Travel advice from ABTA Magazine as tourism restarts.
Tourism in Iceland has risen exponentially over the past few decades, reaching a high in 2018 when 2.3m people arrived, up from just 190,000 in 1995. To put that in perspective, just 364,000 live in Iceland, making it one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. Inevitably, conversations about overtourism and measures aimed at addressing it have followed, while visitor numbers have fallen slightly since 2018. Tourism ceased amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Iceland is divided into a number of geographical regions, each differing slightly in its culture and landscape but all truly Icelandic. Its regions have a host of diverse experiences, from puffins in the east, the black beaches of the south and the Museum of Nonsense in the Westfjords to whale watching in the north, making for an destination. However, much of tourism to the country is confined to the Golden Circle (the Geysir Geothermal Area, Gullfoss Waterfall and Þingvellir National Park) and the capital Reykjavik.
As lockdown continues to ease, the government has revealed a list of 74 countries from which inbound tourist and returning travellers do not need to self-isolate (also know as the travel corridors list) – ending its blanket 14-day quarantine policy. However, it is not necessarily the case that Britons can enter the countries on the exemptions list without needing to quarantine, or that flights are even currently available (research suggests as little as a third of the countries can be visited without restrictions). Although firm favourites France and Italy made it on to lists revealed by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for Transport (DfT), the USA and Portugal were notable exceptions.
Iceland – which has been widely applauded for its response to the Covid-19 crisis – is exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel and is on the travel corridors list, meaning returning Britons and inbound tourists do not need to quarantine on arrival in the UK. However, the FCO advises that everyone flying into Iceland must choose to pay to be tested for coronavirus or self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, although children born in 2005 or later are exempt. Those normally resident in Iceland or planning to stay for 10 days or more must take special precautions for five days and be tested for a second time five days after arrival – even if they have previously tested negative.
Upon arrival, visitors will be encouraged to sign up to the contract tracing app, Rakning C-19. EasyJet, Icelandair and Wizz Air have resumed a limited number of flights.
Ryan Connolly, marketing manager and co-owner of Hidden Iceland, which specialises in personalised small group and private tours, said: “Iceland is one of the most ideal locations to travel to as your first trip this year – or next. With border testing, virtually no domestic cases in the country, unlimited clean glacier water to drink and all local produce to eat, Iceland is a great place to visit if you want an adventure outside, away from all the crowds.
“Getting past the popular Golden Circle area and further into nature is what we always recommend. But, with an expectation of only 10 per cent of the tourist numbers this year, even the most celebrated places, like the ever erupting geyser, can be enjoyed in peace and harmony.”
(Pictured: A sunset at Seljalandsfoss by Norris Niman)