Magazine article Management Today

Playground of Wonders

Magazine article Management Today

Playground of Wonders

Article excerpt

Iceland has something for every jaded incentive winner from midnight golf and glacier picnics to geothermal swimming pools and hot geysers

Iceland is a playground of natural wonders. You can put your feet up and relax but it would be a waste of resources. And if you want to lie on the beach all day, then Iceland would not be a good choice. But for those who have followed the well-trodden path of typical incentive destinations, Iceland is ideally suited. It can offer a wide range of activities, from gentle to more strenuous, in stunning settings.

Playing golf on a glacier or horse trekking through lunar landscapes is an experience that is hard to forget. You can combine sightseeing with things you can only experience in Iceland, such as swimming in a geothermally heated outdoor pool, playing golf at midnight, trekking over lunar landscapes, having a lavish buffet on a glacier or lunch cooked in a hot lava field. You can do it all without having to go very far.

Although most groups tend to be based in Reykjavik, exploring the island is relatively easy with regular internal flights and traffic free roads.

An Iceland incentive is about getting out and about and experiencing first hand the variety of dramatic vistas, from huge glaciers and bubbling geysers to crystal clear lakes and rugged moonscapes. The island's destination management companies (dmcs) are well aware of Iceland's potential for groups and utilise its natural resources without taking advantage of them.

"We offer a lot of outdoor activities," says Iceland Incentives managing director Matthias Kjartansson. "River rafting, jeep safaris and whale watching are very popular, as is golf. Iceland isn't the place to be an innocent bystander - you have to get out and get involved."

For first time visitors the fact that at certain times of year you can play golf at midnight is hard to believe until you've tried it. "It's really, really whacky," says Moyles Motivational Marketing director Nick Harvey. "It's lighter at 11pm than it is at 5pm."

It is the country's ability to offer this kind of unique outdoor experience that is one of its main selling points. "We use nature as our playground," says Samvinn Travel director of incoming services Gunnar Rafn Birgisson. "You come to Iceland for adventure and activity."

Where else can you step off the plane into the refreshing waters of the geothermally heated Blue Lagoon. Its warm mineral water serves as a swimming pool and energy source. The gleaming metal of the power station covered in swirling mists from the lagoon makes an eerie sight.

Many of the most dramatic sights are within easy reach of Reykjavik and part of the Golden Circle, including Thingvellir national park, the Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir area where hot springs, reaching up to 60m, gush out of cracks in the earth's surface. The English word geyser comes from this unique area. In Thingvellir visitors can see Iceland's geological heritage at first hand, witnessing the separation of two tectonic plates.

A day's excursion from Reykjavik can also take in Europe's biggest glacier Vatnajokull. An underground eruption here last October caused a huge flood which has produced a very dramatic sight, of melting icebergs on the beaches.

Nearby is Hveragerdi, known as the Icelandic flower town because almost every other house is a greenhouse filled with exotic plants, flowers and vegetables. Hveragerdi is built in the middle of a geothermal field and you can see some of the contradictions in landscape that make Iceland unique as hot springs and cold snow sit next to each other.

This is only one example of Iceland's constantly changing landscape. One of the planet's newest landfalls lies to the south of Iceland a 30 minute flight from Reykjavik. In 1973 an eruption on Heimay, one of the Westman Islands, increased the size of the island as lava flowed from the volcano into the sea. Here groups can hold warm lava in their hands while hot bread cooked in the rocks is served to them with hot coffee. …

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