Ísafjörður to Limit Cruise Ship Passengers: No More Than 5,000 Daily

ísafjörður cruise ship

In accordance with a new action plan for handling the volume of cruise ships and cruise ship tourists in Ísafjörður,  there will be a maximum number daily number of cruise ship passengers allowed in the popular Westfjords destination. RÚV reports.

City council approved action plan

Following an April 4 meeting, the Ísafjörður municipal council approved an action plan for the reception of cruise ships and cruise ship passengers for the years 2024 – 2027.

The new regulations come in the wake of ever-increasing numbers of tourists to Ísafjörður. RÚV reports that nearly 200 cruise ships with 200,000 guests are expected this summer in the town of some 2,700.

Read more: Ísafjörður to introduce environmental rating system for cruise ships

Gylfi Ólafsson, chairperson of the municipal council of Ísafjörður, stated to RÚV that the community has indeed benefitted greatly from the volume of tourist traffic. However, in recent years, summer crowds have swamped the small town. “The biggest innovation in this policy,” Gylfi stated, “is that we are setting a numerical limit on the number of guests we can accomodate.”

The limit will increase as infrastructure grows and the town is able to accommodate more. The 5,000-person limit is scheduled to be raised in two years.

“If the tourism industry continues to improve the level of infrastructure, buying more buses and improving service […] ensuring that there are enough toilets and so on, then we can easily accommodate more guests,” Gylfi stated.

Docking fees for cruise ships also represent a significant source of income for the local port authority, accounting for some two-thirds of the total income.

Other key points from action plan

Some other key points from the recent action plan include financial incentives to reduce pollution. Additionally, the municipality will prioritise sustainable solutions for waste management issues relating to the tourism industry.

Other developments outlined in the plan include further developing pedestrian walkways in the town and building more accessibility infrastructure near the harbour area.

There are also plans to limit noise pollution from the cruise ships, whose captains will only be allowed to sound their horns in emergency situations.

Read more about the impact of cruise ship tourism on Iceland’s small towns.

 

Blue Lagoon Reopens Despite Ongoing Eruption

blue lagoon Iceland

The popular tourist destination Blue Lagoon reopened at noon today after being temporarily closed since a volcanic eruption began in nearby Sundhnúkagígar on March 16.

The spa was evacuated when the eruption began and has been closed for three months in total during the span of volcanic activity in Sundhnúkagígar that started in November of last year. Concerns over gas pollution from the volcano were the main reason for closure this time around.

Coordination with police

Helga Árnadóttir, Blue Lagoon manager, told RÚV that staff and management were excited to begin operations again following this latest three week shutdown. “We’ve been in conversation with the Suðurnes police commissioner and gone over the situation, the shifts, measurements, risk assessments and other things,” she said. “And the result was that we agreed that it would be sensible to reopen today.”

Increased security

Helga said that operating hours would be adjusted according to gas pollution estimates and wind forecasts at each time. “It’s all to ensure that we’re not risking the safety of our guests and staff at any given time,” she said, adding that wind forecasts for the next few days were looking good. Gas meters have been set up along the area and safety personnel are on duty to help with response if evacuation is needed at any time.

Missing Hiker Found Dead in Fimmvörðuháls Hiking Trail

Small boat fishermen crowd the Arnarstapi harbour each summer for the coastal fishing season

A man in his sixties was found dead at the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail in South Iceland yesterday. Hiking conditions have been difficult over the past few days.

Difficult hiking conditions

A man in his sixties was found dead yesterday at Fimmvörðuháls in South Iceland, one of the most popular hiking trails in the country. The man, who was of foreign origin, was an Icelandic resident. His death is not believed to have occurred under suspicious circumstances.

As noted by RÚV, the last contact with the man was on Sunday, Easter Day, when he mentioned his plans to hike to the Baldvinsskáli mountain hut. The police were notified at noon yesterday that the man had not returned to work after Easter. His car was found in the parking area at Skógar, prompting the call for the assistance of rescue teams, which were subsequently dispatched from the towns of Hvolsvöllur and Hella. A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard was also dispatched, which eventually spotted the man from the air.

In a statement, the police noted that the weather conditions at Fimmvörðuháls had been poor over the last few days, making hiking conditions unfavourable.

Reykjanes Peninsula Eruption Shows Signs of Longevity

volcano eruption Geldingadalir Reykjanes

The recent volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula is showing signs of longevity and stability similar to the 2021 Fagradalsfjall eruption, differing significantly from the short-lived eruptions earlier in the year. Geophysicist Benedikt Ófeigsson highlights the ongoing eruption’s potential to last for months, with efforts underway to fortify protective barriers against the lava flow towards Grindavík.

Different from the last three eruptions

The ongoing volcanic eruption in the Reykjanes Peninsula, between Hagafell and Stóra-Skógfell, has begun to resemble previous, longer eruptions in Reykjanes, such as the 2021 eruption in Fagradalsfjall; despite the eruption’s initial intensity, and indications that it could be short-lived, there are currently no signs that the eruption is waning.

Benedikt Ófeigsson, a geophysicist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, told Vísir yesterday that this most recent eruption appeared to be dissimilar from the last three eruptions in the area – which occurred in December 2023, January 2024, and February 2024 – and which did not last for more than three days.

“This eruption is longer, starting very similarly to the other eruptions in this area, but after it decreased, instead of stopping, it stabilised. There has been a relatively steady flow since March 17, very similar to what we’ve seen in previous eruptions near Fagradalsfjall,” Benedikt observed.

When asked if this current eruption could endure as long as the Fagradalsfjall eruption, which lasted for approximately six months, Benedikt replied in the affirmative: “[It could last for ] months even. It’s not out of the question. Currently, we see no measurable signs of it decreasing. It’s very stable, so there are no indications that it’s ending.”

Benedikt did not, however, dismiss the possibility that the eruption could suddenly cease: “We can’t exclude that possibility, but there’s nothing in our measurements that suggests it’s about to end. As long as that’s the case, we can expect it to continue for days, weeks, or even months,” he stated.

Read More: Wall of Fire (On the Construction of Protective Barriers in Reykjanes)

Barriers reinforced and raised

As noted yesterday, the lava has begun pressing against the Grindavík protective barriers, and efforts are being made to reinforce and raise them. Benedikt believes it’s possible to control the eruption with these barriers.

When asked if there was a chance that the lava would reach Grindavík, Benedikt replied that everything was being done to reinforce the barriers.

“I fully believe that attempts can be made to control this. Everything possible is being done to strengthen the barriers, raise them, and direct the lava away from the town,” he remarked. “This process occurs much more slowly when the lava flow is this low, that is, less than during the initial phase of the eruption. Naturally, this gives the authorities more time to try to prevent the lava from heading towards the town. I think everything possible is being done. Let’s just hope for the best,” Benedikt concluded.

 

Authorities Combat Fake Volcano News

eruption, Stóra-Skógfell, Sundhnjúkargígarröð

Minister of Culture and Business Affairs, Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, has spent ISK 100 million [€670,690 / $725,584] on marketing to respond to and correct international news coverage on the volcanic activity in the Reykjanes peninsula over the last few months.

The current eruption has been ongoing since Saturday, making it the longest-lasting in the recent spell of volcanic activity on the peninsula.

Imprecise reporting

The Icelandic Tourism Board, social media influencers and others have received public funding from the ministry, Vísir reports. “It’s very important that the correct information gets out there,” Lilja said, pointing to a BBC online article which indicated that Iceland was in a “state of emergency”. This would be an imprecise translation of the civil protection alert levels which the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management decides on at any given time.

Effect on tourism

Other news articles have connected the volcanic activity to tourism and questioning whether anyone would want to go to Iceland. “Tourism is the industry responsible for most of our foreign currency income, around 35%,” Lilja said, adding that tourism was an important pillar in securing the stability of the Icelandic Króna, along with energy intensive industries, fisheries and the creative and tech industries.

 

Tourists Flock to Unmarked Hot Spring in North Iceland

A hot spring in Eyjafjörður, North Iceland

A hot spring near the Vaðlaheiði tunnel in North Iceland has attracted tourists for its natural 30°C baths and picturesque waterfall. Without official signage or facilities, visitors have turned to social media and Google Maps to locate the popular spot.

“Hope it’s OK”

A hot spring near the entrance of the Vaðlaheiði tunnel in North Iceland has become popular among tourists. The spring was created during the construction of the Vaðlaheiði tunnel when workers accidentally drilled into a vein of hot water. This led to the formation of a brook with water at 30°C, which gracefully tumbles off cliffs, creating a picturesque waterfall.

As noted by RÚV, the site lacks official signage or registration with tourism agencies, and there are no facilities for changing; visitors typically drape their clothes over nearby bushes. Despite its popularity, bathers proceed with caution, uncertain of the legality of their bathing activities.

“We just thought: ‘If people have been here, it should be fine, right? We hope it’s OK. Until someone says it’s not, we’ll just keep doing it,” Maria Lauridsen, a Danish tourist, told RÚV yesterday while bathing in the spring.

The spring and the surrounding waterfall have garnered attention on social media. As noted by RÚV, Google Maps is the most effective tool for locating this secluded spot, which attracts tourists for its no-cost, natural bathing experience. The spring serves as the main bathing site, but the waterfall remains a significant draw.

New Bathing Spot Coming to Golden Circle Area

Mannverk. A rendering of Árböðin

Construction of a new bathing spot in Bláskógabyggð municipality has begun, Vísir reports. The new lagoon will be named Árböðin (The River Baths) and will be located on the banks of the Hvítá river. The lagoon will include hot and cold pools, a steam bath, relaxation areas, and a restaurant.

T.ark Architects are responsible for the design of Árböðin. The project has a projected cost of ISK 2 billion [$14.7 million, €13.5 million] and expects to receive 150,000 to 200,000 guests per year, both local and foreign.

Bláskógabyggð is an inland municipality in Iceland’s southern region and is home to the Golden Circle. The new lagoon will be located at Laugarás, about a 40-minute drive from Selfoss and near the town of Flúðir.

Excited bathers will have to remain patient for the time being: the lagoon is scheduled to open in May 2025.

Mixing Business with Beats, Play CEO Rejoins Metal Band Dimma

CEO of Play Birgir Jónsson rejoins Dimma

The CEO of the airline Play has announced his intention to rejoin the heavy metal band Dimma. His musical endeavours will, however, not affect his position at Play.

All work, all Play

Birgir Jónsson, CEO of the Icelandic airline Play, has decided to rejoin his old colleagues in the heavy metal band Dimma. Birgir, a drummer with experience in multiple bands, departed from Dimma in 2018 after being with the group since 2011.

“Life is strange and beautiful,” Birgir wrote in a Facebook post published earlier today. “I was offered the opportunity to rejoin my old mates in Dimma. Despite being very busy at work, I decided to go for it. We plan to play five to six concerts this year.”

Despite this decision, Birgir stressed that it would not impact his role as CEO of Play: “To clear up any doubts, I am definitely not leaving Play as it is my dream job.”

Dimma was founded in the early aughts by Icelandic brothers Ingólfur “Ingó” and Sigurður “Silli” Geirdal. The band has released six studio albums. Below, you will find a video of Birgir performing with Dimma at a 2014 concert at the Harpa Music and Conference Hall in Reykjavík.

As reported yesterday, PLAY has added two new destinations to their scheduled flights, Madeira in Portugal and Marrakesh in Morocco. The latter will be the first-ever destination in Africa for scheduled flights to and from Iceland.

First Ever Scheduled Flights from Iceland to Africa

iceland budget airline play

The airline PLAY has added two new destinations to their scheduled flights, Madeira in Portugal and Marrakesh in Morocco. The latter will be the first ever destination in Africa for scheduled flights to and from Iceland, Viðskiptablaðið reports.

The first flight to Madeira will be on October 15 this year and scheduled flights will take place once a week on Tuesdays. Flights to Marrakesh will begin on October 17, scheduled twice a week for Thursdays and Sundays.

Sunny destinations

“We continue to increase our options of destinations for Icelanders looking to bask in the sun and our schedule for Southern Europe is one of the most varied ever offered in Iceland,” said Birgir Jónsson, CEO of PLAY. “We have eight destinations in Spain and now three in Portugal. What’s more, we’ve added the enchanting city of Marrakesh to our schedule and I have full faith that Icelanders will welcome these first ever scheduled flights between Iceland and Africa.”

Grindavík and Blue Lagoon Evacuated, Next Eruption Uncertain

Grindavík - Þorbjörn

Following increased seismic activity on the Reykjanes peninsula, Grindavík and the Blue Lagoon have been evacuated. Though an eruption was previously considered imminent, it is now considered less likely for the immediate future.

Earthquake swarm

An earthquake swarm began around 15:55 today, according to the Met Office. The seismic activity moved southeast following the magma intrusion from December 2023, stopping near Hagafell mountain.

The Met Office notes that the current deformation measured is smaller than previously measured in the lead-up to volcanic eruptions. This could potentially indicate a smaller eruption, but it is also possible for a magma dyke to form without forming an eruptive fissure.

Currently, the depth of the seismic activity does not indicate that the magma will break through to the surface. The Met Office considers an eruption in the immediate future to be unlikely, but it cannot be entirely ruled out.

Grindavík and Blue Lagoon Evacuated

Both the town of Grindavík and the neighbouring Blue Lagoon were evacuated out of precaution.

RÚV reports that the evacuations were completed around 5:00 pm.

Víðir Reynisson from Civil Protection stated to RÚV that the evacuation went smoothly and that responders are still in the area to ensure that all residents have left. Responders are reported to be on standby in case of an eruption.

Helga Árnadóttir, director of the Blue Lagoon, also stated to RÚV that the evacuation went well, with all staff and guests having left the area.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office has updated their risk assessment, which is valid for the next 24 hours.