Before we go any further I want to make it clear that I don’t think the people in the photos below are stupid. The behavior captured on these photos on the other hand is reckless.
I know that there are certain things that you don’t know as tourist in Iceland that we the locals do know. As a tourist I don’t expect you to know that there can be strong winds in certain areas in Kjalarnes, for example, or under Hafnarfjall mountain that can easily blow your car off the road in the right conditions and if you are not careful. Because of this we have put up signs on those roads that will let you know of dangerous winds speeds and we urge travelers to check safetravel.is, vedur.is and road.is before they head out on their adventures.
I didn’t think it was necessary though to tell a grown adult that you don’t walk out onto icebergs in an area that you don’t know. Or that you don’t go out into the ocean in areas where the waves that are 3 times your size come crashing in with such force that you have to search wide and far around the world to find currents as strong. But apparently it is. Despite the fact that there are signs that warn against these dangers.
I know I’m probably going to offend someone with the language I use in this post but if it saves a life it’s worth it. Iceland is a magical, beautiful, amazing, breathtaking and even a very safe country to visit but its nature is also dangerous, cruel and unforgiving. The weather can turn crazy in a second, crevasses in glaciers swallow travelers leaving no traces of their existence behind, the water in geysers is so hot that it can make you into a stew quickly if you fall into them and waterfalls have such power that you can produce electricity for a whole nation by harnessing this power.
I want you to return home from your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Iceland in one piece and with good memories. I don’t want you to have to make arrangements to transport a deceased friend back home to a grieving family. I also don’t want you to risk the lives of my friends and family that serve on the Iceland search and rescue teams that are called out if you get yourself into trouble by ignoring the warnings. They are awesome and hardcore but they are also people that deserve that their lives are not risked by sending them into dangerous situations that are completely preventable.
So if I have to use a word like stupid to get people to listen, so be it!
Please don’t be stupid by climbing onto the icebergs at Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
There are many things that make going out to the icebergs in Jökulsárlón dangerous. First of all the icebergs are slippery and you can easily fall and hurt yourself from the fall or you can end up in the lagoon. The water is cold, it’s difficult for others to get to your rescue, and the consequences can be devastating. The icebergs can also flip over leaving you in the water underneath it. There’s also a undercurrent here that can sweep you out to the ocean.
Please don’t be stupid by wading into the waves at Reynisfjara beach
Reynisfjara beach, as beautiful as it is, is known for huge waves and strong currents (some of the strongest in the world) that can sweep you out to the ocean in an instance. You should always keep a safe distance from the ocean and not take unnecessary risks. There are numerous incidents where travelers have got themselves into trouble on this beach, the most tragic one was an American lady that drowned there in 2007.
Please don’t be stupid by driving on glaciers in your rental car.
We already covered this in my post about the ice caves a few days ago but you should never go to a glacier on your own without the proper equipment and experienced guide. Not driving or by foot.
Please don’t be stupid by going out on slippery ledges around waterfalls
Waterfalls can be dangerous because the rocks and ledges around them can be very slippery. Especially in winter when the spray from the waterfalls freezes and covers everything around it in ice. The stream can also be quite powerful and you never know what’s beneath. If you fall down you might drown but you might also hit your head hard on the rocks below which would knock you out instantly. And then you drown.
Please don’t be stupid by leaving the marked paths in geothermal areas
Geothermal areas are very unstable and you never know what is going on underneath the surface. Not so long ago a friend of ours was hiking to Reykjadalur and walked off the marked paths. He stepped onto what seemed like just normal spot of grass but his foot went straight through it and into steaming hot water underneath. He got badly burned and he’s not the only one because I hear stories of travelers encountering similar situations all the time. You should always stick to the paths in hiking areas but it’s extra important in geothermal areas.
Another example was when Gunnuhver in Reykjanes went from being a pretty lazy geyser to a sprouting mud geyser seemingly overnight last year.
Please don’t be stupid by ignoring local advice
I know that we can sometimes sound like annoying parents forbidding you to do everything that is fun in life when we are warning you about the Icelandic nature.There is a reason though why your parents probably told you not to stick your fingers or anything metal into the electric socket: it’s dangerous and you can hurt yourself. Or worse, you might end up dead. Your parents knew this from experience just like we know about Iceland from living here.
So please please please don’t be stupid and return home from your trip in Iceland in one piece!