Rights and obligations
Outdoor Pursuits and Access to the Icelandic Countryside
What are the rights and obligations of those who travel around
Iceland? The Icelandic Nature Conservation Act regulates outdoor
activities and standards of conduct. It stipulates that everyone has
the right to travel around the country and enjoy its nature as long as
the traveller is tidy and careful not to damage or otherwise spoil
It is permissible to cross uncultivated private property without
seeking any special permission, but landowners may limit routes with
signs other marks. State-owned land such as conservation areas and
forestry areas are open to everyone with few exceptions. These
exceptions include – but are not limited to – access during breeding
seasons or during sensitive growth periods.
An area of land may be designated a “conservation area” for a number of
reasons. Regulations – for instance those concerning hunting and
fishing or traffic – vary from area to area, making it necessary for
travellers to acquaint themselves with local situations. Follow the
conservation code and heed the requests of Rangers.
Some people look for peace and tranquility in the countryside while
others seek adventure and excitement. As the flow of travellers
increases so too does the likelihood that the paths of various groups
will cross. Be considerate during your journey and be tolerant towards
the needs of others in order to avoid needless problems.
It is especially important to avoid thoughtless actions in the
countryside. Be particularly aware that damage to rock and ground
formations can never be repaired. Vegetation is sensitive in many areas
and the ground is rough, loose and easily rutted. Damage to plant life
takes a long time to repair because of Iceland’s short annual growth
period. Wind and rain can make the scars worse.
When you leave a stopping place, please leave it in the condition you
would like to find it, and take your litter with you back to town.
Please respect private property, cross fences with care and close gates
behind you. Avoid disturbing animals and don’t approach them
unnecessarily. If your dog has joined you, be considerate of other
animals and people by always keeping your dog under control.
Do not drive off the road or track. Motor vehicles can leave marks
that last for generations. Driving off roads or tracks is against the
law except when the ground is frozen and covered in snow. See further
information under “Practical Information/Driving in Iceland”.
Walking is permitted on uncultivated land. However, please avoid
taking shortcuts over fenced areas, pastures and private plots. Follow
marked footpaths, where they exist. These paths make for a safer trip,
as well as reduce wear and tear on sensitive natural elements.
Landowners may not hinder passage of walkers alongside rivers, lakes
and ocean, or on tracks and paths. There should be a gate or style
close to any hindrances.
Use of lakes and rivers requires permission from rights holders.
Riverbanks, lakeshores, beaches and islands are often important areas
for wildlife and it is important to pass through such areas with care.
Cyclists should follow roads or cycle tracks where they exist. Some
paths are not able to withstand cycle traffic, and in such cases biking
Riders on horseback must follow bridleways, where they exist. Have
consideration for the land when riding off the tracks. Travelling with
a herd of horses requires special precautions to keep them under
control. Bring fodder with you when riding in the highlands. When
camping overnight in wilderness areas, choose places where there are
pens or other enclosures for your horses.
Licenses for fishing are issued by the owner of the fishing rights,
usually a landowner, fishing club or farmer’s association. This applies
equally to rivers, lakes and shorelines. Do not fish unless you have
obtained the proper license or permission in advance.
Holders of hunting permits may hunt on land that is not privately
owned. However, on private property, special permission to hunt must be
obtained from the landowners. Licenses to hunt some species are
restricted at certain times of the year.
Camping with no more than three tents is allowed on uncultivated
ground for a single night, unless the landowner has posted a notice to
the contrary. However, campers should always use designated campsites
where they do exist. Do not camp close to farms without permission. If
a group of more than three tents is involved, these campers must seek
permission from the landowner before setting up camp outside marked
Collecting Edible Wild Growth plants
It is permissible to collect berries, mushrooms, seaweed and other
plants for immediate consumption on public lands and highland pastures.
Collection on privately owned land requires the landowner’s permission.
Please be aware that some plant species growing in the wild in Iceland
are protected, and may not be cut or otherwise disturbed.
In essence, our world-renowned nature is wide open for you to enjoy!
But please keep in mind that much of our nature is exceptionally
fragile. If we treat it with care, it will remain a source of fun and
wonderment for ourselves and countless generations to come.
- Leave camping and picnic site’s as you would wish to find them.
- Never bury litter or leave it lying around.
- Never light open fires on vegetated land.
- Never dislodge stones or build Cairns.
- Keep water clean and safeguard springs and pools.
- Keep vegetation undamaged.
- Keep wildlife undisturbed.
- Never damage geological formations.
- Respect the tranquillity of the countryside.
- Never drive off roads.
- Keep to marked footpaths when requested.
- Respect conservation rules and warden’s instructions.
Keep these rules in mind when you are travelling in Iceland so that others can also enjoy the beauty of the unspoilt nature.