five minutes to get to your training location from work, it makes everything easier. That is the case in the Reykjavik area and in most other towns in Iceland.

This has been the reality of these players to work and play football as well in any kind of weather. At the time there were not many possibilities to train inside, like there are today as a result of Iceland‘s investment in indoor football training facilities, so these guys who now are entering the World Cup are truly modern-time Vikings, and the joy of playing and community in the team is their trademark.

Nevertheless, indoor facilities are not accessible everywhere for all clubs in Iceland, so many of these guys and girls have to play outside in all weather possible on this rock in the North Atlantic.

I have my favorite team already and, you guessed it, it´s Iceland.

To organize a custom Iceland Football Tour, or attend a match of the National Team or one of the country´s top club teams during your visit, contact me on www.helgastina.com

Two years and the importance of connecting when travelling

Our two year anniversary, and the importance of connecting when travelling

Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina is two years old this October.

The reason for establishing the company here in Holland was to try to combine my interest in tourism, connecting people and my love for my home country Iceland.

As you probably know, Iceland has gained increasing attention as a tourist destination in recent years.

What I was aware of before starting the company that many of the visitors that I met on their return from Iceland were super excited to meet me, the Icelander, as they had not made much contact with the locals when in Iceland.

In a country of about 300.000 people there is need of additional work force to receive tourists sufficiently and that is why many of those working in the tourist industry in Iceland are people from abroad who know languages and are excited to be a part of the development of tourism in Iceland.

I thought that of course something more could be done to provide visitors to Iceland a connection to the Icelanders, to make the trip even more exciting and fulfilling.

In the development phase of my company, I was in contact with my Icelandic network to hear about new trends and exciting entrepreneurs working on projects aimed at connecting people together, and to give an extraordinary experience while in Iceland.

This has been my goal ever since and on my trips to Iceland in the last two years, I have been around the country visiting people who offer personal service and unique experiences.

I am very thankful for my network  that has made it possible for me to develop extraordinary experiences for my customers.

Dining with the Icelanders, concerts in the homes of locals, personal guided tours based on the customers’ individual interests are some of the few things Iceland Unwrapped has discovered and developed on this path.

Did you know that Iceland Unwrapped has had a very diverse group of customers? That is the beauty of being a travel planner working with people´s interests and dreams.

Let me give you examples

Friends going on an adventure trip, a mother and daughter having a stopover in Iceland, a group of students visiting Icelandic institutions and enjoying the magic of Iceland between meetings, a group of employees invited by their company on a group building trip and a family of 5 seeking adventures, to name a few.

Did you know that you can go fishing and have your fish cooked for you in a fine restaurant after your fishing tour?

Did you know that there are 4 big international music festivals in Iceland during the year and a lot of smaller ones?

It is a privilege to learn the wishes and dreams of people wanting to go to Iceland and to connect them to the Icelanders.

It has been an amazing learning experience to start a travel company in the midst of a travel boom in Iceland. To decide that I wanted to do different things, and to focus on the personal and connecting people was a great step in offering diverse possibilities for people wanting to visit this beautiful and exotic island, Iceland.

“Meeting the Icelanders was my favorite part of the trip – in part because of the people we were able to meet, but also because that day we saw some of the most spectacular scenery. It was great to have a personal tour, to be able to learn about Iceland and connect with real people”. (Sara – USA)

I look forward to the years to come.

Helga Kristin Fridjonsdottir( Helga Stina)

Founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina

More info on travel planning and extraordinary experiences

Iceland – It is all in the water

I’ve just spent the last three months in Iceland. I had the possibility to explore the country, meet my fellow Icelanders, get to know amazing entrepreneurs, and experience amazing food and cultural events suitable for a country of millions.

But what struck me the most was one of the things that‘s most basic about the place: water.

Firstly, and I am not putting you on, Icelandic water is the clearest you can find, coming straight from the glacier, nothing added. You might as well drink it straight from a river on the country side because it is exactly the same water.

When I first moved to Copenhagen, I brought coffee from Iceland back to Denmark after my  visits home. When it tasted different, I realized was that it wasn´t the coffee that much, it was the water. The water makes the coffee taste, and indeed, Icelandic coffee blenders match the beans to the water to a large extent. It was a shock and an important factor in my endless homesickness during my time in Copenhagen, where the water was filled with calcium and other taste-altering ingredients.

The beer in Iceland, the sodas, the Ice cream, everything benefits from the purity of the water and that is why some of the local ingredients cannot be transferred to other countries. They will never taste the same.

 

 

Swimming, and, more precisely, visiting the local pool is another watering factor in terms of understanding the Icelanders and their culture. The social hot tub is in the hot spot in the swimming pools around the country. Almost every tiny village has one, and in  the capital you have more than one in many neighborhoods.

Not only is this privilege essential for the well being of the Icelanders, an endless source of exercise and relaxation in a country that is cold and dark for much of the year, it is saving the mental health and health in general of the Icelandic people.

Water is all around Iceland – The Atlantic ocean has been a main provider of fresh food for the nation since the settlers decided to take a chance on this island 874.

We have endless songs about the ocean, about the fishermen who provided food for the whole of society and also songs, stories and memories of seamen lost at sea, never to be found again, sometimes even half of towns would go in such a dramatic way in the last centuries, while trying to feed their families. My family included.

Much of Iceland‘s water also comes up from the ground, hot, steaming and sulphur-smelling.  Attractions like Geysir and the hot springs are showplaces for Iceland‘s miraculous geothermal waters. But in nearly every home, hotel room and hostel, there are no water heaters, only water from a geothermally-heated source and a glacial cold source.

Water and ocean has therefore so many meaning for us the Icelanders and to understand us, a background on how it has and is affecting all life, is important to the visitor. In the meantime, when you are making coffee in Iceland, it tastes better if you are a little patient and start with heating the cold water for your coffee or tea. And by all means don´t buy normal water in the Supermarket. Better to fill your water battle with the glorious and free water that is available from the many taps around the country.

More info on personalized travel planning to Iceland on www.helgastina.com

Beer – An important part of the Iceland experience

There has never been a better time to be a beer drinker in Iceland, with an unprecedented mix of clean-tasting lagers and craft-brewed ales, stouts, porters and Belgian-style options available to locals and travelers alike.

While Icelanders are fond of their beer, the good times have only rolled in the Land of Fire and Ice since 1989, when the country lifted its national ban on normal-strength beers.

The ban was intended to keep the hooch-loving locals on the straight and narrow, but its widespread subversion by bar owners and party hosts who mixed the watered-down 2% alcohol “Pilsener” with prime Icelandic vodka, led to a release of the small country’s untapped potential as a truly micro microbrewing superpower.

For those who indulge, Iceland offers a potent mix of microbrews.  Indeed, given the size of the market, even its standard lagers would be microbrews anywhere else.  I am a big fan of two: Gull and Brio, which are both brewed at Reykjavik’s Olgerdin brewery and benefit from the pristine Icelandic glacier water with which they are brewed. Olgerdin also has a small visitor’s center and a range of craft micro beers, the Borg range, anchored by Borg’s Garun Nr.19 Icelandic Stout and with more than 60 mainly British, Irish, and Belgian-inspired brews.

My preferences aren’t universally shared: rival lager Viking Beer, from the city of Akureyri in the country’s north, beats out Reykjavik’s Gull as the country’s market leader.  Perhaps its slogan gives some insight: “You deserve to feel like a Viking at heart. You deserve to drink like one too. You deserve Viking Beer.”

Akureyri’s also represented in the world of craft and micro beers, with Einstok, a local brewery. Einstok produces ales, bocks and porters highlighting the city’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, and enjoys good national distribution.

Sampling these brews is easy in Iceland’s often-excellent collection of pubs and beer bars, with Olstofan and Kaldi being personal favorites.  Olstofan is kind of like a laid-back journalists’ bar with enthusiastic bartenders, and Kaldi more like a US fraternity house from the late 1980s.

Outside of the bars and licensed restaurants, finding a decent beer requires some local knowledge.  Unless you go to the state-run Vinbudin, which has a healthy selection of more than 300 beer options, it will be as if 1989 had never happened.

But a cold lightweight “pilsener” with one of Iceland’s distinctive lamb-based hot dogs, or with a hamburger at a gas station lunch counter has its place. It is a traditional part of the Iceland experience.

If you are coming to Iceland, will beer be on your agenda? Helgastina can arrange brewery visits, recommend watering holes and make sure your favorite microbrew type is waiting for you when you Dine with the Icelanders.

Mike Klein is an American writer and Belgian beer enthusiast based in The Netherlands.