The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland

Tips, tricks, and what the Icelanders really think of you

Iceland is in the midst of an unprecedented tourist boom that has brought wealth to the country, but also myriad issues and challenges. Through a series of short essays, this book provides a unique insight into the social and environmental impact that tourism is having on Iceland, and with wit and intelligence offers invaluable tips for touring safely, responsibly, and in harmony with the locals. A fascinating resource for anyone interested in contemporary Iceland, and an essential companion for all visitors to the country.

The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland on three devices
Landscape with sheep and a car from The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland

Beautifully illustrated by Megan Herbert, The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland is the perfect book for Icelandophiles, visitors to Iceland, expats, and others who care about the country and are interested in Icelandic affairs. Available in paperback, ebook, and quality softcover formats. The paperbacks and ebooks are available from your nearest digital store. The quality softcovers ship from Iceland.

Sample chapter

Out driving

Yes, Iceland’s landscape is treacherous, and there are dangers in both expected and unexpected places. Yet the most dangerous aspect of touring Iceland is not those hot springs, glaciers or rogue waves, but something far more commonplace: driving.

Iceland has very low population density—only about three people per square kilometre, or eight per square mile. Building and maintaining an efficient road system obviously costs a few crowns, and hitherto the Icelanders have been, if not entirely satisfied, then at least reasonably content with their single-lane highways, gravel roads, and the mountainous F-roads that are generally only open in summer.

So here we are, merrily driving on our sub-standard roads and suddenly there is a tourist boom, resulting in far more cars on the road than ever before, including whole convoys of tour buses. This means increased wear and tear on roads that were already unsuitable for so much traffic, and that require more frequent maintenance if they are to be kept safe. Also, many Icelandic roads are not built for the volume of traffic that they are now experiencing. For instance, shoulders have been known to collapse when a tour bus has moved too far over to one side of a narrow road, in order to make way for an oncoming vehicle. Thankfully there have been no serious injuries to people under such circumstances, but there have been enough scares to make people stand up and pay attention.

A related problem that has been growing ever more serious is the limited experience of many folks when it comes to the driving conditions endemic to Iceland. I am speaking of driving in strong winds, winter driving, two-lane highways, gravel roads, and so on. At the risk of sounding politically incorrect, there is increasing alarm among the Icelandic population concerning the number of Asian tourists who clearly have very little actual driving experience, yet who get behind the wheel of a car in Iceland and head out onto the roads. There are innumerable stories of Icelanders who have chanced upon Asian drivers who were, say, trying to push a car backwards out of a parking space because they did not know how to put the car in reverse. Amusing as these little anecdotes may be, they cease to be funny when you delve just below the surface. In many instances these folks’ motoring experience has primarily been in driving simulators and they have virtually no practice in driving on standard roads, much less roads that are more dangerous than the average. The number of accidents and traffic incidents involving such drivers has reached the point that the trend can no longer be ignored, and there have been calls for stricter regulations to make sure drivers of all nationalities are properly equipped for driving in Iceland.

So the road system definitely needs a major overhaul. However, that is not an undertaking that can be completed overnight, and besides, it is entirely open to debate whether we want all those roads improved. More on that later.

For now, at least, we must accept the sort of road system we have, and try our best to make our visitors aware of the main dangers and risks of motoring in Iceland, so that we can all stay safe.


Why now?

Reasons for Iceland’s tourist boom


The impact

Housing market, health care system, law enforcement, search and rescue operations, and more


Touring Iceland, staying safe

The things to keep in mind while traveling in Iceland’s treacherous terrain


Out driving

The most dangerous parts of Iceland? Its roads! Read our tips for staying safe


What they think of us

The things our visitors complain about


What we think of them

Tourist behaviours that really, seriously irk the Icelanders


Crazy stories of tourists in Iceland

Hahaha oh lord!


The environmental footprint

Depletion of natural resources, pollution, and the physical impact of tourism


Taxing tourists?

The endless debate and what it entails


Can't we just all get along?

Tips for touring in harmony with the locals


The truth about those Iceland myths

Jailed bankers, believing in elves, the incest app, sleeping around … don’t believe everything you hear!


The hilarious questions we get

“What time do the northern lights come on?”


And so much more inside!

Copy of The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland lying on a cloth

Do the right thing

Do you want to be a good tourist, travel safely and responsibily, and be in harmony with the locals? Then grab your copy of The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland today!



What a GREAT book! We’ve been to Iceland three times and have been following the boom in tourism with interest. Alda does a just plain fantastic job of describing the impact of tourism in Iceland (pros and cons), as well as giving tips for how to be a good and safe tourist there. Her writing style is very entertaining (you will laugh out loud in places), well-researched, absolutely current, and easy to read. Buy this book for yourself, for anyone who is traveling to Iceland, and for anyone who is just thinking of traveling to Iceland. Your friends will thank you!



[…] Alda writes openly, directly, and with a great sense of humor about modern Icelandic politics, environmental problems (and why it’s so difficult to address them), safety hazards for tourists (both human and natural), Icelanders’ view on the tourism explosion in the last decade, and dispels some myths surrounding her country. There is a list of Icelandic websites at the back of the book for information on accredited guided tours, checking the weather, and more.



I believe that everyone who is planning a trip to Iceland should read this book. It is not the usual scenic guide for those who want to zip around the island and take photographs. This is a book for those who want to understand contemporary Iceland, its people, and most especially the tension between Icelanders and the tsunami of tourists who are discovering this beautiful land. […] Every prospective visitor who plans to drive around the island or who plans to walk on glaciers, should read her warnings and her counsel, and be safer.



I love the entire Little Book of Icelanders series, and I could not wait to read this one when I heard it was out. It did not disappoint. Sigmundsdottir’s humorous approach to all things Icelandic once again made me wish to return to the land of ice and fire while simultaneously making me feel I was already there.



I am loving this book so much. I think it’s a MUST READ for anyone going to Iceland. […] This book gives a lot of insightful, informative, fascinating information about the whole picture of how Iceland has been, and how the tourist boom has impacted it now. It gives practical information, it is humorous, and it contains a wealth of knowledge. I highly recommend it for anyone who wishes to be an informed, responsible, conscientious, mindful, and respectful visitor to this incomparable land.



Short, sweet and packed with good stories. If you’ve read about Iceland, traveled to Iceland, or know anyone from Iceland, the legends in this book are totally unique. Best of all, the author gives a brief analysis of the stories explains the historical and cultural context. Totally unlike Grimm’s fairytales and those of the European continent, Iceland’s literature is a gem.



Well written, covering diverse topics, and presented in a conversational and casual style. I thought I knew the basics when it came to preparing for our family’s trip to Iceland but I feel a whole lot better having read this. […] With the insight into the economy, how to be a respectful tourist and visitor, day to day living information, I can see how this book will help us to enjoy our time there without leaving a mark on the landscape. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the country today or planning to travel there at some time in the future.


About the author

Alda Sigmundsdóttir the Author of the Little Books about Iceland

Alda Sigmundsdóttir is a writer, and occasional journalist. She runs her own independent press, Little Books Publishing, based in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Alda is the author of ten books, each of which explores an aspect of Icelandic culture or society. Her two latest books, The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas and The Little Book of Days in Iceland, are about the Icelanders’ enthusiasm for the Yuletide season, and Iceland’s special seasonal events and holidays, respectively. Alda is active on social media, and may be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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