Iceland’s Tourist Routes – A Very Different Experience

Iceland is one of international tourism’s success stories and deservedly so. In a world of hyperbole and over use of certain adjectives – unique, distinctive, immersive– what Iceland has to offer does live up to those claims. But Iceland faces new challenges – how to get visitors beyond the honeypots of Reykjavik and day tours around Golden Circle. The response has been to create two magnificent tourist routes to draw visitors north and encourage them to stay longer and explore further.

Visit North Iceland was first to market with the Arctic Coast Way  launched in June 2019 to immediate acclaim.  A linear route stretching for 900 km along the coast of North Iceland through 21 villages, the Arctic Coast Way demonstrates what can be done by working together. This inspired Visit Westfjords to develop its own touring route around Iceland’s North West peninsula which stretches like a hand towards Greenland. Vestfjarðaleiðin (pronounced ‘Vest-fyar-tha-lay-thin’) or The Westfjords Way navigates a grand 950 km circle around the edges of the peninsula, twisting and turning along fingers of land and occasional mountain passes, revealing grand vistas around every corner.


We’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen as the destination consultancy on both these tourist routes, working with the respective tourist boards, their partners, businesses, municipalities and agencies along the routes to help them identify and articulate the unique proposition that each route offers and to support the development of distinctive experiences to get visitors to stop and linger a while.

For both projects engaging with businesses and communities was fundamental. Tourism truly touches everyone, is vital in supporting local services and is often part of the mix of jobs that people have.  Our approach included creative and interactive workshops, site visits and one-to-ones with providers, which for Vestfjarðaleiðin ended up being online as its development got caught up in the pandemic restrictions in 2020. Our presentation of the Toolkit we produced can be seen here!

We looked at best practice in tourist routes and visitor experiences elsewhere, developed the propositions for the route, drew up guidelines for membership, advised on  target markets and messaging, and wrote and designed Industry Toolkits for both Arctic Coast Way and Vestfjarðaleiðin using our good friends at Mark Design.

It’s truly been a delight to work in these special places, with people who have great stories to tell, to be involved from the start of a project on both destination development and destination marketing.  And on projects which will really make a difference to these far-flung places which are so dependent on tourism.