Iceland in Slow-Mo

Iceland in Slow-Mo

Responsible Travel in Iceland

Iceland in Slow-Mo

According to Martha Honey, ecotourism is “travel to fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas that strives to be low impact and (often) small scale”.


This notion is well understood regarding areas like South America, Africa and some parts of North America and Europe, but it is not necessarily expected for Iceland.


However, Iceland is in dire need of protection, and one of the best ways to achieve it might be ecotourism.


But why does Iceland need protection?


Let’s look at the figures. Iceland has a tiny population of about 320,000, located on the coastline with 80% of the people in the capital city, Reykjavik. In 2000, Iceland received 300,000 foreign visitors per year, that is, mainly during the short summer time from May to September. Last year, in 2014, 1,000,000 foreign visitors came to visit the land of fire and ice. In 14 years, the tourism flux increased by 230%, implying a virtual increase of the population of 203%.


To have a comparison, for the same time frame, France (one of the most touristic nations) had a tourism increase of 27% since 2000, virtually making its population increase by 13,3%.


Tourism in Iceland is becoming big and is mainly focusing on the short summers, because they allow accessibility to remote natural wonders. These natural wonders are geologically young and have not been subjected to long periods of erosion. They are therefore very fragile and at the same time subjected to a tremendous traffic.


Solutions are needed to protect the Icelandic nature and they have to happen as soon as possible to avoid irreparable damages. Moreover, Icelandic tourism got famous because it was offering the unique opportunity to experience natural wonders in an absolute quietness. How can we qualify nowadays 1,000,000 tourists by “quietness”?


If the tourism industry cannot take governmental decisions, it can make its way to offer a tourism more respectful of this fragile ecosystem. Slow Travel, Ecotourism or Responsible travel, are some of the most efficient ways to achieve this goal while sustaining attractive possibilities for tourists.


This is why some Icelandic professionals are turning wise eyes towards Slow Travel and Responsible Travel. In fact, Iceland is best to be discovered slowly, truly felt and enjoyed. In the middle of the North Atlantic, it is not about lining up miles or cramming up sites, it is about feeling the energy and assimilating what stuns the eye.


Alkemia Tour OperatorAs the local Tour Operator Alkemia likes to remind, there are many simple and easy ways to to achieve this goal, such as getting rid of big coaches tours or long 4WD drives, and to rediscover the pleasures of being immersed deeply in a location.


Here are three of them that will allow anyone visiting Iceland to discover a side of the country they would not have even knew about by using means of massive tourism.


1. Intimate moments on water


Iceland is an island, and even more, it is an island covered in rivers, lakes and fjords. Why not let this abundance of water bring you around the country slowly and always with a nature loving relationship?

There are many great opportunities to do this with specialized professionals allowing sailing or kayaking. Kayaking treks are amazing opportunities to discover a usually hidden Iceland, to access remote and quiet locations while sharing unforgettable moments with a few comrades. Many of these treks can even mix kayaking and hiking, uninhabited places and quaint little towns.


While on water, there is no getting faster, no rushing to the next step, there is only enjoying the slow motions of water and time. This is perfect to really feel the fjords’ majesty, the tremendous power of water and ice, or the intricate ballets of the birds.


2. Saddling up like no one else in the world


Iceland counts 1 horse for every 4 Icelanders on average. Indeed, horses have always been highly regarded by north mythology and they were dramatically important in the farming process until the middle of the 20th century. If they are not anymore so much used in the farming activities, they remain an amazing way to explore the country.


The horses themselves are a curiosity. There is only one breed of horses in Iceland and it can be traced back to the Vikings. This explains why no import of horses is allowed on the island. These little horses unique in the world are sturdy, brave, kind and a pleasure to ride even for beginners.


A few hours ride or a many days long horse trip is the guarantee to get closer to Iceland at the pace of nature. Horses are not like cars, they need to eat, drink, rest and sleep. With them there is no fast-forward, they give the tempo and let the visitor see Iceland with different eyes.


3. Iceland is made for walking


Iceland is covered in hiking trails, long or short, difficult or easy, remote or accessible. Hikes and treks allow the visitors to go slow, to stop whenever they want, and put them right in the (sometimes big) hands of Mother Nature.


Hiking in Iceland is like eating a layer cake. Getting closer to the first most visible layer allows accessing a deeper level of surprises and discoveries, and so on. Hiking allows discovering these depths of nature where one can literally lie down on it and feel it living, moving and breathing.

Hiking in Iceland is no race or performance, it always grants the possibility to spend hours, maybe a couple of days at one location, for no other reason than because it simply feels good.


About TIES

As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




> The International Ecotourism Society 



The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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