If you’re here to find out if you can take rocks from Iceland or take sand from Iceland or if it is illegal to take rocks/sand from Iceland, please scroll down to the end of this post where I answer these questions. Originally this was a story post, but because so many people have asked me if it is permissible to take rocks from Iceland as souvenirs, I’ve contacted the Environment Agency of Iceland for answers. That is provided at the end of this post, after my personal experience of taking rocks from Iceland.
Are the rocks of Iceland cursed?
There’s a reason they say:
Take only memories, leave only footsteps.
Because travelers should not disturb nature. Because travelers should not leave their garbage. Because travelers should respect the places they visit and remember them forever. Because travelers do not want to get cursed by taking something that doesn’t belong to them.
Let me first preface by stating: We are NOT a superstitious couple. Nope, not superstitious. We walk under ladders, cuddle black cats, and request rooms on floor 13. And superstition did not follow us on our honeymoon in Iceland…
Snaefellsnes is described as one of the most magical places in Iceland — with cascading waterfalls, hidden song-caves, iconic mountains, sheep-dotted hills, naturally carbonated springs, golden sand beaches, powerful icecaps, viking history, and the tiniest seaside towns… sight after scenic sight. Driving around Snaefellsnes is supposed to invoke disbelief that a place like it exists on our divine planet. Though Snaefellsnes is not a part of Ring Ring, it’s a stop I highly recommend in my Iceland itinerary.
But we wouldn’t know this fully because the rain and wind teamed up to limit our visibility. We couldn’t see anything. It’s like the forces of nature knew what we were going to do and threatened us before we did it. But we did it anyway.
We visited Djúpalónssandur, a beach on the southwest of the peninsula, near Hellnar. What really piqued my interest about the beach was a particular blog post written by a local. There was one bullet point:
Yes! I want positive power pebble-stones!
I want to take sand and rocks from Iceland for positive powers! You can take rocks from Iceland, right?
Have you ever visited Djúpalónssandur? No? Let me set the scene. The sky is muted, overcast, gray. As you descend down the footprint-worn path, you’re greeted by a large, empty terrain, carpeted with thousands of perfectly round and smooth black pebbles, gleaming from the rain like polished onyx. Twisted and rusted metal are strewn across the black pebbles, creating an eerie contrast to the natural landscape. The metal doesn’t belong; it’s unnerving. Jagged lava rocks tower above at each side of the beach, like menacing, monolithic bookends. The powerful crash of the waves on the shore is angry and unforgiving. The ocean is threatening, inspiring thoughts of being snatched out to sea.
Djúpalónssandur is no fairytale beach. It’s fantastical, but in the uncomfortable and mysterious sense.
Everybody Gets a Positivity Rock!
Eric took a rock. I took a rock. I took a rock for my mom. I took a rock for my dad. Eric took a rock for his parents. In our pockets nested 5 lovely, round black stones. We were bringing home the positivity to our families. I wondered about the powers they possessed, imagining iron immune systems and immortality and laser beams of positivity shooting from my eyes.
Trekking from the beach on the way back to the car, our eyes glanced over a sign at the beach. The random metal on the beach were the remnants of a shipwreck. A British trawler met its end in 1948. Five men survived. Fourteen perished. The sign requests that the remains be undisturbed.
We bolted back to the car, unsuccessfully dodging rain drops.
“Are you sure we should take the rocks?” Eric inquired, slightly bothered.
“Of course! They’re positive energy.”
“Yeah, did you see that beach? It didn’t seem like it had very positive energy…”
Eric was right. It certainly didn’t seem like positive energy — the waves crashed violently, the sky cast a moody, gray shadow, the eerie twisted metal shipwreck littered the beach… I brushed it off and blamed the ominous feeling on the weather.
I reasoned that if a local recommended it, of course it was acceptable. I reasoned that the positive energy came from the Snæfellsjökull ice cap, considered to be one of Earth’s powerful energy centers. Of course it was fine. Of course it was positive energy. We’re not superstitious, remember?
The remainder of our Snaefellsnes road trip was underwhelming and uneventful. We tasted hakarl; my coat reeked of rotten shark for the rest of the drive. Most of the places we stopped at displayed “closed” signs. Between the unsympathetic weather and rattling dampness in our bones, we neither saw nor did much. Nearing Reykjavik, something strange happened… a bright red light flashed at us from the side of the road. What was that? Turns out that Iceland has speeding cameras… and it appeared that we had just been caught.
So much for positive power rocks…
Eric stewed for the rest of the night. His worry was toxic and I had no antidote. He poured into his phone, exhausting the internet, reading forums, thinking up solutions, considering a visit to the police station… he was convinced that we’d receive a massive speeding fine in the mail within the next month.
The perfectly smooth, black stones grew heavier in our pockets. Maybe we shouldn’t have taken them…
Getting Rid of the Cursed Rocks of Iceland
The next morning we woke in Reykjavik, 206 kilometers away from that beach. It was the last day of our honeymoon in Iceland. As we enjoyed breakfast at the Laundromat Cafe, the conversation tiptoed toward the stolen stones. Taking advantage of wifi, our searches used any keywords that could indicate if the rocks at Djúpalónssandur were, in fact, cursed or bad luck. Our only breakthrough was the Guide to Iceland blog which subtly mentions that the beach is haunted and taking the rocks is forbidden.
Our conversation was like watching a ping-pong match, as we alternated between internal feelings of uneasiness and nonchalant logic. We were in disbelief that these silly rocks were causing such contemplation.
But we are not superstitious.
“Remember when we were in Australia?” Of course I did. Eric was talking about the aboriginal walkabout tour of the Daintree Rainforest. Our aboriginal guide had warned us not to take any shells or sand from a certain beach, as it causes bad luck for couples. Our guide had recounted the story of a young couple that almost broke apart after they had taken something from the beach. It was so bad, they begged the guide to return it for them.
“What if it’s something like that? I’m not starting my marriage with bad juju.”
Maybe the local who recommended taking the pebbles was a sly jokester and the smile in his post implied an evil sarcasm aimed toward ruining tourists’ lives.
Maybe the beach was haunted from the shipwreck.
Maybe the elves and hilderfolk are real and taking a piece of Iceland’s natural habitat is a sentence of misfortune.
What if every time something bad happened henceforth, we blamed it on the “cursed” rocks of Iceland?
In the end, we agreed on two things:
- We are not superstitious.
- We are returning the rocks.
Beyond that, there was nothing else we could do but laugh at ourselves. It’s the type of reaction when you laugh because you feel absolutely ridiculous but smile because buried in your heart is a wave of relief.
Our life was a VHS tape and someone pressed rewind as we retraced the route of yesterday, passing familiar sights and waving like old friends as we drove along. Yesterday I thought I’d never see Snaefellsnes again.
Djúpalónssandur greeted us in a familiar fashion — morose skies, sad raindrops, frightening waves. We laid the stolen rocks with their brothers and sisters. Nothing profound happened in that moment, but I swear the universe may have realigned itself.
We drove 206 kilometers (128 miles) for 3 hours for peace of mind. And that same amount back. Maybe we saved our relationship. Maybe we took an unnecessary road trip. Maybe we could have spent the day exploring Reykjavik’s street art or snorkeling Silfra. Instead we chose to follow what felt right in our hearts.
But something stranger happened.
Returning to our apartment in Reykjavik, a surprise waited for us on the kitchen table. “… enjoy the last night of your honeymoon. Cheers, Marco – Rey Apartments.” the note read, joined by 2 champagne flutes, champagne bottles, and Icelandic chocolate. Mind you, no accommodation had provided any special treatment for our honeymoon.
“It’s because we returned the rocks!”
Next, to address the problem of our growling stomachs. A late weeknight meant a food scavenger hunt. We randomly stumbled upon The Public House and received the kindest dining experience during our entire trip. How kind? They brought us free champagne AND free dessert, completely unprovoked.
We looked at each other, eyes wide, both exclaiming, “It’s because we returned the rocks!” Again.
That night, we closed our eyes for the last time in Iceland, exhaling deeply, that sigh of relief and joy like enjoying the final bite of that delicious dessert. Feeling bubbly from the gifted champagne, I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that despite it all, there was no better way to spend the final day of our honeymoon in Iceland together.
I would have marched to the bowels of Hekla with him, just to return the silly “cursed” rocks.
Anyway, why would I need positive energy stones when I already have Eric in my life? We already have love and each other. Seems to me that it doesn’t get more positive than that.
Moral of the story? Take only memories, leave only footsteps. And don’t bother the cursed rocks of Iceland on the haunted beach.
We are still not a superstitious couple. I think.
P.S… Six weeks later and still no speeding fines in the mail.
Have you ever taken anything and later regretted it? Let me know in the comments so I can avoid temptation in the future, ha!
Taking Rocks from Iceland
Can you take rocks from Iceland? Is it legal to take rocks or sand from Iceland?
I’ve been wondering since this happened. Anecdotally I’d say no, but I decided to contact the experts to get an official answer. My questions were routed to the Environment Agency of Iceland. In short, the answer is yes and no. There are always parameters, right? According to the Environment Agency of Iceland, “Collecting minerals (rocks) in small quantity in Iceland is permitted unless the mineral is protected.” There are three things to look for if you’re curious about whether you can take rocks, sand, or minerals from Iceland: whether you in a protected area, the type of mineral, and the amount. They provided me this map of protected areas in Iceland. Categories of protected areas include specific country parks, natural monuments, national parks, and nature reserves. I would look at the places noted in these lists as well as the map to determine if where you want to take rocks or sand is in a protected area.
So were these specific rocks protected? Or should I still consider them the cursed rocks of Iceland? Looking at the list, I didn’t see Djúpalóns beach. I did, however, see Snæfellsnes, protected areas at Budir, Arnarstapi and Hellnar in the “nature reserves” section. So really, I’m still not sure.
What happens if you take rocks or sand from Iceland that are illegal? What are the consequences?
Again, the Environment Agency of Iceland told me that the penalty ranges from fines to imprisonment. If you do plan to export rocks or minerals, it is advised to apply for a permit from the Natural Institute of Iceland. And yes, customs can confiscate your “souvenir” when you leave the country.
Although I often play the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” card, in this case, I’d recommend “better to be safe than sorry.”
Take a minute to read the Environment Agency of Iceland’s notes for visitor’s to Iceland, which details information about pubic rights, conduct, driving, hiking, camping, collecting plants, etc. Ask yourself if taking anything violates the Iceland Travelers Code. But at the end of the day, it’s about respect for the land and the environment. If you love Iceland enough to take rocks or take sand, love it even more to leave its natural beauty as pristine and undisturbed as your found it.