Three Italian tourists have pleaded guilty to off-road driving in Iceland’s Central Highland, north of Vatnajökull glacier. Off-road driving is illegal in Iceland and those who are caught must pay hefty fines. The director of the Travel Association of Fljótsdalshérað, East Iceland, says more must be done to ensure foreign tourists are aware of the ban.
Þórhallur Þorsteinsson has been working in tourism in East Iceland for decades. He posted pictures of the damage done by the three Italians on his Facebook page, calling the deep tire tracks among the worst he’s ever seen.
Þórhallur told Vísir he’s tired of seeing such damage and says tourism operators and the government must do more to get the message across that off-road driving is illegal in Iceland. Smyril Line, which operates the ferry between mainland Europe and Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland, as well as car rental companies, the Environment Ministry, and the municipality of Múlaþing, East Iceland, are a few of the parties Þórhallur mentioned as bearing the responsibility to educate tourists on the fragile environment they are visiting in Iceland, that takes decades to recover from damage caused by off-road driving.
When tourists lack awareness of the off-road driving ban, damage can lead to even more damage. “Then tourists come and see an old circle made off-road. Then they take a spin themselves; think about doing it themselves. ‘Why not me?’” Þórhallur explains.
In addition to tourism operators and local authorities, Þórhallur says the Icelandic government bears the largest responsibility to ensure off-road driving does not happen.
The three Italian tourists have been fined several hundred thousand Icelandic krónur, or thousands of euros, for the offence.