Iceland is a vast and beautiful country. Unfortunately, every year a few travellers and tourists lose their way in the rugged wilderness. Thankfully, Iceland has an amazing rescue brigade that is specialized in locating lost travellers and bring them back to safety. However, to avoid unnecessary risks, follow these practical tips:
Even if you are not travelling alone, if you go on a hike, let somebody know where you are going and when you will be back. This could be the receptionist at your hotel, the cashier at the gas station, your mum, or the whole of Facebook. Also, be sure to remember to notify the person afterwards when you have returned to civilisation. This should prevent the designated person from calling out the rescue brigade to search for you. It has happened more than that travellers have forgotten to mention they had returned, and rescue searchers were deployed on a mission.
Most smartphones and tablets have GPS that work without a mobile signal. GPS uses satellites to navigate and is not dependent on mobile networks or Wi-Fi. Google maps is pre-installed on most devices and does a fine job in navigating with GPS. Be sure to have enough battery power for your hike and turn off your Wi-Fi signal in order to save energy.
There is a bad joke in Iceland that says „if you don´t like the weather in Iceland, wait 15 minutes“. There is a lot of truth to this joke though, the weather can change from sunny blue skies to a freezing ice blizzard and back again in minutes. It is not uncommon for snow to fall in the summer and on some mountains and valleys the wind can blow furiously. Be prepared for all kinds of weather, no matter how short your trip.
Not only is it disrespectful to wander of the path in nature parks, it can be down right dangerous. Those lush moss grown lava fields are especially dangerous territory. They have sharp rocks that can rip your skin easily, treacherous underground cave systems that one can fall into. Not to mention that it is difficult to get your bearings when ever rock looks the same. It is with good reason that Icelanders seldom travelled over lava fields in the past, but chose to go around them.
If you are not an experienced mountain climber, don´t go climbing a mountain (and even if you are, be careful!). If it looks like you might slip, don´t go out on the ledge. If somebody decides to climb the fence and wander off, don´t follow them. If those rainclouds at the horizon look like they are coming this way, stay at the cabin and play cards. Iceland has plenty of beauty that can be enjoyed from the safety of your car or from the beaten path without taking unnecessary risks!