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.
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 atwww.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.
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 ofIceland Unwrapped, a travel service specializing in personalized and customized Iceland itineraries and bookings.
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.
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.
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
..and did you know that the name Iceland is a misunderstanding? Think about it. Why is Greenland called Greenland and not Iceland?
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
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.
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.
“Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” (Rahm Emanuel).
I know many of us are wondering “where to next”? How is travelling going to look like? What is going to be possible? What, if anything, will remain the same.
I see this challenge as a great opportunity to change the way we look at travel and service to travelers. I see endless possibilities and creations in coming years in tourism despite this crisis.
My view on travel for years has been that less is more. Authentic is sustainable, and its immensely important to connect with the locals if we genuinely want to connect the world.
I have been running Iceland Unwrapped for the past five years. When I was researching about how to go about starting my approach, I came across blogs and information on celebrities who had been so fortunate to travel to fantastic locations, like Iceland, having a personal travel planner doing the planning.
I thought to myself. Why can I not offer this approach to people who are not celebrities. People who don´t want to follow the crowds and people who need a personal approach to their traveling and needs.
So I did.
Meeting clients on their terms
Iceland Unwrapped focuses on meeting clients on their terms, having their needs in mind. Time, money and dreams play main roles in the travel planning approach. Getting people to connect with one another is also an aim – both to create a richer experience for the client, and to make the world a more connected place.
I have developed the concept and am now offering the same approach for people who visit Delft in The Netherlands, where I live.
I receive families, individuals, groups of friends, workplaces and specialist groups who want to be inspired in a new location.
Now we are in a big crisis for many people. Tourism has been hit in a hard way. Many of us are wondering what will happen next. How will tourism look after this crisis and how are we going to recover?
Even though I think many people are realizing how life can be more simple, with working from home and being confined to limited areas being the current norm, the yearning for something different remains alive.
The likely need for continued social distancing builds in a challenge for destinations and providers to meet the needs and importance of people to enjoy, connect, and experience the wow factor while keeping safe and being more physically distant.
How will this show up in real life?
Transport is not going to be the same. It will not be possible to shuffle loads of people in planes, ships, trains or busses having the principles of social distancing in mind, at least not until a vaccine takes hold.
As you know, there are two ways to get to Iceland. By plane or by ship.
There is a ship going from Denmark to Iceland with a stop on the beautiful Faroe Islands. It is possible to bring your car and therefore avoid renting a car in Iceland. My prediction is that there will be less people on ships like that or limited service to prevent people from dining together for example.
Flying will also be a challenge to ensure the social distance. Fewer passengers on each plane is a logical guess and less service perhaps. It will be interesting to see how this develops because people are not going to stop traveling forever but we will be traveling in a different way and perhaps less frequently.
A challenge regarding accommodation is the service level. Focus on personal accommodations, small or middle size with an experience of servicing smaller crowds, with the personal approach as key, is the future in my opinion. At least in the nearest future. We have to have in mind as service providers that people are skeptical and perhaps afraid of being to close together with people they don´t know. That is a going to something to have in mind when planning tourism in the future.
Could the future include breakfast rooms with more spaces in between and bye bye to buffets?
Everyone needs to eat so thinking out of the box is essential here. Less clients each time and more care when serving is key. There are many challenges here and also many entrepreneurs in toursims that are geniuses in finding sollutions and fun ways of addressing this issue.
This situation offers a unique opportunity of making trips and adventures in Iceland and around the world more authentic and personal. Many fantastic companies in Iceland are offering trips for smaller groups and individuals and the creativity is incredible. I am fortunate to be working with partners that think out of the box with creative solutions and experiences as key. This will be essential when traveling and experiencing the near future. Talking together and finding solutions together is key here, to make tourism work again with a different focus.
Dining with the Icelanders has been the flagship of Iceland Unwrapped where 14 families and individuals open their homes to travelers in Iceland for the amazing experience of connecting and dining a simple meal together. The options are endless both in connecting people through interests such as cross fit, knitting, history, medicine, horses, photography, music or whatever the travelers are interested in knowing about.
In the future I can see this option being possible having sanitation and social distancing method in mind, at least until a vaccine has been discovered.
Thinking out of the box
Overall these are challenging times but also an opportunity of growing, thinking out of the box and create a more sustainable tourism experience for travelers around the world.
It´s now we need to enjoy the creativity and braveness of the many entrepreneurs in tourism to be able to create fantastic options after this challenge we are facing.
So just to sum my ideas up.
More personal approach to meet the needs of clients with different needs than before, such as avoiding crowds during their entire holiday.
Cooperation between partners to use each others strenghts.
Thinking out of the box for soulutions.
Keep dreaming – Iceland will be waiting when you are ready
Iceland is going to be waiting for you when you are ready. To find solutions for you trip, contact your personal travel planner to maximize the experience.
With only 350,000 human residents, some people think Iceland lacks a diversity of opinion. But at Iceland Unwrapped, we have what it takes to seek out local expertise where it can be found.
For a thoroughly different perspective, we interviewed Hrútur Ærson, Iceland’s oldest sheep, for a special perspective on the place he has called home since 930.
IU: You’re very old for a sheep.
HÆ: Yes, I know. I’ve been roaming around Iceland since end of settlement 930.
IU: How have you managed this?
HÆ: Iceland isn’t the biggest country and I know all the good hiding places by now.
IU: So you’ve seen all of Iceland?
HÆ: No. Haven’t been to the Blue Lagoon yet. Or the Westman Islands because I’ve never been able to stow away on the ferry
IU: But you have been everywhere else?
HÆ: Yes – certainly everywhere a visitor can get with an SUV. I used to be more adventurous, but then again, I am several hundred years old.
IU: What are your favorite places to visit?
HÆ: I usually walk the Ring Road every two or three years. The main thing is to do it in opposite directions, because the look and feel of everything changes based on the direction, time of the year, and the amount of light at any time. The amazing thing about the ring road is that the scenery is constantly changing. In a couple of hours’ walk – or ten minutes drive time – the landscape is unrecognizable. Mountains change to desert to prairie. I always love that trip. The Highlands of Iceland are also extraordinary. Only important to get down from there before winter arrives or you are toast. Or as we sheep say – A toast with smoked lamb.
IU: What do you do in the years you don’t walk the Ring Road?
HÆ: I really like the Snaefelsnes Peninsula. It has a varied landscape, and it’s a bit grassier than the Ring Road, which I find quite satisfying. The glacier is also a wonderful place to chill.
IU: What do you recommend for visitors to eat?
HÆ: DEFINITELY THE FISH
HÆ: I’m a sheep. You can figure out the math.
IU: OK, I’ll keep quiet about the lamb.
HÆ: Thank you.
IU: Do you think Iceland has too many visitors?
HÆ: Not too many, yet. It depends on how people visit. It’s always nicer to see Iceland on one’s own, but you have to really look out for the environment. Don’t leave a mess. Listen to the advice of us, the locals. Stick to the tap water and respect the rights of sheep, horses and wild animals.
“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.
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 🙂
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.
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 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.
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 a go, 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 Sagasare extraordinary and Icelanders can in most cases still read the original manuscripts as 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.
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 Laxnesswas 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, it is respected by most, and especially if the authors “make it” internationally. Here are some suggestions.
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.
And 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.
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.
More information on how to connect to the Icelanders, their culture and beautiful nature at Iceland Unwrapped
Iceland is a land of extremes. The elements of nature impact everything in life there.
Being raised in a place that sometimes makes it difficult to plan ahead, is a privilege. You might ask why that is the case, and it is because it teaches one to respect nature and its ways, to constantly find solutions and to think out of the box.
I remember clearly when I was younger and we had a lot of storms in the winter in Iceland, and the power went out a lot, as is to be expected when living on a rock in the middle of North Atlantic. Somehow in the memory, my mum always wanted to use the time to iron things. It was like, Yes now there is no electricity, now I finally have time to iron in peace, until she realized of course that, that wasn´t even possible 😊
I personally think we should have the power out more often in our modern lives to forcefully make us do other things, such as read, talk to each other, read to each other, sit by a candle light, take a long warm bath (possible because water in Iceland is geothermal) or just to listen to the weather outside, and being thankful for having a warm house. I don´t think this will ever be possible again because of phones and computers that are pre-charged. But one can always hope 🙂
But how is it to live in a place with such darkness?
When you live in a place where you have about 3 to 4 hours of daylight during the darkest months and almost 24 hours of daylight during the brightest months, you learn how to cherish what is possible at these times. Culture blooms in winter in Iceland and when you think about that it is a society of 330.000 people it is stunning that there is so much going on. And don´t get me started on quality of life included in the geothermal pools.
I, for example get frequently asked by non-Icelanders, why there are so many good musicians in Iceland. The joke is normally, that it must be so boring over there that people need to do something to survive the boredom.
That is far from the truth. Calmness and quietness to be able to create might be a big factor, great possibilities of music teaching for children from early age, access to possibilities of having concerts for young artist and, perhaps, the need to create something real when you can´t control everything…like the weather, the darkness, the storm or whatever it may be. Nearness to the elements of nature plays a role for sure.
Here are two examples of my favorite Icelandic artists singing in English. Júníus Meyvant and Hjaltalín. You probably already know Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men, Björk and Kaleo.
What would you do if the power went off?
If you would like to get connected to Iceland, nature and the elements, contact Iceland Unwrapped
Every travel plan is a personalized one.
Make an appointment for an informal talk with Helga Stina to start the adventure.
One of my favorite times of the year has arrived. Advent is something that warms my heart and gets me excited every year, wherever I am.
When I was a kid, it always seemed to be snowing during this time of year. Everyone was busy getting ready for Christmas, baking, buying presents, cleaning their houses. Some even used the opportunity to paint the house. New curtains, Christmas dances, shoes in the window placed by children hoping them to be filled with a treat from the Yule Lads.
Most importantly, everyone was making sure to get new clothes for Christmas, to avoid an encounter with the horrific, murderous Icelandic Christmas Cat. Writing the Christmas cards for loved ones was a wonderful tradition in my home, and one of my warmest memories was when I helped my grandma writing hers, because she said her handwriting wasn´t good enough. My mum´s Christmas cookies are a precious part of the memories. Wonderful to come inside with red cheeks after playing in the snow, a cookie and cold milk was exactly what was needed.
The most precious feeling of advent to me is the kindness of people and the importance of gathering, giving each other small presents and listening to beautiful music on a cold December evening. Even though the Icelanders have a tendency of overdoing it a bit during Christmas, that is just a part of the experience, and when people sit down together at 18.00 on Christmas eve, all stress is gone and nothing left to do but to enjoy to the fullest with your loved ones.
With age, I have come to miss Iceland a lot during this time of year as I live in The Netherlands, where there is not a lot of fuss about Christmas. They have other traditions that are highlighted here.
Advent is also a mystical time of year. When you live in a land of fire and ice it is not surprising that stories of trolls, elves, hidden people and all kinds of creatures are created, especially during the darkest months of the year. A lot of mystical-looking areas encourage a vivid imagination. The stories told this time of year are some extraordinary and exciting.
There are many traditions in Iceland that are not, to my knowledge, practiced elsewhere. Many of them are only practiced in some parts of Iceland and some are well known to everyone.
The 13 Yule Lads (instead of a single Santa Clause), Laufabraud (a beautifully decorated fried flat bread), skata (fermented fish), the Christmas Book Flood, shoes in the window and Christmas dances for the children. These are some of the traditions that make Advent and Christmas exciting and different in Iceland.
Many people go to Church only on Christmas Eve to welcome the peace, the light and the warmth for themselves, their family and others. Iceland is not now a very religious country; we were in the past and the traditions come from people putting their effort and pride in celebrating the good in the world, and during these hard months of winter in Iceland, that was a true gift of light into people´s life.
The traditions are mixed as Iceland became Christian in the year 1000 without blood being shed, under the condition of being able to practice secretly their heathen traditions, believing in the Viking gods and goddesses, such as Thor, Odin and Freyja. That influences Iceland’s history from early times and explain the diversity of these traditions compared to those of some other countries. This influences the Advent, Christmas and New years traditions a lot in Iceland.
In the month of December Iceland Unwrapped will be presenting you with many of these traditions. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
A lucky follower on Facebook and Instagram will receive a gift from Iceland Unwrapped in the post.
See more info coming up.
Just a hint. It is connected to the Christmas Book Flood.
Last week, I returned again to Iceland to visit some of my hospitality partners – and made yet another interesting discovery in the town of Hafnarfjordur, just outside Reykjavik.
The town council has decided to use one of the most beautiful buildings in Iceland, a former hospital, as a home for new businesses focusing on wellness. Together, they offer a holistic approach where mind, body, and soul can be nurtured in the same place.
Guðbjörg and Ingibjörg, two of the founders, are looking to serve companies, institutions and individuals by offering them the opportunity to snap out of their stressful realities and focus on being present and exploring themselves, taking advantage of the nearby lava fields and the unique and inspiring scenery of the area.
A particular focus are those in service professions – people who work with people – who often give so much of themselves that they can benefit from some restorative care in a peaceful yet beautiful setting.
This includes, doctors, nurses, teachers and everyone else that is specialised in helping others. Come to think of it, everyone working anywhere can fit the criteria, bankers, lawyers, engineers, shopkeepers, human resource managers, PR directors and the list is endless.
As they say when you are flying on an airplane: put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. That makes sense don´t you think? How can we become better professionals without forgetting to nurture ourselves in the process.
Groups from workplaces, institutions or private or family groups can focus on themselves, get inspired, have a mindful experience with great walks, conversations, healthy food and guidance of qualified specialists with great experience in working with people, getting the best out of each and everyone. A focus on you as a human to make you even better as a specialist working with other humans.
But why Iceland?
It is quite incredible to witness what happens to people when they visit Iceland. In a few days people de-stress and gain a new perspective towards themselves and the nature surrounding them. In that atmosphere, there emerges a possibility for growth and expression that might be difficult in a big, busy city or in a person‘s normal routine.
Being able to rejuvenate in nature, yet be only five minutes from a town with all the required amenities is an extraordinary possibility, a rare one indeed.