Road to Dettifoss Temporarily Closed

dettifoss waterfall in north iceland

Recent snow storms in North Iceland have created poor road conditions around Dettifoss waterfall, forcing its temporary closure.

Warmer weather has started to melt the accumulated ice and snow, creating large puddles of meltwater on the path to the popular waterfall.

Yesterday, park authorities advised visitors to be especially cautious when visiting the area due to the unstable path. Visitors were asked to stay on the marked trails and warned of potential streams and cavities that could form under the ice.

At the time of writing, route 886 to Dettifoss will is closed from the intersection with route 862. Park authorities have not yet announced when it will be reopened, but travelers are advised to check for live updates of road closures at road.is.

 

Traveller Walks 2.5 Hours to Keflavík International

Keflavík airport

One Australian Tiktoker has attracted international attention for her choice to walk to Keflavík International Airport to save on taxi fare.

The video was posted with the text: “When there is no public transport to the airport in Iceland at 5am and a taxi is €200 so you walk 2.5 hours to the airport with your suitcase.” At the time of writing, the video has been viewed some 2.5 million times.

@therealmaceyjane This will be a good dinner table story one day #iceland #backpacking ♬ Pedro – Jaxomy & Agatino Romero & Raffaella Carrà

A brief spot of fact-checking, however, reveals that the traveler was likely not staying in the Reykjavík area. Keflavík International Airport is located some 55 km from downtown Reykjavík, and about 40 km from the suburb of Hafnarfjörður. Walking to Keflavík International Airport from either of these locations would take the better part of a day, especially with luggage in tow. The traveler was more likely staying in a hotel in the town of Keflavík or one of the neighboring towns of Njarðvík or Vogar, from where taxi fare would be considerably cheaper.

Fly Bus airport transfers also run regularly from Reykjavík and are generally scheduled around flights.

“This will be a good dinner table story one day,” Macey captioned the video. Read more on getting around Iceland.

 

Drop in Overnight Tourist Stays

tourists on perlan

Overnight stays in Icelandic hotels and other accommodations were 491,000 in April, according to Statistics Iceland. That is a 13% drop from April 2023 when 563,000 overnight stays were recorded, Vb.is reports.

Supply of rooms increased

Foreign tourists accounted for the vast majority of the overnight stays, or 76%. This resulted in a 15% drop in foreign tourist stays from April last year. Hotel stays by Icelandic citizens also dropped by 4.7% between years. The supply of hotel rooms increased, however, with 3.1% more rooms available than April last year.

Outside of these statistics, an estimated 61,000 foreign tourists stayed in unregistered accommodation through online short-term rental platforms. Some 10,000 were estimated to have stayed with friends or family, while 3,000 lodged in camper vans.

Tourism still booming

2024 is still set to be the largest year for tourism in Iceland since 2017, with the exception of last year. According to the Icelandic Tourism Board, the USA and UK account for around a third of all tourists in Iceland.

Tourism in Iceland has been growing steadily since the Covid-19 pandemic derailed the industry in 2020. Tourism had become a pillar of the Icelandic economy following the banking crisis of 2008 and the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption of 2010.

In Focus: Tourist Safety

reykjanes grindavík

In October of last year, the latest period of seismic and volcanic activity began in the Reykjanes peninsula in the southwest of Iceland. The area lies near the capital region and is home to Keflavík International Airport, the Blue Lagoon, and multiple towns, hotels, and attractions. With four eruptions in the Sundhnúkagígar crater system during this spell, it’s no wonder that prospective tourists have been asking themselves if it’s still safe to visit Iceland.

The short answer is “yes, absolutely.” The long answer is “yes, but use common sense!” Iceland is an island located on a rift between tectonic plates, created by the very same volcanic activity we see today. Icelanders have had to learn how to stay safe in harsh conditions, but these natural forces have also formed the beautiful landscapes that make the island worth inhabiting and visiting.

víðir reynisson
Víðir Reynisson – Photo submitted by Almannavarnir.

As a result of these conditions, there is a strong base of knowledge and experience within Iceland’s institutions, universities, and emergency response units when it comes to volcanic eruptions. Director of Civil Protection Víðir Reynisson says that securing tourist safety during the current volcanic activity in Reykjanes has proved a relatively straightforward project for authorities in the larger scheme of things. “But we do get asked a lot about the effects on transportation, especially air travel, and the comparison to the Eyjafjallajökull eruption,” he says.

The 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption created an ash cloud that disrupted air travel within, to, and from Europe for days. “The volcanic activity in Reykjanes, however, is of the kind that only has an impact locally,” Víðir says. “These are fissure eruptions and the lava only flows for a few kilometres. This makes it easier for us to control who can access the area and provide all the necessary information. We can easily close off or reduce traffic so people don’t get themselves in trouble when there’s danger afoot. In this regard, the impact is low, both for tourists and the locals who travel through these areas.”

Ample time to evacuate

The latest Sundhnúkagígar eruption ended on May 9 after chugging along for 54 days. Protective barriers have been constructed to limit the impact on nearby settlements. The town of Grindavík has already suffered severe infrastructure damage due to earthquakes, subsidence, and faults though inhabitants were evacuated well before three houses were destroyed by the lava flow in January. The damage could’ve been worse, but thankfully scientists and authorities had time to respond. Many worry that the situation will be different if an eruption takes place further west in Svartsengi, where the popular Blue Lagoon spa, several hotels, and a geothermal plant are situated.

“In Sundhnúkagígar, we’ve only had very little notice from when the magma starts breaking through until an eruption begins, ranging from a few minutes and up to an hour,” Víðir says. “But this area is relatively far away from where people tend to be. If we look at the Svartsengi area, scientists tell us that the notice would be at least 4 to 8 hours. If the magma were to breach through, it would come with tremendous seismic activity. This had already happened in Sundhnúkagígar and culminated in the November 10 earthquakes. We’d need to see this kind of havoc first if magma were to reach the surface in Svartsengi or other nearby areas.”

grindavík safety
Grindavík. Photo by Art Bicnick.

The Blue Lagoon has already been evacuated multiple times in anticipation of imminent eruptions in Sundhnúkagígar, but has always reopened and remains open at the time of writing. Blue Lagoon management has stated that they prioritise the safety of their guests and staff, employ a team of trained staff to carry out evacuations, monitor gas pollution from nearby eruptions, and cooperate closely with authorities.

“All our evacuation plans are based on getting people away within an hour, even if we’re sure to have a much larger time frame,” Víðir says. “This has been the case during our evacuations of Svartsengi so far, including all the hotels, the Blue Lagoon and the nearby geothermal power station. We’ve generally managed to evacuate everyone within 40 to 60 minutes.”

No one in harm’s way

Icelandic authorities have been concerned about how the natural disasters are being presented in international media. So much so, in fact, that Minister of Tourism, Trade, and Culture Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir launched a campaign to respond to and correct news coverage that painted Iceland as a dangerous tourist destination and could impact the tourism industry.

“First off, people seem to think that the whole country is in a state of emergency due to the volcano,” Víðir says. “We get asked how it has impacted Reykjavík, if Keflavík International Airport is still in operation, and whether everything has broken down. The other thing is that because of the excellent publicity we got in 2010 when Eyjafjallajökull erupted and air traffic in Europe was affected, that is exactly what people think of when they learn about a new volcano in Iceland. The first question from all major international media has always been whether it will become like the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.”

grindavík safety
Grindavík. Photo by Art Bicnick.

Víðir has tried to correct this in interviews with international television, print, and radio media. He also connects reporters to local specialists when further details are needed. “But I also tell people that we’d never put anyone in harm’s way. Our number one concern is the people working on the protective barriers who we monitor closely. But if we thought tourists were at any risk, we’d simply close areas off. Everything around the fissure is closed off, and no one should go there. We still see people get themselves into trouble, getting their cars stuck, getting lost and injured. But any visitor in Iceland can travel around, see the glow from eruptions from a great distance when they’re active, go to the Blue Lagoon, and enjoy Reykjanes activities. The area we’ve closed off isn’t very large.”

Follow instructions

The key to staying safe is following instructions, Víðir reiterates. “We’ve labelled clearly where people can go and where they can’t. You can see the instructions for instance on the road leading to the Blue Lagoon. People need to respect the road signs and there are also many people working on this in the area that they can ask if they have questions or need directions.”

Víðir adds that SafeTravel.is has all the necessary information and that Icelandic media is quick with updates in English when anything happens.

Hafnarhólmi to Begin Charging for Access Next Summer

Puffin Iceland

The municipal government of Borgarfjörður eystri, East Iceland, has stated its intention to make the entrance fee to Hafnarhólmi mandatory.

Hafnarhólmi is an islet and home to a puffin colony. The islet is popular and accessible for bird-watchers who want to see the iconic animal up close. Currently, the entrance fee is voluntary. Austurfrétt reports.

Could generate millions of ISK

The fee is expected to generate significant income for the municipality, as Hafnarhólmi is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Borgarfjörður eystri, and indeed all of East Iceland. The area is estimated to receive around 50,000 visitors annually.

Revenue is expected to be in the tens of millions of ISK, and a majority of the fee would be put towards conserving the popular area and enhancing the visitor experience with improved facilities.

The fee was originally introduced in 2023 with the condition that it would be optional for visitors.

Still optional this summer

Eyþór Stefánsson, chairperson of the local council, stated that although the current arrangement has brought in some revenue, a mandatory fee would be much more beneficial to the area.

Based on last year’s total of 50,000 visitors and a fee of 500 ISK [$3.62; €3.33], he estimates that some 25 million ISK [$180,000; €167,000] in additional revenue could be generated. This would represent a significant increase over the revenue generated by the current optional model.

“In my opinion, this is a better approach than the current arrangement,” Eyþór stated to Austurfrétt. “It will still be optional for visitors to pay this summer, but we believe it is reasonable that from the summer of 2025 onwards, there will be a mandatory fee for each visitor. The matter has not yet reached the stage of planning how this would be implemented, but I would be excited to have it similar to the system in Danish trains where there isn’t a direct ticket sale or attendant, but rather an unannounced check among guests.”

 

 

Increase in Overnight Stays Among Icelanders

Having fun at Gullfoss waterfall

According to the short-term indicators on the tourism industry recently released by Statistics Iceland, more Icelanders stayed in hotels than in the year previous. Simultaneously, a slight drop in the number of foreign overnight stays was also measured.

Slight decrease in overnight stays

Total overnight stays in March 2024 amounted to 428,197, compared with 423,554 in March 2023. This represents a slight decrease of around 1%.

Notably, the number of overnight stays by Icelanders increased significantly year-on-year, with March 2024 seeing 85,136 overnight stays, a 10% increase from March 2023.

Overnight stays from foreign visitors did, however, slightly decrease. In total, foreign travellers bought around 343,000 hotel overnight stays in March of this year.

Slight decrease in air traffic year-on-year

Among the other statistics released in the report are numbers on air traffic. In the short-term indicators recently published, there was a slight decrease in the total number of passengers and flights. In April of this year, some 5,409 flights arrived and departed from Keflavík International Airport, a decrease of around 7%.


Despite the slight decrease in air traffic, the tourism industry continues to grow. In February 2024, travel companies turned over almost 109 billion ISK [$788 million, €725 million], which is a 10% increase year-on-year.

Other trends that can be seen in the latest statistics include a decrease in road traffic across much of the Ring Road, though road traffic in South Iceland increased by 4%. The total number of rental cars also increased, growing from 27,432 in May 2023 to 29,827 in May 2024. This represents an increase of 9%.

 

Iceland to be “Sold Out” for 2026 Eclipse

Sævar Helgi Bragason stargazing.

Popular Icelandic astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason (often known as “Star-Sævar”) warned in a recent interview with RÚV that many accommodations may already be booked for the 2026 total solar eclipse.

Best visible from Látrabjarg

The path of totality for the 2026 eclipse will run from Iceland’s Westfjords to the Reykjanes peninsula. It will be visible from the capital area, but astronomers say it will be best viewed from the popular cliffs of Látrabjarg. “It will last longest at Látrabjarg, and if the weather is good, a large number of tourists can be expected to go there,” Sævar recently stated in an interview with RÚV. He also stated that travellers can expect much of Iceland to be sold out for the eclipse.

“The difference between a partial eclipse and a total eclipse is like comparing apples and oranges,” Sævar stated. Though a partial eclipse will be visible in parts of Europe and North America, Iceland will be one of the best places in the world to view the total eclipse.

Sævar stated that travellers have already begun booking accommodations and that many of the best viewing sites are already making plans to accommodate the large number of eclipse chasers.

Authorities at Látrabjarg, a sea cliff and popular bird-watching area, have already begun making plans to accommodate the greater-than-average number of travellers.

Sævar continued: “Several hotels are fully booked, both within and outside the path of totality. Major travel companies are organizing trips here, and they are struggling to secure hotel rooms. And I can confidently say that Iceland will be sold out on that specific day.”

The 2026 eclipse

The total eclipse will be visible on August 12, 2026. It will pass over the Arctic, Greenland, Iceland, and Spain, with partial visibility in North America, Scandinavia, Europe, and West Africa.

In Iceland, the path of totality begins at Straumnes Lighthouse in the Westfjords, lasting 1 minute and 57 seconds, extending to 2 minutes and 13 seconds at Látrabjarg. The eclipse will move swiftly at 3400 km/h (2110 mph) and leave Iceland at Reykjanestá Lighthouse around 5:51 pm.

Afterwards, it travels across the Atlantic, reaching Spain approximately 35 minutes later. In total, the eclipse (including the partial eclipse) will be viewable for about two hours in Iceland, though the total duration of totality will be significantly shorter, around 18 minutes.

Amateur astronomers and eclipse chasers can find further information about the 2026 total eclipse in Iceland here.

Read our interview with Icelandic astronomer Sævar Helgi Bragason here.

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Declared Nature Reserve

Fjaðrárgljúfur

The popular canyon Fjaðrárglúfur was declared a nature reserve by Minister for the Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

The popular canyon, located in Southeast Iceland near the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, was already listed on the Nature Conservation Register, a list of protected areas in Iceland and other important natural monuments deemed worthy of protection or conservation.

The designation as a nature reserve will place the canyon among some 130 other sites in Iceland and impose stricter regulations for its conservation.

A popular site protected

The boundaries of the nature reserve now extend over the eastern part of the canyon and mark the area above the eastern cliffs. This area is owned by Hverabergs ehf., and will be operated in cooperation with the municipality of Skaftárhrepp.

Work on the designation began following a memorandum signed by Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson and Hveraberg ehf. in January 2024. The memorandum outlined cooperation on protecting Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and developing infrastructure in the area.

Increasing tourist interest in Fjaðrágljúfur canyon

The canyon Fjaðrárgljúfur (so named after the Fjaðrá river which runs through it) is some 100 m [328 ft] deep and 2 km [1.2 mi] long. Formed by glacial activity nearly 10,000 years ago, the canyon came to international popularity after the 2015 Justin Bieber music video “I’ll Show You.”

Since then, the canyon has seen ever-increasing numbers of tourists, causing the site to be closed to travellers several times. 

The land through which the canyon runs was bought by Hveraberg ehf. in 2022 for 280 million ISK [$2,000,000; €1,860,000].

Immensely popular destination

The increased popularity has also driven a need for a higher level of infrastructure in the area, both to conserve the site and ensure the safety of visitors.

At the ceremony, Minister of Environment, Energy, and Climate Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson stated: “Fjaðrárgljúfur is an immensely popular tourist destination, and everything indicates that the influx of tourists to the area will increase in the coming years. I’m satisfied to be able to cooperate with landowners and the Skaftárhrepp municipality to preserve the area and create the necessary environment for the protection of nature in the area and for the reception of tourists.”

Read more about privately owned tourist sites in Iceland.

Icelandic Nature Key Attraction for Foreign Visitors, Survey Finds

Kirkjufell mountain on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

A recent survey by the Icelandic Tourism Board found that in 2023, nature was a key attraction for foreign tourists, influencing 97% of their decisions to visit. Popular destinations included the capital region and Southern Iceland, while recreational activities like natural baths and spa treatments were highly utilised by visitors.

Nature the primary attraction

A recent survey conducted by the Icelandic Tourism Board revealed, rather unsurprisingly, that foreign tourists primarily visited Iceland in 2023 for its nature, Morgunblaðið reports. Most visited the capital region and Southern Iceland, while 13% travelled to the Westfjords.

Furthermore, 97% of respondents said that nature had a significant or some influence on their decision to travel to the country. Interest in the Arctic influenced 84.6%, and nature-related activities influenced nearly 80% of respondents. Nearly 60% had received recommendations from friends or relatives to travel to the country.

Shorter stays than before

As noted by Morgunblaðið, tourists stayed an average of seven nights in the country, which is slightly shorter than the year before.

As far as the distribution of tourists in Iceland is concerned, 90% of respondents had visited the capital area, four out of five travelled around Southern Iceland, two out of three around the Reykjanes Peninsula, nearly half around the Western region, nearly a third around the Northern region, almost 30% around the Eastern region, and 13% in the Westfjords.

The survey also indicates that seven out of ten responded that their visit to Iceland exceeded their expectations. Foreign tourists appear eager to utilise a variety of recreational options. 56.2% visited natural baths, 40% used spa or wellness treatments, 34% visited museums, 33% took bus tours, and 21% went swimming.

Where can I watch webcams from Iceland?

Tjörnin Reykjavík Pond

The recent eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula have certainly increased the interest in webcams from Iceland, and now viewers throughout the world can watch the eruptions live as they unfold.

Beyond the volcanic eruptions, however, there are many reasons why travellers and residents alike may want to check out a webcam. They can provide real-time information on weather conditions, give you a new perspective on a potential vacation destination, or just make for some interesting people-watching. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most interesting webcams in Iceland.

Webcams from Iceland

National broadcaster RÚV operates several webcams. At the moment, most of them cover the ongoing eruption near Grindavík. Below is an embedded mosaic, which allows you to view all of the perspectives of the eruption.

The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration also operates many webcams. You can find a list of webcams broken down by region, in addition to a live map that has links to all of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration’s webcams. This is an especially useful resource if you plan on travelling and want to check road and weather conditions.

Live from Iceland also has a large collection of webcams, with everything from the recent volcanic eruptions, Perlan in Reykjavík, Þingvellir National Park, Akureyri, and more.

Travellers to the Westfjords will also find Snerpa especially helpful. The Westfjords-based company currently has live webcams in 15 locations throughout the Westfjords, including Ísafjörður, Dynjandi, Súðavík, and Þingeyri. The Westfjords can have especially unpredictable weather conditions for Iceland, so this is an excellent resource.

The Icelandic Met Office operates several webcams, including from the roof of its Reykjavík offices and more remote areas, such as the highland, Mývatn, and even the volcanic island Surtsey.

Many port authorities throughout Iceland operate webcams. Fans of boats, shipping, and everything maritime may find these of interest! Most harbours have a webcam, including the Faxaflói harbour in Reykjavík, the Kópavogur harbour, and Hafnarfjörður harbour.

Many municipalities also operate webcams, from large towns to small villages. The municipality of Fjarðabyggð in the East Fjords has webcams in many of its settlements, for example, as do many towns on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. The town of Akureyri also operates a webcam, in addition to webcams near the ski slopes.

Many park areas and popular nature destinations also have webcams, such as Vatnajökull National Park. The iconic Kirkjufell mountain also has a webcam, so you can time the weather for your next photo shoot, or watch the northern lights glitter over this famous landmark.

The hardware store Byko also has a webcam in their Selfoss location so viewers can stay up-to-date with a pair of ravens that nest there, Hrefna and Hrafn.

Additionally, bird watchers may also enjoy this live webcam from the harbour in Borgarfjörður Eystri, East Iceland. It’s a popular spot for puffins to nest, so it’s one of your best chances to see the iconic bird if you can’t make the trip to see them!