I’m pretty sure that the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about Iceland is nature. You’re not wrong. The abundant and unspoiled nature you have heard about, along with freezing temperatures, promises an exciting adventure! This rich natural beauty, full of lava fields, moss, lunar landscapes, and glaciers, is the flagship for Icelanders and their national treasures. Therefore, there is a commitment to preserving these landscapes to guarantee sustainability as a tourist destination so that future generations can also enjoy it. We wanted to talk about sustainable tourism in Iceland, which is something that concerns everyone. 

Young woman overlooking Icelandic landscape contemplating sustainable tourism

The number of tourists visiting Iceland is growing exponentially each year and for such a small country, it can get quite overwhelming. Most of the tourists who visit the country are aware that they need to be respectful when it comes to protecting Iceland’s nature. However, we thought that it would be really helpful (and in the spirit of preserving this singular country) to let our readers know how they can help Iceland protect its natural treasures.

It is absolutely necessary to be aware of these concepts of sustainable tourism in mind before starting your trip to Iceland:

Show respect regarding private property

You can no longer camp overnight wherever you want. Given the massive number of visitors per year, spending the night at any point along the road is now forbidden. There are a few exceptions, but it will always depend ultimately on the landowner’s permission. You can find further info about this here.

Respect the vegetation

Driving off-road is completely banned. You have to stick to paved roads or gravel roads, which are clearly marked. The same rule applies to hiking trails. There are lots of fragile plants growing everywhere, and they can be easily destroyed by humans. Trampling the vegetation would completely ruin it. For these ecosystems, it takes a really long time to grow back. Part of sustainable tourism is protecting these plants, so the Icelandic government now issues fines for all those who spoil nature in Iceland. You will notice that on certain trails, only a few stones show the borders of the path. Try to respect these limits; otherwise, you could end up paying a large sum to Icelandic authorities!

Respect the fauna

For decades, Icelandic shepherds and landowners have always set let their sheep graze freely during the summer. With no fences to separate land, it is quite common to find some on the road. Try to be as careful as possible while driving. Do not bother or scare the sheep. Otherwise, you could run over one! In the case of an accident, call 112, the country’s emergency number. You will need to fill out some paperwork and pay for the sheep.

Sheep in Iceland are part of the local flora and fauna

Keep the environment clean

Remember that you will have to throw all your trash into the garbage cans created for that purpose. This is key for Iceland’s sustainable tourism as you don’t want to leave the country covered in garbage. Sometimes, if your stops are not planned, a public toilet or a wastewater disposal can be hard to find. Plan your route beforehand to make sure that there will be a disposal facility close to your location. You can find all the campsites in Iceland and their facilities here: http://tjalda.is/en. These are the campsite that are open all year round. You will also find toilets, disposals and more services at these N1 gas stations.

Activities for Sustainable Tourism in Iceland

You can also help the local economy by enjoying what this wonderful country can offer through activities which will not leave a carbon footprint. Here is an eco-friendly “To Do List” of what you should not miss when visiting Iceland.

Activities for Sustainable Tourism – Horseback riding

Icelandic horses are known for being calm and sturdy horses. Enjoying a horseback ride is very easy, since this activity is widespread around the country, especially in areas where farms are common. If you are keen on protecting nature without missing the wonderful views, this is the best option. You will contribute to the local economy and family-owned businesses while you sharpen your abilities as a jockey!

Activities for Sustainable Tourism – Bike rental

Lots of families decide to rent bikes to give their vacations a special touch. You only need to make sure that they fit into your car or motorhome! Give yourself the chance to view the beautiful landscapes while breathing in fresh, clean air. Here are some maps in case you need more info: https://cyclingiceland.is/. Just as with horseback riding, you will not be polluting the environment, but furthermore, you’ll also be working on your fitness (just like Fergie!). Don’t forget to throw the snack wraps you take along on your ride into the correct rubbish bin!

BIkers in iceland practicing sustainable tourism

Activities for Sustainable Tourism – Hiking

Another interesting and healthy activity you can enjoy in Iceland is hiking. There are lots of alternatives for hiking lovers who want to walk Iceland from north to south. The famous Laugavegur Trail will take you from Thorsmork to Landmannalaugar (or vice versa). This way, you will take advantage of the best that Icelandic nature offers without any environmental damage or pollution. You can find lots of useful info about the best alternatives here: https://www.fi.is/en/hiking-trails/.

Promoting all these activities and behaviors, Iceland will end up having lower levels of pollution and greater conservation. Since 2002, the Icelandic government started taking advantage of their natural resources to get the energy the country needs. Hot water has become it’s most valuable resource. The water provides both hydroelectric and geothermal energy. Because of this, the 99% of the energy Icelanders consume comes from these two renewable, non-polluting sources.

Preservation and Sustainable Tourism in Iceland

All of these things put together will end up preserving a destination where tourism and respecting nature walk hand in hand.


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