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.

The Icelandic Christmas book flood – By Helga Stina

In Iceland we have two kinds of floods. We have normal floods when glacier rivers flood because of unease and geothermal activities under glaciers. This is something the Icelanders are used to being aware of and manage reactions very professionally.

The magical Black water fall in the glacier area on the South Coast of Iceland – Photo by Claudia a client from The Netherlands

The other type of flooding in Iceland is the Christmas book flood. One Christmas I didn´t get a book for a Christmas present from anyone.   The family was in total shock and I got looks of comfort, guilt and some kind of a pity, „poor you, didn´t you get a book“?, said with a mix of bad conscience, disgust and shock.

All cats in Iceland love to read..- Photo by Helga Stina (Model is Belle)

Well..there is a reason for this reaction. Iceland calls itself the book nation. Since the Viking age, Icelanders have been known for writing the Sagas and that has been the pride of the nation. When some of our old manuscripts were returned from the Danes some years ago, people gathered by the harbor to receive the coast guard ship bringing the manuscripts home.  It was a celebration, this was a proud day in the nations history and kind of made us fully independent even though we became independent in 1944, while Denmark was occupied by the Germans.

The Sagas are extraordinary and Icelanders can in most cases still read the original manuscripts. The language hasn´t transformed as much through the centuries, as for example in the other Nordic countries, due the isolation of this island in the North Atlantic.

Iceland is sometimes Iceland – Photo unknown

This is totally understandable, as the language, traditions, history, culture, literature, music and the arts are such a big part of the identity of a nation. There are 330.000 people living in Iceland. We have had a football team, both women and men in the World Cup, we have had amazing musicians conquering the world, we had the first female president in the world,  we even have a Nobel Price winner in literature, in 1955 when Halldor Laxness was honored.

We have almost won The Euro-vision Song Contest twice, but who´s counting…The winner takes it all.

That said, I know that Icelanders are very proud to be a book nation and proud to be known for that in the outside world. Therefore there is a good will towards authors in Iceland, they are respected by most, and especially if the authors “make it” internationally. Here are some suggestions. 

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

But back to the books and my book less Christmas trauma. The season for books in Iceland, is before Christmas. That is the harvest time for our amazingly hard working authors. Some who have made a great success in the international world, such as Arnaldur, Yrsa and Jon Kalmann.

It´s sometimes like there is a factory of making books for the book flood season, as these authors, and others, somehow manage to create one book after the other, almost as by demand, every year, for years. Kind of like Santa Claus (Some people believe exists) in Finland, having a factory for toys. Quite extraordinary.

The funny part is, that these authors always manage to write good books, interesting books, fresh books that mostly  keep the reader in a spell until the book finishes. You should try it.

A beautiful Christmas eve with good food and presents or treats. At least one book per person is a must – Photo by Helga Stina

I agree. It was horrible to not get a book for Christmas ones. I felt that I wasn´t a part of the community anymore. God forbid that ever happens again. My family has sworn that they will use all methods possible to prevent this from happening, no matter where I am located in the world 🙂 Because there is nothing like the smell of a new book, a cup of warm chocolate and some scones with smoked lamb, and maybe a home made cookie, on Christmas day morning.

Then the holidays have arrived for me.

Icelandic Chocolate is delicious – Photo by Helga Stina

More information on how to connect to the Icelanders, their culture and beautiful nature at Iceland Unwrapped  or connect Helga Stina directly.

Iceland is hot – Iceland is open “literally”

“Yes it’s pretty crazy. It smells like a big bonfire with some sulfur added to it. Very warm indeed, and so windy that the coffee blew from my coffee cup. A bit of a cough, but we are still alive. The hike was two hours up about three mountains”.

This is the conversation I had with a friend this week after hiking to one of the wonders of this world. The birth of new land on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula.

Power of nature – Photo by Helga Stína

I went with my family last weekend to see the fiery glory. After a challenging hike uphill, the reward was something we all were truly thankful for being able to experience. A once in a lifetime show.  A volcano in full eruption in the beautiful nature of Iceland.

Love at first sight – Photo by Helga Stína

The sound of the the volcano was something we had never heard before. Truly remarkable to hear rocks melting and being thrown into the air as liquid.

The experience of the heat was surprisingly comfortable after a chilly walk upwards. Kind of like sitting by the fire in your own house if the scenery was a bit more extreme, if you know what I mean. Even  though were near it, it was too far to roast marshmallows.

The smell was powerful but not overpowering.

It crossed my mind that it would be interesting to know what we were inhaling.

Hiking by a lava river – Photo by Helga Stína

The crowd, mostly Icelanders apart from a few tourists, sometimes in their sneakers and leather jackets, was a mix of children down to one year olds, families, friend groups, extreme hikers and a few hardy senior citizens. The look on people’s faces and the amazement in their voices when seeing the volcano for the first time added extra enjoyment to the trip. It was a festive crew.

It´s starting to get real now. Covid has been hanging over our heads in the last one and a half year. Now finally we can see an end to this in some places of the world. And as for a miracle, Iceland starts to erupt, like by an order of the tourism board or something. Quite incredible.

Lava wall – Photo by Helga Stina

After the financial crisis in 2008, Iceland had a big eruption in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull erupted, making air travel impossible for days. The Icelanders were not sure what would come out of that. But in the aftermath of that eruption, Iceland became a household name and Eyjafjallajökull glacier something everyone wanted to be able to pronounce, with often interesting results.

Hiking to see the glory – Photo by Helga Stína

Now Iceland is opening up for vaccinated tourists and for those who have had Covid before.

You won´t find the volcano in any guidebook nor will you find much that is current about the Iceland travel scene.

Piecing together a trip at this current moment isn´t as easy as it may look. If you want to make the most out of your trip to Iceland a personal travel planner has never been more valuable.

If you want to get the best from your time and money, and not miss memories and connections that will last a lifetime, involving a personal travel planner is a great choice.

That is what I do.

Helga Stína – Iceland Unwrapped

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Lava up close – Photo by Helga Stína

Have a look at this amazing drone film from this magical eruption in Iceland. 

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

Peaceful Iceland – and its appeal to the 2021 traveler

When people mention Iceland, the first things that generally come to mind are mountains, volcanos, geysers and breathtakingly stunning landscapes. 

Oh, they’re all included in the price of a plane ticket (assuming you can rent a car, a guide or take a tour that will get them to you). But, having lived in Iceland since July of 2020, I get a sense there’s another side of Iceland that will have some appeal to those willing to travel this spring and thereafter.

It’s peaceful.  

And by peaceful, I don’t necessarily mean “quiet”.  I mean, rather, that Iceland works and is more than ready to accommodate its next visitors.  

Rain and shine in Reykjavik – Photo by Helga Stina

 

While it will take some time for Iceland’s tourism industry to recover, the country is emerging from the worst of COVID-19 relative to other destinations.  

Never a big package-tourism place, Iceland has a great base of small hotels and rental properties (many optimistically called “summer houses”).

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

 

Many summer houses are secluded and have scenic views and built in hot tubs, some using Iceland’s famous geothermally heated water. Most have fully equipped kitchens. As seclusion in Iceland does not mean being completely cut off, Iceland’s well-supplied supermarkets are rarely more than a half an hour-hour drive away.  

 

Town life, and the comings and goings in Iceland’s university-town-sized capital of Reykjavik, has remained active throughout the pandemic – with restaurants and cinemas remaining open, and with the local geothermal spa/swimming pools fully operational in most towns across the country.

Iceland is perfect for picnic. Reykjavík autumn sun – Photo by helgastina

Reykjavik has an easy feel to it at the moment.  No crowds, plenty of dining choices, a selection of small museums and local sights.  A brief drive of 15-20 minutes outside the city or its suburbs situates you in sweeping seascapes, lunar landscapes, silent volcanos and steaming geothermal zones.  To make the most of your Reykjavik area experience, the services of local experts like Iceland Unwrapped are invaluable now because many sites and locations have closed or are changing hands as the recovery gathers pace.

The mercurial national currency, the Icelandic Krona, is also the most tourist-friendly it’s been in years, bringing prices down to levels comparable to larger cities in North America and Europe, excepting of course the nation’s pricey if diversely supplied chain of state liquor stores.

To be sure, you can come to Iceland and be blown away by the scenery.  But travelers seeking peace, quiet, comfort and space will be pleased by a trip to the Land of Fire and Ice.  2021 will be a good time to come.

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.

Happy New Travel Year 2021

This has been a weird year to say the least.

Everything we have taken for granted has been put on hold: such as hugging each other or shaking hands, traveling or meeting up with all of our family and friends at once. Some places have been hit very hard and are still in the middle of this Covid hurricane.

Last month the first vaccines arrived in Iceland. The minister of health, a fine lady, was following the flight on radar to make sure everything would be as it should be and nothing would stop this important cargo to arrive safely to the shores of this rock in the north Atlantic.

There is a relief in Icelandic society now as we can see an end of this situation in sight and possibilities of getting life back to normal, whatever that normal will be.

At the moment health staff are vaccinating our most vulnerable, along people in nursing homes and health personnel, the heroes of 2020 without a doubt.

But what will 2021 look like? 

The travel industry in Iceland and around the world has shrunk, collapsed or been put on hold.

Will we be able to recover from this? I am sure we will. But it will take time,

I also know that people have kept on dreaming about travel and destinations because dreaming is important when you are in the middle of a pandemic. Dreams that might come true in the New Year or in the year after that.

Iceland has been a popular destination and will likely see something of a travel revival. Here are 4 main reasons:

1. Space. People need to get used to the idea of being around other people again and will want uncrowded destinations with space for social distancing. Iceland becomes a strong choice because of its low population density and abundance of open space. All 360.000 of us live in a space the size of the US state of Ohio, twice the size of Denmark and nearly two and half times the size of the Netherlands

2. Hospitality. The Icelanders are aware of the importance of receiving guests with respect and the uniqueness of a small society. That is why all around Iceland you can find entrepreneurs who have built up wonderful businesses with their heart, soul, and bare hands to be able to show the best of Iceland’s nature, culture and gastronomy. You can even visit people in their homes for dinner or a home concert. The diversity in accommodation is also important – you can find any type of accommodation on the island, from a farmer’s guesthouse with animals in sight to a fancy hotel in one of the towns.

3. Diversity. There are few places on earth that offer the diversity in landscape as Iceland does. The land of fire and ice offers geothermal pools that are open all year round, waterfalls, glaciers and lava formations that will make the imagination go crazy. Ocean all around, rivers and creeks with pure water to drink on your hikes. The midnight sun in June and the Aurora Borealis in winter are experiences everyone should have at least once in their lives.

4. Distance management. I always recommend my clients to take it easy even as they take their extraordinary excursions in Iceland. Feeling the culture, nature, fresh air and the purest water imaginable is a part of the experience. And to be able to do that you need to know how to do it. Distance is a big part of planning your trip in Iceland. That is why working with locals is essential to make the most of visitors’ time and money.

Keep dreaming. Iceland will be waiting when you are ready. It will be wonderful to receive you in the coming months – or the coming years.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy new year 2021.

Helga Stína – Founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped by helgastina

Iceland and Eurovision – A decades long love story

Oh well. My home country Iceland continues to amaze me and perhaps it is quite extraordinary how it somehow manages to stay in the discussion as one of the most important places to visit in the world.

In the past months we have been experiencing an extraordinary world. The world came to a stop and traveling was something that was not on peoples minds for the foreseeable future.

But the world has been helpful. In the past weeks there has been amazing publicity about Iceland in various media. This and the fact that Iceland has been successful in managing the virus, is making people opening up for the idea of visiting this rock in the North Atlantic during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A movie by Will Ferrell has been rocking the world in the past weeks. It is about the Eurovision Song Contest and how the Icelanders are obsessed with it. And they truly are, not only in the film.

When I was growing up Eurovision was one of the highlights of the year.

In the times of no TV on Thursdays and no TV for five weeks in the summer there were a couple of golden moments in front of the screen. Eurovision was one of them.

I remember those Eurovision evenings, when we only had one Saturday evening of Eurovision (now there are three). Good dinner, family gathered together, having an opinion on who should win. Amazing hairdos in the 80´s, Plastic Bertrand, Johnny Logan, Celine Dion, and my personal favorite, the Herrey’s singing about their golden shoes. Truly adorable.

One of the shocks of the century was that the Italians wouldn´t win with Gente di mare in 1987 and believe me, the shocks have been many due to the fact that somehow politics between countries has had an impact on the results, where former enemies would put their swords away and vote for each other, or not.

In recent years there have been some amazing songs, in my opinion, like the Portuguese winner. No doubt, this competition brings people together in the harmony of friendship and unity and can have a big impact on the artists involved.

When Iceland started to compete in 1986 we were all sure about that we would of course win. The devastation and shock was almost unbearable when the results were clear. Our song – Gleðibankinn (The Joy bank) ended up in the 16th place. The impact on the Icelanders’ identity will never fully be known and perhaps never to be fully recovered from.

Nevertheless the Icelanders never stop believing in winning and we have been the runner up twice, which was of course unbearable to live through, although no one really knows where to host this big event in Iceland if that would happen 🙂

This year was our year, but this damn virus prevented that from happening with this amazing song. We will probably never recover from that shock.

Eurovision is very integrated into the Icelandic soul. Originally I think it was because of our curiosity about the world around us which seemed far away and out of reach. So this one evening we could be a part of a bigger unit, united with our cool friends and role models in Europe.

Secondly I think it is because we are a small nation of 360.00 people that wants to be a player on the big scene and believes in the power of the small over the big. Kind of like in the old folklore where a small human would conquer over a troll, tricking it to stay out in daylight and turning into stone.

For more information on personalized travel planning including Eurovision or not on www.icelandunwrapped.com

Peaceful 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

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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.