Icelanders tire of disrespectful Instagram influencers

By Sophie Williams
BBC News

Image source, Getty Images
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Locals say they have seen numerous examples of bad behaviour from Instagrammers

With more than 10 million images on Instagram, Iceland is a popular destination among tourists wanting to get the perfect picture.

The Nordic country has long been considered an "Instagrammable destination" but now locals say the island has an issue with inconsiderate influencers.

Earlier this month, one visitor was criticised in Iceland for going off road in his hire car and becoming stuck in clay. He was rescued by police officers who documented the incident on their Facebook page.

Driving off-road is strictly prohibited in Iceland over fears it could damage wildlife.

Image source, North-east Iceland police
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Iceland police said this driver had got into trouble driving into clay near hot springs

The issue has now become so problematic that there are Facebook and Instagram pages where Icelanders document bad behaviour by Instagrammers.

The accounts show influencers drinking and driving, sitting on glaciers, walking on moss, crossing tourist perimeters at popular sites and flying drones over horses.

Michalina Okreglicka told the BBC that many influencers coming to Iceland "don't have the knowledge about the country's dos and don'ts".

"I have a feeling now everything is about Instagram and the perfect Instagram shot. I have never seen so much stupid and irresponsible behaviour in different countries compared to Iceland. I'm going to their profiles and commenting on what they are doing and trying to inform them to stop this."

Tourist board Visit Iceland has launched several initiatives attempting to promote responsible behaviour by tourists. It warns visitors in videos and on its website about the importance of Icelandic moss and the need to keep to the main roads and tracks when driving.

It has also started a pledge for tourists to sign at the airport where they can promise to leave places as they found them and stop urinating in the countryside.

Icelandic moss is particularly fragile and can die if trampled on. It helps prevent soil erosion, retains water and humidity and is home to many microorganisms.

Image source, EPA
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Visitors to Iceland are drawn to its hot springs and geyser

Driving off-road is considered to be destructive to the country's environment. Summers in the highlands are short and wet which means it can take the vegetation time to recover from the effects of off-roading.

Standing on a cliff for a selfie

Pall Jokull Petursson, who makes a living out of showing photographers Iceland's unique nature, believes there are good and bad influencers on Instagram.

"The bad ones often attract the bad visitors by showing reckless behaviour and breaking the rules, giving others the idea that in Iceland you don't have to follow rules, like driving off-road.

"I have seen all kinds of behaviour that is both dangerous and disrespectful - like climbing over fences to stand on the edge of a cliff just for the Instagram selfie.

"The good instagrammers try to show different ways of enjoying nature. We don't tag places that are off the beaten path that we want to protect as long as possible. Some places have become "insta-famous" without ever mentioning where they are but eventually they become known to everyone.

Image source, Getty Images
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Many locals have highlighted the need to preserve Iceland's natural beauty

One destination that has become known to tourists is Fjadrargljufur Canyon, which became overrun with tourists after Justin Bieber filmed his I'll Show You music video there.

The government was forced to close the area for two weeks before opting to close it until the beginning of June.

'Do they really care?'

"Rash behaviour by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows," Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson told the Associated Press.

While photographer Ben Simon Rehn loves Instagram for inspiration and networking, he also sees big problems when visitors show conduct that he considers disrespectful.

"Some instagrammers are sponsored by companies and don't obey pretty easy rules just to get a more spectacular photo from a slightly different angle.

"It's a shame Instagrammers behave like this - especially landscape/adventure 'photographers' who seem to be so close to the natural world and love the outdoors, but then seem to forget or fail when it comes to the simplest understanding of laws to protect it.

"So I always ask myself, is it about likes and themselves or do they really care about the planet and nature?"

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