Is the “stocked cabin” about to become Iceland tourism’s “next big thing” By Mike Klein

Tourism in Iceland has roared back from it’s Covid-era abyss. That means pressure on the country’s relatively tight accommodation supply is again an issue, particularly at the upper end of the accommodation spectrum.  But the ever-innovative Icelanders are putting their heads together to make better use of the country’s supply of holiday cabins or “summer-homes” for luxury-oriented travellers.

 

“Holiday cabins are a way of life for Icelanders,” says Helga Kristin (Helgastina) Fridjonsdottir of Iceland Unwrapped. “Many families own their own or rent them through informal local arrangements, through institutions like the unions they belong to, and, occasionally through AirBnB.”

Being in total relaxation for a couple of days in this environment is a treat of a lifetime – Photo by Helga Stina

“Many of the holiday cabins are fairly luxurious – nicely furnished, with full kitchens, capable of handling families or groups from two to twelve people.  Usually, they come with a water or mountain view. The kicker for many is an on-site hot-tub, often filled with local geothermally heated water.  Few things are better than to be sitting in a hot tub, with a cold drink in hand, taking advantage of the midnight sun or having an unforgettable night under the Northern Lights.”

Life at it’s calmest. Photo by Óskar and María

But holiday cabins are rarely sought as a lodging option by foreign visitors.  

To make holiday cabins more accessible and appealing, Iceland Unwrapped is doing two things: building a network of luxury holiday cabins in attractive parts of Iceland, and adding personalized itineraries to help guests make the most of the sites in a one-day return driving distance of their cabin. The hosts, in turn, would make available a package of groceries, beverages and prepared meals to those guests who want to eliminate the hassle and time involved in shopping in a new country.

Peace and quiet at a farm – Photo by Helga Stina

 

“The idea is that someone can fly into our airport, pick up their car, drive to their cabin, and go straight to the hot tub with their groceries and choice of beverage waiting in the fridge,” Helgastina explains.  “Iceland is fairly advanced when it comes to online grocery shopping and delivery, but the delivery zones tend to fall short of most holiday cabin locations. By literally going the extra mile, we create the most carefree, comfortable and customized Iceland experience possible.”

Geothermal energy is essential in Iceland for all kinds of purposes – Photo by Frida

In keeping with the country’s standard holiday cabin preferences, locations tend to be an easy 1-2 hour drive from the capital of Reykjavik, but options are available near northern hotspot Akureyri and other locations around Iceland’s coast.  Some are quite remote, others are within 30-45 minutes of small-town shopping and other amenities.

Photo by Helga Stina

For more information on stocked cabins – or to make your property available for rental on a non-exclusive basis, contact Iceland Unwrapped at helgastina@icelandunwrapped.com or via the website

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 – 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

A dash of Energy – The emotion of Iceland

I have been living abroad for many years now and it is amazing how I miss my country at times.

I try to go to Iceland at least twice a year to meet family and friends and to get the kick of being there in the landscape and energy. I don’t worry so much about the weather when I am over there. I put on an extra jacket, cover my head and face, and I am basically fine.

When arriving at the International airport in Keflavik, an hour outside of Reykjavik, the first impression normally involves wind in one’s face. Massive bursts of fresh air, often in the company of a little rain who never goes straight down but seems to find its own path each and every time.

It is amazing how a shock of fresh air awakes you and gives you energy on the spot, and you are ready for anything.

The drive through the lava rocks on the way to Reykjavik is a trip in itself.

It is kind of like looking at the ocean or the clouds. Nothing really happens . You could look at the landscape for hours and imagine a lot of things…it has its shape and I start to think about the stories I heard when I was a kid about trolls and elves and the hidden people and spirits who are hiding in the stones.

The weather in Iceland is not the reason for traveling over there, unless you find sudden climatic changes remarkable. It is better to pack your whole wardrobe when you go for a walk because the weather changes every five minutes, and it can occasionally cover the full range of seasons in an hour.

When I took my husband to Iceland for the second time we went for a short trip. Originally we were planning to go to Snæfellsnes peninsula, which is one of the most fantastic and energetic places on earth. It’s where my father’s side of the family comes from; my mother’s side from the Western fjords (West Fjords). These two parts of Iceland are known for being very stark and imposing and powerful and I am raised with stories of witches and spiritual people from there. Apparently one of my great great grandfathers was burnt at the stake for witchcraft in the days when alternative medicine was not considered socially acceptable. A least that is what I heard.

Because the weather didn´t allow us to go to Snæfellsnes, we decided to go to Thingvellir and then further. The weather was supposed to be better in that direction. After a snow storm came in from Thingvellir, we experienced all weather possible…rain, sun, wind, snow, hail. Amazing and scary at the same time. Puts you in your place. You cannot control nature and you cannot control Iceland or Icelanders for that matter. We go our own way for good or for bad. We are an independent people, as the title of our one Nobel Prize-winning novel would call us.

 

My American husband is not very fund of cold beaches so I took him to a beach. It was raining. It was crazy windy and I just shouted into the wind because that is the main thing one can do under such circumstances. I think it must be like months of therapy to get all of that energy out of your system and get a new one from the black volcano stones and wind and the amazing powerful ocean with all of its secrets and tragedies. I love it. He was shocked but understood the extent of my craziness a bit better I think.

 

If you would like to experience the wind, energy, snow, sun, rain and people who go down their own path, or to see the scenery that lines such a path, please contact me. I am Helga Stina, and I would like to unwrap Iceland for you.

www.icelandunwrapped.com

Iceland – Geothermal water and Northern lights

It is soon time. The time of the Northern Lights in the North is arriving again. The best time to witness this beautiful and extraordinary event in Iceland is between last September until March.
To be honest, I didn´t notice any Northern Lights when I was a kid. I guess when they are always there you kind of get used to it, it gets integrated in you, and I wasn´t very tall so I didn´t look that far up actually.
 
I remember seeing them or realizing them for the first time, sitting in a warm Jacuzzi in a summerhouse on the countryside in Iceland. It was in January, my face was freezing cold and I saw this amazing sight in the sky for hours. Unforgettable. Still get goose bumps when thinking about it.
I have, in the past 13 years, since I moved abroad, woken my family and friends up in the middle of the night, when travelling in Iceland, to see the Northern Lights in our pajamas.
In some hotels in Iceland, guests are woken up at night if there is a Northern light show going on. This is a natural phenomenon so you cannot just switch them on and off. That´s the good part for all the control freaks of this world to get us all earth connected.  It is truly an unforgettable experience and powerful.
In recent years people all over the world have chosen Iceland to experience the Northern Lights. Of course you have The Northern lights in other Northern countries, but what makes it unique in Iceland is the geothermal water and the warm pools around everywhere.  The combination of the two is worth a trip to Iceland in it self. That makes this experience authentic and truly unforgettable.
For further information on how to get to a warm pool and see the Northern Lights, please contact Iceland by helgastina and  you have a possibility of an authentic and personal trip to Iceland, meeting the Icelanders and exploring hidden gems.
Photo by Grétar Már Axelsson

Iceland – It is all in the water

I’ve just spent the last three months in Iceland. I had the possibility to explore the country, meet my fellow Icelanders, get to know amazing entrepreneurs, and experience amazing food and cultural events suitable for a country of millions.

But what struck me the most was one of the things that‘s most basic about the place: water.

Firstly, and I am not putting you on, Icelandic water is the clearest you can find, coming straight from the glacier, nothing added. You might as well drink it straight from a river on the country side because it is exactly the same water.

When I first moved to Copenhagen, I brought coffee from Iceland back to Denmark after my  visits home. When it tasted different, I realized was that it wasn´t the coffee that much, it was the water. The water makes the coffee taste, and indeed, Icelandic coffee blenders match the beans to the water to a large extent. It was a shock and an important factor in my endless homesickness during my time in Copenhagen, where the water was filled with calcium and other taste-altering ingredients.

The beer in Iceland, the sodas, the Ice cream, everything benefits from the purity of the water and that is why some of the local ingredients cannot be transferred to other countries. They will never taste the same.

 

 

Swimming, and, more precisely, visiting the local pool is another watering factor in terms of understanding the Icelanders and their culture. The social hot tub is in the hot spot in the swimming pools around the country. Almost every tiny village has one, and in  the capital you have more than one in many neighborhoods.

Not only is this privilege essential for the well being of the Icelanders, an endless source of exercise and relaxation in a country that is cold and dark for much of the year, it is saving the mental health and health in general of the Icelandic people.

Water is all around Iceland – The Atlantic ocean has been a main provider of fresh food for the nation since the settlers decided to take a chance on this island 874.

We have endless songs about the ocean, about the fishermen who provided food for the whole of society and also songs, stories and memories of seamen lost at sea, never to be found again, sometimes even half of towns would go in such a dramatic way in the last centuries, while trying to feed their families. My family included.

Much of Iceland‘s water also comes up from the ground, hot, steaming and sulphur-smelling.  Attractions like Geysir and the hot springs are showplaces for Iceland‘s miraculous geothermal waters. But in nearly every home, hotel room and hostel, there are no water heaters, only water from a geothermally-heated source and a glacial cold source.

Water and ocean has therefore so many meaning for us the Icelanders and to understand us, a background on how it has and is affecting all life, is important to the visitor. In the meantime, when you are making coffee in Iceland, it tastes better if you are a little patient and start with heating the cold water for your coffee or tea. And by all means don´t buy normal water in the Supermarket. Better to fill your water battle with the glorious and free water that is available from the many taps around the country.

More info on personalized travel planning to Iceland on www.helgastina.com

SPA RETREAT

Recover, refresh and rejuvenate the Icelandic way

Enjoy the healing powers of Iceland’s best spa retreats! Iceland has some of the world’s most breathtaking natural spas and springs. I take my visitors away from the crush of tourists to a really hidden gem.

Relax the unforgettable way

Iceland Unwrapped offers information on all kinds of geothermal pools and spas around Iceland. Do you want something authentic and natural? Something a bit more fancy, or a mix of all kinds of experiences? Let us know and we make a plan for you, including all kinds of options.

Combining your trip with a Yoga retreat, hiking tours or mindfulness activities is a great way to travel in Iceland. The nature provides the peace of mind and healthy alternatives, amazing quality of pure food and professional people who want to be of assistance.

Contact us for more information on how to integrate all kinds of options on your trip in Iceland.

Body, mind and spirit

Iceland Unwrapped by Helgastina offers an extraordinary experience for the body and soul. An alternative way to recharge your mind. We work exclusively in cooperation with the NLFI Health Clinic in Hveragerði. We offer packages at the spa from 2 to 21 days. This includes a personalized activity plan, accommodation, access to facilities at the clinic and full board with organic food. The package also features our unique and unmissable ‘Dining with the Icelanders’ experience.

Hveragerði, the Hot Spring capital

The NLFI Rehabilitation and Health clinic in Hveragerði is 45 km from Reykjavik in the scenic south of the country. The town prides itself for being the Hot Spring Capital of the World. The clinic is one of a number of ‘hidden gems’ that we at Iceland Unwrapped offer to our visitors. This retreat is beneficial for those recovering from cancer or other serious illnesses. It’s also ideal if you have psoriasis, neck and back problems. Visit this spa to reduce your weight, give up smoking or reduce stress. The centre can totally turn your life around.

Please note that the activities and SPA at the NLFI can only be used when staying minimum two nights on location.

Contact us for further information regarding combining your trip with spa and wellness.

Spa and wellness retreat, Hveragerði, Iceland

A life changing experience

With access to natural geothermal baths and health treatments, you will come back rejuvenated. The centre offers renowned fresh cuisine and inspiring scenery, a must-see for everyone. Staff are medically trained and its community of people are all committed to natural wellness.

Bookings through Iceland Unwrapped with Helgastina also receive a 10% discount off all treatments at the clinic.

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.