Is Iceland Too Popular for Its Own Good?Skill Level 6, Published on: May 22, 2019
A large sign warns people that Iceland’s Fjadrárgljúfur canyon is closed to visitors.
Yet many people keep driving down the narrow road to the canyon. A ranger at a roadblock must explain to them why no one can pass: The area cannot support more visitors.
Last year, 2.3 million people visited Iceland, compared with just 600,000 eight years ago. The number of visitors is out of proportion to the infrastructure needed to protect its countryside.
Inga Palsdottir is the head of the national tourism agency Visit Iceland. She said a single film shot or video has often put overlooked places on the map.
The extreme example in Iceland, she said, is the wreckage of a United States Navy airplane. The plane crashed on a black sandy beach in 1973. The seven Americans on the Douglas DC-3 aircraft all survived but the plane wreck was never removed.
“Then someone decided to dance on it and now it’s one of the most popular places in the country,” said Palsdottir.
Fjadrárgljúfur canyon could be seen in the most recent season of the television program “Game of Thrones.” It also was part of a Justin Bieber music video. The video has been watched over 440 million times on YouTube since 2015. The singer can be seen walking on plant life and bathing in the cold river underneath the canyon’s walls.
Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson said it is “a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber.” However, he urged famous visitors to consider the effects of their actions.
Over 1 million people have visited the area since the Bieber video was released, the Environment Agency of Iceland estimates. The visitors left deep scars on the country’s vegetation. The canyon was closed for all but five weeks this year.
On a foggy morning, Hanna Jóhannsdóttir found footprints on the muddy path leading to the Fjadrárgljúfur canyon. The footprints suggested that someone had jumped the fence overnight.
She predicted that more people would trespass later that day when she left to give a presentation at a community center.
Less than 30 minutes after she left, people began ignoring the fences and signs.
“We came because of Justin Timberlake,” said Mikhail Samarin, a tourist from Russia traveling with two other people. They were quick to correct the artist’s last name to Bieber.
The three took turns posing for photographs, standing at the edge of an Icelandic cliff.
Read the following vocabulary with your teacher.
ranger – n. the keeper of a forest or protected space
proportion – n. the correct relationship between the size, shape, and position of the different parts of something
vegetation – n. plant life
pose – v. to stand, sit, or lie down as a model for a painting or picture
Answer these questions about the article.
1. How many people visited Iceland last year?
2. What happened to a US Navy airplane in 1973?
3. How did the Fjadrárgljúfur canyon become popular?
4. Is the canyon now open for visitors?
Make a sentence.
Make sentences using these words.
ranger, proportion, vegetation, pose
Have a discussion on following questions.
1. What do you think of the problem with tourists in Iceland?
2. Would you like to visit Iceland? Why/why not?
3. Does tourism have more positive or negative effects on places that tourists visit?
4. In your opinion, how should tourists act in a foreign country so as not to cause any negative effects?