By Agence France-Presse
Iceland has blocked the millions of tourists who descend upon the volcanic island each year from visiting a canyon that has been overrun since it was featured in a Justin Bieber music video.
An influx of tourists and a humid winter have disrupted the Fjadrargljufur canyon’s fragile ecosystem, so the Environment Agency of Iceland has closed the site to the public until June 1.
“During periods of thaw, the path is completely muddy and is practically unusable for hikers,” agency advisor Daniel Freyr Jonsson told AFP on Thursday.
“Because the mud is so thick, visitors step over the fences and walk parallel to the path, which rapidly damages the plant life,” he added.
Fjadrargljufur is a gorge about 100 meters (yards) deep and two kilometers (1.25 miles) long, with steep green walls and a winding riverbed. The canyon was created by progressive erosion from water melting from glaciers 9,000 years ago.
The canyon was little known to foreigners until the end of 2015 when Canadian singer Justin Bieber featured the site in his song “I’ll Show You”.
“Visits to the site have risen by 50 to 80 percent per year since 2016,” said Daniel Freyr Jonsson, estimating that around 300,000 people visited the canyon in 2018.
A growing number of tourist sites in Iceland have been closed in a bid to preserve them.
The popular Reykjadalur valley and its hot springs were temporarily closed in April 2018 and a hiking trail overlooking the Skogafoss waterfall is currently shut.
“The infrastructure is not set up to accommodate so many visitors,” said Daniel Freyr Jonsson.
“Tourism in winter and spring, the most sensitive periods for wildlife in Iceland, (was previously) almost unheard of in Iceland.”
Since 2010 and the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano — which generated a lot of publicity for the island — the number of visitors has grown by 25 percent per year on average.
Last year, a record 2.3 million people visited Iceland.