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PLANT A TREE IN ICELAND

plant a tree in iceland

When my co-founder, Daði, and I first sat down and brainstormed about this crazy idea of starting a travel agency without any working experience in the field, we were determined to donate part of our earnings towards environmental initiatives.

We wanted to have a positive impact on our beautiful Iceland as well as share our local travel knowledge to our guests.

One of the things we really wanted to do was to carbon offset all tours by planting trees in areas suffering from soil erosion and at the same time contribute to the reforestation of Iceland.

plant a tree in iceland
One of our first trees planted in Iceland on the black sands outside Þorlákshöfn.

But we wanted to go further.

We had always envisioned giving our guests the opportunity of planting their own trees and FINALLY we have realized that dream!

As of today our guests have the possibility to plant a tree in Iceland!

plant a tree in iceland
My daughter Kristín provided invaluable help the last time we were planting trees.

Why is reforestation in Iceland so important?

At the time of settlement it is thought that roughly 25-40% of Iceland was covered in trees. As in other nations, settlers started to cut down trees for houses and to create fields and grazing land. Grazing sheep prevented forest regeneration and over the years the percentage of tree covered land shrunk drastically. So much so that by the mid 20th century the natural birch woods covered less then 1% of Iceland.

Already booked your tour but want to plant a tree in Iceland? Contact us and we’ll make it happen.

The absence of trees combined with the fragile ecosystem had devastating affects on the Icelandic landscape. The barren land gave way to strong winds which meant the soil started to erode. Vegetation that lacked a steady root system simply blew away creating massive sand dunes and of course pesky sand storms. You can read more about the history of forestry in Iceland here.

plant a tree in iceland
Here you can see the wind making its way through this hill, slowly but surely. The dried out root system just laying on the sand, waiting to blow away entirely.

Since about 1950 great emphasis has been put on reforestation by planting trees. Over the years we have seen drastic changes in some areas and people are finally realizing that growing trees in Iceland is not only possible but extremely efficient.

Who knows maybe one day the Icelandic joke “what do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Answer: You stand up” might not apply anymore.

I for one sure hope so.

Plant a tree in Iceland
Hrönn, our trusted expert in all things related to tree planting, getting a few seedlings ready for their new home.

The Þorláksskógar “soon to be forest”

Now a little bit about this plot I mentioned earlier. The plot is but a small section in what could be the biggest forest in Iceland. God willing. It’s located just outside the town Þorlákshöfn which just so happens to be my hometown. A twofer in the proud & happy category.

The town was basically built in a sand desert but the fishing grounds off the coast were very good so someone decided to go for it and build a fish factory there. Icelanders don’t really care to much for sensibility. The saying “þetta reddast” or “it will work out” in English, is a well known mantra and kinda the Icelandic way of life! So a town was built and people actually moved there.

There was just one problem. In certain wind directions houses were filled with unwanted sand which literally got through every nook and cranny. There was sand on the floors, in the windowsills, couch, carpets, and tables. There was even sand in peoples beds and in their cupboards.

Planting trees is hard, but very rewarding work 🙂

Thankfully the locals and the Soil Conservation Service of Iceland took action and started to grow the land outside of town with great success. Today much of the land has been re-vegetated which has improved the standard of living immensely.

But there is still work to be done so we invite you to join our efforts, book your tour, and plant a tree in Iceland!

About the author

Grétar Ingi Erlendsson