Why you should travel to Iceland first after Covid-19

Iceland has re-opened for tourism

Iceland first to open

We Icelanders like to be the first at everything, an attribute we most likely got from our viking forefathers, who formed the first democratically voted national parliament in the world, Alþingi, in 930 a.d. (and it is still operational). We had the first female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, voted into office in 1980. We had the first openly gay prime minister in the world, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who took over as prime minister in 2009, following the economic collapse of 2008. We might also become the first country in the world to re-open our borders for tourism after the covid-19 pandemic is over.

Learning from the past

turf house
Photo by Kuggur.com

If we learned anything from our viking forefathers and -mothers, it’s that resilience is everything, and seeing solutions instead of problems will move us forward. We used that knowledge in the financial collapse of 2008, and from 2010 we had a remarkably fast recovery. 2010 was an important year in Icelandic history. For one thing, the now infamous Eyjafjallajökull decided to wake up and spew a lot of ash all over the place. That’s nothing new for us Icelanders. The difference this time was that the volcano’s ash cloud spread all over Europe. That was a first since we started to depend so much on air travel. Not good news for tourism now is it? Well, turns out it was great news for tourism in Iceland, at least in the long run. They say all publicity is good publicity and Iceland started gaining notoriety for it’s untouched volcanic landscapes, glaciers, beautiful black sand beaches, erupting hot springs and what not. Tourism literally bloomed. Until the world changed in early 2020.
I don’t have to explain to you that there is no tourism in Iceland now. There is no tourism anywhere. We all know this. But things will re-open and when they do there are some really good reasons why Iceland should be the first country you visit. And here’s some good news; Iceland might re-open for tourism sooner than you’d think.
Iceland’s Prime Minister, Katrín Jakobsdóttir announced at a press conference on 12. May that Iceland will loosen travel restrictions on 15. June, or possibly sooner. This will be made possible by Covid-19 tests done upon arrival at the Keflavík airport and test results will be available the same day.

A thousand reasons to visit Iceland

northern lights
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

But why should Iceland be the first country you visit after the pandemic is over?
There have always been a thousand good reasons to visit Iceland. I could simply make a list of a thousand places to see on the beautiful island, but let’s be more specific and run over a handful of the reasons why Iceland should be on the top of your list.

Personal space

reykjavík harpa
Photo by Fabian Møller

Although being friendly and welcoming, we Icelanders have always valued our personal space and respected yours. Who would have thought that such a time would come that the world would adopt the Icelandic way of standing 2 meters apart?
Even after we flatten the curve social distancing will still be important. Iceland might not be huge, but it ain’t tiny either, and it’s scarcely populated. Even Reykjavík is spacious for a city. It’s foreseeable the big tour groups won’t be so much sought after, and in summer Iceland is the perfect country to drive around by yourself. Whereas we don’t recommend winter driving in Iceland for anyone who isn’t used to narrow, icy roads, the situation is much easier in summer. You might not be able to travel far into the highlands without an experienced guide in a modified off-road vehicle but the low-lands are easily navigated.

Be alone in the vast Icelandic landscape

vast landscape
Photo by Andre Filipe

Come mid June you will have a unique opportunity to experience Iceland without the crowds. Imagine having the beautiful Seljalandsfoss all for yourself, or walking in the black sands of Reynisfjara beach, marking the only footprints on the whole beach. After being locked up in our homes, the vastness of the Icelandic landscape will be a welcomed escape.

Photographers delight

open road
Photo by Ivars Krutainis

One is great, two is a crowd. Being a photographer myself I understand that strange way us photographers see the world. Nothing is worse than a crowd when you’re trying to capture that majestic landscape. As I said before, now will be your chance, you won’t have to wait for people to move out of your frame. You’ll have it all for yourself

You'll always feel welcome

welcome to iceland
Photo by Jakub Kapusnak

We Icelanders have always prided ourselves of giving guests extra warm welcomes. Icelanders are known for being open minded and non-judgmental. Who ever and how ever you are, you can always be yourself in Iceland.
Now more than ever we’ll be happy to see you. So happy indeed that most service providers in the Icelandic tourist sector are putting together all kinds of special deals and packages.

One of the safest countries in the world

church iceland
Photo by Jon Flobrant

Iceland ranks among the safest countries in the world on all lists. Crime rate is very low and serious violent crimes are very rare. You can travel safely around Iceland without much worry of being a target of theft or criminal injury.

We value your safety

visit iceland
Photo by Julentto Photography

Websites such as Safetravel.is don’t only provide you with news and warnings of storms and road conditions, but furthermore you can also leave them your travel itinerary, in the unlikely case you get lost. This is especially valuable for solo travelers and those exploring Iceland on their own.

The importance of eco-friendly living.

geothermal energy

The lock down has shown us all the importance of eco-friendly living. We’ve been seeing news of less pollution from all over the world as a result of people being locked down in home quarantine. We Icelanders have always been environmentally conscious. Eighty five percent of Iceland’s energy comes from clean, renewable hydro- and geothermal sources. For almost a century now, Iceland has been on the leading edge of harnessing the powers of the volcanic land in a eco-friendly way, striking a unique balance between usage and preservation of nature.

Clean, healthy food

Icelandic food

We talked about our favorite Icelandic food in a previous post.
For centuries Icelandic diet has been mostly protein based. Fresh fish, free-range grass-fed lamb and Icelandic Skyr, which I can only describe as a delicious protein bomb, has been the backbone of the Icelandic diet since the Vikings settled here in the 900’s.

All this combined makes Iceland the perfect first choice as a country you should visit after the pandemic is over.We Icelanders like to think about the vikings as having been unique in their thirst to explore, but of course they weren’t. Its simple human nature. We all have the urge to see the world and experience new things.

Words by Guðmundur Óli Pálmason, tour guide, visual artist (www.kuggur.com) and co-owner of www.LocationScouting.is