What you need to know about visiting Iceland in 2021

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The country is open to all travelers who are vaccinated or have recovered from coronavirus

Flying under the radar for years, Iceland has been gaining popularity for its surreal-looking nature, friendly people, a large selection of knitwear… all that while being just a short hop away for travelers from Europe and North America.

Back in April, the country became one of the first to start welcoming travelers who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. Here are the essentials for visiting Iceland in 2021.

What you should do and see in Iceland

Iceland offers an otherworldly experienceIceland offers an otherworldly experience — Shutterstock

Iceland has almost a mystical beauty with distinct natural beauty. There are over 130 active and inactive volcanoes, some of the most stunning waterfalls in Europe, vivid colors of the Northern lights playing out in the night sky, and the views of landscape shapes bathing in the midnight sun. You can drive for hours seeing nothing else than wild horses galloping over long stretches of grass against a mountainous backdrop.

One of the busier places in Iceland is definitely its capital Reykjavik. It’s small and yet feels lively with hipster cafes, restaurants and street food stalls selling delicious fresh fish (try lobster soup), museums expounding the local history, and shops with Icelandic brands and handcrafted designs on Laugavegur.

Sooner or later you’ll probably come across the iconic, massive church Hallgrimskirkja on your stroll through the city. Its sleek design towers over the capital at a height of 73 meters and it’s the perfect spot for those who enjoy a good view from high up. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, the opening hours of both the inside of the church and the tower are limited to only a few hours a day, generally between 11:00 and 15:00 with some exceptions.

Not far from Reykjavik lies the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa with a distinct sulphuric smell and healing properties. It’s not an inexpensive affair yet it’s very popular and tickets must be purchased in advance.

Blue Lagoon is a popular stop when visiting IcelandBlue Lagoon is a popular stop when visiting Iceland — Shutterstock

The Golden Circle is among the most popular sightseeing tours if you’re ready to venture further out of the capital. It’ll take you through the southwestern part of the country to discover the beauty of the Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss waterfall. These destinations have stayed open despite the pandemic, even though they may require certain measures like the wearing of a mask.

Simply said, Iceland is full of amazing sights and many have been left empty since the start of the pandemic. It might just be the right time to travel there — safely and responsibly — to enjoy the country before the crowds return. Read below the requirements to visit Iceland now. 

Iceland is open to international travel, including from the UK and US

Iceland opened its borders to international visitors in AprilIceland opened its borders to international visitors in April — Shutterstock

Already before the pandemic, Iceland had a reputation for being one of the safest countries to visit. With a population of about 350,000, low crime rates, good healthcare system, and of course, amazing natural phenomena, the country has been on the bucket list of many tourists. 

Having adopted a rigorous strategy, Iceland has handled the coronavirus outbreak well. At the end of April, it opened up its borders to vaccinated or previously recovered travelers regardless of origin. They allow in travelers from the EU/EEA countries, and those outside of it, including the UK and US.

When arriving in Iceland, vaccinated travelers will need to take a PCR test and if they test negative, they’re free to continue with their explorations of the country. The test is free of charge and its requirement will be reviewed on 1 June.

Non-vaccinated travelers will need to follow stricter rules, including a PCR test before departure, and two PCR tests in Iceland — one on arrival and second five or six days later with a mandatory quarantine in between the two tests.

Traveling to Iceland from the UK

From 17 May, Iceland is on the UK green list of countries to travel, meaning there’s no quarantine on arrival when returning back to the UK. Travelers are required to fill out a passenger locator form and take a coronavirus test before arrival and another one after arrival to the UK.

Traveling to Iceland from the US

Iceland is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful waterfallsIceland is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful waterfalls — Shutterstock

Iceland accepts fully vaccinated or recovered travelers arriving from the United States. Those who have been fully vaccinated by an FDA- or WHO-approved vaccine won’t need to quarantine on their arrival back to the US but there are still certain measures in place.

Air passengers, including the vaccinated ones, have to present a negative test no older than 3 days before their travel to the US or proof of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months. They should take a viral test three to five days after travel.

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