Insights in Iceland from our local expert

Iceland is a country which cannot fail to spark the imagination. We spoke to our local expert about life on the island during coronavirus.
Iceland, lonely red church in the Westfjords. Photo: iacomino FRiMAGES/Shutterstock
Iceland, lonely red church in the Westfjords. Photo: iacomino FRiMAGES/Shutterstock

Iceland is a country of outstanding natural beauty, famed for its lonely landscapes, shimmering ice sheets, thundering waterfalls and bubbling mudpots. Known for its unparalleled quality of life and progressive attitudes, it comes as no surprise that the nation’s response to coronavirus was well co-ordinated and effective. A recent local outbreak has resulted in new restrictions being imposed on 31 July – including a ban on gatherings over more than 100 people. We spoke to local expert Preeti to find out what life was like over in Iceland; note that her replies reflect the status as it was about one week ago.

Preeti, the IG local expert for Iceland. Photo: private archive

Chatting with our local Iceland expert, Preeti 

Q: What does your typical day look like at the moment? How has it changed from before the pandemic?

A: The pandemic has definitely hit the tourist industry pretty hard. We are working much-reduced hours in order to keep a sustainable operation. But we are still checking and replying to travel inquiries every day and welcoming those customers who are adventurous enough to travel during these complicated times.

The view from Eldfell volcano, Heimaey, Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar), Iceland. Photo: Neja Hrovat/Shutterstock

Q: Iceland has handled the pandemic very well and the government is planning to loosen the restrictions further – what kind of restrictions do foreign travelers face at the moment? And has travel almost returned to a normal in Iceland?

A: Iceland has indeed handled the pandemic quite well. There are still travel restrictions for travelers outside the EU, but travelers within the EU are able to take a border test and proceed with their trip if they test negative. There has already been a small increase in tourism this July, both from abroad and also with Icelanders taking advantage of reduced crowds and prices. So for travelers within the EU, Iceland is definitely a practical travel option right now and a good place to get away from the crowds.
There is strong potential will in Iceland for further relaxing travel restrictions and re-opening to the rest of the world as soon as it is feasible.

Iceland's puffins. Photo: vacclav/Shutterstock

Q: Before Covid-19, the island witnessed a steady increase in tourism over the past decade. What are your favorite ‘hidden’ or off-the-beaten track secrets that travelers should experience in Iceland?

A: The Ring Road has become quite busy with tourists over the last decade. For travelers looking for off-the-beaten-path places, we recommend venturing beyond the Ring Road and exploring regions such as the Westfjords, which is often referred to as Iceland's best kept secret. Another favorite region of ours are the Eastfjords, which are a part of the Ring Road but they offer a lot of diversions that most people miss out on. Finally I really like the Vestmannaeyjar islands, which are just off the South Coast and offer beautiful volcanic landscapes as well as a fascinating history.

Vestmannaeyjar town on Westman Islands of Iceland. Photo: silky/Shutterstock

Q: When are the best times to visit Iceland and are there differences in the traveling style depending on the season? For example due to weather changes?

A: Summer is the most popular time to visit Iceland, with the peak season being between June and August when temperatures are at their warmest. The winter is completely different and offers different attractions, such as the northern lights, which are visible from early September to early April. And you can often get a taste of both when you visit during the shoulder seasons. So you can say that every time of the year is a good time to visit Iceland – it just depends on the experience that you want from your Iceland trip.

Iceland - Klifbrekkufossar waterfalls situated of the Eastfjord. Photo: 2020 Photography/Shutterstock

Q: What, in your opinion, are the 'must-do's to experience in Iceland for any traveler?

A: This is a difficult question! I would say get to know the local culture, history, perspectives, folk stories – all of which really deepen one's understanding and appreciation of the country. Also make sure to do some hiking and walking, as per your fitness level, as it is essential to spend enough time outdoors to get in touch with the island's raw and pristine nature. Dipping in some of the natural hot pools along the way is another quintessential Icelandic experience. And finally I would make sure to taste the best of the traditional Icelandic cuisine, in particular the fresh fish and the tasty free-range lamb.