Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Hornstrandir nature preserve to remain a cellphone-free zone

By Staff

  • Hornstrandir The magnificient landscapes, remoteness and complete lack of modern infrastructure or permanent settlement make Hornstrandir completely unique. Photo/Icelandic Environment Agency

  • Hornstrandir A map of the preserve. There are no roads in the region. Visitors must either travel by foot or boat. 

Visitors to Hornstrandir nature preserve won't be able to phone home anytime soon, according to the Icelandic Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications. Neither the state nor privately owned telecommunications firms plan to make investments to offer cell phone coverage in the remote region. The lack of cell phone coverage is viewed by many visitors as a critical component of the unique experience of visiting Hornstrandir. 

Cut-off from rest of the world


Hornstrandir Rich in birdlife, Hornstrandir is also the Kingdom of the Arctic Fox. Photo/Environmnent agency

Visitors to Hornstrandir can only get in touch with the outside world through satellite phones. Parts of the area, as well as the ocean around Hornstrandir, are also served by the emergency radio operated by the Icelandic Maritime Assistance Service. Parts of the southern coast of Hornstrandir enjoy some limited cell phone coverage.

Read more: Hornstrandir: Where the Arctic Fox reigns supreme

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannesson, the minister of transportation explains that improving the telecommunication coverage in Hornstrandir would require building several cell phone towers as well as significant investment in other infrastructure. All of this would require extensive construction and road work as well as the operation of heavy equipment inside an area which has been designated as a nature preserve. It would also undermine the unique character of Hornstrandir, an area which is currently completely devoid of any modern infrastructure.

A unique area


Hornbjargsviti lighthouse, Hornstrandir

Hornbjargsviti lighthouse Supplies are brought in by boat and helicopter. Photo/Guðmundur Þ. Egilsson

The Hornstrandir nature preserve was created in 1975. The region had been inhabited since the settlement of Iceland, with a number of farms were in the area and one small village, in Aðalvík bay on the West tip of Hornstrandir. However, the remoteness of the area and the fact that most settlements could only be reached by boat, resulted in in rapid de-population in the first decades of the 20th century. By mid-century the last inhabitants had left. No roads were ever built in the region.

Hornstrandir is one of few areas in the world which are categorized as a Category 1b Wilderness Area, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN. A Category 1b Wilderness Area requires stricter limits than imposed in National parks. Human visits should be kept to a minimum, only allowing travel of people’s own devices, for example by foot. Wilderness areas can be classified as such only if they are devoid of modern infrastructure.

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