Iceland is open – Are you ready? By Mike Klein and Helga Stina

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.

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A geothermal spot in the Myvatn area. Iceland is a geothermal hot spot. Photo by Mike Klein

Practicalities

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 at www.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.

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The space in Iceland is endless and geothermal pools are easy to find on your path – Photo by Helga Stina

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 of Iceland Unwrapped, a travel service specializing in personalized and customized Iceland itineraries and bookings.

Listen to the locals please – An interview with Hrútur Ærson The Sheep

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.

Happy sheep can fly

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?

Sheep rule Iceland so please make sure to drive safely if you encounter them on the road.

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

IU: Why?

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. 

IU:  Thank you for the guidance

HÆ: So you didn’t think that was baaaaad?

IU: Not baaad at all.  Thank you!

Be aware of sheep crossing the roads in Iceland during summer – They are in full right – Photo by Guðmunda Magnúsdóttir

2020 – Your Travel Year – Is Iceland just a tick in the box? By Helga Stina

“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.

Sometimes it is good to take a break and focus on where you are at and where you are heading – photo by Helga Stina

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 🙂

Every Icelanders pride is shown by the books in the shelves of his home – Photo by Helga Stina in Laugarvatn Iceland

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.

Helga Stina – Founder and Owner of Iceland Unwrapped

It just might be good business – The opportunity of connecting and getting inspired in Iceland

Iceland is known to be a magical place. The nearness to nature, the warm-hearted people and the sense of isolation on this island far away from it all in the North Atlantic.

But why is Iceland a good option for getting inspired? Why would you even consider going to Iceland for a professional event or a conference?

Peaceful fjord in the east. Ideal for a place to gather a group of people and focus – Photo by Helga Stina

 

There are three obvious reasons for considering Iceland as a destination for your company or institution.

  1. Imagine having your group secluded on a island in the North Atlantic where you can focus on the subject, while at the same time, share some extraordinary experiences in nature with the group. It´s great for group building and for getting people to be fresh while working.
  2. Iceland is ideally situated between Europe and North America, with excellent service from the local airline and a number of other carriers on both sides of the Atlantic. That positions Iceland uniquely in that you can join people together in the “middle.” The flight from for example Amsterdam to Iceland takes less than three hours and from Iceland to NY or Boston takes about 5 hours.
  3. Aside from world-class nature, Iceland has hotels and venues that can handle any kind of a visit – be it a management conference, an exposition, a visit to multiple companies or institutions, or an intimate seminar at a boutique hotel with its own hot spring (if you’d like).

But the appeal of an Iceland event isn’t limited to nature, Northern Lights or hot springs.  

The beautiful colors of autumn – Photo by Helga Stina

Iceland Unwrapped builds on a strong network of personal and professional connections across the country to connect our guests with Icelanders from all walks of life, including their own peers and counterparts in their fields.

Sometimes this comes together as guest visits or speakers events – such as professors, practitioners or public officials. But these encounters also include the popular Dining With The Icelanders events, where participants dine in the homes of locals. Hosts include a noted opera singer and all kinds of professionals,  couples and families all over the country. 

The plan is made in cooperation with you to meet your wishes and needs, including all kinds of cultural experiences and connecting to the locals.

Reykjavik has a beautiful coastline – Photo by helgastina

 

“Helga is very involved and makes your trip a unique experience. She has good contacts in Iceland, making it a successful study trip.” (An anonymous client –  Rotterdam)

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About Helga Stina Travel Planner – “11/10. She is a gem. The week was really well organised, before and during – great communication. Many thanks for a great week!”
(Tom Huntingford – Filmmaker in London)
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“The trip was very professional. Thank you so much for your warm hospitality, for your excellent organisation, for integrating a great variety of experiences into the trip and for your active contributions to the discussions. On this third point as well, I think it is important to obtain input from tour operators, such as yourself, so that we are not just discussing these topics in a vacuum but can benefit from the input of Icelanders who work in the tourism sector. “ (Anonymous client)
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“Fantastic job – and academics are a difficult bunch (like herding cats). Helga Stina is amazing, warm, fun and easy going.” (Anonymous client)
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“Well done! you had a lot of us to juggle and did a brilliant job. thank you. It was very professional.” (Jonathan Turner – NLA International Ltd.)
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You want to know what is possible?
Mystical lava fields – Photo by helgastina

 

The Icelandic people – Entrepreneurship and travel in Iceland

 

Are you kidding me? That‘s what came to mind when I visited a travel presentation market in Iceland this week.

Entrepreneurship in Iceland is extraordinary, in my opinion, for three main reasons:

First of all, as there are only 330.000 people living in Iceland, the need for people who can wear multiple hats is immense. When I used to work with young people in the municipality of Reykjavik many years ago, we used to hire really multi skilled people. The engineer and mountain bike geek, the actor and social worker, the musician and journalist  and I could talk forever about the diversity of these combinations.

In Iceland you need to wear many hats to make things work. You need to be able to take a chance on trying new things, be brave and believe in yourself. That is why, in almost every tiny town in Iceland, (sometimes with less than 500 inhabitants) we have a swimming pool, restaurants, choirs, acting groups, reading groups, schools, shops and so much more.

Always good to have dried fish with you in Iceland as you cannot just grab something to eat whenever you need to.

This facts makes it common that the Icelanders use the term „Þetta reddast“ (which means ‘all will work out’) often when things look impossible. You can always find someone, somewhere who can help.

This is what makes entrepreneurship accepted and treasured atop this rock in the Atlantic. People need to help each other, finding solutions and putting on different hats.

Secondly, entrepreneurship is important and common in Iceland due to resources.

Every season has it´s resource needs and you need to work fast in making the most of each season. If it is blueberry picking in fall, mussel picking in all months that have the letter R in them (September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April), trout fishing in the summer, getting wool from sheep in the fall. The summer months are crucial, and the winter months as well, where you can use the time to smoke products, preserve them in sour, and so on.

In Iceland we can promise you weather. All kinds of it. Even in one day.

This means again that people have to work fast together to make the most of things, to be innovative from how to preserve food so you can enjoy it all year round, to how you can create different uses for products (like opening a beer spa at a brewery).

Thirdly, Icelanders are a bit crazy. We believe in ourselves. We rely on our abilities to make things work and we have Viking blood inside so we are eager to explore both new worlds and new possibilities around us.

I invite you to come see for yourself and to experience the entrepreneurship of Iceland in its many forms.

More information about personalized travel planning on Iceland Unwrapped

The importance of connecting, being and having peace

In my talks with many clients traveling to Iceland with Iceland Unwrapped there has been a red thread.

Connection, peace and the possibility of experiencing quietness is at the essence of a journey to Iceland.

My suggestions often include traveling around, stopping, breathing, having a picnic, reading a book, hiking a bit, meeting the locals and laying down in the moss for a little nap, is a perfect way to explore Iceland for some people. And if you decide to read a book by one of Iceland‘s authors that takes place in the areas you travel in, even better.

Iceland is all kinds. There is a chance to do extreme adventures like glacier climbing, kayaking between glaciers, hiking for days, rafting and fishing.

But for some people living in big cities or with intense jobs or personal pressures, the need for peace and inspiration in crucial for their wellbeing, so they choose vacation destinations that offer that.

That is very interesting for a travel planner who is interested in the well being of her clients and wants to offer a trip that is unforgettable for all senses, adding the spice of connecting to inspirational people and hidden gems all around the country.

On my recent trip to Iceland during the holidays, I met partners that I work with in Iceland that focus on wellbeing, on the experience of using your senses to experience Iceland, it´s beauty, power and diversity.

As a busy mum, wife and entrepreneur, I can relate to this need and the imporartance of finding yourself and nurture the senses in a place like Iceland. Iceland is for all. With a travel planner the option of a tailor made experience can give a visitor exactly what they need, away from the crowds.

Would you like to explore, get to know the people and culture of Iceland? Would you be interested in visiting hidden gems and go off the beaten track?

Are you interested in being actively involved in the adventure of creating your own tailor made travel plan in cooperation with an experienced Iceland specialist?

 

Contact Iceland Unwrapped for more information.

 

Let‘s have a talk on possibilities for you if you are traveling alone of if you are traveling with friends, family, your workplace or other people in your life.

www.icelandunwrapped.com

EXCLUSIVE EXCURSIONS

Unwrapping Iceland’s gifts

If you think visiting Iceland is only glaciers, mountains and Northern Lights then think again! There is so much more to this unique and magical country than meets the eye. That is why I love showing visitors just how much they can get out of their stay in Iceland. The reason why I called my company ‘Iceland Unwrapped’ is because that is exactly what I do. Visiting Iceland is a gift no one will forget, but most people only see a small part of it… Through my exclusive excursions I reveal the best this wonderful country has to offer bit by bit.

And the best part? Every trip is tailor-made to your specifications.

What exciting and authentic treats do I have in store for my clients?

Connecting to a network of professionals in Iceland. Are you a company or an institution and would you like to get insights from the Icelanders and from Icelandic society? Please contact us for more information on what is possible.

Professional and educational trips

Tours for professionals in various fields. Iceland Unwrapped has planned trips for professionals in various fields. Iceland has a lot to offer for professionals that would like to be inspired by other professionals, and by the nature and culture of Iceland. Have a look at these options for the possibilities of connecting and being inspired in Iceland. And because Iceland is located almost half way between Europe and North America, you can have your team meet in the middle.

Unique experiences and adventures

Moon Trip – A possibility of stepping in the footsteps of the Astronauts that went to the moon 50 years ago.

Wool in Iceland – Knitting in Iceland and getting into the world of wool in Iceland.

Dining with the Icelanders – The very best food, hosts and produce the country has to offer.

Geothermal Health clinic – Read all about how our healing spas and lagoons can revitalize you and heal.

Female-empowerment trips – We connect successful women with the locals and teach you about Iceland’s fascinating history and how women have emerged as a driving force behind the country that you see today. This is a trip that both women and men should do, as gender equality can never be reached without the participation of all humans.

unique exclusive excursions iceland

Nature and wildlife

Nature photography – Join our local experts and learn how to capture the magic of the country.

Fishing, sailing and diving – You can’t escape the sea when you come to Iceland, and the surrounding oceans produce some of the freshest fish you will taste.

Animal and whale watching – Year round Iceland has some spectacular whale sightings!

Hiking, biking and extreme sports – From horse riding and biking to adventures in the wild windswept wilderness.

Family travel and culture

Iceland for families – Did you know we offer walks in nature where your little ones can discover elves in Hafnarfjordur? Not to mention some amazing days out, museums and family friendly outdoor pursuits.

Iceland and the arts – Meet local authors and artists and learn about how the amazing history and culture of the country has influenced their work. You might even be invited for a private concert in a musicians house.

Glamping and eco-travel – Immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside the responsible way.

And this is just the tip of the Icelandic iceberg!

Personalized travel

If you have a specific themed trip you would like to make alone, as a family, or with a group of people, please get in touch and my team and I will help you plan your dream Icelandic escape or work related dream trip.  We also cater for special needs and very specific requests… No request is too big or unique.

Your travel planner, Helgastina.

HOW IT WORKS

How I will plan your holiday of a lifetime

So you want to go to Iceland and you’ve booked your flights… What’s next?

You get in touch with me!

A unique trip to Iceland

Iceland isn’t just a holiday destination – it’s an experience of a lifetime. A small country with a wealth of history, adventure and scenery that changes daily you need someone who knows Iceland well to ensure that your time there is well spent. Not to mention that you stay safe. Iceland is not a country you venture out in alone.

Individual experiences and service

At Iceland Unwrapped I offer a unique service. I get to know each customer individually and really find out what makes them tick. Sports? Gastronomy? Nature? Getting to know the locals? Whatever your dream holiday to Iceland consists of…

Me and my team can make it a reality.

unique trip iceland, mossy lava field

Expert local guides and companies

I work with the best hotels, guides, transport companies and local attractions to put together an itinerary at your pace and to your tastes. I cater for all ages and types of holidays. If there is anything that you can’t find on this site that you want to experience in Iceland – I can make it happen. Not many others can say that!

It’s easy…

All you have to do is get in touch and we’ll have a chat on the phone or on Skype. We can discuss your budget, timings, needs and everything you want to do during your time in Iceland. You can quiz me on my favorite topic – Iceland – and we can take it from there.

Connecting with Icelandic professionals

My dream clients are people traveling alone or with their families, with their group of friends or colleagues. My dream clients are also professionals that would like to combine connecting with Icelandic professionals and exploring the wonderful nature and culture of Iceland.

A once in a lifetime trip?

For most people Iceland is a once in a lifetime trip… That’s why you get a professional travel planner. And make sure you get the best out of this magical land!

Contact me for a free consultation.

YOUR PLANNER – HELGASTINA

Hi. I’m Helga Kristin Fridjonsdottir.

Native to Iceland, I created Iceland Unwrapped so I could bring the magic of my country to the rest of the world.

As a lover of all things travel, my vision for Iceland Unwrapped was always about connecting people with my homeland. My aim for every one of my customers is to provide a personal, unforgettable and unique experience. I want you to keep Iceland in your heart forever.

Globe trotter

Even though I was born in Iceland, I have lived all over the world – Brazil, Austria, Denmark, Portugal and Holland. Firstly I began my career as a teacher in Iceland, then went on to study an M.A in Global studies and Project Management in Denmark. I’m fluent in Icelandic, English, Danish and Portuguese.

Based in The Netherlands

Delft, in The Netherlands, is now home which I share with my husband Mike and son Gabriel. I’m also in the process of learning Dutch.

Iceland travel planner

My interests and experience

International relations and human history have always been a passion of mine. My life is about networking, travelling and learning about new cultures and languages.

Creating Iceland Unwrapped meant combining my experiences in:

  • Project management
  • Leadership
  • Teaching
  • Online marketing
  • Connecting people
  • Travelling

Iceland travel planner

There are plenty of ways to visit this majestic country, but to really get to know Iceland and its hidden gems you need a personal planner. You need a local who understands the country and understands her customers.

What are your interests?

What activities, sights and experiences would really make your trip to Iceland go from fun to unforgettable? Get in touch and let’s have a chat. I can’t wait to meet you and show you the very best of my home country!

CONTACT ME TODAY

Want to read more about Iceland and all that it has to offer?

Here you can read the blogs by Iceland Unwrapped.