The COVID-19 pandemic has affected international travel, for the time being, and as a result, more Icelanders will spend their summer vacation travelling domestically. Hákon Ásgeirsson of the Environment Agency of Iceland says park wardens are preparing to welcome local tourists this summer with guided educational hikes in protected areas across the country. Less tourist traffic this spring means areas particularly vulnerable during the thawing season are getting a chance to recover from strain in recent years.
Guided hikes for families and groups
“We are preparing ourselves to give Icelanders a warm welcome this summer,” says Hákon. “The Environment Agency is starting an initiative to have more educational programming in protected areas, so that wardens can welcome Icelanders and also offer them educational hikes tailored to families and different groups.”
The programme is currently in the works with more specifics to be announced in mid-May, says Hákon. “There will be regular programming all through the summer in protected areas across the whole country.”
With less traffic, soil and vegetation recover
The Road and Coastal Administration has begun its yearly spring closures of highland roads in order to protect both roadways and budding vegetation. Spring is the most challenging season in vulnerable areas, explains Hákon, as soil is thawing, making it waterlogged and vulnerable to damage from cars and foot traffic. Fjaðrágljúfur canyon in South Iceland is one area where increased traffic has led to closures in recent years. “There is almost no traffic at the moment in Fjaðrárgljúfur, so it will likely not need to be closed. There is so little traffic that it is recovering naturally.”
It’s a recovery that could be seen in many areas across Iceland, if international travel restrictions continue. “There will likely be less pressure on certain areas from tourists.”