When people mention Iceland, the first things that generally come to mind are mountains, volcanos, geysers and breathtakingly stunning landscapes.
Oh, they’re all included in the price of a plane ticket (assuming you can rent a car, a guide or take a tour that will get them to you). But, having lived in Iceland since July of 2020, I get a sense there’s another side of Iceland that will have some appeal to those willing to travel this spring and thereafter.
And by peaceful, I don’t necessarily mean “quiet”. I mean, rather, that Iceland works and is more than ready to accommodate its next visitors.
While it will take some time for Iceland’s tourism industry to recover, the country is emerging from the worst of COVID-19 relative to other destinations.
Never a big package-tourism place, Iceland has a great base of small hotels and rental properties (many optimistically called “summer houses”).
Many summer houses are secluded and have scenic views and built in hot tubs, some using Iceland’s famous geothermally heated water. Most have fully equipped kitchens. As seclusion in Iceland does not mean being completely cut off, Iceland’s well-supplied supermarkets are rarely more than a half an hour-hour drive away.
Town life, and the comings and goings in Iceland’s university-town-sized capital of Reykjavik, has remained active throughout the pandemic – with restaurants and cinemas remaining open, and with the local geothermal spa/swimming pools fully operational in most towns across the country.
Reykjavik has an easy feel to it at the moment. No crowds, plenty of dining choices, a selection of small museums and local sights. A brief drive of 15-20 minutes outside the city or its suburbs situates you in sweeping seascapes, lunar landscapes, silent volcanos and steaming geothermal zones. To make the most of your Reykjavik area experience, the services of local experts like Iceland Unwrapped are invaluable now because many sites and locations have closed or are changing hands as the recovery gathers pace.
The mercurial national currency, the Icelandic Krona, is also the most tourist-friendly it’s been in years, bringing prices down to levels comparable to larger cities in North America and Europe, excepting of course the nation’s pricey if diversely supplied chain of state liquor stores.
To be sure, you can come to Iceland and be blown away by the scenery. But travelers seeking peace, quiet, comfort and space will be pleased by a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice. 2021 will be a good time to come.
Mike Klein is Principal of Changing The Terms, a Reykjavik-based business communication consultancy. A US native, Mike has lived in Iceland since 2020 and has also resided in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. He is the former Europe – Middle East – Africa chair of IABC, a leading global communication association. He is particularly fond of Icelandic cod and the Gull brand of Icelandic lager, and is married to Helga Stina, founder of Iceland Unwrapped.
Everything we have taken for granted has been put on hold: such as hugging each other or shaking hands, traveling or meeting up with all of our family and friends at once. Some places have been hit very hard and are still in the middle of this Covid hurricane.
Last month the first vaccines arrived in Iceland. The minister of health, a fine lady, was following the flight on radar to make sure everything would be as it should be and nothing would stop this important cargo to arrive safely to the shores of this rock in the north Atlantic.
There is a relief in Icelandic society now as we can see an end of this situation in sight and possibilities of getting life back to normal, whatever that normal will be.
At the moment health staff are vaccinating our most vulnerable, along people in nursing homes and health personnel, the heroes of 2020 without a doubt.
But what will 2021 look like?
The travel industry in Iceland and around the world has shrunk, collapsed or been put on hold.
Will we be able to recover from this? I am sure we will. But it will take time,
I also know that people have kept on dreaming about travel and destinations because dreaming is important when you are in the middle of a pandemic. Dreams that might come true in the New Year or in the year after that.
Iceland has been a popular destination and will likely see something of a travel revival. Here are 4 main reasons:
1. Space. People need to get used to the idea of being around other people again and will want uncrowded destinations with space for social distancing. Iceland becomes a strong choice because of its low population density and abundance of open space. All 360.000 of us live in a space the size of the US state of Ohio, twice the size of Denmark and nearly two and half times the size of the Netherlands
2. Hospitality. The Icelanders are aware of the importance of receiving guests with respect and the uniqueness of a small society. That is why all around Iceland you can find entrepreneurs who have built up wonderful businesses with their heart, soul, and bare hands to be able to show the best of Iceland’s nature, culture and gastronomy. You can even visit people in their homes for dinner or a home concert. The diversity in accommodation is also important – you can find any type of accommodation on the island, from a farmer’s guesthouse with animals in sight to a fancy hotel in one of the towns.
3. Diversity. There are few places on earth that offer the diversity in landscape as Iceland does. The land of fire and ice offers geothermal pools that are open all year round, waterfalls, glaciers and lava formations that will make the imagination go crazy. Ocean all around, rivers and creeks with pure water to drink on your hikes. The midnight sun in June and the Aurora Borealis in winter are experiences everyone should have at least once in their lives.
4. Distance management. I always recommend my clients to take it easy even as they take their extraordinary excursions in Iceland. Feeling the culture, nature, fresh air and the purest water imaginable is a part of the experience. And to be able to do that you need to know how to do it. Distance is a big part of planning your trip in Iceland. That is why working with locals is essential to make the most of visitors’ time and money.
Keep dreaming. Iceland will be waiting when you are ready. It will be wonderful to receive you in the coming months – or the coming years.
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy new year 2021.
It´s on. Autumn and its sister, the Lady Aurora Borealis.
My husband “likes my craziness,” he says. Even when I drag him out into the night to chase the Northern Lights or for a walk during the day in pouring rain and misery. I guess that is how Iceland affects people. At least my clients tell me so. No time to waste. Only time to enjoy and get the most out of the experience.
I remember receiving a client back to Europe who had been on a three week visit to Iceland during June and July some years ago. It was quite a remarkable experience as even though the flight arrived in the late evening, this friend of mine was ecstatic with excitement, power, joy of life and energy of the midnight sun. Red cheeks and stars in the eyes.
That is what Iceland does to you.
This past week has been filled with autumn leaves walks and northern lights chases here in Iceland.
Iceland is, like most parts of the world, dealing with Covid-19 and it´s consequences both on health and on its national economy.
It is still possible to travel to Iceland, if you are resident in the Schengen Zone or from a select number of permitted countries. Travelers, however, need to start their visits in a 5-6 day quarantine. While they are free to take walks and use any private facilities in their accommodation (e.g. a hot tub if it is exclusive to their own private cabin or summer house) , leisure driving, touring, and visiting public places like shops and restaurants is forbidden until a negative result is secured on a second test, which would end the quarantine.
With that in mind, why not travel to Iceland for two-three weeks of total relaxation, in a cottage in a gorgeous place, with your own hot tub where you can watch the Northern Lights while enjoying a wonderful glass of wine or another drink of your choice. Food can be delivered to your door.
The benefits of this amazing possibility is that you are stuck in one place for five days. You can sleep, read, take walks, breath in the fresh air and dance like no one is watching.
When in your life have you had this possibility to step aside from your busy daily life 🙂 ?
Here are some September memories from Iceland 2020
When the quarantine is over you can go and explore the magic of Iceland at your own phase.
Everyone hopes this extraordinary situation will be over as soon as possible. So do we here in Iceland. Meanwhile let´s enjoy what we can, be with the people we love and keep dreaming and planning.
More information on personalized travel planning to Iceland during Covid 19 times at Iceland Unwrapped
Contact Helga Stína for more information on your personal plan, possibilities and adventures in Iceland.
I guess many of you, like me are wondering if this covid situation will ever end. Will there ever be a covid free world again. Many things have come to a standstill and the travel industry is one of those things.
But what is there to do? There are many aspects on how to address this issue and reasons why it is important.
Tourism will never stop. People have always, since beginning of mankind wanted to explore the world around them and that is not going to change. It´s an important part of being human, connecting with people and places. Keep dreaming. Start planning. Even though you don´t see yourselves traveling until 2021, start contacting those who can assist you in planning your dream vacation. For example to Iceland.
2. There are a lot of great people in the tourist business. People I have worked with here in Iceland and around the world that have put their heart and soul into their work and quest to bring people to extraordinary experiences around the world. We need to support these people so that they will be there for us when travel begins again. You can do that by starting to plan your next trip in cooperation with them.
3. Looking out of the box is essential here. When most of my clients contact me, in the beginning of their planning process for a trip to Iceland, they want to see as much as possible in the shortest time. I have managed in most cases to pursue them to do their trip a bit slower. Connecting to nature, culture and people. After all your vacation is where you recharge and enjoy being alone or with your loved ones, so why not breath in and enjoy to the fullest.
Have you ever had a vacation where you were forced to be in the moment and relax? Is it possible to be a tourist when you have to quarantine? Yes it is. By working with professionals who have your interests and well being in mind you can travel to Iceland, even though you have to quarantine for 4 to 5 days.
Imagine being in a cottage on the countryside with a hot pot outside for your private use and amazing views, nature and walking paths surrounding you. Imagine you get wonderful food brought to your cottage every day. Imagine being able to drive to beautiful attractions to explore, hike, take pictures and breath in the fresh air of Iceland.
When traveling to Iceland these days, all travelers must quarantine for up to 5 days. You get tested at the airport on arrival and you get tested again a few days later to make sure you don´t have the virus.
The only way is up from here and dreaming, planning well in advance and enjoying is essential on our way up. By using a travel planner for your journey you make sure you get the newest information from the location you are traveling to, to make sure your trip goes as smooth as possible.
Keep dreaming – Start planning
Contact me for more information on how to go about when traveling to Iceland during covid times. A personal travel planner makes sure all aspects of you journey are thought of and is in contact before and during your stay to make sure you enjoy to the fullest every step of they way.
Oh well. My home country Iceland continues to amaze me and perhaps it is quite extraordinary how it somehow manages to stay in the discussion as one of the most important places to visit in the world.
In the past months we have been experiencing an extraordinary world. The world came to a stop and traveling was something that was not on peoples minds for the foreseeable future.
But the world has been helpful. In the past weeks there has been amazing publicity about Iceland in various media. This and the fact that Iceland has been successful in managing the virus, is making people opening up for the idea of visiting this rock in the North Atlantic during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A movie by Will Ferrell has been rocking the world in the past weeks. It is about the Eurovision Song Contest and how the Icelanders are obsessed with it. And they truly are, not only in the film.
When I was growing up Eurovision was one of the highlights of the year.
In the times of no TV on Thursdays and no TV for five weeks in the summer there were a couple of golden moments in front of the screen. Eurovision was one of them.
I remember those Eurovision evenings, when we only had one Saturday evening of Eurovision (now there are three). Good dinner, family gathered together, having an opinion on who should win. Amazing hairdos in the 80´s, Plastic Bertrand,Johnny Logan,Celine Dion, and my personal favorite, the Herrey’s singing about their golden shoes. Truly adorable.
One of the shocks of the century was that the Italians wouldn´t win with Gente di mare in 1987 and believe me, the shocks have been many due to the fact that somehow politics between countries has had an impact on the results, where former enemies would put their swords away and vote for each other, or not.
In recent years there have been some amazing songs, in my opinion, like the Portuguese winner. No doubt, this competition brings people together in the harmony of friendship and unity and can have a big impact on the artists involved.
When Iceland started to compete in 1986 we were all sure about that we would of course win. The devastation and shock was almost unbearable when the results were clear. Our song – Gleðibankinn (The Joy bank) ended up in the 16th place. The impact on the Icelanders’ identity will never fully be known and perhaps never to be fully recovered from.
Nevertheless the Icelanders never stop believing in winning and we have been the runner up twice, which was of course unbearable to live through, although no one really knows where to host this big event in Iceland if that would happen 🙂
This year was our year, but this damn virus prevented that from happening with this amazing song. We will probably never recover from that shock.
Eurovision is very integrated into the Icelandic soul. Originally I think it was because of our curiosity about the world around us which seemed far away and out of reach. So this one evening we could be a part of a bigger unit, united with our cool friends and role models in Europe.
Secondly I think it is because we are a small nation of 360.00 people that wants to be a player on the big scene and believes in the power of the small over the big. Kind of like in the old folklore where a small human would conquer over a troll, tricking it to stay out in daylight and turning into stone.
I have been working for and with fantastic people for many years now who all have had in common the dream to visit my home country of Iceland.
People are different and have different needs. Some people love exploring cities, street art, restaurants, cafés, museums, and watching the locals in their daily routines.
It may still be unfeasible to do a normal city vacation these days. But our small but lively capital, Reykjavik, has urban amenities that are open and accessible. Restaurants and cafes are open, museums and thermal pools are back in business as well. And the city is easily accommodating the continuing need for social distancing.
Of course, Iceland has a lot more to offer than a comfortable socially distanced city break.
Indeed, that´s why I often guide people to go straight to nature upon arrival in Iceland. Arriving in Iceland in the middle of the lava field where the airport is located is an amazing experience in itself. But going straight to your first destination with fantastic views and peace is unforgettable, especially when you already know where you are going and have a nice idea of what awaits at the first accommodation.
Even though Iceland is now accessible, preparation for an Iceland trip is all the more critical now than before. Socially distant accommodation that gives people get the space and peace they need is plentiful. Such accommodation can range from spacious chain hotels to private villas to summerhouses to boutique hotels. But the right accommodation is not always easy to find. Beyond Reykjavik, dining and catering options need to be identified in advance of arrival.
Once that´s handled, there will be vast spaces available for sightseeing and exploration, and even the most popular spots will have significantly more space than previous years. People in the tourism industry are focused on making the most of it during this unique situation, and offering additional experiences to add to the Iceland Adventure.
Every season has it´s charm in Iceland, depending on your wishes. Midsummer sun, northern lights, snow activities, autumn colors or refreshing spring are all great options to explore this amazing place.
Summer is the most traditional tourist season, and this year´s version will have the bonus of having the best travel conditions of the year, combined with the least crowded tourist population in recent memory.
This week, Iceland’s prime minister,, Katrin Jakobsdottir, announced that the island nation will be accepting visitors from 15 June, setting up an unusual tourist season at a time when much of the world is slowly emerging from lockdown.
With Covid-19 nearly eradicated from its shores and the probability of in-airport testing for arrivals, Iceland stands on solid ground in extending its invitation to the not-yet-travelling public.
But what awaits the Iceland traveller?
Iceland will continue to practice social distancing. So don’t expect packed bus tours to the iconic if less-than-overwhelming Golden Circle. You’ll need a rental car or a local guide.
But it will be worth it. The magic of Iceland is that the scenery – and the weather – changes every ten minutes. Alpine peaks give way to rolling hills, which give way to rock formations, plunging valleys and the occasional if small bits of desert.
With 2/3 of the 360,000-strong national population comfortably ensconced in the agreeable capital of Reykjavik, population density is negligible in the rest of the country. Open spaces, big landscapes, waterfalls, and steam fields beckon, generally with little worry about being 1 meter from the nearest civilian.
Icelandair, the national airline, will expand its service to cities yet to be identified. With competent, professional service, Icelandair is taking full precautions under the current circumstances.
For those with no desire to fly and time on their hands, Smyril Line offers auto ferry service from Hirtshals in Northern Denmark to the scenic if small town of Seydisfjordur on Iceland’s East Coast, home to Nord Austur, a sushi bar with Michelin-star aspirations.
Socially distant accommodation is relatively easy to find. Rental homes, boutique hotels and country hotels make good bases, and there are also comfortable options in Reykjavik. Iceland Unwrapped offers personalized itineraries and bookings atwww.icelandunwrapped.com
Restaurants have been open for a while, and meal delivery is also well-developed in Reykjavik. Some country hotels offer room service, and self-catering is easy with the country’s main supermarket chains: Bonus, Netto, Kronan and Hagkaup.
Soon, the jewels of the nation – public swimming pool and hot tub complexes – will open as well. More human in scale than the famous Blue Lagoon, they offer a year-round warm-water experience for about $10 a visit. Safety is ensured through good hygiene and only a tiny amount of chlorine.
Iceland is known to be a pricey destination, but this season will see lower prices in an all-important effort to kick start the vital tourist economy.
Mike Klein is a Netherlands-based writer and communication consultant who is planning an Iceland move in August.
Helga Stina is the owner ofIceland Unwrapped, a travel service specializing in personalized and customized Iceland itineraries and bookings.
The economical crisis in 2008 – Iceland had a total meltdown in 2008 when all the banks in the country collapsed. People lost their jobs and homes and this nation needed to rethink it´s values and priorities. That was a success in many ways where Iceland continued focusing on fisheries and added a huge focus on tourism, having about two and a half million tourists visiting the country in 2019. Seven million went through the airport in Keflavik. Have in mind that there are 360.000 people living on the island.
Iceland´s national teams in football – Have in mind again that there are 360.000 people living in Iceland. We have sent both our women and men’s team to the Europa Cup in football and the men´s team even made it to the world cup.
These achievements are something to be proud of and are important to have in mind when thinking of where you want to travel to in the future. What options are you going to have and where will you feel safe.
Iceland has been managing the Covid-19 crisis successfully and that is important to know when choosing a travel destination in the future. The information flow and the structure of the response has been noticed internationally.
Have in mind that crisis are nothing new for the Icelanders. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, weather conditions and isolation has been a part of this nation since the beginning. The fish has come and gone and the weather changes constantly at times.
Being first with something is important to the Icelanders and sometimes it kind of happens, that the Icelanders are first with random things like
..and did you know that the name Iceland is a misunderstanding? Think about it. Why is Greenland called Greenland and not Iceland?
Iceland is ready for another comeback
The ability to adapt to new situations is something the Icelanders are extremely good at and just as we speak the Icelanders are promoting traveling in their own country this year to support the amazing work that has been done in building up tourism in Iceland in the past years. Thinking out of the box and doing the job is a very Icelandic thing to do.
In my opinion there have been too many tourists in Iceland at times, making it difficult to preserve the fragile nature and authentic culture. In a new beginning there is a possibility of a change for the better in offering more personalized approached with respect for the nature and culture. See more about my thoughts here
The solidarity of the people is something the Icelanders are brought up with, knowing that everyone needs to take action to survive in crisis. Everything is interconnected and persistence and optimism is key, coming out of this challenging situation.
So Iceland is ready to have another comeback and will be ready to receive tourists again as soon you are ready.
Me and my partners in Iceland will make sure to offer you a personal approach, hidden gems, connecting to the locals, having social distancing in mind. There is so much to see and do and there is plenty of space in Iceland.
“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” (Rahm Emanuel).
I know many of us are wondering “where to next”? How is travelling going to look like? What is going to be possible? What, if anything, will remain the same.
I see this challenge as a great opportunity to change the way we look at travel and service to travelers. I see endless possibilities and creations in coming years in tourism despite this crisis.
My view on travel for years has been that less is more. Authentic is sustainable, and its immensely important to connect with the locals if we genuinely want to connect the world.
I have been running Iceland Unwrapped for the past five years. When I was researching about how to go about starting my approach, I came across blogs and information on celebrities who had been so fortunate to travel to fantastic locations, like Iceland, having a personal travel planner doing the planning.
I thought to myself. Why can I not offer this approach to people who are not celebrities. People who don´t want to follow the crowds and people who need a personal approach to their traveling and needs.
So I did.
Meeting clients on their terms
Iceland Unwrapped focuses on meeting clients on their terms, having their needs in mind. Time, money and dreams play main roles in the travel planning approach. Getting people to connect with one another is also an aim – both to create a richer experience for the client, and to make the world a more connected place.
I have developed the concept and am now offering the same approach for people who visit Delft in The Netherlands, where I live.
I receive families, individuals, groups of friends, workplaces and specialist groups who want to be inspired in a new location.
Now we are in a big crisis for many people. Tourism has been hit in a hard way. Many of us are wondering what will happen next. How will tourism look after this crisis and how are we going to recover?
Even though I think many people are realizing how life can be more simple, with working from home and being confined to limited areas being the current norm, the yearning for something different remains alive.
The likely need for continued social distancing builds in a challenge for destinations and providers to meet the needs and importance of people to enjoy, connect, and experience the wow factor while keeping safe and being more physically distant.
How will this show up in real life?
Transport is not going to be the same. It will not be possible to shuffle loads of people in planes, ships, trains or busses having the principles of social distancing in mind, at least not until a vaccine takes hold.
As you know, there are two ways to get to Iceland. By plane or by ship.
There is a ship going from Denmark to Iceland with a stop on the beautiful Faroe Islands. It is possible to bring your car and therefore avoid renting a car in Iceland. My prediction is that there will be less people on ships like that or limited service to prevent people from dining together for example.
Flying will also be a challenge to ensure the social distance. Fewer passengers on each plane is a logical guess and less service perhaps. It will be interesting to see how this develops because people are not going to stop traveling forever but we will be traveling in a different way and perhaps less frequently.
A challenge regarding accommodation is the service level. Focus on personal accommodations, small or middle size with an experience of servicing smaller crowds, with the personal approach as key, is the future in my opinion. At least in the nearest future. We have to have in mind as service providers that people are skeptical and perhaps afraid of being to close together with people they don´t know. That is a going to something to have in mind when planning tourism in the future.
Could the future include breakfast rooms with more spaces in between and bye bye to buffets?
Everyone needs to eat so thinking out of the box is essential here. Less clients each time and more care when serving is key. There are many challenges here and also many entrepreneurs in toursims that are geniuses in finding sollutions and fun ways of addressing this issue.
This situation offers a unique opportunity of making trips and adventures in Iceland and around the world more authentic and personal. Many fantastic companies in Iceland are offering trips for smaller groups and individuals and the creativity is incredible. I am fortunate to be working with partners that think out of the box with creative solutions and experiences as key. This will be essential when traveling and experiencing the near future. Talking together and finding solutions together is key here, to make tourism work again with a different focus.
Dining with the Icelanders has been the flagship of Iceland Unwrapped where 14 families and individuals open their homes to travelers in Iceland for the amazing experience of connecting and dining a simple meal together. The options are endless both in connecting people through interests such as cross fit, knitting, history, medicine, horses, photography, music or whatever the travelers are interested in knowing about.
In the future I can see this option being possible having sanitation and social distancing method in mind, at least until a vaccine has been discovered.
Thinking out of the box
Overall these are challenging times but also an opportunity of growing, thinking out of the box and create a more sustainable tourism experience for travelers around the world.
It´s now we need to enjoy the creativity and braveness of the many entrepreneurs in tourism to be able to create fantastic options after this challenge we are facing.
So just to sum my ideas up.
More personal approach to meet the needs of clients with different needs than before, such as avoiding crowds during their entire holiday.
Cooperation between partners to use each others strenghts.
Thinking out of the box for soulutions.
Keep dreaming – Iceland will be waiting when you are ready
Iceland is going to be waiting for you when you are ready. To find solutions for you trip, contact your personal travel planner to maximize the experience.
Today is the birthday of one of my biggest role model in life. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who served as president of Iceland from 1980 to 1996.
Vigdís ís 90 years old today.
When Vigdís became president I was 8 years old. I was staying on the country side with my mother after having been ill some months before in the hospital. We stayed at this wonderful health guesthouse where my mum worked and I had the freedom to be in the country, surrounded by wonderful people and nature. Truly an unforgettable experience.
When Vigdís got elected president in August, I woke up in the morning early and went to the kitchen where my mum was preparing breakfast for the visitors. My mum was listening to the radio and dancing around the kitchen of joy.
The reason was that Vigdís had become the first woman in the world to be elected president of a Republic.
Against the odds, she managed to win over her male presidential opponents, a single mum of an adopted daughter and a breast cancer survivor.
Growing up with Vigdís as my president influenced me and my peers immensely. It is unimaginable to think about it being different. Children in Iceland even wondered after Vigdís had been re elected for the third time, if it was even possible for a man to hold this office.
So today I am thankful. I am thankful for having had the privilege of growing up with an intelligent, independent, human, no bullshit, emphatic, powerful woman as my president for 16 years.
I am also thankful for having had the opportunity of meeting Vigdís on two occasions in Copenhagen where I was teaching Icelandic children their mother tongue in our beautiful culture house in Copenhagen.
I was starstruck for the first time and only time in my life (even though I had made the unforgettable Pelé for a coffee in Iceland, years before).
Vigdís reminded me of, when we talked some years ago, that there was no higher purpose and privilege than to teach children their mother tongue. Icelandic is spoken by around 330.000 people so her efforts in protecting the smaller languages of the world has been one of her greatest achievements.
I think the world should celebrate this day, 15th of April every year as a reminder of an extremely brave woman from Iceland who decided enough was enough and that men and women should have equal opportunities in life to lead and influence our world.
Til hamingju með stórafmælið Vigdís Finnbogadóttir!