You want to come to Iceland when you can travel again?
New flights open up possibilities – but you will need a local to navigate.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy the healing powers of Iceland’s best spa retreats! Iceland has some of the world’s most breathtaking natural spas and springs. I take my visitors away from the crush of tourists to a really hidden gem.
Relax the unforgettable way
Iceland Unwrapped offers information on all kinds of geothermal pools and spas around Iceland. Do you want something authentic and natural? Something a bit more fancy, or a mix of all kinds of experiences? Let us know and we make a plan for you, including all kinds of options.
Combining your trip with a Yoga retreat, hiking tours or mindfulness activities is a great way to travel in Iceland. The nature provides the peace of mind and healthy alternatives, amazing quality of pure food and professional people who want to be of assistance.
Contact us for more information on how to integrate all kinds of options on your trip in Iceland.
Body, mind and spirit
Iceland Unwrapped by Helgastina offers an extraordinary experience for the body and soul. An alternative way to recharge your mind. We work exclusively in cooperation with the NLFI Health Clinic in Hveragerði. We offer packages at the spa from 2 to 21 days. This includes a personalized activity plan, accommodation, access to facilities at the clinic and full board with organic food. The package also features our unique and unmissable ‘Dining with the Icelanders’ experience.
Hveragerði, the Hot Spring capital
The NLFI Rehabilitation and Health clinic in Hveragerði is 45 km from Reykjavik in the scenic south of the country. The town prides itself for being the Hot Spring Capital of the World. The clinic is one of a number of ‘hidden gems’ that we at Iceland Unwrapped offer to our visitors. This retreat is beneficial for those recovering from cancer or other serious illnesses. It’s also ideal if you have psoriasis, neck and back problems. Visit this spa to reduce your weight, give up smoking or reduce stress. The centre can totally turn your life around.
Please note that the activities and SPA at the NLFI can only be used when staying minimum two nights on location.
Contact us for further information regarding combining your trip with spa and wellness.
A life changing experience
With access to natural geothermal baths and health treatments, you will come back rejuvenated. The centre offers renowned fresh cuisine and inspiring scenery, a must-see for everyone. Staff are medically trained and its community of people are all committed to natural wellness.
Bookings through Iceland Unwrapped with Helgastina also receive a 10% discount off all treatments at the clinic.