Lonely Planet Writer

Iceland considers limiting tourist numbers to protect its natural wonders

Iceland is one of the world’s most popular destinations but in a land full of delicate landscapes and incredible natural sights, the government is considering limiting tourist numbers to some of the most popular tourist spots.

Reynisdrangar rock formations on Reynisfjara Beach at sunrise, Halsanefhellir, Iceland.
Reynisdrangar rock formations on Reynisfjara Beach at sunrise, Halsanefhellir, Iceland. Image by Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

The proposal comes as the new coalition government are looking at ways to protect and preserve its famous natural heritage from overcrowding due to the phenomenal increase in visitors. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, the country’s tourism minister Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, said tourists would benefit from increased regulation too.

A post shared by Icelandair (@icelandair) on Mar 17, 2017 at 2:52am PDT

“Some areas are simply unable to facilitate one million visitors every year,” she said. “If we allow more people into areas like that, we’re losing what makes them special -– unique pearls of nature that are a part of our image and of what we’re selling.”

Another option would be to introduce a new tax to raise funds to build better infrastructure and protect the natural sights with increased funding. However, with Iceland already having a reputation for being an expensive country, the government wants to strike the right balance.

The huge increase in Iceland tourist numbers risk damaging these natural wonders.
The picturesque canyon Fjadrargljufur. Image by kavram/Shutterstock

“We also need to ensure that tourists that come here get a positive experience during their stay”, Gylfadottir said. “The sector and all of us have to be careful not to become victims of our own success.”

Iceland’s tourist boom has brought increased wealth to the economy but has placed a strain on a country full of natural resources and a population of just 332,000. In 2016, the amount of tourists from the USA alone was more than the local population, with the expected total number of Iceland tourist numbers in 2017 is expected to reach a whopping 2.3 million.

Get the top travel news stories delivered straight to your inbox every weekday by signing up to our newsletter.