“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
I must admit that Autumn is my favorite season in Iceland.
I like it because of the beautiful sunsets, the blue berry picking, and the calmness of it.
I like it because it makes life calmer when everyone is getting ready to face the winter months ahead and this is the last chance to enjoy sunshine, green nature and fresh air for some time.
In my childhood, this time of year was connected to me and my friends collecting our vegetables that we had grown during the summer in special vegetable gardens for school kids. These gardens were a genius idea where kids could sign up for a little part of the space to grow cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, rhubarb, potatoes and other vegetables capable of surviving the Icelandic summer and autumn.
Coming home with this contribution every autumn is a very warm and dear memory.
For other people, this time of year is connected to memories of collecting the sheep that have been walking free in the mountains of Iceland throughout the summer. Being on horseback, reaching the sheep, and getting them back on the farm so their wool can be collected is something unforgettable.
Iceland Unwrapped focuses on getting people connected, not only to the nature of Iceland but to the people, traditions and culture of this 330.000-person nation in the north Atlantic.
So why not go berry picking, sheep collecting, and to finish the day, bathe in a beautiful geothermal pool and watch the magical colors of the autumn sunset.
Who knows – you might even catch a glimpse of some Northern Lights as well if you are not sound asleep after your day’s adventure.
Iceland Unwrapped is personalized travel planning company focusing on connecting you to Iceland and the Icelanders.
Please contact us for information on how to make your trip to Iceland an authentic and special one.
Have you ever dreamed of visiting a remote place , only reachable by sea in Iceland?
Can you think of a remote little town in Iceland?
Now think of an even smaller one and way more remote. That is Hesteyri. There are only few houses there, a run down whaling station and a cemetery. No one lives there any more except for a few people in the summer. To get there from Reykjavík you first have to drive to Ísafjörður, threading all the fjords on the way and once you’re there, you have to take a small boat to get to the final destination, a one hour boat trip organized specially on request.
I went there for the first time with a group in 2016 to work on building a small hydro power plant to provide the summer habitants with renewable energy. Almost all house in Iceland rely on renewable energy but there are a few exceptions, some places are so far away from the grid that they have to rely on oil or gas. Hesteyri used to be one of them until 2017 when the power plant was ready.
I had never heard of the place before I went there. Because I was going there to work I didn’t have a very glamorous image of the place in my head. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! As soon as I stepped off the boat I fell in love with the place. I remember seeing tall angelica’s and a field of purple and yellow flowers, I had never seen anything like it before. In Iceland it is quite uncommon to see a field filled with flowers and I didn’t realize right away why in Hesteyri flowers grow so wild. The answer lies in the remoteness; not even the sheep can get there. They are known to waltz freely around the entire country in summertime, eating all the grass they stumble upon and making no exceptions for beautiful flowers.
While staying there I picked up a book from the shelf calledÉg man þig (I remember you). It’s a ghost/horror story that takes place in Hesteyri. A group of people go there for a week and strange things start to happen. The scenery is perfect, abandoned houses with no electricity or phone connections. I recommend the book but I’m not sure I can recommend reading it there. I definitely had some nightmares.
Do you want to see the northern lights while staying in Iceland? For that you will need a bunch of luck and also a good forecast. The northern lights can vary a great deal. Sometimes they are barely noticeable, looking like a faint green veil on the sky. Other times they shine breathtakingly bright and dance across the sky in various shades of green, yellow and pink.
Before that people stayed in fisherman villages and on farms and made life work for themselves, using folktales among other things to entertain themselves during rest hours and evenings.
Imagine being on a farm in Iceland, surrounded by lava fields, extraordinary nature and the colors and power of the mountains everywhere you look. As you can imagine the possibilities of story telling about natural phenomena such as lava formations surrounded by geothermal smoke, fog and lack of sunlight during the winter months could encourage creative minds to form stories and tales through the centuries.
The book nation Iceland is known for having shelves filled with books by Icelandic authors and sometimes specially chosen foreign ones. In recent years this has changes a lot and the selection of books in the Icelanders shelves has changed from being Icelandic to being more international.
When I was growing up there were at least two Icelandic authors that were in every shelf in every home in Iceland I dare to say. One was our Nobel Price literature author Halldor Laxness. The other selection of books I was especially scared of and excited about at the same time as a child, were the folk tales collected by Jon Arnason
These books were so exotic, scary and exciting at the same time, about trolls, elves, hidden people, ghosts and other unexplained creatures. Enough to scare the hell out of everyone or at least get you wondering what was real and what was not.
And where did these stories come from? Yes they came from people living in extraordinary landscapes where the formation of the lava when the sun was setting or rising could be anything from a troll to an elf or a Christmas cat (yes there is such a thing in Iceland).
When asked if I believe in elves, trolls and hidden people, I always say that I don´t know if they don´t exist so why not believe and make your reality a bit more colorful and exciting. You can even get a guided tour and hear tales in areas where elves and hidden people have been living. That is a very exciting experience to try.
In modern times the Icelanders have integrated the believes in hidden people, trolls and elves into daily life such as during Christmas, New Years and midsummer celebrations when these creatures appear for some people to see..and some not.
You don´t need a huge imagination to understand where these tales come from if you have experiences being outside in the fog on a mountain surrounded by lava fields and no sound..
…until you hear something…..
(Helga Stina – Founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped)
If you want to know more about unwrapping Iceland and get a personalized travel plan for you and those who travel with you contact Helga Stina
Thirty miles from the Arctic Circle, in Husavik, a town with 2200 souls, a small but ambitious museum invites visitors to experience stories of exploration – including the most complete explanation of Iceland’s own “lunar mission” as a training location for the Apollo astronauts.
“The Exploration Museum tells stories of all types of exploration – from the Vikings to caves outer space. The common themes – human curiosity and the desire to uncover something new,” said Örlygur Hnefill Örlygsson (Orly), the museum’s founder and leader.
The story of “Iceland’s Lunar Mission”
Orly’s own interest in exploration dates back to his early childhood, to the time of NASA’s Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster. In spite of the tragedy, Orly began to develop an interest in space and in the reasons why people were interested in heading there. “My mother bought me a book, I was so interested – in space, planets, space suits, and even though I focused on other things when I was 10-25, my interest was re-sparked when I found out that the Apollo astronauts had trained here.”
“I was reading a book of old newspaper articles and saw an article, but also noticed there was not an effort to put the whole story together, which dated from two training missions in 1965 and 1967. So I started to gather the oral history of the event – locating the people involved, the drivers, journalists, and caterers, and they had a lot of stories to tell.”
“I managed to get some good stories and some amazing photos, which form the heart of the exhibit,” Orly added.
In collecting the stories, Orly noted a number of themes:
The astronauts themselves: “It was very powerful to get to know the astronauts. The stories about them were still vivid fifty years later. The astronauts were expected to be role models, and they had to be very discreet about their partying activities. And they partied a bit in Iceland too. In order to purchase liquor, they created a coded language with a local journalist to radio in orders. ‘Blue shirts’ was code for Vodka, ‘white shirts’ was code for whiskey. They also went fishing and did the touristy things one did here in those days.
Why they selected Iceland: “It wasn’t just that Iceland bore a resemblance to the moon, but that the types of geology were relatively similar compared to other locations around the world. As most of the Astronauts were trained as test pilots, they needed to learn geology and learn to pick the best rocks to return with. It’s a common misconception that they came here to practice moonwalking.”
Connecting with local history: the mission was not secret, and the Astronauts even had a press conference when they arrived. One of the first things they mentioned is that the Icelandic Loftleidir airliner they had flown from the US was named for Leif Eriksson, the Viking explorer said to have been the first European to land on North American soil.
The Exploration Museum’s exhibit is built around these stories and photos, but also includes personal items from the astronauts, an Icelandic coin from the astronauts’ first trip, rock samples used during the geology part of the training and even a small moon rock.
Exploring beyond the museum
As part of the Exploration Museum’s mission, Orly and his team also offer interested travelers opportunities to visit some of the locations where the astronauts trained. “We can take people to all of the places, and we have actually had eight of the thirty two astronauts come here with their families.”
The mission of the museum also focuses on stimulating the spirit of exploration more broadly. Every year, the museum hosts the Explorers’ Festival, where up to eight explorers from around the world come to exchange their stories, be they astronauts, cave specialists, or even scuba divers. Aside from sharing their stories, they share their art, sketches, poetry and music, and the Leif Eriksson Awards are given for life exploration achievements and for young explorers.
Here is a video focusing on how Iceland and the area near Husavik can be used for training purposes for future astronauts.
For those who make the six-hour trip from Reykjavik to Husavik (or the faster but pricey AIr Iceland Connect flight), there is much to explore in the nearby area, including glaciers, fjords, bays and opportunities to get out onto the sea. In the summer, it is also possible to drive across Iceland to Husavik through the stunning and largely untouched Icelandic Highlands.
If you are interested in being a part of an extraordinary trip visiting the highlands of Iceland and specially chosen locations, a cooperation of The Exploration Museum and Iceland Unwrapped, please have a look at www.moontrip19.com
Travel time can be in August and September 2019
This trip combines the wonders of Iceland with an adventure of a lifetime in the highlands and with a tailor made exploration trip in the Husavik area. This trip is for groups of families, friends, workplaces or anyone that would like to explore extraordinary nature, get to know the history of the exploration to the moon with experts in the field, don´t hesitate to contact us. All you need is a group of minimum four and a dream to do a trip like no other.
Are you kidding me? That‘s what came to mind when I visited a travel presentation market in Iceland this week.
Entrepreneurship in Iceland is extraordinary, in my opinion, for three main reasons:
First of all, as there are only 330.000 people living in Iceland, the need for people who can wear multiple hats is immense. When I used to work with young people in the municipality of Reykjavik many years ago, we used to hire really multi skilled people. The engineer and mountain bike geek, the actor and social worker, the musician and journalist and I could talk forever about the diversity of these combinations.
In Iceland you need to wear many hats to make things work. You need to be able to take a chance on trying new things, be brave and believe in yourself. That is why, in almost every tiny town in Iceland, (sometimes with less than 500 inhabitants) we have a swimming pool, restaurants, choirs, acting groups, reading groups, schools, shops and so much more.
This facts makes it common that the Icelanders use the term „Þetta reddast“ (which means ‘all will work out’) often when things look impossible. You can always find someone, somewhere who can help.
This is what makes entrepreneurship accepted and treasured atop this rock in the Atlantic. People need to help each other, finding solutions and putting on different hats.
Secondly, entrepreneurship is important and common in Iceland due to resources.
Every season has it´s resource needs and you need to work fast in making the most of each season. If it is blueberry picking in fall, mussel picking in all months that have the letter R in them (September, October, November, December, January, February, March, April), trout fishing in the summer, getting wool from sheep in the fall. The summer months are crucial, and the winter months as well, where you can use the time to smoke products, preserve them in sour, and so on.
This means again that people have to work fast together to make the most of things, to be innovative from how to preserve food so you can enjoy it all year round, to how you can create different uses for products (like opening a beer spa at a brewery).
Thirdly, Icelanders are a bit crazy. We believe in ourselves. We rely on our abilities to make things work and we have Viking blood inside so we are eager to explore both new worlds and new possibilities around us.
I invite you to come see for yourself and to experience the entrepreneurship of Iceland in its many forms.