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Sustainable travel in Iceland

Icelandic nature is fragile, and so are Iceland's tiny communities and economy in comparison. With tourism being a fast-growing industry in Iceland, it’s crucial to encourage sustainable travel. Therefore, sustainability is a serious matter, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop doing fun things or enjoying life while traveling.

Join us towards a more sustainable future

Integrating sustainability into our travel plans and other actions in life is the key to the global and local welfare of ecosystems, cultures, and communities. Therefore, we have gathered some information on sustainability and tourism to help you plan your travels in Iceland. It includes ten sustainable travel tips, information about environmental certifications, and a carbon footprint calculator. 

Icelanders are very conscious about the environment, climate changes and sustainability in general. Iceland has set ambitious goals and action plans to fight climate changes and the travel industry maintains high sustainability and quality standards. Vakinn is an official quality and environmental certification for Icelandic tourism, run by the Icelandic Tourist Board. The Vakinn logo helps you find businesses that operate in an ethical, professional and sustainable way.

FIND VAKINN CERTIFIED BUSINESSES

Climate changes cause threats to wildlife and communities

Atlantic puffin with fish in its beak

Icelands signature bird the Atlantic puffin is listed as critically endangered

Climate changes significantly and directly affect Icelandic nature and communities. Many seabirds and marine life species face rapidly changing environments and even threats towards extinction. For instance, Iceland's signature bird, the Atlantic puffin, is now listed as critically endangered on the IUCN red list for birds. Climate changes also lead to hazards for small coastal villages in the East- and Westfjords. More frequent and intense rainfall events, and thawing permafrost in the steep mountains that envelope the fjords, lead to an increased risk of landslides.

Compensate for your carbon footprint locally

Traveling always involves some carbon emissions from transportation, lodging, and other activities. Therefore, the most sustainable way to travel is to compensate for your unavoidable emissions. By supporting local carbon-capturing projects, you also benefit Icelandic nature and societies. 

Below, you can find a calculator for the carbon footprint of your travels and links to local carbon-capturing projects you can support to offset your travel-related emissions. We also encourage you to take the Icelandic pledge and thereby agree to be a responsible tourist.

Local carbon-capturing projects

The Icelandic Wetland Fund

Hiking in the highland

All donations are used directly towards the restoration of wetlands. By wetland restoration, CO2 is captured, further emissions from disturbed wetlands are prevented, and important habitats for birds are restored and protected.

The President of Iceland, Mr. Gudni Th. Jóhannesson, is the guardian of the project. 

Compensate with Wetland Restoration

Visit the regions, stay for longer and travel slowly during the off-season

A couple beople bathing and facing snowy mountains

One of the best ways to visit Iceland sustainably is by visiting the regions, staying for longer, and traveling slowly during the off-season.  Take your time to explore the island, rather than hurrying from sight to sight, trying to do as much as possible in a short time. Instead, use alternative “slow” means of transportation, eat locally produced food, shop at local markets, and engage in cultural events and activities that let you connect with the various places around Iceland and the people living in the country.  

Check out scenic routes in Iceland

The high travel season in Iceland is during the summer in June, July and August. By visiting during the off-season and spreading your travels around, less pressure is put on the society and environment in Reykjavík and other popular areas. Additionally, by adopting this mindset, your money is spent in ways that benefit local economies around Iceland.  

A goat at Háafell farm

10 sustainability travel tips

1. Pack light and compensate for the carbon footprint of your travels locally.

2. Slow down your travels and stay for longer.

3. Use public transport or rent fossil-fuel-free vehicles.

4. Travel during the off-season and explore regions closely.

5. Choose locally made products and services from local businesses.

6. Buy products and services with eco-labels.

7. Stay on hiking trails, never drive off-road and camp within campsites.

8. Drink tap water - “Kranavatn”.

9. Be mindful of your energy and resource usage.

10. Reduce, reuse and recycle .

Icelandic nature is fragile - please watch your step

Closed path in a mossy lava field

Icelandic nature is fragile, and the delicate vegetation, especially moss, is susceptible to damage. Furthermore, with slow growth in the short summers in Iceland, it can take the vegetation decades or even hundreds of years to recover. Craters and lava formations are also easily damaged, and a broken piece of lava will never mend. Therefore, all volcanic craters and lava fields are ensured special protection in Icelandic nature conservation law.

Certifications and labels

The environmental and quality certifications, ecolabels and declarations below help you choose services and products that meet certain sustainability, environmental or communal health standards.

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