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

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.

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