Campsites around the country are quickly filling to capacity due to gathering limits of 500 people or fewer at once, RÚV reports. The restrictions on gathering sizes will likely be in effect for the rest of this summer, in which camping has become more of a popular activity for Icelanders who are not travelling abroad as usual.
There were reports over the weekend of people being turned away from the campsite at Skaftafell in Southeast Iceland, and increased usage at Básar in Þórsmörk in the southern highlands and Ásbyrgi in North Iceland.
Currently, Básar has at least 300 people camping a night and the facility is receiving more booking requests every day. Rangers emphasise that given current gathering restrictions – not to mention the remoteness of the camping area – campers need to book their spaces in advance. An additional camping area was opened earlier this summer at Ásbyrgi to meet demand, but rangers say that no one has had to be turned away yet. Travellers are encouraged to call ahead, however, to ensure that there will be enough space for them as the month goes on.
Even with the gathering limits and more Icelanders camping, however, many sites are still seeing far less traffic than usual and, accordingly, decreases in revenue. Lake Mývatn tourism operator Finnur Sigfús Illugason says that Icelanders simply won’t come out if the weather forecast isn’t particularly good; utilisation of his campsite has been at 20-25%.
Hildur Þóra Magnúsdóttir, director of a company that operates campsites around the North Fjords similarly remarked that revenues are down but says that turnouts are still better than expected – not that it solves all the problems. Visitors to the campsite at Varmahlið had to be turned away not due to gathering restrictions, but because the site simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate everyone. Moreover, the increased number of Icelanders camping over the summer means that more people are sleeping in camper vans and RVs rather than tents, which has also put a strain on the availability of electrical hookups. One of the other sites Hildur Þóra manages, at Hólar í Hjaltadal, is very large and has a great location, but no electricity. And most Icelanders, she said, simply don’t want to rough it that much when camping: “Icelanders aren’t exactly determined enough to visit [the campground at] Hólar.”