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Remember: Don't trust Google Maps blindly when travelling in Iceland

By Staff

  • Svignaskarð The correct location of the Svignaskarð holiday cottages. Google Maps has been directing people to a different location a few miles to the south. Photo/map.is

While the Google Maps smartphone app can be a great help while travelling people should always double check directions and the location of their destination using other sources. When you are travelling in Iceland you might be better served by checking maps published by trustworthy local companies or organizations. Countless travellers have been led into trouble following Google Maps blindly.

Incorrectly placed location markers
Recently the news site Skessuhorn, which covers local news from West Iceland, felt it was necessary to draw its readers attention to the fact that if you search for Svignaskarð, a popular vacation cottage neighborhood in Google Maps, the app will send you to a completely different neighborhood, roughly nine kilometers (5 miles) to the south of Svignaskarð.

Employees at Svignaskarð told Skessuhorn that the staff spends hours each week trying to help travellers who had gotten lost searching for the cottages on Google Maps. In some cases travellers have even gotten into actual trouble, damaging their rental cars or getting their cars stuck in snow searching for Svignaskarð. 

The wrong Ring Road
Earlier this month the Icelandic Road and Coastal Authority warned travellers that Google Maps had not corrected its labeling of a heath-road in East Iceland as part of the Ring Road. Despite repeated attempts by the IRCA to have this corrected Google Maps continued to send travellers up onto the heath, forcing ICE-SAR in East Iceland to make regular rescue missions to help stranded travellers.

Read more: Don't trust Google Maps blindly: Company fails to update maps despite repeated requests

Google has since corrected the error, and the Ring Road in East Iceland is now labeled correctly. But as the story of Svignaskarð shows us, there are plenty of other errors to avoid.

Other online maps of Iceland
We at Iceland Magazine recommend that readers use at least one other online resource to verify directions or place names before heading out. Fortunately there are several excellent online maps which can be useful:

The phonebook

Online maps of Iceland, ja.is

ja.is Find every business and address, plus a street-view feature. Screenshot/ja.is

The white pages, ja.is, is of course the best place to find the address of any business or individual. Just type in what you are looking for and the location appears on the map. Looking for Svignaskarð on ja.is directs you immediately to the correct destination.

Ja.is also offers a 360° street-view feature, which helps you orient yourself. Using Ja.is alongside Google maps might in most cases be the most sensible way to verify you are headed in the right direction.

The Road and Coastal Administration

Online maps of Iceland, IRCA

IRCA All roads, road conditions and webcams Screenshot/vegagerdin.is

The IRCA offers a Road Map which allows you to see the numbers of every road along with up-to-date road conditions, including windspeed. Online webcams also help you judge driving conditions.

If you are planning to travel during the winter, or are heading off the Ring Road you should always check the map of the IRCA to make sure you are not venturing onto closed or impassable roads.

The Land Survey of Iceland

Online maps of Iceland, LSI

LSI The most detailed and reliable map available. Every single place name in Iceland, no matter how obscure or remote. Screenshot/kortasja.lmi.is

The LSI offers the most authorative map of Iceland available anywhere. The interactive map, which lets you switch between a road map, an atlas or a satellite image, among other things, includes a search function that lets you search for any place name in Iceland. Wonder what that hill or creek is called? You can look it up on the LSI map.

Read more: GPS equipment directs travellers to Þingvellir farm instead of the historic site

The only problem is that some place names show up in more than one location in Iceland. A good example is Þingvellir, the first stop on the Golden Circle. There are three places called Þingvellir in Iceland, each in a different part of the country: The National Park on the Golden Circle, a farmstead on Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland, and an abandoned farm in North East Iceland. The instructions on the LSI site are still mostly in Icelandic, so you will need to verify you have the right location with some other resource.

Map.is

Online maps of Iceland, map.is
map.is User friendly and top quality aerial photos. Screenshot/map.is/base/

We at Iceland Magazine have found that the interactive map provided by map.is is usually the most reliable and most user friendly of the online maps of Iceland. You can choose from either a map background or aerial photos. The aerial photos offered by Map.is have a far better resolution than the satellite images of LSI, and unlike Google Maps it is 100% reliable. In addition to place names and roads, it includes many hiking paths. 

Unfortunately map.is suffers from the same problem as the Land Survey maps, namely it only in Icelandic. 

Read more: Local author helps you pronounce all those impossible Icelandic place names

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