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 

Why Dining With The Icelanders?

“The dinner we had in the Meeting the Icelanders experience was one of the best meals we had on the trip. The food was spectacular – so fresh and prepared perfectly! The ingredients were all locally sourced. The fish was just caught by her father and the lettuce fresh from the greenhouse … It was all so, so good. And it was also just wonderful to enjoy a well prepared meal with nice and interesting people.” 
Sara – USA.

I am addicted to travel. I love seeing new places, meeting new people and dining different and exotic food.

When I was younger I was fortunate to live in a couple of places while studying. The most amazing people I met on these stays were the locals who invited me and sometimes my friends to stay with them for some days, or for an evening, having dinner. I am forever thankful to these people for giving me the precious experience of dining with the locals.

Therefore in the memory I remember being at peoples houses, helping with preparing dinner, tasting new things and hearing the history of the food, the recipes, sometimes coming from the grandmother or great grandmother of the family. Both in Austria and in Brazil i even received a cooking book from the area so I could try the recipes at home.

Sometimes interesting stories came along.

In Iceland I heard the story of the woman who always cut the leg of lamb in two before putting it in the oven on a Sunday afternoon.

She never thought about it that much, but when her daughter asked her why she was doing that all these years, she replied ” my mum always did and so did my grandma”. The story unfolded when the grand mother reviled the secret.

When she was young, in the beginning of the 20th century,  making dinner in the kitchen with her mum, they used to not have a big enough pot for the lamb, for it to fit in entirely, so her mum had to cut the leg of lamb in two.

Many years later when she moved with her children and husband to a new house, with big enough pots, she continued cutting the leg of lamb in two and that is where this tradition in the family began.

I am sure that for this family the lamb would taste entirely different if not cut in two so I guess they continued the tradition, until this day.

In Iceland organic spices from the Icelandic flora have been used in cooking for centuries. It is not a secret that growing spices in Iceland can be hard because of the weather and conditions, even though people have been growing vegetables and other delicious food products using the geothermal  heating, the cheap energy, to warm up green houses for growing things.

The Icelandic flora is amazing and the smell, colors and possibilities of it endless. In recent years companies and individuals have been exploring and investigating the strengths and the possibilities of the Icelandic flora in medicine, cosmetics and food.

For some of my friends over there, collecting eatable mushrooms is one of the tradition of the family when summer is almost over.

I visited my friend this summer who lives on the country side close to Reykjavik, surrounded by a forest, her partner has been growing for years, and a salmon river in her back yard. In this area organic production has started on the nearest farms where entrepreneurs have seen and tested on their own skin how organic products both taste better and make you feel better.

I had a lamb for dinner at my friends house, as one does a lot when visiting Iceland, with freshly picked herbs from the mountain next to her (she took a little walk to get them for the dinner). This was enjoyed with products from her own green house and from the organic farm next door.

After that day I was feeling totally relaxed, physically tired after our walks that day. Breathing deep because of all of the fresh air and feeling warm inside because of an amazing company.

This is what I love about Iceland. It´s personal and the people are warm and inspiring. The air is fresh,  the nature is right there and the weather changes constantly. Gives a lot of spice in life in a short time.

The local partners of Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina are people with different backgrounds and interests but all are enthusiastic to receive you and give you an experience of a lifetime.

It is an exciting way to get to know Iceland and Icelanders.

More information  – www.helgastina.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.

DINING WITH THE ICELANDERS

What do you know about Scandinavian gastronomy and dining in Iceland?

If you are like most of the people I organize tours for, the answer will be ‘not a lot’. Well, get ready for some truly exciting discoveries. Iceland isn’t only famous for its spectacular nature and healing spas, its food is also an adventure in itself.

The best producers

Not only can your trip to Iceland include visits to local fishermen, ale producers and the best restaurants the country has to offer. I also provide clients with the unique opportunity to ‘Dine with the Icelanders‘. This is something visitors to Iceland rarely get to do without help from an Icelandic planner!

Sharing customs and traditions

Over the years I’ve got to know some really inspiring locals who love to share their knowledge. They also enjoy sharing their home with visitors wanting to connect with the Icelanders. That’s what it’s all about, connecting people from all over the world with those that make Iceland so wonderful.

To truly appreciate a country it helps to fully immerse yourself in their customs and traditions. When you ‘Dine with the Icelanders’ you’re welcomed around their table. You sample delicious home cooked dishes and learn all about their history and the food you are eating.

Picnic place, Mývatn, Iceland

So who will you meet?

All around Iceland there are hosts excited to meet you. Families, individuals and couples from all kinds of backgrounds and all over the country offer a warm and nice meal and atmosphere sometimes combined with a walk in the area, checking out the horses in the backyard or meeting other locals in the area.

A great meal in good company

Sharing stories, laughter in great company, having a great meal made with fresh ingredients is an unforgettable experience.

We offer this experience for minimum 2 people. If you have a big group of people it is easy to enjoy the hospitality of different hosts for an authentic experience.

Dining with the Icelanders, Thingvellir

Recommendations

Dining with the Icelanders is a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else. Everyone I’ve arranged this for has loved it! Here’s what they had to say…

“The dinner we had in the Meeting the Icelanders experience was one of the best meals we had on the trip. The food was spectacular – so fresh and prepared perfectly! The ingredients were all locally sourced. The fish was just caught by her father and the lettuce fresh from the greenhouse … It was all so, so good. And it was also just wonderful to enjoy a well prepared meal with nice and interesting people.”

Sara – USA

“A true highlight of our visit was meeting our guide and ending the day with a meal with her family at home. Helgastina knows many people and is a true connector. She connected us with people in Iceland that share our interests, are able to give us the sorts of insights into life in Iceland. It was wonderful to simply relax in the company of good people.“

Lin McDevitt-Pugh – The Netherlands

The pricing for a guided tour and dinner depends on the size of the group and length of the guided tour or experience.

Get in touch for a free consultation.

HIDDEN GEMS

Looking to discover Iceland’s hidden gems?

And discover the delights away from the tourist trail?

Iceland is on everyone‘s bucket list. Although just because it‘s an easy country to visit, it doesn’t mean that you can guarantee an amazing holiday by simply jumping on a plane and booking a hotel. With such a diverse range of things to do and experience, you need the help of an experienced travel planner.

Iceland travel planner

I can expertly plan your holiday to Iceland. Not just because I‘m a local and I know the country like the back of my hand – but, because I’m a local who knows everyone worth knowing. I can take my clients to places that no guide book or website will ever show you.

Intrigued? Let me give you an example…

Some  people ask me if I can plan a trip to visit shark hunters in Snæfellsnes. This isn’t something many people know about or would feel comfortable booking directly themselves. The old farmers use ancient methods passed down through generations to preserve the shark meat. When you meet these extraordinary people, you not only get to listen to their amazing stories but your create memories of a lifetime. I have a unique overview of both the country and the people that make up its rich and vibrant culture. Because of this you’re guaranteed to discover many hidden gems that you didn’t even know existed.

Surreal landscapes, hidden gems

You want an example of another Icelandic secret?

I bet you didn’t know Iceland is famed for some really great ales. I can take you to a father and son brewing team in the North of the country who decided to one day start creating their own beers in the middle of nowhere. Following an accident at work, the father could no longer continue working as a fisherman so decided to follow his passion. Now their business has grown from strength to strength. In fact their ales are so popular they can´t even fulfill orders within the Icelandic market and have vowed to not distribute outside of the country.

So if you fancy sampling the best in Icelandic beer – you‘ll need me to take you there!

Grotta lighthouse, Seltjarnarnes, Iceland

Hidden gems and happy memories

These are just two examples of some hidden gems Iceland has to offer that you won‘t be able to find yourself. There are of course plenty of other places and experiences. From breathtaking scenery not accessible via normal roads to fun days out for the most adventurous among you.

I can work around you and your interests, your budget and your capabilities. I will ensure that your holiday of a lifetime in Iceland will really be one filled with plenty of happy memories. And hidden gems!

Contact us for a free consultation.