Is the “stocked cabin” about to become Iceland tourism’s “next big thing” By Mike Klein

Tourism in Iceland has roared back from it’s Covid-era abyss. That means pressure on the country’s relatively tight accommodation supply is again an issue, particularly at the upper end of the accommodation spectrum.  But the ever-innovative Icelanders are putting their heads together to make better use of the country’s supply of holiday cabins or “summer-homes” for luxury-oriented travellers.

 

“Holiday cabins are a way of life for Icelanders,” says Helga Kristin (Helgastina) Fridjonsdottir of Iceland Unwrapped. “Many families own their own or rent them through informal local arrangements, through institutions like the unions they belong to, and, occasionally through AirBnB.”

Being in total relaxation for a couple of days in this environment is a treat of a lifetime – Photo by Helga Stina

“Many of the holiday cabins are fairly luxurious – nicely furnished, with full kitchens, capable of handling families or groups from two to twelve people.  Usually, they come with a water or mountain view. The kicker for many is an on-site hot-tub, often filled with local geothermally heated water.  Few things are better than to be sitting in a hot tub, with a cold drink in hand, taking advantage of the midnight sun or having an unforgettable night under the Northern Lights.”

Life at it’s calmest. Photo by Óskar and María

But holiday cabins are rarely sought as a lodging option by foreign visitors.  

To make holiday cabins more accessible and appealing, Iceland Unwrapped is doing two things: building a network of luxury holiday cabins in attractive parts of Iceland, and adding personalized itineraries to help guests make the most of the sites in a one-day return driving distance of their cabin. The hosts, in turn, would make available a package of groceries, beverages and prepared meals to those guests who want to eliminate the hassle and time involved in shopping in a new country.

Peace and quiet at a farm – Photo by Helga Stina

 

“The idea is that someone can fly into our airport, pick up their car, drive to their cabin, and go straight to the hot tub with their groceries and choice of beverage waiting in the fridge,” Helgastina explains.  “Iceland is fairly advanced when it comes to online grocery shopping and delivery, but the delivery zones tend to fall short of most holiday cabin locations. By literally going the extra mile, we create the most carefree, comfortable and customized Iceland experience possible.”

Geothermal energy is essential in Iceland for all kinds of purposes – Photo by Frida

In keeping with the country’s standard holiday cabin preferences, locations tend to be an easy 1-2 hour drive from the capital of Reykjavik, but options are available near northern hotspot Akureyri and other locations around Iceland’s coast.  Some are quite remote, others are within 30-45 minutes of small-town shopping and other amenities.

Photo by Helga Stina

For more information on stocked cabins – or to make your property available for rental on a non-exclusive basis, contact Iceland Unwrapped at helgastina@icelandunwrapped.com or via the website

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

What happens when the power is out? By Helga Stina

Iceland is a land of extremes. The elements of nature impact everything in life there.

Being raised in a place that sometimes makes it difficult to plan ahead, is a privilege. You might ask why that is the case, and it is because it teaches one to respect nature and its ways, to constantly find solutions and to think out of the box.

I remember clearly when I was younger and we had a lot of storms in the winter in Iceland, and the power went out a lot, as is to be expected when living on a rock in the middle of North Atlantic. Somehow in the memory, my mum always wanted to use the time to iron things. It was like, Yes now there is no electricity, now I finally have time to iron in peace, until she realized of course that, that wasn´t even possible 😊

Reykjavik in winter, after a storm – Photo by Helga Stina

I personally think we should have the power out more often in our modern lives to forcefully make us do other things, such as read,  talk to each other, read to each other, sit by a candle light, take a long warm bath (possible because water in Iceland is geothermal) or just to listen to the weather outside, and being thankful for having a warm house. I don´t think this will ever be possible again because of phones and computers that are pre-charged. But one can always hope 🙂

A beautiful winter sunset at around 15.00- Photo by Helga Stina

But how is it to live in a place with such darkness? 

When you live in a place where you have about 3 to 4 hours of daylight during the darkest months and almost 24 hours of daylight during the brightest months, you learn how to cherish what is possible at these times. Culture blooms in winter in Iceland and when you think about that it is a society of 330.000 people it is stunning that there is so much going on. And don´t get me started on quality of life included in the geothermal pools.

I, for example get frequently asked by non-Icelanders, why there are so many good musicians in Iceland. The joke is normally, that it must be so boring over there that people need to do something to survive the boredom.

That is far from the truth. Calmness and quietness to be able to create might be a big factor, great possibilities of music teaching for children from early age, access to possibilities of having concerts for young artist and, perhaps, the need to create something real when you can´t control everything…like the weather, the darkness, the storm or whatever it may be. Nearness to the elements of nature plays a role for sure.

Here are two examples of my favorite Icelandic artists singing in English. Júníus Meyvant and Hjaltalín. You probably already know Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men, Björk and Kaleo.

 

What would you do if the power went off?

If you would like to get connected to Iceland, nature and the elements, contact Iceland Unwrapped

Every travel plan is a personalized one.

Make an appointment for an informal talk with Helga Stina to start the adventure.

Advent in Iceland – It´s about warmth, traditions and surviving the darkness – By Helga Stina

One of my favorite times of the year has arrived. Advent is something that warms my heart and gets me excited every year, wherever I am.

When I was a kid, it always seemed to be snowing during this time of year. Everyone was busy getting ready for Christmas, baking, buying presents, cleaning their houses. Some even used the opportunity to paint the house. New curtains, Christmas dances, shoes in the window placed by children hoping them to be filled with a treat from the Yule Lads.

Iceland is sometimes Iceland – Photo unknown

Most importantly, everyone was making sure to get new clothes for Christmas, to avoid an encounter with the horrific, murderous Icelandic Christmas Cat. Writing the Christmas cards for loved ones was a wonderful tradition in my home, and one of my warmest memories was when I helped my grandma writing hers, because she said her handwriting wasn´t good enough. My mum´s Christmas cookies are a precious part of the memories. Wonderful to come inside with red cheeks after playing in the snow, a cookie and cold milk was exactly what was needed.

The most precious feeling of advent to me is the kindness of people and the importance of gathering, giving each other small presents and listening to beautiful music on a cold December evening. Even though the Icelanders have a tendency of overdoing it a bit during Christmas, that is just a part of the experience, and when people sit down together at 18.00 on Christmas eve, all stress is gone and nothing left to do but to enjoy to the fullest with your loved ones.

With age, I have come to miss Iceland a lot during this time of year as I live in The Netherlands, where there is not a lot of fuss about Christmas. They have other traditions that are highlighted here.

In the memory, the Advent was always filled with snow and beauty and yes cold – An overview of the pond in Reykjavik. It´s possible to skate here when the ice is thick enough – Photo by Helga Stina

Advent is also a mystical time of year. When you live in a land of fire and ice it is not surprising that stories of trolls, elves, hidden people and all kinds of creatures are created, especially during the darkest months of the year. A lot of mystical-looking areas encourage a vivid imagination. The stories told this time of year are some extraordinary and exciting.

There are many traditions in Iceland that are not, to my knowledge, practiced elsewhere. Many of them are only practiced in some parts of Iceland and some are well known to everyone.

My father puts up his old, handmade Icelandic farm with the Yule Lads every Christmas. It´s always exciting – Photo by Helga Stina

The 13 Yule Lads (instead of a single Santa Clause), Laufabraud (a beautifully decorated fried flat bread), skata (fermented fish), the Christmas Book Flood, shoes in the window and Christmas dances for the children. These are some of the traditions that make Advent and Christmas exciting and different in Iceland.

The Icelandic Parliament and the one of Iceland´s most iconic churches -Domkirkjan – Photo by Helga Stina

Many people go to Church only on Christmas Eve to welcome the peace, the light and the warmth for themselves, their family and others. Iceland is not now a very religious country; we were in the past and the traditions come from people putting their effort and pride in celebrating the good in the world, and during these hard months of winter in Iceland, that was a true gift of light into people´s life.

A beautiful Christmas eve with good food and presents or treats – Photo by Helga Stina

The traditions are mixed as Iceland became Christian in the year 1000 without blood being shed, under the condition of being able  to practice secretly their heathen traditions, believing in the Viking gods and goddesses, such as Thor, Odin and Freyja. That influences Iceland’s history from early times and explain the diversity of these traditions compared to those of some other countries. This influences the Advent, Christmas and New years traditions a lot in Iceland.

Advent is the time of warmth and trying to survive the darkness in Iceland. Being in love helps 🙂 – Photo by Helga Stina

 

In the month of December Iceland Unwrapped will be presenting you with many of these traditions.  Make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

A lucky follower on Facebook and Instagram will receive a gift from Iceland Unwrapped in the post.

See more info coming up.

Just a hint. It is connected to the Christmas Book Flood.

Greetings – Helga Stina founder and owner of Iceland Unwrapped 

Contact me for more information on how to combine Icelandic traditions in your vacation.

The Christmas book flood in December aims to get everybody reading during the holidays – Photo unknown

 

Is it a bad idea to visit Iceland in the winter?

It’s officially winter now on this side of the globe. In Europe we have moved the clock. In Iceland, the clock has stayed out, but the weather is starting to get tricky in some areas of the country.

Time to relax and stay inside

To survive the winter where you are… Or…?

Have you ever thought about Iceland as a winter destination? Read More

Iceland by the seasons: and why you need a travel planner for each

A season-by-season guide to planning an Iceland trip

Iceland may be a small country with only 330,000 residents. But the combination of high tourist numbers and a difficult-to-navigate language makes local knowledge a valuable resource for a visitor who wants to get maximum value from their Iceland experience. In a country with turbulent, ever-changing weather, and extreme seasonality of sunlight, Iceland becomes several ‘different’ destinations as the year unfolds. Each of which requires very different travel planning strategies. Read More

Have you ever dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights dance?

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.

Read More

Winter – Iceland Style

Iceland has four seasons. Even though , they tend to come and go rather randomly. That means you can have snow in June in some places. You can have a “red Christmas“, as we call it, without any snow (almost destroying the holiday spirit, as it is not very Christmas-like in Iceland when there is no snow). You can even also have four seasons in one day, as I‘ve experienced on surprisingly high number of occasions.

In  the Winter, Icelanders read books voraciously, and we are obsessed with coziness: candles, good food, music, knitting or singing, and swimming of course in the warm geothermal pools. There is nothing like sitting in a hot tub in the middle of freezing cold weather with a blizzard going on…one is safe and warm in a geothermal pool, and you don´t even feel the cold when you have to walk back through the same blizzard to your locker rooms to shower and get dressed. I dare you to try it. It makes a Viking out of you.

A pool at the end of the road

I remember a Danish friend of mine who was traumatized by the cold in December when he had to run 50 meters (or walk-run in agony) to the hot tubs at the swimming pool in Reykjavik. He jumped into the warmest one he could find, but that was shock number two! When he got to the good one, I couldn´t get him out as he didn‘t want to ever leave. Whenever he goes to Iceland he needs to go every single day to the pool and it doesn´t matter if there‘s a blizzard or not. Add a dash of Northern Lights…need I say more ??

I could go on about the winter season in Iceland, but even though it is the darkest time of the year and the weather can often be blustery and rough; we can always look forward to the national book flood happening in December when the Icelanders read like there is no tomorrow and life is not fulfilled until you have received at least one if not two books for Christmas.

Winter is a wonderful time to visit Iceland. It‘s even better when you can connect with the locals over a home-cooked meal or through a tour to come of Iceland‘s hidden winter gems.

More on personalized travel planning, connecting to the Icelanders and enjoying all seasons on www.icelandunwrapped.com

Photos by Helga Stina

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Why September is a good month to visit Iceland – Sunsets

You can enjoy unbelievable sunsets in amazing locations

Some of my most wonderful memories include beautiful sunsets all around the world. The one I saw on the Ipanema beach in Rio de Janeiro will never be forgotten. The one I saw in Lissabon some years ago on the last day of the year was also unforgettable. In Iceland I have seen some magical ones and last year I remember the one I saw at a beautiful place near to the airport where the open ocean was in front of me on one side and my favorite glacier Snæfellsjokull on the other. Truly a magical moment. Sunsets in Iceland are as different as the areas you visit, depends on location, light and I guess your state of mind.

Come to Iceland in September to experience  sunrises, sunsets, northern lights, people and wonderful food and drink. I guarantee you will keep Iceland in your heart forever.

More on personalized travel planning