Updates of the coronavirus pandemic have been taking over the front pages of the world’s news for over a year. With the introduction of effective vaccines against the virus many regions are seeing increases in tourism and as a result, tales of tourists behaving badly on holiday are seeing a resurgence.
Just yesterday, Matthías Karlsson spotted a group of tourists nonchalantly grilling and enjoying a soft drink on the hardened lava at the Fagradalsfjall eruption site in Geldingadalir. After lying dormant for 800 years, the eruption began on March 19, 2021 and the lava field continues to expand. The surface on which the tourists stood may have seemed stable but lava, which can reach temperatures of 1250° Celcius, is flowing underneath and the formation of cracks resulting in imminent danger is possible.
The tourists swiftly ignored Matthías’ advice to evacuate the area for their own safety. He lamented to Fréttablaðið that this was not the first time he’s witnessed tourists behaving in precarious ways at the eruption site. Once, he saw a family go out onto the lava fields with a child on the father’s back.
It’s not uncommon to see tourists in Iceland pushing the envelope to get an Instagram shot worthy of a few extra likes. However, these moves often not only endanger themselves or others but also natural features or historical locations.
Notably, in 2017, the phrase “SEND NUDES” appeared on a moss-covered hill near Nesjavellir in southern Iceland, having been carved into the vegetation by vandalizing tourists. It will likely take 70 years for the words to disappear from the land, long after the novelty of the stunt has worn off.
Beaches in Iceland also come with their own hazards. Sneaker waves, falling rocks and dangerous undercurrents in the icy water are all potential dangers of these stunning locations. When caution is thrown to the wind (and we all know how strong the wind can be in Iceland), these natural wonders can turn lethal at a moment’s notice, especially when ill-advised risks are taken by adventure-seeking tourists. The distinctive Reynisfjara black sand beach has been the site of numerous injuries and deaths over the years, forcing the Tourism Minister to address the situation.
The fear with these events is that they aren’t isolated and instead can cause a chain reaction where future visitors assume that these actions are safe or unproblematic, ultimately increasing the occurrence and ramping up their intensity.
Unless tourists want Iceland’s iconic destinations to go the way of Maya Bay in Thailand which has closed indefinitely to allow for the nature to heal, they must respect the places they visit on holiday instead of solely showing them off on social media.
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