Iceland 2021 – When you can travel again safely

You want to come to Iceland when you can travel again?

New flights open up possibilities – but you will need a local to navigate.

Hengi foss waterfall – Photo by Gabríel

Despite a flareup of COVID in recent days, Iceland has had a relatively charmed ride through the Pandemic – and the island nation in the North Atlantic will be the first in Europe to welcome vaccinated visitors from North America.

 

Recent flight announcements by Delta Airlines, who will run non-stops from Boston, Minneapolis and New York JFK, indicate that a summer or at least a autumn tourist season is on, with previously-banned Americans the target market.

Photo by Helga Stina

Vaccine-fortified Yanks will doubtlessly find Iceland an attractive destination.  The limited flight volumes will allow travelers to socially distance throughout sparsely populated Iceland’s scenic majesty, and prices will be more reasonable than in previous years due to a tamer Krona, the country’s mercurial national currency.

Photo by Helga Stina

 

BUT…

 

The Iceland of 2021 is not the Iceland of the 2019 Lonely Planet guidebook.  The churn in the hotel and lodging market has been immense, many ownerships have changed hands, some properties are out of action entirely, and the best rates or deals aren’t necessarily found on foreign websites.

Námaskarð – Photo by Frida

 

Some travelers preferred the support of a local travel planner like Iceland Unwrapped in previous years, but in 2021, local support could well be the difference between a long-awaited trip of a lifetime and a hodge-podge of open and closed restaurants, lodgings and tourist attractions.

Geysir geothermal area – Photo by Thandi Storey

“Iceland has managed to do OK through the pandemic, and there will be lodgings and restaurants and shopping to accommodate the visitors we expect.  But local knowledge of what’s open, what’s good value, and what’s available that’s truly exceptional could make the difference,” said Helga Kristin (Helga Stina) Fridjonsdottir, owner of Iceland Unwrapped.

Hot geothermal pool, Iceland
A hot geothermal pool is a perfect way to start or end the day – Photo by Helga Stina

“For starters, most visitors don’t even know what lodging types we have here.  We have hotels of all sizes, but we also have guesthouses, which are similar to hotels but often lack en-suite bathrooms, and we have what we call summer houses – private cabins ranging from basic to luxurious and often boasting water or mountain views and geothermal hot tubs,” Helga Stina added.

The scenery in Iceland is often breathtaking – Photo by Helga Stina

Another thing is that visitors often fail to allot enough time for driving the longer-than-expected distances between lodgings when on a regional trip or a tour of the “Grand Circle”, the island country’s national ring road.  “There are many irresistible places to stop, and travel times get longer with every stop.  A waterfall here, a glacier there, or a charming coffee place there, and you pack on the hours.  A travel planner who can identify both the major sites and the best hidden gems along the way can help a visitor get more bang from the clock and the buck,” continued Helga Stina.

 

Working with a travel planner such as Iceland Unwrapped involves a planning fee and an agreement to have the planner book lodging and excursions.  

For more information, visit www.icelandunwrapped.com.

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.

 

Iceland 2021 – Covid does not take the beauty away

It´s been a long time now. A long time since we have travelled the world.

Iceland, which has seen incredible increases in tourism since the financial crisis in 2008, is currently facing 10% unemployment because of collapse in the tourism business since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Icelanders have seen worse through the centuries though, with fishing stocks failing, multiple volcanic eruptions, and weather that is so unpredictable that you can sometimes only plan your day of activities on the spot.

Photo by Helga Stína
Photo by Helga Stina

So what is happening now in Iceland?

Iceland is semi open. It’s much more open than Western Europe, for example. There is no lock down in Iceland. Shops are open (with restrictions) as are restaurants, schools and cafés. There is a limit on how many people can gather: no more than 10 people can meet.

To name a few other things, we have had a beautiful volcanic eruption happening just some km outside the international airport area in a perfect spot. Not dangerous to people, unless they are trying to do something silly like bbq -ing in the lava. It’s now only a medium hard hike away from the nearest road, following some quick maintenance by the authorities.

Here is a live broadcast of the volcanic eruption

Meanwhile to make sure Iceland protects it´s daily life from Covid, the government has implemented new rules at the borders where travelers from high-risk “red” covid zones are obliged to stay at quarantine hotels directly after arrival for 5 days. This followed problems with visitors who refused to respect the mandatory but harder-to-enforce requirement to isolate on their own for five days, opting instead to visit supermarkets, ski resorts and volcanic eruptions and ultimately spreading infections. I hope we will soon have more vaccinated people traveling, and that the slow Icelandic vaccine roll out will pick up enough pace so this measure will not need to continue.

Photo by Helga Stína
Photo by Helga Stína

In the meantime, as my 13 year old said. “Covid can not take the beauty away”.

When you are up for travel again I recommend to use a personalized travel planner to explore possibilities to make sure everything you wish for is available and open. Iceland Unwrapped is actively visiting and researching to develop new itineraries which will be “ready to go” when the first vaccinated travelers come over this summer/autumn.

Keep dreaming and planning. This will all be a distant memory sooner than later I hope.

For more information on personalized travel plan in Iceland when you are ready to travel contact Iceland Unwrapped – www.icelandunwrapped.com

The beauty of Iceland is waiting for you.

More information on Covid in Iceland

Why Iceland is perfect for the social distancing vacation – By Helga Stina

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

More on personalized travel planning here

More on Iceland opening up for tourists on the 15th of June

Contact me for an informal chat about your Iceland dream. If you are traveling in 2020 or 2021 or even 2022 it is a joy to start exploring and planning.

Here is a bit more on the looking forward to.

Greetings

Helga Stína – Founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped and Places Unwrapped

Photos by Helga Stina

We are also on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Keep dreaming – Iceland is ready for another comeback

This nation of mine has managed to surprise me through the years.

Let me take a couple of examples.

Cod wars – Iceland has fought a few wars. The Cod wars against the Brits. We won. Here are some more information on the subject.

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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

First woman democratically elected in the world

First parliament in the world – The Althing

First people to put licorice and chocolate together

First people to find America

and

Greenland

..and did you know that the name Iceland is a misunderstanding? Think about it. Why is Greenland called Greenland and not Iceland?

Photo by Helga Stina

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

Photo by Frida

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.

Photo by Helga Stina

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.

More on what season to choose when traveling to Iceland

More on the importance of looking forward to

Contact Helga Stina for more information

Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina is a personal travel planning company with focus on personal approach, hidden gems and connecting with the Icelanders, Icelandic culture and nature.

We are also on Facebook – Twitter – Instagram

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

Four years of Unwrapping Iceland

It feels quite incredible that four years have passed since I founded what is now called Iceland Unwrapped, my Iceland travel planning business. Iceland Unwrapped offers unique travel experiences based on a personal approach, deep knowledge of the country‘s hidden gems and a commitment to help visitors connect with the Icelanders, Icelandic culture and natural beauty. Read More

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

 

Iceland by the seasons: and why you need a travel planner for each

A season-by-season guide to planning an Iceland trip

Iceland may be a small country with only 330,000 residents. But the combination of high tourist numbers and a difficult-to-navigate language makes local knowledge a valuable resource for a visitor who wants to get maximum value from their Iceland experience. In a country with turbulent, ever-changing weather, and extreme seasonality of sunlight, Iceland becomes several ‘different’ destinations as the year unfolds. Each of which requires very different travel planning strategies. Read More

Berry picking, amazing sunsets and the calmness in the air – Have you ever dreamed of autumn in Iceland ?

I must admit that Autumn is my favorite season in Iceland.

I like it because of the beautiful sunsets, the blue berry picking, and the calmness of it.

I like it because it makes life calmer when everyone is getting ready to face the winter months ahead and this is the last chance to enjoy sunshine, green nature and fresh air for some time.

The season for making jams and wonderful meals straight from nature – Photo by Eygló

In my childhood, this time of year was connected to me and my friends collecting our vegetables that we had grown during the summer in special vegetable gardens for school kids. These gardens were a genius idea where kids could sign up for a little part of the space to grow cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, rhubarb, potatoes and other vegetables capable of surviving the Icelandic summer and autumn.

Coming home with this contribution every autumn is a very warm and dear memory.

For other people, this time of year is connected to memories of collecting the sheep that have been walking free in the mountains of Iceland throughout the summer. Being on horseback, reaching the sheep, and getting them back on the farm so their wool can be collected is something unforgettable.

Horses – Photo by Frida

Iceland Unwrapped focuses on getting people connected, not only to the nature of Iceland but to the people, traditions and culture of this 330.000-person nation in the north Atlantic.

So why not go berry picking, sheep collecting, and to finish the day, bathe in a beautiful geothermal pool and watch the magical colors of the autumn sunset.

Autumn in Iceland is filled with beautiful colors – Photo by Frida Hjaltested

Who knows – you might even catch a glimpse of some Northern Lights as well if you are not sound asleep after your day’s adventure.

Sheep are roaming free in Iceland during summer – Photo by Frida

…Dream well….

Iceland Unwrapped is personalized travel planning company focusing on connecting you to Iceland and the Icelanders.

Please contact us for information on how to make your trip to Iceland an authentic and special one.

 

Authentic experiences and hidden gems – This is personalized travel planning by Iceland Unwrapped

Traveling to Iceland has never been easier. You can fly from all over the world to this isolated rock in the North Atlantic ocean.

There are many ways to visit Iceland. You can book a package and travel around with a group of tourists to the most popular places, the places you see pictures of in every tourist magazine, on Instagram and on famous travel sites. You can rent a car and travel around to the most popular places and get a trip of a lifetime.

I would love to present you to another possibility.

If you are up for something different like connecting to the Icelanders through food and music, getting the feeling of being Icelandic, discovering hidden gems and amazing peace, you should read further about personalized travel planning. That might be something for you and your fellow travelers.

The aim is always to make every trip unique for each group or individual and it is done in cooperation with the client.

Personalized travel planning includes bookings of activities and accommodation, car rental and assistance with booking good flights.

Furthermore insiders information on what to see, eat, drink and experience. Who to meet and how to get the feeling of the Icelandic culture and nature with the locals.

You will get information on how long your adventures will take and how to breathe in the amazing Iceland.

When you are there you have access to your travel planner in case of change of plans or if you want more insights about something on your path. Or if you simply want to share the excitement and feeling of being there.

Iceland is not an average place. Iceland Unwrapped is not a normal travel agent but a planner that takes into account your uniqueness, wishes and needs on this trip of a lifetime. The goal is always to make every trip a personal and unique one and to take you off the beaten path for authentic experiences and hidden gems.

Get in touch with Helga Stina for more information.

Photo by Frida Hjaltested