Tourist mania in Iceland

I know there is an unwritten rule that the blog posts are supposed to be chronological tales of your life (so I should in theory post something about my trip to Australia or even the spring trip to Ireland), but I am all for breaking stupid rules.


In July I visited Iceland for the first time. About bloody time as I have family there. I had a rather popular rant about my discontentment with the selfie culture I witnessed in Iceland on instagram. I got around 100 messages about it, so here, I am continuing to rant on a more serious note accompanied by photographs so you can be reminded what I am being so mad about.

I knew Iceland had become a popular destination with tourists, but not THIS popular. No matter where you go in the south and west, there are hordes upon hordes of people. I have an understanding that I have to share these beautiful places with other people, but it is the way it is done that pissed me off quite often. Loud, in many cases disrespectful and selfie obsessed. It is never about the place and the nature, it is about documenting that you were there with your very original yellow rain coat in the sunshine.

Ok, so tourists piss one grumpy Norwegian off, but the implications are far more serious. The Arctic nature is very delicate. The summer temperatures are low and the forests that once covered about 40% of the island are gone. Together with the porous volcanic rock, this has caused 800 years of erosion problems. Taken together, growth and decomposition is slow business and together with the erosion, this means scars in the landscape can remain for decades.


The Icelandic have tried to deal with this around the popular attractions by putting up barriers and trails. It works in many ways, but people still jump the barriers and walk off piste. I think part of the problem is that people don’t understand that these trails are there to protect the nature (and not them). Asian, American, Mediterranean, British tourists (you name it) that live in a temperate or tropical climates do not understand how vulnerable the arctic ecosystem is, why would they if nobody tells them? As a southern Norwegian, I wasn’t aware of this until the first time I visited Varanger in the far North East of Norway, where you can still see WWII tank trails. Lots of people trampling around, means damage that will change the landscapes forever. It is therefore so key to make sure people know that they should be extremely careful. I would suggest that the tour operators and the tourist board make sure people know and respect this.

On the other hand, I am not sure how many people would care if they are well informed. We still witnessed littering and people going far out on a beach with sneaker waves (with clear warning signs that it has killed people) as well as going way too close to large glaciers (for those who don’t know, glaciers move constantly and can break off at any time, especially in summer, this is a somewhat common killer for stupid tourists). But hey, everything for your instagram, right?

It worries me greatly that we are supposed to fight global warming, ocean littering etc etc etc when so many cannot even show basic decent behaviour in nature…

What do you think should be done to protect such delicate places like Iceland?