Inside our virtual event: Incredible Iceland with Will Gray

Last night, Discover the World and award-winning travel journalist and photographer Will Gray transported us to the beguiling country of Iceland. Here, we catch up on what happened…

Team Wanderlust
06 August 2020

You zoomed in in your hundreds last night to watch our Incredible Iceland: A virtual evening with Will Gray and Discover the World event.

Our editor-in-chief Lyn kicked off the evening by reminiscing about her trip to Iceland in the 1990s with Discover the World, before handing over to Will Gray. An award-winning travel writer and photographer, Will inspired us with his poetic talk and truly beautiful photos of Iceland. Will also filled us in on what to do when in Iceland, giving us a detailed account of how to get around and must-see spots throughout the entire country.

Discover the World’s Iceland expert Paavo joined Lyn and Will for the Q&A session, and you certainly had a lot to ask! From what food to eat and how much the beer costs, to accessibility for disabled travellers and how long you should spend in Iceland – our expert panellists answered the queries and shared valuable tips and advice for travel in Iceland.

The evening came to a close with the chat box alive with people praising the event, saying that Iceland was next on their travel list. If you didn’t make it to the event, here’s what you missed…

Watch the full webinar

Your questions answered

Lake Mývatn in northern Iceland (Discover the World)

You had no end of questions for our speakers last night, so we ran out of time before we got a chance to answer them all! Luckily, our experts have taken the time to answer everything here…

Do you think trips at the beginning of September will go ahead?

Paavo: As things currently stand, we are expecting our holidays to Iceland to continue operating throughout the remainder of the year and beyond. You can keep up to date with the most recent information here.

Is Iceland a good place for a Christmas trip?

Paavo:Yes, but it depends on what type of holiday experience you are looking for. If you’re after a family break with snow-related activities, plus reindeers and huskies, then we would recommend Swedish or Finnish Lapland instead.

Christmas and New Year in Iceland is magical, from beautifully-lit decorations to festive feasts, Icelanders take their Christmas celebrations seriously. Expect familiar traditions like carol singing and more unusual Icelandic traditions, such as the mischievous Yuletide Lads.

Wonderful Christmas lights are everywhere – in the streets, adorning windows, on balconies and covering gardens. Choose a festive stay in Reykjavik or combine with a countryside escape where you can experience traditional Icelandic hospitality and meals, cosy accommodation and beautiful scenery. Like the rest of the Nordic region, Christmas is celebrated on 24December.

How are Icelandic people reacting to tourists visiting? Are they happy for us to be there due to COVID-19?

Paavo:As all visitors have to take a COVID test on arrival, the locals feel relaxed and welcoming as they know the test has been negative if a visitor is travelling around Iceland.

Is Iceland a child-friendly destination?

Paavo: Yes, Iceland is a living geography lesson and perfect for a family holiday. The hotels are very child-friendly with many of them offering family rooms. You also have the option of farmstays, and self-catering summer houses.

Will Gray: We took our twins to Iceland when they were 10 years old (and travelled with another family who had an eight-year-old). Our itinerary involved flying to Akureyri, collecting a hire car, spending time in the Lake Mývatn/Húsavík area, then driving back to Reykjavik, via the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Golden Circle and south coast.

We found it extremely family-friendly. The kids loved the mix of adventure activities – we did everything from whale watching and horseriding to a glacier hike and puffin-watching boat trip. The accommodation picked by Discover the World was a mixture of hotels, farms and self-catering properties – all ideal for families. We’ve since been back to Iceland twice with our children!

Is Snæfellsnes best in the winter or in the summer?

Paavo: Both! In the winter, between October and March, you have a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights and between January and March, orcas gather in the bays and fjords of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula to gorge on overwintering shoals of herring. You can watch them on our exclusive Orcas and Aurora holiday.

In the summer, there are long hours of daylight perfect for exploring and hiking. We have even created a range of self-guided hiking routes that you can enjoy from our Glacier Lodge House on Snæfellsnes.

The Northern Lights (Discover the World)

Can you take your dog on a self-drive?

Paavo:All pets arriving to Iceland have to go into quarantine for a minimum of 14 days and this could be longer depending on the country of origin. Therefore I don’t think many people would consider this as a holiday option. More information and guidelines can be found from here.

I want to go horseriding in Iceland and I am looking for a group trip as I am on my own. What would you recommend?

Paavo:Horseriding group tours are widely available in Iceland. There is a great selection of locations and skill levels with durations varying from a couple of hours to multi-day excursions. Discover the World has close partners and we can organise a tour based on your requirements, just give us a call on 01737 218800 or complete ourenquiry form.

Which lesser visited natural spas would you recommend?

Paavo:You’ll find geothermal pools all over the country. We talked aboutThe Secret Lagoonin the Golden Circle area, andMývatn Nature Baths in the north of Iceland. We would also recommend a brand new spa in east of Iceland calledVOKwhich isvery special and built on a lake. Another new addition in the north of Iceland is theGeosea Spain Húsavík.

In west Iceland, right next to Hotel Husafell you’ll find a new spa calledKrauma. Then there are the many hot springs around the country where you can go for a dip. One of them is the hot spring river in Reykjadalur Valleyin the south of Iceland and the other is in Hellulaug in the Westfjords area.

What is your favourite place in the whole of Iceland?

Will: The Snæfellsnes Peninsula condenses everything that makes Iceland special into one area with a stunning coastline of sandy and black-pebble beaches, sea cliffs, arches, blowholes, sea stacks… and a snow-capped volcano at its tip. It’s great hiking country with coastal walks and mountain hikes.

And the wildlife is excellent. I’ve seen white-tailed sea eagles pirouetting above the mountain slopes; sperm whales offshore, and tracks of arctic foxes. In winter, huge shoals of herring overwinter in the bays and fjords along the northern coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula – attracting large pods of hungry orca. It’s one of the most incredible wildlife spectacles I’ve witnessed. For getting off the beaten track, I also loveEastfjords.

Paavo: My absolute favourite is the Hornstrandir Nature Reservein the north tip of Westfjords, which is only accessible during the summer season by boat. No one lives there anymore, but there used to be a fishing village with a herring factory. You still see old abandoned houses in the fjords and some are kept in good condition as summer houses by the family members.

This is an excellent location to go on a multi-day challenging self-supported trek. It is so remote that you can walk for the whole day without seeing another person and can enjoy the incredibly scenery to yourself. In fact, you are more likely to see Arctic foxes than fellow hikers! There is hardly any mobile phone reception, no 3G or WiFi so it is the perfect place to disappear.

Ready to start planning?

Our Iceland event covered many different trip options to Iceland of varying lengths, and covering many different highlights. For more information on the latest Iceland trips, sign up to the Discover the World email here and click the links below to see each trip in more detail…

Seljalandsfoss (Discover the World)

What did you have to say?

As always, the chat box was alive with thoughts and comments from the audience, so we thought we would share some of your comments here…

(Discover the World)

The photos are amazing and really bringing it to life.

Love the idea of a self drive. Sounds like an amazing way to escape the crowds. I last visited in early August and can’t wait to try a different time of year.

Whale watching and Northern Lights would be Amazing!

Brilliant session… I’m booked to travel to Iceland in December this year. Now I’m looking forward to the trip even more!

Thanks for a great evening. I really want to go now!

Thank you, really great session. I am inspired.

Another Great Wanderlust Webinar and 2021 will see my 40th anniversary of visiting Iceland. Loved it then and always wanted to go back to see it again, so maybe 2021 will be the year!

A look inside the evening…

Lyn kicked things off by talking about her time in Iceland in 1996.

Will shared some incredible photos with us during his presentation.

“If I had to use one word to describe Iceland, it would be dynamic,” said Will during his presentation.

Will tells us that Iceland is one of the best places in the world to see puffins, particularly between May and early August.

Will told us its important to head to remote places away from bright city lights for the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

With thanks to Will Gray and Discover the World for their support and expertise

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