Are geysers dangerous

Too much going on at the geyser

"We are on the Golden Circel Tour, this is the most booked tour in Iceland."

The small coach is fully occupied; twelve tourists from Germany have booked it for the day. They're all in Iceland for the same reason:

"We like landscape, nature, and that's why we said, ok, Iceland this year."
"We wanted to go somewhere where there weren't any people and let this landscape work a little on us."

The first stop is the historic parliament of the Icelanders, in Þingvellir National Park. Once a year, the Vikings met on a rock to speak law and draft laws. But there is not much to be felt of loneliness here. In fact, the viewing platform is like a Venetian bridge. Tour guide Matthias Pelz has been observing rapid developments for years:

"In the summer we already had the problem, there were 20 buses up here, down there too, there weren't enough parking spaces and you had to queue here. So it's getting critical and the Icelanders have to come up with something."

Iceland - that was actually always a travel destination for adventurers who wanted to hike between glaciers and lava rocks. But recently the island has experienced a huge tourist boom. The authorities are expecting up to a million visitors this year. Three years ago there weren't even half as many. The industry has been growing by around 20 percent annually since 2010. For conservationist Guðmundur Guðbrandsson this is going too fast:

"If we are not careful now, we will destroy exactly what the tourists want to see. And that is largely untouched nature."

From Guðbrandsson's point of view, it is particularly dangerous that most tourists visit only a few specific places - he believes that the vulnerable nature cannot withstand this onslaught.

"In many areas the earth's surface is very sensitive here. In some places there are lava fields, there special moss grows - once that is trampled, it no longer grows back so quickly. That is not just grass."

The state tourism authority takes this problem seriously. In the past two years, barriers for geysers and paved paths in front of sights have been financed from a fund. The authority also wants to make tourist guides aware of the dangers, says its director Ólöf Atladóttir:

"We want to improve training. That way we get better quality and better service in all areas."

Guðbrandsson's conservationists do not go far enough:

"Whoever comes to Iceland wants to find nature in a certain state. If that means that we have to limit access in some places, then we should do it. This is nothing completely new. Some national parks in the USA distribute tickets. And if there are too many people there, you just have to wait. "

A candidate for such a park would be Haukadalur in northeast Reykjavik. There are numerous hot springs in the region and the famous Strakkor geyser.

When the coach pulls up, smoke wafts over reddish and greenish boulders, and hot water simmers in mud pots. At one point water seems to disappear through an opening in the earth. This is the Strakkor geyser. After about 15 minutes enough water has collected in a chamber in the interior of the earth. Then Strokkur pushes its fountain around 30 meters into the air.

German tourists are lucky at Strokkur. Only one other tour group is here at the moment, no more than 50 people standing around the geyser. But at other times of the day, especially in midsummer, it quickly gets tight here too.

Ólöf Atladóttir from the state tourism authority wants to distribute the tourists more across the country. She works with companies on concepts to make other travel destinations better known. Iceland has an advantage: It can learn from the mistakes of other countries, says Atladóttir.

"I'm scared - but fear is helpful in this case - and luckily I'm not the only one. Because that means that we think about the future and that we don't make the same mistakes that Spain has made alongside other countries, for example."