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.

 

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

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.

Keep dreaming – Iceland is ready for another comeback

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

Let me take a couple of examples.

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

The economical crisis in 2008 – Iceland had a total meltdown in 2008 when all the banks in the country collapsed. People lost their jobs and homes and this nation needed to rethink it´s values and priorities. That was a success in many ways where Iceland continued focusing on fisheries and added a huge focus on tourism, having about two and a half million tourists visiting the country in 2019. Seven million went through the airport in Keflavik. Have in mind that there are 360.000 people living on the island.

Iceland´s national teams in football – Have in mind again that there are 360.000 people living in Iceland. We have sent both our women and men’s team to the Europa Cup in football and the men´s team even made it to the world cup.

Photo by Helga Stina

These achievements are something to be proud of and are important to have in mind when thinking of where you want to travel to in the future. What options are you going to have and where will you feel safe.

Iceland has been managing the Covid-19 crisis successfully and that is important to know when choosing a travel destination in the future. The information flow and the structure of the response has been noticed internationally.

Photo by Helga Stina

Have in mind that crisis are nothing new for the Icelanders. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, weather conditions and isolation has been a part of this nation since the beginning. The fish has come and gone and the weather changes constantly at times.

Being first with something is important to the Icelanders and sometimes it kind of happens, that the Icelanders are first with random things like

First woman democratically elected in the world

First parliament in the world – The Althing

First people to put licorice and chocolate together

First people to find America

and

Greenland

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

Photo by Helga Stina

Iceland is ready for another comeback

The ability to adapt to new situations is something the Icelanders are extremely good at and just as we speak the Icelanders are promoting traveling in their own country this year to support the amazing work that has been done in building up tourism in Iceland in the past years. Thinking out of the box and doing the job is a very Icelandic thing to do.

In my opinion there have been too many tourists in Iceland at times, making it difficult to preserve the fragile nature and authentic culture. In a new beginning there is a possibility of a change for the better in offering more personalized approached with respect for the nature and culture. See more about my thoughts here

Photo by Frida

The solidarity of the people is something the Icelanders are brought up with, knowing that everyone needs to take action to survive in crisis. Everything is interconnected and persistence and optimism is key, coming out of this challenging situation.

So Iceland is ready to have another comeback and will be ready to receive tourists again as soon you are ready.

Photo by Helga Stina

Me and my partners in Iceland will make sure to offer you a personal approach, hidden gems, connecting to the locals, having social distancing in mind. There is so much to see and do and there is plenty of space in Iceland.

More on what season to choose when traveling to Iceland

More on the importance of looking forward to

Contact Helga Stina for more information

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

We are also on Facebook – Twitter – Instagram

What’s next for travel? Possibilities in the challenges

“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.

Where to next, is what many of us are wondering at this time – Photo by Helga Stina on a fantastic hike last autumn in Iceland

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.

Cliffs can be scary but to be able to get to the top you need to plan ahead as you do with every challenge – Photo by a client Claudia from The Netherlands

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.

What next?

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.

Mandy and her group from Tennessee enjoying a wonderful dinner in 2019, opera singing and cultural experience in the company of Bergþór and Albert – Photo courtesy of Albert Eldar

How will this show up in real life?

Transport

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.

Highland road – Iceland offers a lot of space so social distancing is something we are very good at when needed – Photo by Helga Stina in Kjolur

Accommodation

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.

Flatey Island – Everybody needs some peace and quite in life and Iceland offers endless locations for just that – Photo by Helga Stina

Experiences

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.

A wonderful meal and a typical Icelandic cake for dessert is an unforgettable and a simple way of adding the extra touch to a trip to Iceland – Photo by Helga Stina and the cake is called “Randalín”

 

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.

More information on www.icelandunwrapped.com or contact Helga Stina directly for an informal chat about your options.

If you are a travel planner or a travel company feel free to contact me for a chat on how the future may look for all of us.

In the covid-19 crisis the world has connected in a unique way. There is so much space for continuing that development, also in the travel business.

Listen to the locals please – An interview with Hrútur Ærson The Sheep

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.

Happy sheep can fly

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?

Sheep rule Iceland so please make sure to drive safely if you encounter them on the road.

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

IU: Why?

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. 

IU:  Thank you for the guidance

HÆ: So you didn’t think that was baaaaad?

IU: Not baaad at all.  Thank you!

Be aware of sheep crossing the roads in Iceland during summer – They are in full right – Photo by Guðmunda Magnúsdóttir

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