The topic of sustainable travel is more important than ever. An environmentally conscious approach to travel can help to lessen your impact not just on Iceland, but the planet.

But it’s no secret that it’s difficult to travel to Iceland sustainably. In fact, some might say it’s currently impossible. 

To get here, you will always have to travel by plane or boat. As of now, they are still operated using fossil fuels. 

Your Friend in Reykjavik has a few tips on how you can offset your carbon footprint. For example, why not join one of our Reykjavik walking tours?

If you have any questions about sustainable travel in Iceland or our tours, please contact us.

But for now, let’s look at ways you can travel more sustainably in Iceland.

How Can You Travel Sustainably in Iceland if You Have to Burn So Much Fuel to Get Here?

Well, you can start by offsetting the carbon footprint of your travels.

In Icelandic law, carbon offset is defined as such:

“When a party participates in another party’s actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or sequester carbon from the atmosphere and uses confirmation of such reductions or sequestration to partially or fully offset its own emissions”.

travel sustainably in Iceland, nature, icelandic marsh

Put simply, then, carbon offsetting consists of individuals or legal entities compensating for their own greenhouse gas emissions.

They do this by financing projects that prevent the emission of the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases elsewhere or projects that remove the equal amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

In many cases, airlines offer to do this for you (for a charge, of course). 

They will then use that money to finance the projects they support. Icelandair, for example, cooperates with the Icelandic company Kolviður

This means they plant trees to offset the carbon emissions of your flight. Forests bind carbon from carbon dioxide and thus reduce the amount of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

Check with your airline to see if they can offset your flight’s carbon emissions. If not, we recommend checking out Kolviður or the Icelandic Wetland Fund

The UN carbon offset platform also has many projects you can fund to offset your carbon footprint. 

Due to Iceland’s small population, we cannot offer the same public transport as many other countries. There are, for example, no trains in Iceland. We only have a bus. Outside the capital area, they do not run very often, and none are available for the Westfjords.

So, what do you do if you want to travel sustainably while in Iceland? Do you rent a car? You could, but you would, of course, be burning fossil fuel.

Is It Possible to Travel Sustainably in Iceland?

Due to Iceland’s small population, we cannot offer the same public transport as many other countries. There are, for example, no trains in Iceland; we only have buses. 

Outside the capital area, they do not run very often, and none are available for the Westfjords.

So, what do you do if you want to travel sustainably while in Iceland? Do you rent a car? You could, but you would, of course, be burning fossil fuel.

However, you could rent an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle for your travels. There are quite a few electric vehicle charging stations in Iceland, so it should not be a problem. 

A plug-in hybrid would be better if you have the so-called “range anxiety”. 

But it’s important to note that their electric range isn’t that great, especially when compared to electric cars. And they often skip the electricity entirely if you drive faster than a certain speed.

One of the best ways to travel in Iceland is on organized tours. Just like it is more sustainable to ride a bus than in a personal car, it is more efficient to join a tour group.

Buses are generally more fuel-efficient than private vehicles; overall, they pollute less per person.

Walking tours are also ideal. Our own Walk with a Viking tour is a great way to explore on your first day. You can get your bearings and visit all the highlights of Reykjavik’s city center. 

If you’d like to taste Icelandic food or beer, we recommend the Reykjavik Food Lovers Tour and the Reykjavik Beer & Booze Tour.

travel sustainably in Iceland, nature, Laugavegur, hiking trail, laugavegur hiking trail

Views on Laugavegur hiking trail – Photo: Chmee2/Valtameri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also go hiking with a guide or on your own. Popular hiking routes are Fimmvörðuháls, various hiking routes in Þórsmörk, and the Laugavegur

The latter is a multi-day hike and should only be attempted by experienced hikers.

Staying Longer and Traveling Slower is a Great Way to Visit Iceland

One of the best ways to travel sustainably in Iceland is by staying longer and traveling slower during the off-season. 

Take your time exploring the island instead of hurrying from site to site. You will probably never be able to fit everything you want to see in one trip anyway. 

For more practical travel advice, read our tips on driving in Iceland.

Midnight sun on the Arctic Coast Way Photo: Visit North Iceland

Check out the Arctic Coast Way if you plan to travel around the Ring Road. It takes you off the beaten track and shows you a different side of Iceland.

Traveling during the off-season puts less pressure on the society and environment in Reykjavik and other popular areas. 

Some places have had to close down for a while due to too many tourists, such as Fjarðárgljúfur and Helgustaðanáma.

What About Sustainable Food in Iceland?

When it comes to food, the best approach is to eat locally. But in some cases, this can be difficult. 

Icelanders don’t grow many fruits, for example. We do grow strawberries, raspberries, and red currants. You might also find Icelandic blueberries in stores in the fall.

You may have heard that Icelanders are one of the largest banana producers in Europe. That’s not true, sadly. 

The Agricultural University of Iceland has a few banana trees which it uses for educational purposes. The crop typically goes to students, staff, and guests.

But what about vegetables? Well, we grow various types, including carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, and more.

Almost all dairy products you find in stores are Icelandic. There are strict import regulations on dairy products — and many meat products as well.

And where possible, drink kranavatn. 

The Icelandic water is as clean as it gets, so there is no reason to buy bottled water (it is all from the faucet anyway!).

What Else Can You Do to Travel Sustainably in Iceland?

We recommend you take the Icelandic Pledge. Of course, this alone doesn’t make your travels sustainable, but it will show you ways to reduce your impact on our little island.

Read our own blog about the Icelandic Pledge for being a responsible tourist.

If you go on organized bus tours outside the city, check if they have a Vakinn certificate. 

Vakinn is an official quality and environmental certification for Icelandic tourism, run by the Icelandic Tourist Board. 

You can be sure that Vakinn-certified companies in Iceland operate ethically, professionally, and sustainably.

And finally, keep this mantra in mind as you travel around our beautiful country:

Be respectful of nature, don’t leave anything behind, and recycle your trash.

11 Sustainability Travel Tips from Visit Iceland

1. Pack light and compensate for the carbon footprint of your travels locally.

2. Slow down your travels and stay for longer.

3. Use public transport or rent electric or hybrid vehicles.

4. Travel during the off-season and explore regions closely.

5. Choose locally made products and services from local businesses.

6. Buy products and services with eco-labels.

7. Attend cultural events.

8. Stay on hiking trails, never drive off-road, and camp within campsites.

9. Drink tap water.

10. Be mindful of your energy and resource usage.

11. Reduce, reuse, and recycle.


Explore Iceland with Your Friend in Reykjavik!

We hope this blog has encouraged you to make your trip to Iceland more sustainable.

Start planning your adventure in the Land of Fire and Ice by browsing our range of Iceland day tours!

If you would like more information about any of our excursions, please get in touch.

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