From Iceland — What's Next For Reynisfjara?

What’s Next For Reynisfjara?

Published June 15, 2022

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Following last Friday’s death at Reynisfjara beach, the fifth such death in the past seven years, discussion has renewed over whether to close Reynisfjara completely, partially, or try another strategy.

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“We can’t face this situation for much longer,” Minister of Tourism Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir told Vísir, saying that this does not only apply to Reynisfjara but to other locations in Iceland that, while certainly beautiful, can prove dangerous for the uninitiated.

“One of the things which we can do is close [Reynisfjara], but temporarily,” she said. “No one is talking about closing Reynisfjara completely. Just when the tides are at such a point that they can prove deadly. But we will of course do this in cooperation with the landowners and the tourism industry.”

On the subject of the tourism industry, the Grapevine spoke with a tour guide last November, in the wake of another fatality at Reynisfjara, about why this keeps happening.

David Kelley, the tour guide in question, told us that while he and most other tour guides tell tourists to avoid the waterline, not everyone listens, and trying to call people back from the waterline is not always effective.

“The problem with being a guide is, I have no authority,” he said. “After the last big incident, we’d be down there, screaming at people to get away from the ocean. Some people listen to us, but then there’s some people who will confront us and say ‘What are you, police?’ They’ll be swearing at us, telling us to f*ck off and all this.”

Like many people, David does not believe Reynisfjara should be closed altogether, but he sees another solution besides temporary closure of the area.

“What we need, in my opinion, is boots on the ground,” he says. “Iceland earns a lot of money off tourism. I personally think that at these key places, you need more people interacting with the public, and you need specialists trained in how to manage large groups of people coming into a potentially dangerous situation. People with the authority to act. I think you’d need two people at any one time, down there throughout the day, particularly through the hours of daylight.”

For the time being, increasing the human security presence at Reynisfjara has not entered the discussion on any official level, but talks between the state, the landowners and the tourism industry are still ongoing.

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