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.
Many of us are in shock due to this horrible virus attacking us all around the world. It´s an unprecedented situation and we are all trying to figure out how to function in this changed world.
This is of course devastating and challenging in many ways for various reasons.
One – People are afraid and insecure and when that is the case people make strange decisions like buying all toilet paper rolls possible in every shop.
Two – Businesses stop with people losing their jobs making future planning difficult and scary.
Three – People have to reshape their daily lives when staying home all day, working, homeschooling their children and use different methods in shopping and providing for themselves.
Four – For the travel enthusiasts. It is difficult to plan ahead as it is difficult to know when this crisis is over.
But there is a positive side
As I am working in tourism thinking out of the box is important at these challenging times.
What I always enjoy the most when working with my clients is to use a good time to plan ahead.
The focus is on making the Iceland trip an unforgettable one, where you connect to the Icelanders, experience hidden gems, extraordinary scenery and the feeling of Iceland.
My aim in my company is always to connect people and offer authentic trips.
“Iceland has been a bucket list destination for me since I was really young. My husband and I finally decided to take the plunge this year and visit with some of our friends. I knew trying to arrange my own travel plan would be quite time consuming and I frankly did not know where to start. We called upon Helgastina to help us and it was the best decision we made. She took care of everything. All we had to do was choose accommodation from a list of recommendations she provided.
We were provided with a complete guide for day-to-day activites for every area/region we were in. She also was spot on with our request of 50% “touristy” activities and 50% relaxing/quieter activities. We had a wonderful trip. I will definitely be planning another trip in the future to explore more of Iceland.
Thank you again Iceland Unwrapped for such a wonderful vacation” (Thandi Storey – Traveling in Iceland in the summer of 2019)
The looking forward to is very important and especially in the time of being stuck home and not able to make the travel dreams come true at the moment.
So in these strange times, I would like to invite you to look at Iceland as a destination in August, September and October 2020…or whenever fits your agenda.
Starting a conversation about your dream trip is important and when you work with a personal travel planner like myself, the playing with ideas, looking at possibilities and looking forward to will make your trip even more enjoyable.
If you would like to see how it works or what the focus of Iceland Unwrapped is please don´t hesitate to contact me to schedule a call. It doesn´t matter if you are thinking of traveling in 2020 or in 2021. Starting to dream and plan is a wonderful possibility.
With only 350,000 human residents, some people think Iceland lacks a diversity of opinion. But at Iceland Unwrapped, we have what it takes to seek out local expertise where it can be found.
For a thoroughly different perspective, we interviewed Hrútur Ærson, Iceland’s oldest sheep, for a special perspective on the place he has called home since 930.
IU: You’re very old for a sheep.
HÆ: Yes, I know. I’ve been roaming around Iceland since end of settlement 930.
IU: How have you managed this?
HÆ: Iceland isn’t the biggest country and I know all the good hiding places by now.
IU: So you’ve seen all of Iceland?
HÆ: No. Haven’t been to the Blue Lagoon yet. Or the Westman Islands because I’ve never been able to stow away on the ferry
IU: But you have been everywhere else?
HÆ: Yes – certainly everywhere a visitor can get with an SUV. I used to be more adventurous, but then again, I am several hundred years old.
IU: What are your favorite places to visit?
HÆ: I usually walk the Ring Road every two or three years. The main thing is to do it in opposite directions, because the look and feel of everything changes based on the direction, time of the year, and the amount of light at any time. The amazing thing about the ring road is that the scenery is constantly changing. In a couple of hours’ walk – or ten minutes drive time – the landscape is unrecognizable. Mountains change to desert to prairie. I always love that trip. The Highlands of Iceland are also extraordinary. Only important to get down from there before winter arrives or you are toast. Or as we sheep say – A toast with smoked lamb.
IU: What do you do in the years you don’t walk the Ring Road?
HÆ: I really like the Snaefelsnes Peninsula. It has a varied landscape, and it’s a bit grassier than the Ring Road, which I find quite satisfying. The glacier is also a wonderful place to chill.
IU: What do you recommend for visitors to eat?
HÆ: DEFINITELY THE FISH
HÆ: I’m a sheep. You can figure out the math.
IU: OK, I’ll keep quiet about the lamb.
HÆ: Thank you.
IU: Do you think Iceland has too many visitors?
HÆ: Not too many, yet. It depends on how people visit. It’s always nicer to see Iceland on one’s own, but you have to really look out for the environment. Don’t leave a mess. Listen to the advice of us, the locals. Stick to the tap water and respect the rights of sheep, horses and wild animals.
“That´s over and done with” is something an old friend of mine sometimes said about both good and bad things and events in his life.
But is traveling something you should just get over and done with, to tick a box, to show off on social media?
Is it time to start thinking of how you want to travel in the new year 2020?
Iceland has been a very popular destination in the recent years due to a famous volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull glacier, great marketing of tourism authorities and amazing entrepreneurship and courage of people working in tourism in Iceland. The innovation is quite incredible and worth exploring.
But is Iceland a destination to tick the box? Where are people traveling to in Iceland and how do they see this destination.
Many people contact me with a very solid view on what they would like to see in Iceland, and perhaps want me to confirm that that is the only thing to do in Iceland. The Golden Circle, The South Coast and Reykjavik are usually the destination people mention as an absolute must see on their journey. Others don´t have any idea on what to do or see and are up for an adventure.
More and more of my clients mention that their friends and family have been to Iceland and that they don´t want to take the same pictures as their friends did. They want something new and more and more people have the need to get connected to the Icelanders. With this social media focus I think we are heading in that direction, more face to face encounters like in the old days 🙂
Is it possible to connect with the locals?
Dining with the Icelanders has been a great success since I started offering this possibility 4 years ago. The 14 individuals and families around Iceland who work with me on this are all unique people with a big heart and a lot of knowledge and curiosity about people and other culture. It always works both ways. Not to mention the great food they make for their guests.
It is quite incredible to be able to connect people with all kinds of interests together for a meal in the warmth of a home in Iceland. Politicians with politicians, health professionals with health professionals, teachers with teachers, feminists with feminists, knitters with knitters, cross fit enthusiasts with other cross fit enthusiasts and so on and so forth. The consequences are sometimes incredible and sometimes people come from completely different directions and just enjoy each others company and form friendships for a long time, and continue talking and even meet again.
Iceland is for sure not a tick in the box, been there, done that. When traveling around Iceland and into the highlands in the summer of 2019 my husband, who is American, mentioned that any one of the beautiful gems we visited would be enough as an attraction in any other country. Iceland has thousands of these gems and they are located all around Iceland. You just need to now what you are doing to enjoy and yes, you might need to come again. And for goodness sake take your time to enjoy and relax at the same time. Vacation is about recharging and enjoying and nature is in charge over there, you can plan as much as you like, at the end of the day nature can decide if you have to stay in one place for longer, reading a good book or if you can move forward to explore. That is the beauty of it. Iceland puts you in your place and Iceland is the perfect location for that if you don´t think of it as a tick in the box destination.
More on personalized travel planning, dining with the Icelanders, Icelandic culture, people and hidden gems on www.icelandunwrapped.com
Contact me for a chat on possibilities and to see if we match together in making a perfect travel plan for you and your fellow travelers in Iceland.
Here you can find out what season fits you the best when traveling to Iceland.
Thirty miles from the Arctic Circle, in Husavik, a town with 2200 souls, a small but ambitious museum invites visitors to experience stories of exploration – including the most complete explanation of Iceland’s own “lunar mission” as a training location for the Apollo astronauts.
“The Exploration Museum tells stories of all types of exploration – from the Vikings to caves outer space. The common themes – human curiosity and the desire to uncover something new,” said Örlygur Hnefill Örlygsson (Orly), the museum’s founder and leader.
The story of “Iceland’s Lunar Mission”
Orly’s own interest in exploration dates back to his early childhood, to the time of NASA’s Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. In spite of the tragedy, Orly began to develop an interest in space and in the reasons why people were interested in heading there. “My mother bought me a book, I was so interested – in space, planets, space suits, and even though I focused on other things when I was 10-25, my interest was re-sparked when I found out that the Apollo astronauts had trained here.”
“I was reading a book of old newspaper articles and saw an article, but also noticed there was not an effort to put the whole story together, which dated from two training missions in 1965 and 1967. So I started to gather the oral history of the event – locating the people involved, the drivers, journalists, and caterers, and they had a lot of stories to tell.”
“I managed to get some good stories and some amazing photos, which form the heart of the exhibit,” Orly added.
In collecting the stories, Orly noted a number of themes:
The astronauts themselves: “It was very powerful to get to know the astronauts. The stories about them were still vivid fifty years later. The astronauts were expected to be role models, and they had to be very discreet about their partying activities. And they partied a bit in Iceland too. In order to purchase liquor, they created a coded language with a local journalist to radio in orders. ‘Blue shirts’ was code for Vodka, ‘white shirts’ was code for whiskey. They also went fishing and did the touristy things one did here in those days.
Why they selected Iceland: “It wasn’t just that Iceland bore a resemblance to the moon, but that the types of geology were relatively similar compared to other locations around the world. As most of the Astronauts were trained as test pilots, they needed to learn geology and learn to pick the best rocks to return with. It’s a common misconception that they came here to practice moonwalking.”
Connecting with local history: the mission was not secret, and the Astronauts even had a press conference when they arrived. One of the first things they mentioned is that the Icelandic Loftleidir airliner they had flown from the US was named for Leif Eriksson, the Viking explorer said to have been the first European to land on North American soil.
The Exploration Museum’s exhibit is built around these stories and photos, but also includes personal items from the astronauts, an Icelandic coin from the astronauts’ first trip, rock samples used during the geology part of the training and even a small moon rock.
Exploring beyond the museum
As part of the Exploration Museum’s mission, Orly and his team also offer interested travelers opportunities to visit some of the locations where the astronauts trained. “We can take people to all of the places, and we have actually had eight of the thirty two astronauts come here with their families.”
The mission of the museum also focuses on stimulating the spirit of exploration more broadly. Every year, the museum hosts the Explorers’ Festival, where up to eight explorers from around the world come to exchange their stories, be they astronauts, cave specialists, or even scuba divers. Aside from sharing their stories, they share their art, sketches, poetry and music, and the Leif Eriksson Awards are given for life exploration achievements and for young explorers.
Here is a video focusing on how Iceland and the area near Husavik can be used for training purposes for future astronauts.
For those who make the six-hour trip from Reykjavik to Husavik (or the faster but pricey AIr Iceland Connect flight), there is much to explore in the nearby area, including glaciers, fjords, bays and opportunities to get out onto the sea. In the summer, it is also possible to drive across Iceland to Husavik through the stunning and largely untouched Icelandic Highlands.
If you are interested in being a part of an extraordinary trip visiting the highlands of Iceland and specially chosen locations, a cooperation of The Exploration Museum and Iceland Unwrapped, please have a look at www.moontrip19.com
Travel time can be in August and September 2019
This trip combines the wonders of Iceland with an adventure of a lifetime in the highlands and with a tailor made exploration trip in the Husavik area. This trip is for groups of families, friends, workplaces or anyone that would like to explore extraordinary nature, get to know the history of the exploration to the moon with experts in the field, don´t hesitate to contact us. All you need is a group of minimum four and a dream to do a trip like no other.
Iceland has four seasons. Even though , they tend to come and go rather randomly. That means you can have snow in June in some places. You can have a “red Christmas“, as we call it, without any snow (almost destroying the holiday spirit, as it is not very Christmas-like in Iceland when there is no snow). You can even also have four seasons in one day, as I‘ve experienced on surprisingly high number of occasions.
In the Winter, Icelanders read books voraciously, and we are obsessed with coziness: candles, good food, music, knitting or singing, and swimming of course in the warm geothermal pools. There is nothing like sitting in a hot tub in the middle of freezing cold weather with a blizzard going on…one is safe and warm in a geothermal pool, and you don´t even feel the cold when you have to walk back through the same blizzard to your locker rooms to shower and get dressed. I dare you to try it. It makes a Viking out of you.
I remember a Danish friend of mine who was traumatized by the cold in December when he had to run 50 meters (or walk-run in agony) to the hot tubs at the swimming pool in Reykjavik. He jumped into the warmest one he could find, but that was shock number two! When he got to the good one, I couldn´t get him out as he didn‘t want to ever leave. Whenever he goes to Iceland he needs to go every single day to the pool and it doesn´t matter if there‘s a blizzard or not. Add a dash of Northern Lights…need I say more ??
I could go on about the winter season in Iceland, but even though it is the darkest time of the year and the weather can often be blustery and rough; we can always look forward to the national book flood happening in December when the Icelanders read like there is no tomorrow and life is not fulfilled until you have received at least one if not two books for Christmas.
Winter is a wonderful time to visit Iceland. It‘s even better when you can connect with the locals over a home-cooked meal or through a tour to come of Iceland‘s hidden winter gems.