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6 things to keep in mind when traveling in Iceland

Most of us understand that tourism or travel to natural destinations like Iceland can have many positive and negative consequences. Luckily the vast majority of visitors in Iceland are behaving appropriately and with respect, however, there might be some things that are not common knowledge outside of Iceland. Here is our guide on how to be respectful to Icelandic nature and its people. Iceland does not have many rules and laws in comparison to other destinations around the world, therefore it should not be too difficult to adhere to these rules.

1. Driving OFF-ROAD is strictly forbidden (most of the time)

Icelandic nature is extremely unique and fragile. Since human settlement Iceland has lost most of its vegetation and forests, in fact, it is believed during the first settlement at least 35% of Iceland was covered by forests and vegetation. Now the remaining vegetation such as moss is slowly growing, in fact, it is so slow that it can take up to 100 years for damaged moss to fully recover and regrow. Therefore, driving offroad on moss, sand or virtually anything else is strictly forbidden and it is highly frowned upon. When there is enough snow, however, so that the tires do not touch the ground below and do not affect the vegetation, offroad driving is allowed. This is mostly done on glaciers and we strictly discourage people from doing this.

2. Drones


Drones offer a new perspective and often are great for photography and videography. Not only do the viewers see Iceland's great landscapes, but they see it from a more unique perspective. Please remember, Iceland is quite new to tourism and a lot of places that you are visiting are either on private property or a part of national parks, such as Vatnajökull National Park, Europe´s second-biggest national park. If you wish to fly your drone it is very easy to apply for a permit from the national park. Here is the Link In comparison to many other nations, Iceland is very relaxed with drone rules and often uses a common-sense approach to drone restrictions. For over 1000 years the people in Iceland have lived a remote and (excluded) life, tourism is very new and as mentioned before a lot of the beautiful waterfalls, volcanoes and glaciers are located on private property. Do respect any signs regarding drone usage, for constant drones flying close to people´s property can be very disturbing and could have a negative effect such as closures to those sights.

3. Stopping in the middle of the road

Being one of the most scarcely populated countries on earth, it can be normal for people to think that it is okay to stop in the middle of the road to take a photo. While it is true that some parts of Icelandic roads are not often very busy, this is yet another dangerous and quite frustrating thing for locals to deal with. Many locals have to drive long distances for work and there have been many accidents involving cars which stopped in the middle of the main road. This one is rather easy, just pull over and take photos. It´s simple to do and the locals will appreciate your effort.

4. Tipping

Tipping is not part of Icelandic culture, but as already mentioned tourism is new. You will most likely read a lot of blogs mentioning that tipping is rude, but this cannot be any further from the truth. If you feel like your guide or server did a good job and you would like to tip, do it. They will appreciate it. Most people who work in tourism and hospitality are not Icelandic and are often paid well below the average wage, so a little tip goes a long way. Note: Even though we think it's okay to tip, you are not at all obliged to tip.

5. Fences and barriers - respect them

Iceland receives over 2 million visitors yearly at the moment and it's vast and beautiful landscapes are being threatened by the minority of visitors who are not respecting barriers and fences. Just remember that after you leave this place, another 2 million people will visit this beautiful country within a year so don't ruin it for everyone else. As mentioned before flora and moss grows very slowly. It is said that a set of foot prints invite another thousand. Stay on paths, don't jump over fences, and respect signs and you will not only leave this place looking the way you saw it, but next time you come to visit again you won't have the need to cry because of how ruined everything got.

6. Icelandic horses - Enjoy their beauty but don't feed them

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Icelandic horses are some of the most unique horses in the world, not only are they beautiful but they also have super horse powers. Instead of the typical 3 gates they have 5 in addition they have been shaped by the tough environment of Iceland. For a lot of Icelanders horses play a huge role in their lives and it's only fair that we respect that. Feeding horses (even healthy snacks) is bad because this undisciplined them and makes their owners harder to manage them. In addition many foods that tourists offer these beautiful creates is very harmful for their health. So enjoy their beauty and respect the horses.


Do you have any other questions or think that we missed something? Email us at info@headingnorth.is and we will get back to you as soon as we have time :)


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