Dumbest things to do in Iceland

What are some of the silliest, most ignorant or plain stupid things that people do that are visiting Iceland?

See also fun things to do in Reykjavík and Top 10 things to do in Iceland.

This list is both to amuse you - and to warn you not to do stupid things that can get you killed. Recently some tourists have been doing some really stupid and even life threatening things in Iceland, such as climbing on the icebergs at Jökulsárlón (in water that’s close to 0°C, where the icebergs sometimes tip over and you could get stuck underneath). Or stand on slippery rocks right by enormous waves that could easily carry you out to sea. Attention: Don’t wade into the sea at Reynisfjara beach! Or any beach with enormous strong waves for that matter! A woman died in 2007 by venturing to close to the waves and a man died in 2016 when a wave caught him unaware and brought him out to sea.

Picture by Owen Hunt

Photo by Owen Hunt

The Icelandic nature is awesome and beautiful – but can also be extremely dangerous for those that are reckless or don’t listen to local advice.

One summer I took a friend hiking in the Icelandic highlands for 3 days. A part of the route was over a glacier. And he only brought shorts with him! If he’d have been by himself he could’ve easily caught hypothermia – or even frozen to death if he’d have been unlucky with the weather. He's not a (very) stupid man - but he did behave very recklessly. Luckily for him, I brought extra thermals along, he had some waterproof trousers and the weather turned out to be good.

Icelanders themselves can be really reckless and laidback. The saying “þetta reddast” is heard frequently, meaning “this will sort itself out”. When on the other hand a local warns you about the weather or road conditions, you should listen and take them seriously. If you end up in danger because you ignored people’s advice, you will most likely put other people’s lives in danger as the Icelandic rescue teams will try to come and help you. So most importantly, don’t ignore warning signs or local advice!

It’s not all doom or gloom though, people also do silly things that are more lighthearted. Iceland is unique in it’s own way, and some things that are considered normal here may seem odd to you. In the same way, some tourists do some things here that are completely ridiculous to the locals.

The dumbest things to do in Iceland

We came up with a list of some of the silliest, most stupid or ignorant things tourists (and sometimes locals!) do in Iceland. Some are more serious than others, so don’t get offended – I’m not saying you’re stupid if you’ve done some of the things on this list, such as bringing an umbrella to the country. They just don't make sense in Iceland. The list is in no particular order. Let us know about the ones we missed! :)

1. Bringing an umbrella to Iceland

Even though it does rain frequently in Iceland, umbrellas are of no use because it’s normally so windy that the rain attacks you from all sides and even from below!

2. Driving a small car that doesn’t have 4WD into the highlands or on glaciers

Never go to a glacier unless you’re with someone that knows the area well. Also don’t take a car into the highlands that isn’t a 4WD, and try to travel in a group of at least 2 cars as you can get stuck and help may be far away.

3. Trying to book a room in "the ice hotel"

Don't believe everything you see in the movies. Iceland doesn't have any ice hotels. Sweden, Norway, Finland and Canada do - but it's actually not cold enough in Iceland for ice hotels. Go figure.

4. Coming to Iceland in the wintertime to witness the midnight sun

The midnight sun only happens during summertime. The winters are pretty dark.

Iceland in wintertime

5. Coming to Iceland in the summertime to witness the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights can only be seen in darkness. In the summertime, it doesn’t get dark in Iceland because of the midnight sun. Makes sense, right?

Iceland in summertime

6. Bringing a flashlight to a camping trip in the summer

As mentioned above, it doesn’t get dark in summer (June, July).

7. Taking pictures of the Northern Lights with a flash

If you want to take pictures of the Northern Lights, you need a good camera and you need to use long exposure. Taking a picture with a flash, well, lets just say you won’t get the same results.

8. Driving offroad

Driving offroad is illegal in Iceland and subject to heavy fines. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

9. “Writing” your name in the moss

The moss that covers a lot of the landscape in Iceland is very soft and thick and lovely. It’s also very delicate and takes decades or even hundreds of years to recuperate. Many years ago some people removed moss to “write” their name on a hillside not far from Reykjavík. The land still hasn’t recovered and if you’re found damaging the nature in some way, you will be fined. Also be careful as you walk over mossy ground and lift your feet up high so you don't kick it.

10. Leaving for a daytrip in wintertime at sunrise

In winter the days are short. If you leave after sunrise, it’s very likely you’ll reach your destination after sunset and spend the best part of the day in the car.

11. Littering

This is obviously not limited to Iceland. Nobody wants to see trash around. Especially in the midst of beautiful nature. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t litter. Anywhere in the world. That includes cigarette stubs and gum!

12. Not checking the weather and/or road conditions before traveling

Just because the weather is fine in Reykjavík (or wherever you start your travel), it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same an hour away or an hour later! Here you can find all the essential information for driving in Iceland.

13. Coming to Iceland and only staying in Reykjavík

The nature in the countryside is what Iceland is all about! Don’t miss out!

Reykjavík's not too bad though

14. Throwing coins into hot springs

You can throw coins into Peningagjá in Thingvellir, other than that, you’re basically just littering our hot springs.

15. Leaving the marked trail in geothermal areas

Geothermal areas are very unstable and most hot springs are more than 100°C, so if you take one wrong step, you could get some serious burns.

16. Not dressing according to weather

“Dressing well” in Iceland doesn’t mean dressing fashionably, it means dressing warmly. If you’re going on a hike, don’t wear fancy leather shoes, or only shorts, or denim or cotton. Even if it’s summer and the sun is shining. (Denim and cotton lose their insulation capabilities when it gets wet, they get cold and they dry slowly).

17. Going out partying around 7pm and giving up before midnight

The nightlife in Iceland doesn’t start until after midnight, normally most people go out around 2am.

Dumbest things to do in Iceland

Picture by Magnús Elvar Jónsson

18. Not bringing a swimsuit

Even though Iceland is called ICEland, there are plenty of opportunities to go swimming or bathing, either in swimming pools or hot springs.

19. Not going to a swimming pool because it’s cold outside

Yes it's cold, but not many people actually go swimming when they go to the swimming pools, most are content soaking in the outdoor hot tubs where it's nice and cosy or sweating in the saunas. And maybe going for a dip in the cold pool when it gets too hot.

20. Complaining about the weather

It’s Iceland, what did you expect? Besides, it’s all part of the experience – and you’re probably just not dressed well enough.

Typical fine winter's day

21. Parking your car outside clubs during weekends

Thievery is not very likely – but lets just say you might want to give it a proper clean the following day.

22. Not filling your alcohol quota in the duty free

Alcohol has heavy tax on it in Iceland. It’s pretty much your duty to buy as much as you can in the duty free, even if you’re not going to drink it all yourself, you could always give it to the locals :) Also, take note, the pilsner you buy in the supermarkets - it's not alcoholic.

23. Go hiking with chlorine tablets and 20 litres of water

The Icelandic water is some of the cleanest and purest in the world, so there’s no need for chlorine tablets. There’s also an abundance of water around the whole country – and for most hikes you’ll only need to bring about 2 litres of water since you’ll be able to fill it up regularly with fresh springwater. Just be sure to check your route beforehand where there is drinkable water on it. (Glacial rivers don't count, they're murky, also make sure the water is free flowing).

24. Buying bottled water

Like I said, the water in Iceland is some of the cleanest and purest in the world. And the water you get in bottles is the same as the one that comes from your tap. Which you can get for free anywhere. (Make sure you run the cold water for a while, as the hot water tastes of sulfur).

25. Expecting to see penguins

Penguins live in the SOUTHERN hemisphere, such as in Antarctica, South Africa, Argentina and Australia.

I hope this list put a smile on your face - and perhaps you learned something as well! Here’s a list of the most annoying things you can say to an Icelander. What do you think is the dumbest thing to do in Iceland ?