There is perhaps no other more mystifying place on earth than Iceland. Known as “the Land of Fire and Ice”, Iceland is home to extreme geological contrasts being blessed with some of the largest glaciers in Europe and also some of the world’s most active volcanoes. Iceland’s extreme beauty has captured the world’s attention making this small Nordic country one of the hottest tourist destinations in the the world. Many travel companies have opened up shop to support the growing tourism industry especially in a sustainable, responsible way. Hidden Iceland is one small tour company that is breaking the way in sustainable travel.
I went to Iceland in the summer of 2008 filled with anticipation. I had heard so much about Iceland’s stunning natural beauty of rushing waterfalls, massive blue icebergs, and her expansive, mysterious landscape. I wanted to see for myself if this magical place was real and within the first day I fell in love with her mystical power and beauty. While there were tourists around most of the sights during my visit, it wasn’t as popular ten years ago as it is today. Over the past few years, tourism has exploded which of course has its pros and cons. Per the Icelandic Tourist Board, “The total foreign overnight visitors to Iceland was around 2.2 million in 2017, a 24.2% increase from 2016, when foreign visitors numbered around 1.8 million”. With Iceland’s small population of approximately 338,000 this surge in popularity has not come without its price and there have been lots of people wondering how to travel to Iceland sustainably and protect its unique culture and environment.
One way you can travel responsibly is by choosing a sustainable tour company that offers off the beaten path tours to lesser visited areas, employs local guides and also takes care of the environment and culture. Hidden Iceland is a boutique travel company that focuses on immersive experiences with passionate guides in remote settings such as glaciers, volcanoes, Northern Light spots and ice caves. Hidden Iceland is also a Certified Climate Neutral Partner offsetting their carbon emissions, and also maintains a strict sustainability policy of offering only small guided group tours. They are currently ranked number 3 in all of Iceland on TripAdvisor out of 386 tour outfitters (with all five star ratings!), and their unique approach to combining personalised service, expert knowledge and a love of all things Iceland is what makes them stand out as one of the best.
I had the opportunity to learn more about Hidden Iceland from Ryan Connolly, one of the co-founders and here is what he has to say about what makes their trips unique.
Meet Ryan Connolly, co-founder of Hidden Iceland
My name is Ryan Connolly, I am one of the co-founders of Hidden Iceland along with General Manager, Scott Drummond and CEO Dagný Björg Stefánsdóttir. Myself and Scott are Glacier Guides by trade who travelled the world for years, finally settling in Iceland. It was here that we met Dagny, our local expert. In the summer of 2017 we set out to develop a company that focused on creating adventurous, but accessible trips we’d be proud to take our friends and family on. We believed that the guide leading you across glaciers, into ice caves and onto volcanoes can make the difference between something great and truly unforgettable.
Hidden Iceland’s List of the Top Things to Do In Iceland:
Hiding from the Crowds in Iceland: Finding the Hidden spots.
“In Iceland, you can see the contours of the mountains wherever you go, and the swell of the hills, and always beyond that the horizon. And there’s this strange thing: you’re never sort of hidden; you always feel exposed in that landscape. But it makes it very beautiful as well”. Hannah Kent, writer
Melting Glaciers: How hiking on a moving glacier teaches clients about climate change.
How to search for the Northern Lights without disappointment.
To Iceland and back in a weekend. Glaciers, volcanoes & northern lights in 3 days.
While growing tourism is posing a threat at times to Iceland’s proud cultural identity and pristine environment, there are some real benefits. One of the greatest benefits is an increase in economic prosperity especially in some of Iceland’s more remote regions. Ryan strongly believes that the increase in tourism to the more remote parts of Iceland is helping sustain these local communities where traditionally the younger generations would move to Reykjavik to find a job. Thanks to tourism, many residents of small farms and towns now can earn a living as a guide, running a guest house or working as a ranger to protect local areas without relocating to the city. Thus, they can protect their cultural identity and also share it with tourists. I believe that is the one of the best ways to travel and hope to personally make it back to Iceland some time soon.
Want to learn more?
Check out Hidden Iceland’s full list of tours.
Take Icelandair who has several non-stop flights from North America including one from my hometown of Minneapolis-St.Paul!
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