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Photo by Arnar Gunnarson

Tourists in Iceland “underestimate the weather”

The sheer number of tourists are ignoring – or not being given – advice about places that are not safe to visit.

Search and rescue teams in Iceland were called out seven times in a single day at the end of June, to help tourists in distress, Iceland Monitor reports.

Despite action taken to inform people of the poor conditions for driving, the ever-increasing flow of visitors to the country continue to underestimate the weather and overestimate their own capabilities, Jónas Guðmundsson at the Landsbjörg rescue team said.

“The weather often surprises Icelanders, so it obviously surprises tourists. If it wasn’t surprising we wouldn’t have to chase all these trampolines,” he told the news site MBL.

On this particular 24-hour period, rescuers were called on four separate occasions to Fimmvörðuháls, the area between the glaciers of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull in southern Iceland.

Travel industry can do more
The travel industry and rescue teams could do more to educate tourists, Guðmundsson said, but more funds are needed for this effort to improve such services, for example those offered by Safe Travel.

“If more funds were invested in that project, more people could be informed and there should be more regulations on hiking paths,” he said.

“The road to Landmannalaugar [at the edge of Laugahraun lava field] was opened very early this year, maybe it should have been closed for longer.”

Perhaps more demands can also be placed on hikers who choose certain paths, he suggested, such as the Laugavegur route between Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk.

“Hikers would need to speak to landguards and go over equipment and a safe travel plan. We could do plenty of things, but that costs work and money. But it obviously costs work and money for rescue teams to be called out,” he said.

Many hiking paths opened early this year despite the long winter, and areas were at the time still covered in snow.

“People quickly become exhausted after hiking ten kilometres in the snow,” Guðmundsson said. “These are all contributing factors: trails open too early, there’s still plenty of snow and the weather has been awful. When the weather is bad people underestimate the conditions.”

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