Sustainable Tourism in Iceland

Landvernd - The Environmental Association of Iceland was formed in 1969 to preserve Iceland´s unique natural environment. Its objective is to promote nature conservation and the sustainable use of land and ocean resources, and protect the country's cultural landscape.
 
Fimmvorduhals - Kristjan Jonasson
Fimmvorduhals - Kristjan Jonasson

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The Project

Situated on top of the Atlantic ridge marking the boundary between the Eurasian and American tectonic plates, Iceland is covered in large parts with lava and geothermal fields. Some microorganisms found in these geothermal fields represent life in extreme conditions and are found nowhere else on earth. As annual visitor numbers to Iceland increase, conservation of the area’s unique geology and biodiversity needs to be balanced with sustainable enjoyment. The project aims to achieve this by harnessing help from high level decision makers and setting up a code of conduct for tourists. This will involve:
  • Excursions for influential decision makers to selected geothermal areas with experienced guides
  • Production of booklets and posters and information signs as sustainability guides for hikers and other visitors
  • Open conferences to inform and broaden views of stakeholders, and decision makers
  • Media campaign to promote events and the conservation and sustainable enjoyment of geothermal areas.
 
Geothermal Pool - Haukakur Snorrason
Geothermal Pool - Haukakur Snorrason

The Update

Three guided tours were undertaken in the summer of 2012, with about 70 participants, taking both the public and policy makers from the Icelandic government. A further two tours took place in the summer of 2013.

Information boards and a brochure are now completed for Vonarskard, located within the Vatnajokull National Park. The boards are in place at the beginning of three hiking routes and the production of a short video of the area is currently in the making. Further information boards, brochures and videos are planned for two other areas: Kerlingarfjöll, west of Hofsjökull Glaciers and Hengill, east of Rekjavik.

A seminar on the Development of Tourism in Sensitive Geothermal Areas was held in May 2013 both in Rekjavik and Myvatn (north Iceland), with distinguished specialists from New Zealand with extensive experience on tourism in protected lands, including geothermal areas, as keynote speakers.

Final update March 2016:  Three videos have been completed highlighting the importance of the area and the sustainable enjoyment of the geothermal areas, and several guided tours to the area were carried out to help policy makers and high ranking officials make informed decisions about policies affecting them.

Video Links:
Geothermal areas in Iceland
Reykjadalur
Safety in Geothermal Areas

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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage