Iceland Mag

11 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Photo of the Day: Don't follow in the tracks of this traveler

By Staff

  • Don't do this Breaking the law, destroying nature, getting stuck and needing Police assistance and incuring the hatred of locals and everyone who loves Icelandic nature, all in one blow. Photo/John Camapanle, Facebook

One of the most important things you absolutely must realize if you rent a car in Iceland is that ALL off-road driving is ILLEGAL! There are no exceptions. Black sands, beaches, grassy knolls: All of these are off-limits to you and your car.

Read more: Police has charged ten travelers for criminal off-road driving in S. Iceland since June

The traveler in the photo above didn't get this memo. Or thought it didn't apply to him. The photo was shared in a Facebook group, Iceland Q & A by a traveler, John Campanale who described the scene:

There will always be a few idiots that you see while visiting Iceland, this one takes the cake. Please don’t let yourself be one of them! We couldn't believe our eyes when someone in a 4x4 had the nerve to drive up a random mountain and got scared or stuck at the top. There were 3 cops there and a crowd of people watching this jackass humiliate himself. 

The photo was taken from the Ring Road in South Iceland, just west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur village. The driver was no doubt attempting to get a better view, or he thought it might be fun to "conquer" the hill with his truck. 

What's the harm?
There are very good reasons for the absolute zero tolerance Icelanders have for off-road driving. Due to the cold and short summers Icelandic nature is very fragile. The vegetation and delicate plants grow very slowly. The moss is especially fragile. In the Central Highlands and on mountains the moss grows a few millimeters annually, which means it can take decades for damage to heal.

Read more: From the editor: Don't traðka on the moss!

Another reason is that Iceland is extremely wet. The ground is therefore usually very soft and soggy, causing cars who drive off-road to leave deep tracks that take decades to disappear. In the meantime other idiots will follow those tracks, thinking they are an invitation or that it must be safe or ok to drive because somebody else already did it: One truck taking a short spin off-road might not destroy the beauty or pristine nature, but if left unchecked this kind of behavior is very quick to spiral out of control and there will be very little left of the beauty of Icelandic landscape.

You WILL incur the hatred of locals
Of course Icelanders are far from immune to stupid ideas or selfish behavior, and there are regular examples of locals engaging in destructive off-road driving. In fact one of the most absurd and baffling cases of off-road driving in recent years involved a local man who managed to drive his SUV halfway up to the top of mount Esja north of Reykjavík.

Read more: Local man facing steep fines for off-road idiocy in the slopes of mount Esja

But no responsible adult or any Icelander who loves Icelandic nature will engage in off-road driving, as people understand what kind of damage they are causing. And people do NOT think kindly of off-road drivers. The hatred that was heaped on the French "adventurers" who left a trail of destruction in the Central Highlands earlier this summer is a very normal reaction by locals. The French travelers, who fancied themselves to be intrepid explorers and experienced nature lovers failed utterly to realize what they had done and were baffled by the response of locals.

Read more: French off-roaders publish apology peppered with wild accusations, ask to be allowed to "continue their travel in peace"

So: If you drive off-road, remember you will not only have to pay a fine if you are caught or if you end up getting your vehicle stuck. Locals are also looking at you, and the trail of destruction you left, thinking some very unkind thoughts about you!

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