Dania Marin-Gavilan - CFANS Study Abroad Program
On the third day, we went deep into the uncivilized landscapes of southern Iceland. Bo, our guide, said we were at the most southern point of the peninsula. The winds were absolutely roaring; the saltwater slapped our faces and shook our stances. I could barely take a decent photo without being taken steps backwards by the wind. We visited geysers, sea shores, and we even hiked a volcano by noon.
It was definitely one of the more intense days of the trip and we truly got to experience the various intensities that Icelandic weather has to offer. I was so amazed to have experienced such varied forms of climate and was utterly impressed with the ever-changing geology of Iceland.
This is something we have continued to explore through our freshman seminar and is a new topic of interest to me; this is something I never thought would interest me! We ended the rough and tough day at the Blue Lagoon spa, which was a beautiful contrast to the intensity we had experienced earlier in the day.
The visit through the Golden Circle was an eye-opening experience for me, in terms of thinking about conservation and eco-tourism. The Golden Circle is essentially a route that is incredibly popular among tourists; every tourist who visits Iceland will explore this route. The route includes three natural attractions: Thingvellir National Park, the geysers in Haukadalur, and the Gullfoss waterfall. We visited the attractions in reverse, which was Bo’s idea in order to beat the rush of tourists.
I have rarely had the chance to visit such beautiful, natural attractions through my travels, so being in the presence of the waterfall’s power was truly a lovely moment for me. What surprised me the most about the area is that, besides the gift shop and café, there was hardly any infrastructure. This is something our professor, Len Ferrington, pointed out. There were paved paths and rope as guides and minimal signage.
At first, I only thought of this as an inherit experience to these conserved and protected natural landscapes. But I realized that the construction of these spaces and accessibility to tourists was carefully planned in order to keep as much of the purity of this waterfall in tact. As compared to attractions like Niagra Falls, which, from what I have heard, contains an abundant amount of infrastructure.
Does the presence of human-made sources and infrastructure (like abundant amounts of signage or giftshops) ruin your experience of the landscape? Does it enhance it and make it more convenient? How will this affect the popularity of the landscape? These are questions natural and environmental conservationists have to decide. This is what concerns eco-tourism. How can we maintain the purity and beauty of this natural landscape and develop low/sustainable levels of environmental impact, as well as satisfy the needs of tourists? This excursion encouraged me to view tourism with a different perspective.