Icelandic Language Blog

Iceland in deep poop – literally. Posted by on Jul 9, 2015 in Icelandic culture, Uncategorized


Siggi’s yogurt by Juhan Sonin at

Since the boom in tourism began Iceland is now facing a new, growing problem – tourists littering, and worse. I have addressed the problems before in The Iceaboo but let’s repeat: the cleanness of the Icelandic nature is due to people not throwing trash around. There are no cleaning ladies sweeping through the scenery every morning to gather up what you left there. Tourists have already had such a devastating effect on some of the old wonders that one, Seljavallalaug, is now avoided by Icelanders because it’s been left so filthy (link). At another place, Hrúnalaug (link), the problem has gotten so bad that the owner is threatening to bulldoze the whole place or possibly spread manure thickly around the old bathing house.

However, seeing the habits of many tourists manure may not deter them. A current, somewhat pressing problem is that foreigners rent cars, park them by the main road for the night and sleep in them, and in the morning they drive off leaving all their trash behind, including human feces and used toilet paper. The aforementioned Hrúnalaug is also suffering from both camping (forbidden on the site), vandalism and lots and lots of – well, shit (link).

Pooping in the nature does probably not sound like a huge problem, but when the sheer amount of tourists (link) and small amount of land are compared the problem becomes more obvious. Worst of all the travelers don’t take into account things such as nature parks being, well, areas that you really shouldn’t damage. That’s why they’re called nature parks. Snæfellsnes in particular is in trouble and it’s barely July.


Sheep dung slinging by Örlygur Hnefill at This is apparently a part of an annual festival at Hólmavík!

While destroying nature parks is inexcusable the actual problem may not be entirely the tourists’ fault. According to Haraldur Sigurðsson (link) some rental shops in fact advice people to stay the night on the side of the road, as that’s not forbidden by law. Up until now Icelanders have enjoyed this freedom happily but getting a million tourists means “a million poops” as Haraldur puts it, and I can’t help but agree with him that the law should probably be changed now. It’s sad to lose that bit of freedom but too much is too much.

Another problem, when looking at the matter from the tourists’ point of view, is the lack of toilets (link). If you’re traveling in Iceland it’s best to go whenever you see one, the next one may be several hours away, and there’s no guarantee to the conditions when you find one. I know we once drove for a long time to see Dettifoss and used the public toilet there, which not only lacked toilet paper but had a floor swimming in… well… all kinds of things you’d rather not think about (the smell was so awful I thought my nose hairs would fall off).

So while tourists are very welcome here, please keep in mind a few things:

– There’s a lack of toilets in the countryside. It’s a problem that is being worked on but until things change, please use the toilet whenever you find one, you don’t want to drive past Kirkjubæjarklaustur because you didn’t quite need to go yet and then find out you’ve got nothing but desert up ahead for hours.

– Read the signs. If it’s a nature park, camping is not allowed. If it’s private ground, camping is not allowed without permission. If it’s private ground such as Hrúnalaug that has actual signs banning camping in the area, do not camp there.

– Don’t litter, just don’t.

– As for pooping on the side of the road… oh come on, that’s gross and you’re gross for doing it. I understand that sometimes emergency strikes but this many emergencies is just not very likely.

– Besides, why would you even want to spend your night on the side of the road? Camping sites here are cheap, have toilets, showers, sometimes even washing machines for your clothes, washing and cooking spots, electricity and so forth, staying at camping sites makes your traveling so much more comfortable. They also have large bins for your other dumping needs!


Unicorn poop cookies by Justin Dolske at

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About the Author: hulda

Hi, I'm Hulda, originally Finnish but now living in the suburbs of Reykjavík. I'm here to help you in any way I can if you're considering learning Icelandic. Nice to meet you!


  1. Helen:

    Hello Hulda,
    This really makes me sad for Iceland.The problem is everywhere and anywhere that is beautiful. With more people travelling all over our planet you’d think that everyone would show a minimum of respect and the desire to preserve it. In France they are making it easier to do this with more toilets and litter bins, but it’s a shame how some quiet, natural beauty spots are simply disappearing. The phrase that comes to mind is often put up in toilets, “Please leave this place as you would like to find it!”
    I wonder what that would be in Icelandic… ?

    • hulda:

      @Helen I guess the main problem is that Iceland is not used to having this many tourists visiting, so problems that were on feasible level before become unbearable. 🙁 I’m hopeful though that next year will see some changes to the problems!

      Let’s see: please leave this place as you would like to find it = vinsamlegast gangið frá þessum stað eins og þið vilduð koma að honum.

  2. Jo:

    I was thinking about writing about this on my blog, but I think I’ll just link to this post. Here’s my two krónur about this:

    People do this even where there are toilets. In Þingvellir, which does have public toilets, people leave toilet paper all over the place because they don’t want to pay to use the toilets. It has gotten so bad that the authorities are considering making the toilets free, which might lessen the problem, but they will, I think, still have to contend with people too lazy to walk to the toilets. The guilty aren’t just foreigners either, although the recent media articles might suggest so.

    I visited several less visited points of interest in south and north-west Iceland last summer, the kind no-one is making any money off and therefore do not have facilities, just information signs. I also stopped at a number of highway rest areas. There was toilet paper in every single place, and all but one of the places had at least one tampon as well (ugh!). I don’t think people are going to stop this practice unless we put up free toilets everywhere, and then, human nature being what it is, they are going to complain that the toilets are ruining the view.

    Therefore maybe we should try to get people to at least use the Camper’s Rules for pissing/pooping in the great outdoors. They are pretty simple and go like this:

    1) If you gotta pee, by all means do it. Pee will simply be absorbed into the ground to nourish the vegetation. Just don’t do it where someone could step, or worse, sit, in it.
    2) If you gotta poop, do it somewhere the smell will not bother anyone and then put a rock on top of it. Better still: if it is possible, dig a small hole, do your business into it and then cover it over. Toilet paper can be included in this method.
    3) If you gotta wipe, put it in a plastic bag, close the bag and take it with you to dispose in the nearest waste basket. (Bags sold for cleaning up dog shit are handy for this. I keep a couple of rolls in my car and use them as trash bags and have, in a couple of emergencies, used them to hold used toilet paper).
    4) If your tampon pops out while you’re peeing and you think it’s too gross to pick up, remember that it came from your body. It can be picked up with a plastic bag and treated like the toilet paper in item 3.
    That’s it!

    • hulda:

      @Jo This is a great comment and I really think you hit the nail on the head on many points! However, this part:

      “I don’t think people are going to stop this practice unless we put up free toilets everywhere, and then, human nature being what it is, they are going to complain that the toilets are ruining the view.”

      …I laughed, it’s so true! 😀 Humans are exactly like this.

      I also took a look at your blog – your photos are awesome!