The coronavirus pandemic effectively closed global travel in 2020, denying many people the dream holiday they had planned for the year. While no doubt necessary for combating the spread of the virus, flight restrictions left thousands around the globe dreaming of when life might one day resemble normality again.
Thankfully, forecasters are cautiously optimistic regarding our travel prospects in 2021. As a vaccine draws ever closer, analysts have predicted tour operators may open for business across Europe as early as May/June.
Though we do not yet know when visitors from North America will be permitted to travel to Iceland, a vaccination program has been rolled out in the US just this week, signifying hope for the future.
While none of this can be guaranteed, it is natural to speculate on how we will reshape our lives post the pandemic. With any luck, overseas travel will be on the cards for many of us; the freedom to reacquaint ourselves with the earth’s corners, and say a long goodbye to the homes in which we’ve been stuck inside all these months.
This leaves only one question; Where are you planning to visit first when all this is over?
We at Traveo hope it’s Iceland, and cannot wait to see people flock back to our beautiful island home. This year’s drop in visitor numbers has had a dramatic effect on the country, pausing life, or dare we say, putting it on ice. (Note; immediate regret on part of the author.)
The streets of the capital, Reykjavík, are quiet, its hotel rooms and bars empty, its roads clear of shuttle buses and large 4x4s. Residents of smaller towns in the north, east and west, have almost seen a return to the Iceland of old; a place where visitors are a rarity; where solitude in the face of overwhelming nature reigns supreme.
Iceland’s ethereal beauty remains as breathtaking and magical as ever, entirely unchanged by the social circumstances we have endured over the last months.
Northern Lights continue to dance like colourful spirit ancestors in the sky. Hot springs still blow boiling water in thick, turgescent mists of steam. Glacier lagoons remain twinkling and tranquil, disturbed only by their floating icebergs as they groan and roll atop the water.
On the cultural end of the spectrum, live events and luxury amenities are only getting better here in Iceland, making it an excellent choice for return visitors planning their trips next year!
See below for our top seven reasons why Iceland should be next up on your travel schedule!
7. Iceland’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Iceland has been widely praised around the globe for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, with great focus placed on its tracing capabilities. Recently it placed no 7 (out of 98) on the Covid Performance Index — which compares how different countries handled the coronavirus — as measured by the Lowy Institute.
The Icelandic government is fortunate to have a small population under its care, and with the help of a private biopharmaceutical company, has had good success tracking the virus and rooting out any source of it they find.
- You can read our feature-length article Latest Updates on COVID-19 in Iceland for more information.
When it comes to travellers arriving in Iceland, there are currently some rules laid down by the government that must be adhered to. As it stands now, Iceland is only open to valid passport-holders from EU/EFTA countries. Schengen borders are closed to those from the UK, Canada and the USA, though we hope to see this change soon.
Every new arrival to the country has to take two tests separated by a 5-6 day quarantine period. The first test is performed at the country’s border, but the second test can be performed either in Reykjavík or at health facilities around the country. The tests are free of charge.
Those who can present a certificate from an EU/EFTA state confirming a previous COVID-19 infection or a certificate for a full vaccination with an approved vaccine against coronavirus are exempt from quarantine.
In the strange interlude that has been 2020, the Icelandic government has pledged $12 million to tourism infrastructure, focusing on maintaining the country’s harbours and roads. That’s good news for future visitors looking to do a Self-Drive Tour of the country.
What’s Next for Iceland Travel in 2021?
The Icelandic government has announced that they will relax their border restrictions on May 1st. Of course, there is always a chance some restrictions will be lifted before that time but the government plans to implement a new colour-code system for countries in spring.
Depending on active cases and infection rates, countries will be allotted a red, orange or green colour. Red countries will still be able to visit Iceland but visitors will need to take the two tests with a 5 days quarantine in between (just like the current restriction stipulate). Visitors from orange and green countries, however, will be able to skip the quarantine if they can present negative PCR-test results from their own country and their test at the airport is negative.
Certificates for previous Covid infections or vaccinations will, of course, also be valid.
6. Experience Icelandic Nature Without the Crowds
Though it is difficult to claim such a thing with any real certainty, it is not expected that Iceland will see a huge influx of tourists in 2021. Conservative estimates by IcelandAir and the Central Bank expect anywhere from 750,000 to 950,000 tourists in the coming year, which is but a fraction of the numbers seen before.
- See our fantastic selection of Summer Holiday Packages in Iceland.
While somewhat detrimental to the economy, this lack of visitors will have particular benefits for those that do make it here.
With any luck, those first guests to arrive back here will have the most beautiful attractions almost entirely to themselves. Waterfalls and mountains, lava fields and craters, glacier lagoons and black sand beaches; all can be witnessed without an omnipresent stream of passing sightseers, adding great depth to your visit.
Wherever you choose to venture in Iceland, you are sure to find expansive vistas where no people, structures or roads can be seen for miles on end. These desolate, yet strangely captivating panoramas can take many forms, from snow-swept sheets of glacial ice to cragged shorelines composed of black volcanic pebbles.
What Will Change in Iceland for Visitors in 2021?
Those first to venture back to Iceland will be lucky when it comes to avoiding the crowds. As stated, few visitors are expected in 2021, but there will also be a few changes. 2020 gave the Icelandic government time to make structural changes to Iceland’s tourism infrastructure that reshapes and redefines how visitors experience the country.
One change that will be introduced in 2021 is that tourist companies travelling to the highly popular Vatnajökull National Park will be subject to visitor quotas. This means there will be fewer crowds and smaller parties at the most beloved sites, including Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and the many crystalline ice caves that burrow beneath Vatnajökull glacier itself.
Aside from this, imposed quotas will ensure a greater level of safety for guests, as well as lessen the environmental impact on this beautiful area. Vatnajökull covers roughly 8% of Iceland’s landmass, and is considered the largest glacier in Europe.
In 2019, the park was approved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which only demonstrates how important it is to protect this natural reservation in the future.
See the Remote Westfjords in the Winter
For those looking for true isolation, there is no better place than the Westfjords, which extend from the mainland’s Northwest corner like a reaching hand. This wild and dramatic region is known for its history of witchcraft, as well as picturesque nature reserves and epic bird cliffs.
Just recently, a road was opened through the region, allowing guests easy access to some of the some of the area’s most beloved natural attractions, regardless of the season. One of the most popular sites is Dynjandi waterfall.
Composed of thirty-two separate falls that layer up the cliff side like a wedding cake, few people, including locals, have ever seen the waterfall during the winter until now.
5. Sky Lagoon – New Geothermal Spa Opens in Iceland in 2021
In 2021, the opulent waters of Sky Lagoon geothermal spa will be opened to the public for the first time. Located in Kársnes Harbour in the charming town of Kópavogur, this promising new complex will be easily accessible to those staying in the capital, Reykjavík.
The Blue Lagoon, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, is Iceland’s most famous geothermal spa and has long attracted visitors with its aquamarine water and stark volcanic surroundings. With bathing facilities open there since as far back as 1987, the Blue Lagoon has long held the crown thanks to its close proximity to both the capital and airport.
Sky Lagoon will, no doubt, be looking to compete, hoping to draw travellers to its pools with a naturally-inspired aesthetic that has been masterfully integrated into Kópavogur’s urban landscape.
Expect to see quaint turf houses and other rustic decor built up alongside the poolside, as well as fantastic views overlooking the nearby bay.
Described as a multi-sensory oasis, this relaxation hotspot will come with a 70 metre (230ft) infinity pool, stunning ocean vistas and even traditional saunas. There will also be dining opportunities at Sky Lagoon, as well as a swim-up bar and a gift shop, rounding off the experience as Iceland’s most tantalising new spas.
Iceland already has a reputation as the perfect place to de-stress; something much needed given the year we’ve all endured. Fortunately, the healing properties that come with warm geothermal water will soon wash your worries away, leaving you serene and calm amid stunning scenery.
- Don’t miss out on these brilliant Spa and Swimming Pool Day Tours in Iceland
Though there is no concrete date as of yet, the Sky Lagoon plans to open in Spring 2021. Hopefully, this will constitute perfect timing for when visitors start to return to Iceland for their holidays.
Other Geothermal Spas to Visit in Iceland
While we wait for the Sky Lagoon to open, there are several other spas dotted around the country that offer visitors an equal level of luxury. All of these provide fantastic surrounding vistas, bubbling hot pools and fantastic amenities to make your visit not only pleasant, but unforgettable.
While the Blue Lagoon might be Iceland’s most famous resort, others like Vök Spa, in East Iceland, remain popular with guests venturing further afield. Visitors in the North have the opportunity to spend time at either Mývatn Nature Baths, nearby the lake of the same name, or GeoSea Spa in Húsavík.
Those remaining close to the Capital Region can also check out Iceland’s oldest outdoor swimming pool, The Secret Lagoon, which not only showcases live hot springs, but also makes for a fantastic end-of-the-day stop after discovering the Golden Circle sightseeing route.
- Browse through our range of Small Group Holiday Packages in Iceland
Sky Lagoon is not the only new addition to Iceland’s geothermal spa scene. A new venture is planned to open in the remote Westman Islands, located a short distance from Iceland’s South Coast. Currently, there is no formal opening date for the aptly-named Lava Lagoon, but we will be sure to break the news as it happens!
4. Iceland is a Short Flight from the USA, Canada and Europe
Alright, this one can be disregarded for those of you reading from, say, Los Angeles, or the outer-peripheries of Siberia. Still, there’s no denying Iceland holds a convenient spot on the world map for many travellers.
Located in the Mid-Atlantic, Iceland straddles the borderline between North American and Europe, making it an ideal stopover for travellers. Best of all; there’s rarely any need to change flights, with many airlines now offering direct transfers from multiple locations worldwide.
Travellers from the UK are best positioned to make the most of short flight times. Flying from Scotland to Iceland takes around 2 hours and 7 minutes, while flights from London take only a short while longer at 2 hours and 47 minutes. As someone who routinely flies back and forth from Iceland to the UK, I can vouch for just how unobtrusive this journey is.
Though I have no personal experience, a quick google search informs me that Americans and Canadians travelling from New York or Toronto will arrive in Iceland after approximately a six-hour flight.
Those to the west and south will, of course, have longer flights to deal with—though a visit to Iceland is still totally worth it, we might add.
Upon arrival, the vast majority of visitors find Keflavík International to be an easy-to-navigate airport, with shuttle buses, taxis and car rentals all within reach just outside.
From there, it’s a mere forty minute drive through the mystic landscape that is the Reykjanes Peninsula before finally coming to a stop at the capital, Reykjavík.
3. Discount Tours in Iceland in 2021
Right now, many companies (including Traveo!) are offering discounts on products as a way of drawing back visitors to the country. Not only is this a vital economic measure that will help to bolster and build up Iceland’s tourism industry, but a sincere invitation for those eager to explore this stunning Nordic isle.
We here at Traveo are offering a 20% discount on all of our packages. This means you can choose to book any excursion right now—be it a small-group adventure, self-drive or a privately guided tour—and come later in the year. We offer a variety of authentic experiences in Iceland that are sure to tickle your fancy, and we advise browsing our varied selection of Iceland Holiday Packages.
If you’re still unsure exactly what-to-do in Iceland, or are having difficulty picturing how you might fill your time here, we encourage you to find out more information through our informative Blogs. Within our articles, you are sure to find the perfect selection of activities to suit your vacation needs.
If, still, you’re hesitant, you can contact us directly and we will tailor-make your trip.
2. Tailor-make your trip in Iceland
Everybody likes their holiday experience a little different. Some are hellbent on maximising every second of their time abroad, racing from one spot to the next, while others like to take their time appreciating the sights and sounds.
At Traveo, we are dedicated travellers ourselves, so we know all too well that one person’s perfect holiday might not suit everybody. Accounting for this, we favour individual tastes instead of trying to force our guests into a box.
Personally, we like a say in how we spend our days overseas, and hope to offer our customers the exact same opportunity. Booking with Traveo allows for the option to customise your vacation, either adding specific activities to your schedule as you see fit, or planning your itinerary from scratch.
Contact Traveo About Planning Your Iceland Trip
Prospective guests are encouraged to fill out our contact form, providing us with as much information as you can regarding what you want to see, how you want to go about seeing it, and how many days you plan to spend in the country. The more we know about what you expect to see and do, the quicker we can help to organise your trip.
In the Additional Information box on the contact form, feel free to list particular sites you want to see, be it Seljalandsfoss Waterfall or Kirkjufell Mountain, as well as particular activities and experiences that have caught your attention.
If there are cultural landmarks, galleries or museums you wish to see, or even if you queries about where to eat or stay, we are at your service.
After we have received your contact form, we will organise the logistics of your trip, taking each and every detail into consideration. Catering to your personal tastes is where we feel we excel, not mentioning our competitive pricing and decades of experience in the business.
1. Finally… We’ve Missed You!
In truth, there are a million reasons for you to visit this awe-inspiring island. But, if we were to be entirely selfish in our reasoning, we’d like to add just one more; come back because we’ve missed you.
Let’s face it, shall we? 2020’s been a genuinely gruelling year, made less tolerable by the fact that, for the first time in living memory, international travel was prohibited. We have been without loved ones, friends and colleagues, doing our very best to wait the pandemic out by the most selfless and conscientious means possible.
Now that a vaccine has been rolled out in several countries, it would seem that patience has finally paid off. As such, people that decide to travel again in 2021 will be among the first to appreciate what we have been missing. Hopefully, instilling in them a gratitude made all the more impactful by the staggering natural beauty Iceland possesses.
Those who come for nature will surely be astounded, but there are plenty of interests for history lovers and fans of culture too.
Museums, art galleries and swimming pools all make up the scenery of local life and are well worth a stop for anyone looking to learn more about what makes the Icelanders tick.
Believe us when we say that our guides and local experts are edging in their seats, waiting for that moment when they can share their passion for Iceland once again.
A common phrase around these parts, þetta reddast, translates to “Everything will be okay…”
It’s a philosophy that has served the Icelanders well during these trying times; one that has kept the country forward-thinking, prepared for the day when the pandemic is truly over, and visitors can arrive once more.
Almost all who have visited this place can testify that it’s an adventure like no other, having delighted millions with its glittering ice caves, crystalline waterfalls, barren lava fields and mighty glacial volcanoes.
Could you be the next to discover this mystical country for yourself?