Travel is the best way to gain a new perspective and to become a more cultured individual. Why do you think James Bond is so cool? He travels all the time, duh! Well, and he is a spy, so, I guess that helps too. And he dresses well, is well spoken, and handsome. Sorry, I am getting sidetracked. Traveling and engaging in tourism is a good thing, but you don’t want to be the clueless tourist. Iceland is a country that is facing challenges with its ever-growing influx of tourists. If you are headed to our Nordic wonderland, you may be unaware of some key insights on how to best support our tourism in a responsible and sustainable way. So let’s make sure that on your next trip to Iceland you are well equipped on how to be a responsible tourist.

Tourist in blue jacket looking out over Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon


Get Out! Of Reykjavik

The title is overly dramatic, and I am half joking. However, if you are visiting Iceland, I would urge you to explore all that Iceland has to offer, and that means leaving the comfy confines of Reykjavik. Visitors to Iceland tend to come to the capital city, rent an Airbnb, stay awhile, and then leave. This is not good for either you or Iceland. While we do encourage you to stay in Reykjavik, it is paramount for the most optimal Icelandic experience to visit some of the smaller villages and towns during your trip.

You may be thinking, “Why would I leave the creature comforts of Reykjavik to stay in a rustic village?” The answer is simple: many of the smaller villages and towns are struggling to cope with the exponential growth in the tourism markets. Now more than ever, people are flocking to the larger towns and cities to find work and chase the proverbial paycheck. This greatly saddens us. Those smaller towns and villages are a direct link to our storied past. If they disappear, then is Iceland really…Iceland?

Take A Guided Tour

Living in the digital age means that we have seemingly access to unlimited information at our fingertips. Taking a self-guided tour has never been easier. However, I would only opt for this in moderation. I know that Iceland is an expensive country (all of Scandinavia for that matter is pretty pricey), however, if it fits your budget go on a certified tour. This can be within the city limits or out into the countryside. Going on a tour has many benefits that you probably were unaware of.

First, no matter how much information you dig up on the internet, having local guide can provide you with critical insights about Iceland you would have never been able to find yourself. We live and breathe everything Iceland. A guide can show you all of the best local locations, and steer you clear of any shops or stores that are looking to take any available money from unassuming tourists.

Tourist overlooking Askja calder

Second, going on a guided tour (especially in the backcountry) is safer, and much more efficient. Regarding safety, Iceland is one of the safest countries in the world with regards to crime. However, the environment and landscape here can be quite unforgiving. Deciding to go it alone, even if you are a skilled outdoorsman, is never a good idea. Expertly trained and experienced tour guides can steer you clear of any unforeseen danger that you may not have been aware of. Also, a tour guide can bring you right to the heart of the action; whether you are in a town or in a lava field, they will escort you to your destination quickly and hassle-free.

Avoid Peak Season 

I am going to let you in on a secret. Are you ready? You promise to keep it between us? Ok, good. Well, here’s the thing: you don’t have to visit Iceland during the busy season to have an incredible experience. Actually, by visiting us at the busiest time of the year contributes to a growing problem in Iceland: overtourism. Overtourism, simply put, is when tourists flock to one specific location at the same time and inundate the area. The economic windfall that accompanies it is beneficial to the economy, but it places a lot of stress on the country as a whole. I would recommend visiting us when it is traditionally slower. If you are scratching your head, and still confused, I’ll explain.

Iceland is busiest in July and August. These months provide the best weather for tourists, and traditionally it is when people opt to take their summer vacations. However, if you have ever been to Reykjavik in mid-July you know, it can be a bit of a nightmare. The streets are packed with wayward tourists who want to stop every 3 meters to take a photo. Don’t get me wrong, we love having you. But, here’s a good example: imagine instead of your friends sporadically visiting your home every once in a while, they all showed up (anyone who has ever been to your home) all at once. It would be stressful, right? I personally recommend coming in late September or early October.

Visiting us right after peak season (busiest time of year for tourism) will pay huge dividends for your Icelandic getaway. There are infinitely fewer tourists, the costs of rental cars, hotels, and Airbnb accommodation plummets, and we are generally more relaxed. You will have a chance to see the unspoiled beauty Iceland has to offer without having to wade through droves of curious tourists. Also, in the summer it is impossible to catch the northern lights. Late September in Iceland, early October, is the optimal time to come and see them. I’d wager a bet and say that you would trade some warm weather to see nature’s most magnificent light show.

Iceland's Northern Lights in the tourism off-season


Being A Travel Savvy Tourist in Iceland

These are but a few of the tips that I would offer anyone coming to visit the quaint Nordic island nation. There is plenty more that you can do to curb overtourism and ensure that your trip goes as smooth as possible for both you and the inhabitants of the island. A significant thing to keep in mind is to be respectful towards our people and the environment. It is easy to forget this especially since you are not from here. But remember: the way you act and behave will have lasting effects; we will be here even after you leave. That being said, we love having visitors. We adore being able to give you insights into our culture, food, language, and lifestyle.

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