Icelandic canyon closed due to overtourism damage fuelled by Justin Bieber fans

Fjadrargljufur canyon in the south of Iceland will be closed until June

Fjaðrárgljúfur in south Iceland is closed to tourists to give the region time to recover from overtourism. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Jon Flobrant
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Fjadrargljufur canyon in the south of Iceland will remain closed to tourists until June this year.

The Environmental Agency of Iceland made the decision to extend an initial closure announced in January that was only supposed to last two weeks. The extension will give vegetation and trails in the area time to properly recover from damage caused by too many tourists.

The number of tourists visiting the pristine location almost doubled between 2016 and 2017 after Justin Bieber's I'll Show You music video was filmed there in 2015. The video has been viewed almost 450 million times.

Tourists visit hoping to recreate the Canadian prince of pop’s escapades in the video. He is seen climbing over rocky trails, scrambling down green fields, swimming in lagoons and waterfalls and perching on a rocky outcrop overlooking the crashing waves of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Environment Minister for Iceland said it was "too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber" but celebrities should consider what effects filming a video in a certain location might have on a destination. "Rash behaviour by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows," he told the Associated Press.

A story from the AP also suggests that despite signage and barrier ropes, many tourists are still sneaking into the restricted area when rangers are not on duty.

Justin Bieber is not the only pop star that has driven overtourism in Iceland. The visitor boom coincided with Iceland's first appearance as a filming location in HBO's Game of Thrones series. Visitors keen to see "North of the wall" began flocking to the tiny nation, and the latest season of the drama features scenes filmed at Fjadrargljufur canyon.

Figures from the Icelandic Tourist Board indicate that 2.3 million tourists landed in Iceland between March 2018 and February 2019, a number that is almost seven times the population of the country.