Be extremely careful if you are going to Iceland's numerous natural attractions, which include glaciers, volcanic craters, lava fields, ice caves, hot springs, boiling mud pots, geysers, waterfalls, and glacial rivers. Each year, between 600-700 people, most of them tourists, need to be rescued from the Icelandic countryside because they have underestimated Iceland’s volatile weather and terrain. The weather in Iceland can change extremely quickly and can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening problems for tourists who have not adequately prepared themselves.
If you plan on taking advantage of Iceland's hiking trails and unparalleled natural beauty, do your homework first. The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) operates an English language website, www.safetravel.is,which includes free, helpful information on how to safely enjoy Iceland's outdoor wonders. You can even leave your travel plan with them before you go hiking or camping in remote areas.
Additionally, the Icelandic meteorological office operates a comprehensive English language website which provides up-to-date weather information and road conditions for all regions of the country.
The Icelandic Road Administration has an English language website designed to assist travelers in Iceland. This websiteis updated in real time and clearly shows the status of most roads in the country in a color-coded, easy to read fashion.
Regardless of the time of year you are visiting Iceland, you should be aware that weather conditions can change extremely quickly. We urge you to consult these websites before venturing out on your Icelandic holiday.
If you plan to rent a car in Iceland, make sure you are clear on where you can and cannot drive the car. Tourists are often charged hefty fees by rental car companies when they return cars with ash or gravel damage caused by unauthorized off-road driving. Additionally, the search and rescue squads routinely need to extract tourists’ rental cars from rivers and off-road areas. Not only are such activities extremely dangerous, the fees incurred to pay for the damaged rental car can be exorbitant.
Hikers and backpackers should stay on marked trails, travel with another person, notify a third party about their travel plans, and check weather reports before visiting such areas. Be sure to leave a travel itinerary with family, friends, or local guides/officials if you are planning to trek through remote parts of the country.
Iceland is home to active volcanoes and was a focal point in international news following the April 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the May 2011 eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano. Although both volcanoes have ceased all eruption activity, future eruptions can occur with little advance notice. If a volcanic eruption occurs while you are in Iceland you should closely follow any instructions from the Icelandic authorities. Be aware that airports, including Keflavik International Airport, may need to close in the event of volcanic activity. You can find updates on volcanic activity in Iceland though the Icelandic Office of Civil Defense.