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 a carbon footprint calculator, ten sustainable travel tips and more.
Icelanders are very conscious about the environment, climate changes and sustainability in general. Iceland has set ambitious and aims for 55% cuts in carbon emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality no later than 2040. The travel industry is striving to maintain high sustainability and quality standards.
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.
Climate changes create threats for wildlife and communities
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 . 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
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.
Visit the regions, stay for longer and travel slowly during the off-season
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.
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.
11 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. Attend cultural events.
8. Stay on hiking trails, never drive off-road and camp within campsites.
10. Be mindful of your energy and resource usage.
11. Reduce, reuse and recycle.
Icelandic nature is fragile - please watch your step
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.