Cairns, or carefully arranged piles of stones, have been popping up all over the place and are a more serious problem than it might first appear.
Stone cairns have been appearing widely in the Þingvellir area, now numbering in the hundreds—maybe even the thousands, mbl.is reports.
According to Þingvellir National Park ranger Ólafur Örn Haraldsson, the cairns are mostly outside the national park limits, though there are definitely some inside it as well.
“People stand at viewpoints and there they pile up cairns. This menace leaches in round the edges of the National Park and we have a big job on our hands knocking down cairns of varying sizes,” Ólafur says. The building of cairns is expressly prohibited within the National Park.
He adds that the worst thing of all is when new stones are piled on top of ancient cairns inside the National Park. “Ancient cairns are naturally a part of the cultural landscape of Þingvellir,” Ólafur says. Adding stones to them is not allowed, and there are signs around Þingvellir to remind people of that.
The spread of new cairns across Iceland has increased very rapidly with increased numbers of foreign tourists.
Usually tourists mean no harm by their actions, but also fail to recognize that some of the cairns they see are Viking relics and historically important. That is why park rangers are reluctant to welcome more of them.
Cairns were landmarks spread out across the landscape to mark trails and make sure people didn’t get lost in the days before GPS.