It has been a particularly punishing winter in Iceland this year, but many locals have avoided the blizzards and gales entirely, or at least managed to escape it for a short while. Vísir reports that the Spanish island of Tenerife has become a home away from home for a bustling community of Icelandic expats and tourists who are eager to soak up the southerly sun.
The flight from Iceland to Tenerife takes roughly five hours, with round-trip tickets from Keflavík starting at around ISK 68,000 [$475; €443]. These flights are extremely popular with Icelanders throughout the winter months, so much so that the Icelandic electronics chain Elko started advertising, in Icelandic, in the Tenerife airport over Christmas, hoping to encourage some last-minute gift purchases.
“We set [our billboard] up in December,” said Elko marketing manager Arinbjörn Hauksson. “There’s been a lot of discussion about all these Icelanders who have been flocking to Tenerife. So we saw an opportunity on the table and secured a billboard in the best place to get traffic, take advantage of this whole stream of Icelanders who are going out there and then coming back home.”
Elko’s decision to use Icelandic in the advertisement caught locals’ eyes, and certainly got people talking, but it’s not even the first time that Icelanders have advertised in the Tenerife airport. Last April, Hildur Björnsdóttir, an Independence Party representative on the Reykjavík City Council, announced her candidacy for the upcoming council elections in the Tenerife Airport.
Two thousand Icelanders a week
Sigvaldi Kaldalón, known as Svali, the owner of Tenerife Tours, does a bustling business with tourists of all stripes, not just Icelanders. He says the overwhelming number of visitors to the island overwhelms the existing infrastructure, which is a problem back in Iceland, too.
“This island is literally bursting with tourists, not just Icelanders, but tourists in general,” he said. “The main concern of Canarians is not having a sufficiently organized infrastructure, which is something we don’t have in Iceland, either.”
“Last year, 8.3 million tourists came [to Tenerife], and it’s looking to be even more this year,” he said. “I’d say there are close to 2,000 Icelanders every week. Icelanders are mainly here for the weather, just want to relax a bit. It’s a totally different tempo here.”
But whatever infrastructure problems might exist, they don’t seem to be putting Icelanders off in the least. In fact, many Icelanders make the trip annually.
“I’ve been here 14 times, I’m just addicted to it,” Ólöf Ingbergsdóttir said with a laugh. “A person could spend their old age here, I think it’s heading that direction.”
“It’s just so nice, the weather’s great,” said Þorgerður Gísladóttir, whose family was on their 13th visit to the island. “It’s wonderful to come with the kids, everyone can just do what they want and we don’t have to wear coats.”
“It’s fabulous, I’ve got to come here every single year,” agreed Bjarni Sigurjónsson from a sun lounger on the beach.
Just like Sunday lunch at grandma’s
Icelanders may be coming for the distinctly un-Icelandic weather, but they can still have a taste of home while in Tenerife. There are at least four Icelandic restauranteurs on the island. Níels Hafsteinsson is one of them. Níels owns several bars and restaurants and has 45 employees working for him. Icelanders are some of his most frequent customers.
“Yes, like tonight,” he said gesturing around one of his restaurants during a recent interview. “Three out of ten tables are Icelanders. It’s a lot fun.”
Níels’ Icelandic diners were happy to be able to patronize an Icelander’s business while in Tenerife and found it comforting to be able to go somewhere where everything felt like home.
“It’s just like going to Sunday lunch at grandma’s,” said customer Ásgeir Ingólfsson. “The rhubarb jam is missing, maybe, but the food is great.”