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.
It´s been a long time now. A long time since we have travelled the world.
Iceland, which has seen incredible increases in tourism since the financial crisis in 2008, is currently facing 10% unemployment because of collapse in the tourism business since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Icelanders have seen worse through the centuries though, with fishing stocks failing, multiple volcanic eruptions, and weather that is so unpredictable that you can sometimes only plan your day of activities on the spot.
So what is happening now in Iceland?
Iceland is semi open. It’s much more open than Western Europe, for example. There is no lock down in Iceland. Shops are open (with restrictions) as are restaurants, schools and cafés. There is a limit on how many people can gather: no more than 10 people can meet.
To name a few other things, we have had a beautiful volcanic eruption happening just some km outside the international airport area in a perfect spot. Not dangerous to people, unless they are trying to do something silly like bbq -ing in the lava. It’s now only a medium hard hike away from the nearest road, following some quick maintenance by the authorities.
Meanwhile to make sure Iceland protects it´s daily life from Covid, the government has implemented new rules at the borders where travelers from high-risk “red” covid zones are obliged to stay at quarantine hotels directly after arrival for 5 days. This followed problems with visitors who refused to respect the mandatory but harder-to-enforce requirement to isolate on their own for five days, opting instead to visit supermarkets, ski resorts and volcanic eruptions and ultimately spreading infections. I hope we will soon have more vaccinated people traveling, and that the slow Icelandic vaccine roll out will pick up enough pace so this measure will not need to continue.
In the meantime, as my 13 year old said. “Covid can not take the beauty away”.
When you are up for travel again I recommend to use a personalized travel planner to explore possibilities to make sure everything you wish for is available and open. Iceland Unwrapped is actively visiting and researching to develop new itineraries which will be “ready to go” when the first vaccinated travelers come over this summer/autumn.
Keep dreaming and planning. This will all be a distant memory sooner than later I hope.
For more information on personalized travel plan in Iceland when you are ready to travel contact Iceland Unwrapped –www.icelandunwrapped.com
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.
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.
I love it when you don´t have to plan your whole vacation from minute to minute. I have traveled around the world and a big part of being somewhere is to bumble around, enjoying, drinking coffee and getting the atmosphere.
Some people that travel to Iceland understandably want to get into the nature as soon as possible and skip experiencing the beautiful city of Reykjavik and amazing possibilities there.
Please wait a minute before doing that.
The city is located in nature with the sea surrounding it, mountain circle visible from everywhere, a salmon river running through it and hiking possibilities all around.
If you want to go a tiny bit further you have mountains to hike, ski slopes to try and horses to ride.
The buildings and culture of Reykjavik is something different from everything I have experienced. The nearness of culture all around in architecture, sculptures, music, painting and other visual arts is one of the things that makes the city so special for tourists.
Just strolling around the center, breathing in the the air, sometimes fishy air, going to the harbor to see the boats come in or go out, drinking coffee and looking at peaces of arts on the walls of the buildings in the harbor area.
That´s a lovely way to enjoy a morning in Reykjavik.
In the afternoon you can visit one of the many interesting museum in the Reykjavik area or simply jump into a warm geothermal pool anywhere in the Reykjavik area.
Life can be very simple sometimes.
If you would like to know more about the hidden pleasures of Iceland and Reykjavik, have a look at your possibilities for an authentic and personalized vacation in Iceland.
Traveling to Iceland has never been easier. You can fly from all over the world to this isolated rock in the North Atlantic ocean.
There are many ways to visit Iceland. You can book a package and travel around with a group of tourists to the most popular places, the places you see pictures of in every tourist magazine, on Instagram and on famous travel sites. You can rent a car and travel around to the most popular places and get a trip of a lifetime.
I would love to present you to another possibility.
If you are up for something different like connecting to the Icelanders through food and music, getting the feeling of being Icelandic, discovering hidden gems and amazing peace, you should read further about personalized travel planning. That might be something for you and your fellow travelers.
The aim is always to make every trip unique for each group or individual and it is done in cooperation with the client.
Personalized travel planning includes bookings of activities and accommodation, car rental and assistance with booking good flights.
Furthermore insiders information on what to see, eat, drink and experience. Who to meet and how to get the feeling of the Icelandic culture and nature with the locals.
You will get information on how long your adventures will take and how to breathe in the amazing Iceland.
When you are there you have access to your travel planner in case of change of plans or if you want more insights about something on your path. Or if you simply want to share the excitement and feeling of being there.
Iceland is not an average place. Iceland Unwrapped is not a normal travel agent but a planner that takes into account your uniqueness, wishes and needs on this trip of a lifetime. The goal is always to make every trip a personal and unique one and to take you off the beaten path for authentic experiences and hidden gems.
If you think visiting Iceland is only glaciers, mountains and Northern Lights then think again! There is so much more to this unique and magical country than meets the eye. That is why I love showing visitors just how much they can get out of their stay in Iceland. The reason why I called my company ‘Iceland Unwrapped’ is because that is exactly what I do. Visiting Iceland is a gift no one will forget, but most people only see a small part of it… Through my exclusive excursions I reveal the best this wonderful country has to offer bit by bit.
And the best part? Every trip is tailor-made to your specifications.
What exciting and authentic treats do I have in store for my clients?
Connecting to a network of professionals in Iceland. Are you a company or an institution and would you like to get insights from the Icelanders and from Icelandic society? Please contact us for more information on what is possible.
Professional and educational trips
Tours for professionals in various fields. Iceland Unwrapped has planned trips for professionals in various fields. Iceland has a lot to offer for professionals that would like to be inspired by other professionals, and by the nature and culture of Iceland. Have a look at these options for the possibilities of connecting and being inspired in Iceland. And because Iceland is located almost half way between Europe and North America, you can have your team meet in the middle.
Unique experiences and adventures
Moon Trip – A possibility of stepping in the footsteps of the Astronauts that went to the moon 50 years ago.
Wool in Iceland – Knitting in Iceland and getting into the world of wool in Iceland.
Female-empowerment trips – We connect successful women with the locals and teach you about Iceland’s fascinating history and how women have emerged as a driving force behind the country that you see today. This is a trip that both women and men should do, as gender equality can never be reached without the participation of all humans.
Nature and wildlife
Nature photography – Join our local experts and learn how to capture the magic of the country.
Fishing, sailing and diving – You can’t escape the sea when you come to Iceland, and the surrounding oceans produce some of the freshest fish you will taste.
Animal and whale watching – Year round Iceland has some spectacular whale sightings!
Hiking, biking and extreme sports – From horse riding and biking to adventures in the wild windswept wilderness.
Family travel and culture
Iceland for families – Did you know we offer walks in nature where your little ones can discover elves in Hafnarfjordur? Not to mention some amazing days out, museums and family friendly outdoor pursuits.
Iceland and the arts – Meet local authors and artists and learn about how the amazing history and culture of the country has influenced their work. You might even be invited for a private concert in a musicians house.
Glamping and eco-travel – Immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside the responsible way.
And this is just the tip of the Icelandic iceberg!
If you have a specific themed trip you would like to make alone, as a family, or with a group of people, please get in touch and my team and I will help you plan your dream Icelandic escape or work related dream trip. We also cater for special needs and very specific requests… No request is too big or unique.
And discover the delights away from the tourist trail?
Iceland is on everyone‘s bucket list. Although just because it‘s an easy country to visit, it doesn’t mean that you can guarantee an amazing holiday by simply jumping on a plane and booking a hotel. With such a diverse range of things to do and experience, you need the help of an experienced travel planner.
Iceland travel planner
I can expertly plan your holiday to Iceland. Not just because I‘m a local and I know the country like the back of my hand – but, because I’m a local who knows everyone worth knowing. I can take my clients to places that no guide book or website will ever show you.
Intrigued? Let me give you an example…
Some people ask me if I can plan a trip to visit shark hunters in Snæfellsnes. This isn’t something many people know about or would feel comfortable booking directly themselves. The old farmers use ancient methods passed down through generations to preserve the shark meat. When you meet these extraordinary people, you not only get to listen to their amazing stories but your create memories of a lifetime. I have a unique overview of both the country and the people that make up its rich and vibrant culture. Because of this you’re guaranteed to discover many hidden gems that you didn’t even know existed.
You want an example of another Icelandic secret?
I bet you didn’t know Iceland is famed for some really great ales. I can take you to a father and son brewing team in the North of the country who decided to one day start creating their own beers in the middle of nowhere. Following an accident at work, the father could no longer continue working as a fisherman so decided to follow his passion. Now their business has grown from strength to strength. In fact their ales are so popular they can´t even fulfill orders within the Icelandic market and have vowed to not distribute outside of the country.
These are just two examples of some hidden gems Iceland has to offer that you won‘t be able to find yourself. There are of course plenty of other places and experiences. From breathtaking scenery not accessible via normal roads to fun days out for the most adventurous among you.
I can work around you and your interests, your budget and your capabilities. I will ensure that your holiday of a lifetime in Iceland will really be one filled with plenty of happy memories. And hidden gems!