Lonely Planet Writer

Iceland set to have more US tourists than actual residents this year

The number of American tourists in Iceland will surpass the country’s population this year, reports Vox. Around 332,000 people live in Iceland, and 325,000 US visitors have already visited in 2016, meaning by December the number of American tourists will overtake the number of locals.

A view of a the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Rangarping eystra, Iceland.
A view of a the Seljalandsfoss Waterfall in Rangarping eystra, Iceland. Image by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

Iceland has seen a dramatic rise in tourism in recent years. In 2010 around 500,000 people visited the country, only one in ten of them coming from the US. That figure is now now 1.6 million, with the largest proportion – over one in five – coming from the US.

Siglufjörður, Iceland.
Siglufjörður, Iceland. Image by Getty Images

the country’s epic rise up tourists’ bucket lists was sparked by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. Eyjafjallajökull shut down flights across Europe, and the resulting attention (stoked by a tourist board campaign) pushed Iceland into the limelight. Since then, improved flight connections (including stop-overs between Europe and North America) and beneficial exchange rates have stoked the fire.

 A herd of sheep is seen in Hella, Iceland.
A herd of sheep is seen in Hella, Iceland. Image by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images

The Icelandic króna’s rise mean’s the country is no longer as cheap as it was. But its reputation as a safe place to visit (it is literally the safest country in the world), combined with turbulence in other popular tourist destinations, has helped make it an attractive destination for US visitors in particular. None of this would matter, of course, if Iceland didn’t have a tremendous landscape and unique culture for visitors to explore. “It’s not too far – from Boston or New York, it’s a quick flight,” David Solomito, vice president of marketing at Kayak, told Vox. “But when you’re there, it feels like you’re on a different planet. People see pictures on social media and think it’s on Mars. It feels out of this world. It has that Instagram factor.”

The influx of visitors has put a strain on Iceland’s relatively limited infrastructure and fragile environment, and a number of high-profile incidents have prompted warnings to respect the conditions in Iceland. But while the most popular areas of Reykjavík and the Golden Circle can be very busy in summer, numbers show no sign of slowing, and quieter parts of the country can be just as compelling.