Iceland is open for travel: Volcanic eruption in Iceland 2024

Why Iceland Is the Safest Country in the World

|May 9, 2023
Konstancija is a writer who enjoys long walks and hikes in nature, "hunts" for second-hand goods, and is a frequent guest in public libraries where she loves to read and roam around stacks of books.

In 2023 Iceland was ranked 3rd safest country in the world. Find out why Iceland has been among the top safest places in the world for years.

For the 15th time since 2008, Iceland has been ranked one of the safest countries to visit in the world, this year holding the 3rd place, according to the research conducted by Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection (BHTP).

Eystrahorn mountain in Krossasnesfjall mountain range, Iceland

How has the list change over the years?

What’s interesting about this list of the safest countries is that it can (drastically) change every year depending on various factors and complex situations that touch the whole world daily. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a pandemic, or inflation, their handling of the situation can impact the country’s ranking. 

To ensure it’s true, let’s check the list of the safest countries to visit in 2022, where Iceland was in 1st place:

  1. Iceland
  2. New Zealand
  3. Canada
  4. Sweden
  5. Japan
  6. Australia
  7. Switzerland
  8. Ireland
  9. Germany
  10. United Kingdom
  11. Spain
  12. France
  13. Italy
  14. South Korea
  15. Costa Rica 

This could be proven by comparing the lists that show this year’s and last year’s data. While some countries had moved down a few slots in the list of 2023 (e.g., New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland), some new countries made their way to the list (e.g., Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, etc.). Iceland was at the top for many years, this year as the 3rd safest country for travel enthusiasts and the number one choice for the 14th time since 2008, according to Global Peace Index (GPI) statistics.

What’s important to remember when planning your next trip is to research your destination to make sure you know the recent situation in that country, as it can change any day.

How is the score measured?

BHTP, a travel insurance company, has researched the safest destinations to travel to since 2016. They start their study by carrying out a survey asking people where they have been traveling for the past five years and selecting suitable respondents who have been in a country of BHTP’s interest. Only these people are allowed to answer questions about the safety of a specific country.

Geothermal field by the mountains in Iceland

The responses then are backed up by additional yet important information such as the Global Peace Index, travel safety ratings shared by the State Department, and the GeoSure Global scores of the countries’ main cities.

After considering every piece of information, BHTP provides results that are obtained by calculating a weighted score that shows every country’s overall safety. This method helps to avoid the situation when a different type of score changes the country’s general score.

Why is Iceland one of the safest countries in the world?

Having in mind the beauty of Iceland’s nature and the amount of exciting and unforgettable activities one can do here, there’s no question about why Iceland should be on many people’s bucket lists. But how often do we seriously consider the safety aspect when choosing our travel destination? And what should we bear in mind? While we can’t be sure for every country, here are 9 things that prove Iceland to be one of the safest countries in the world.

Low crime rate

Usually, when we talk about safety, the first thing that pops into our heads is whether we are safe from malicious people while being out and about. Getting attacked or robbed in a foreign country (or anywhere, really) clearly isn’t a memory we want to bring from our travels. Luckily, this is not a problem in Iceland as its crime rates are really low. From theft and vandalism to severe crimes like murder, Iceland is known to be one of the countries where this doesn’t happen often. The country has reached a level of safety where they don’t have an army, and their policemen don’t carry guns.

Glacier hiking tour on Solheimajokull glacier in south of Iceland

High air quality

One of the reasons why a lot of travelers choose Iceland is its distinctive nature. But did you know that Iceland also ranks as one of the top countries when it comes to the quality of air? This aspect becomes a huge plus when talking about why Iceland ranks as one of the world's safest countries in the world and hearing discussions about air pollution in the world. An interesting fact is that many parents in Iceland tend to leave their babies sleeping outside, so they can breathe incredibly fresh air.

Road safety

Icelanders don’t joke about road safety and have a list of strict rules when it comes to it, especially knowing the unpredictable weather conditions that can make driving even more difficult. The highest speed limit is 90km/h on paved roads. Serious attention should be paid to different signs alerting the change of a surface or possible obstacles on the road. Icelanders also don’t tolerate driving under the slightest influence of alcohol or drugs, so heavy penalties are imposed on those who violate these rules. For those planning on driving, it’s recommended to check SafeTravel, which provides people with important information about the roads.

Child safety

Hearing about parents leaving their kids outside for a nap isn't a matter that every mother or father would instantly approve of. This comes from the fact that in many countries, it's dangerous and even seen as neglectful behavior. But in Iceland, people are sure about their kids' safety. So, for those who would like to take their kids on a trip to see the world, Iceland is where you can be calm about your child's safety as many places have strict regulations to ensure that nothing happens to both kids and adults.

Harmless wild animals

Iceland is known for being home to many wildlife species that those who travel here are more than welcome to watch. The reason why travelers are encouraged to spend their time in nature is that hiking and camping here are super safe as there are no animals that would harm travelers. The animals that you might meet on your way are Icelandic horses, sheep, arctic foxes, seals, and seagulls. If you wish to see a whale, you'll have to go on a whale-watching tour.

LGBTQ+ friendly

While for some, the topic of the LGBTQ+ movement might still be sensitive, Iceland embraces gay rights and celebrates everyone's love. Because of this, Iceland is a perfect travel destination for gay people. Not only is the country super tolerant towards its LGBTQ+ residents, but it also organizes events such as the Gay Pride in Reykjavik and has some gay bars and clubs. But it's not considered a very exclusive thing because people in a same-sex relationship can publicly show affection towards each other without being shamed.

Laugavegur street in Reykjavik downtown, Iceland

Gender equality

The matter of gender equality in Iceland isn't just a subject of heated discussion. Here equality among men and women does exist. This didn't come overnight but through years of constant discussions that led to progression. Because of this, Iceland is now known for its non-existing wage gap between men and women, women's active involvement in politics, and an equal possibility for both parents to go on maternal/paternal leave.

Sense of community and overall responsibility

It might seem that the interest in Iceland and the increase of those who choose it as a travel destination might impact the country, and that impact might not always be positive, but not in this case. Icelanders are happy to see tourists and are ready to give a helping hand. They’re great at being welcoming hosts, ensuring the guests would be pleased with their trip, and most importantly, staying safe. Because of this, if you like to travel alone, especially as a woman, Iceland is an ideal place for your solo trip. What’s important to keep in mind is that while there is a low chance of getting attacked or mugged, you should be aware of threats posed by the weather. With this in mind, Icelanders founded the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR), which helps people in an emergency.

Everyone speaks English

Have you ever been uncomfortable when you were visiting a foreign country, or a local person got mad at you because you couldn’t speak their language? While this problem seems to be less common, it still happens. But no worries because in Iceland since practically everyone speaks English. Icelanders know how difficult their language is and that it’s wise to learn English because of the number of tourists visiting the country. So, don’t be afraid of being misunderstood or yelled at for not knowing Icelandic.

Is there anything dangerous in Iceland to be aware of?

Although a lot of us enjoy traveling, we all know how much stress and uncertainty it might bring, especially when going somewhere far away. Knowing that the country we’re about to visit has been deemed a safe place might cause you to let your guard down. However, even in the most secure country on earth, we should be aware of our surroundings and specific situations. The truth is, in some situations and when not exercising caution, Iceland can be dangerous. What are some of the things that travelers should look out for in Iceland that could potentially be dangerous?

Dangerous Weather in Iceland

One thing you should remember when going out through the door and starting your trip, especially if you have a day planned in nature, is to be aware of the often-changing weather. In this case, always have warm clothes or another piece of clothing indicated in your itinerary list.

High winds, rain, sandstorms and snow are just a few examples of the type of weather that can arise with little to no warning, and can sometimes bring people face to face with danger or even death.

Northern lights at Dyrhólaey nature reserve in southern Iceland

Potential Dangers Presented by Iceland’s Landscape

Iceland is famous for its magnificent nature and its wonders, such as its Northern Lights, glaciers, and volcanoes. Despite being beautiful and inviting, it’s best to explore this environment with an experienced guide who will ensure you won’t get lost or hurt along the way. It’s also wise to let others (e.g., hotel staff) know your plans for the day. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the warning signs that give information about possible dangers, so you won’t end up being caught up by the sea waves or falling into the depths of a glacier.

Dangerous Beaches in Iceland

Iceland’s more than 3,000 miles of coastline create some of the most stunning beaches in the world. However beautiful they may be, not all of them are safe for swimming and, as one of the bigger dangers in Iceland, it is advised to never turn your back on the ocean. The strong currents and a phenomenon known as “sneaker” waves on Icelandic beaches have even been the cause of a number of unfortunate deaths.

Reynisfjara beach is considered the country’s most dangerous beach, however, taking suitable precautions around the water can help to make sure your visit is safe. While Reynisfjara is probably the most famous dangerous beach in Iceland, you should always practice caution when swimming in the sea anywhere in this country. This is particularly true with Southern Iceland’s black beaches, which are more likely to hide “sneaker” waves and sweep unsuspecting swimmers out to sea.

Vik black sand beach, Iceland on a cloudy day

Dangerous Roads in Iceland

For the most part, Iceland’s main roads are very well maintained and can be safely traveled all throughout the year. Main routes like the Ring Road and Golden Circle can be traveled with just about any type of vehicle year-round. 

However, there are many roads in Iceland that are gravel, which will require more care to drive on. In the heart of Iceland, you’ll find the Highlands, which are only accessible via a network of roads called F-Roads. Due to the location and elevation of these roads, they are not open or accessible during the winter months for the safety of drivers. In certain areas, you will also have to drive across rivers, as there are no bridges, which can present a risk for drivers not experienced in doing so.

The main factor for dangerous roads in Iceland is the weather. When high winds and adverse weather conditions are present, even the safest road can quickly become dangerous, so always pay attention to weather reports and exercise caution when driving in Iceland.

Hiker posing with arms spread in the Thorsmork area of the Icelandic Highlands

Dangerous Animals in Iceland

There are no animals in Iceland that present a true risk to human life. In rare circumstances, if you were to come face-to-face with an Arctic Fox and provoke it, you could cause it to bite in self-defense.


If you’ve heard about the recent volcanic activity over the last few years, you might be wondering: Is it safe to travel to Iceland? Iceland's frequent volcanic activity, including the recent eruptions on the Reykjanes peninsula in 2023 and 2024, are a natural part of the country's landscape formation for millions of years. Typically, Iceland encounters volcanic occurrences approximately once every 5 years.

These eruptions, known as effusive fissure eruptions, differ from the explosive event of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010, which disrupted air travel across Europe for days due to ash plumes. In contrast, the recent eruptions on Reykjanes have resulted in calm lava flows with minimal ash and gas emissions.

The Icelandic government and experts diligently monitor volcanic activity to ensure containment and effective management of impacts. Despite this activity, major travel infrastructure like Keflavík International Airport and main highways have remained unaffected, with no disruptions to flights in or out of Iceland.

However, travelers should stay informed about updates regarding local tourist activities, such as the Blue Lagoon, which may be temporarily affected by eruptions. While the recent eruption does not affect travel, it's crucial to follow safety advisories and avoid approaching protected areas. Road closures are in place around eruption sites, and the area remains under supervision. 

Before traveling to Iceland, check for travel advice and updates.

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore Iceland – the safest country in the world

For years, Iceland has been considered one of the safest countries in the world. In 2023, Iceland was declared the 3rd safest country in the world. Multiple reasons can explain this recurring phenomenon (or perhaps an already established norm), starting from the preserved environment to close community relations. Iceland keeps reigning at the top with its excellent air quality, harmless wildlife, friendly and helpful citizens, and smart and strict rules that help prevent accidents.

Crystal blue ice cave in south Iceland

What’s important to keep in mind is that even in the safest place, we should remain cautious at all times, especially in the wilderness during challenging weather conditions. No matter how well we think we know, we should always trust the guide or the signs that warn about possible dangers. 

Now that you know why Iceland is one of the safest places in the world, have you already started to plan your trip to the land of fire and ice? Check these travel trends for 2023 to ease up your preparations.

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