Iceland is an incredibly photogenic destination; I could dedicate my entire Pinterest profile to nothing but posts on Iceland. It’s also a country mostly devoid of crime entirely, but that doesn’t mean there are hazards of which to be aware. Getting out there and exploring the natural side of the country is what draws most of us to Iceland in the first place, but there are inherent dangers with venturing out on your own. Luckily, it’s easy to mitigate these dangers by being aware and doing a little research before you leave home.
Why Iceland is awesome
Iceland is a rising topic according to Google Trends (plus most of my friends’ Instagram feeds) for a good reason; this gorgeous island is teeming with wide-open spaces, glaciers, thermal baths, and volcanoes. If your idea of an awesome vacation includes hiking through caves of ice, camping out under the Northern Lights or enjoying the summer midnight sun, then yes, Iceland should be on your bucket list.
Why it can be dangerous
What makes this Nordic paradise such a draw, also makes it dangerous. Iceland is 103,000km2, with 94% of the population located in urban areas, half of which are in the capital, Reykjavik, which makes for a lot of unpopulated wide open spaces. It’s this untamed outdoor environment that poses the biggest danger to visitors. Road closures, volcano eruptions, and freak storms are all normal for Iceland. The locals know how to adapt and expect you too as well.
Where most people fall short
In talking with the Iceland Search and Rescue Team, the bulk of the incidents they respond to involve:
- Stuck cars in rivers and snow.
- Visitors are getting lost and ending up stranded.
- Underestimating the elements and under-packing.
Steps to a safer visit
- Take a class! Visit Iceland runs an online academy to immerse you in the driving best practices, customs (hot tub etiquette) and safety know-how to survive the island unscathed.
- Stay off the ice in the floating lagoons - there is nothing like standing on a chunk of ice that floats away from the safety of the shore. Don’t do this.
- Stay ON the roads while driving (See Search and Rescue Advice above).
- Watch the “Sneaker” waves on the southern beaches - a wet camera is bad, being drug out to sea in freezing water is worse.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. A warm base layer with a waterproof shell is a must.
- The more people who know where you are, the better:
- Contact the Iceland Search and Rescue, give them your itinerary so they can find you in an emergency.
- Sign up for the U.S. State Department’s STEP program so they can let local authorities know you are in the country if there is an emergency.
- Share your itinerary with at least one person back home and check in with them at each stop.
In summary - pack your common sense: If it looks dangerous, it probably is; this includes getting too close to the natural wonders.
Iceland is remote and the weather can be unpredictable; which is a big reason why people end up stranded. Travel insurance from RoamRight includes evacuation insurance - a must for any Icelandic adventurer.
Do not expect handholding - these are resilient people who are accustomed to inclement weather and harsh environments; i.e., they know their way around and expect that you should as well. This means that you will not see barriers and fences keeping you from wandering into places you normally would not go.
Just because you CAN wander down into that gorgeous Instagram photo opportunity does not mean you should. Nature can be unforgiving here, but the country itself is extremely welcoming. Prepare accordingly, and make sure you have RoamRight travel insurance to cover you in the event of emergencies or other unforeseen complications.
Do you know the difference between general travel insurance and travel medical insurance? Get the facts here!