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Safety in Iceland

June 17, 2013
Iceland is a beautiful, surreal-seeming country with amazing natural wonders and landscapes – landscapes that come complete with their own safety concerns.

I’ve just returned from a two-week vacation in Iceland. During that time, I climbed mountains, visited waterfalls, watched geothermal steam pour from the earth, walked on lava fields, shivered by glaciers and much more. Iceland is a beautiful, surreal-seeming country with amazing natural wonders and landscapes – landscapes that come complete with their own safety concerns.

From falling into waterfalls to dropping off steep gravel roads to being burned by geothermal steam or water, the risks in Iceland were a little different from what I was used to at home.

I couldn’t resist photographing a few safety-related signs throughout my trip. So enjoy this glimpse of tourist safety, Iceland-style:

Icelandic language aside, I felt right at home when I came across this construction safety sign in the capital city of Reykjavik.
This sign was posted near a glacier. Glaciers might be awe-inspiring, but they’re also potentially deadly if you're not careful. Just a few months ago, some American tourists picnicked on an ice sheet when their section broke away and they floated into the freezing water. They were rescued unharmed, but their lives were at risk.
This sign is not shy about expressing the very real dangers of falling rocks.
At the Mvatin Nature Baths, you can bathe and relax in warm, blue water -- but stay away from this steam escape, which reaches 100 degrees Celsius (that's 212 degrees F).
The life vest sign can be found on the ferry to Grimsey Island, the only portion of Iceland actually on the Arctic Circle. Among Grimsey's safety concerns? Puffin nests. These colorful birds nest in burrows underground on the edge of cliff tops -- which can make the ground unstable for those walking cliffside.
They don't call Iceland the land of fire and ice for nothing. In some places, the ground actually burns from geothermal energy. In other words, watch where you step.
Tourists and residents alike can get in trouble when traveling through Iceland, especially through the largely uninhabited and often dangerous interior. Travelers can obtain important safety information and share their plans on the website -- all with the goal of getting out alive.

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