The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (2023)

Known as the ‘land of fire and ice’, Iceland has been enticing nature lovers for some time. This sparsely populated volcanic island has no shortage of natural phenomena to marvel at, from jaw-dropping glaciers to geothermal springs and vast lava fields.

And as if that were not enough, it is also one of the top destinations in Europe for watching the dark skies illuminate with the swirling aurora borealis (more commonly referred to as the northern lights). But the dramatic and enchanting landscapes are not top priority on this list, it’s the wildlife we’re delving into.

Luckily, Iceland is not known for having any of the world’s most dangerous creatures, and, in fact, the unruly terrain and weather is more likely to get you here. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t one or two (or seven) creatures you should be aware of on your next arctic adventure.

Table of Contents

1. Arctic Fox

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (2)

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Being the only native mammal in Iceland, The Arctic fox may look incredibly cute and cuddly, but they are not without danger. They are one of the main carriers of Arctic rabies virus, meaning one bite from one of these foxes could potentially be fatal.

This fox can be found all over Iceland, but has a particular fondness for the Westfjords area, where the largest bird cliffs are, meaning an all you can eat buffet for them at mealtimes.

Although not generally considered aggressive, you should always be cautious when encountering any in the wild because, like most animals, if you get on the wrong side of one, it’s no more Mr. nice guy.

2. Arctic Tern

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (3)

Known to have the longest migration in the animal kingdom, the Arctic tern does over a 40,000-mile roundtrip between the Arctic circle and Antarctic circle every year. After spending time in their Arctic breeding grounds, they then follow the sun to the Antarctic, getting to enjoy summer all year round – alright for some.

Nesting all around the coast of Iceland, they are known to be more of a nuisance than a danger. However, this bird is extremely protective of its young and with incredibly sharp beaks, they are not afraid to use them in self-defence. When attacking, they tend to strike the head, so, unless you are looking to recreate a scene from Hitchcock’s terrifying classic, The Birds, you would do best to avoid their nests.

However, as much as they might pose a threat to you, these birds have much more to fear in us. They are regularly wandering onto the roads in Iceland and, in fact, one road on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula even had to be repainted bright colors in an effort to stop so many from being hit by traffic.

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3. Mink

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (4)

The American mink was first imported to Iceland back in the 1930s for fur farming, as their coats were some of the most valued around. However, some managed to escape their cages and the mink population in the wild began rising.

Nowadays, they can be found hanging around riverbanks, marshes, and lakes, and although attacks are rare, they have been known to happen. So, don’t let that adorable, butter wouldn’t melt face fool you, as these little guys can actually be extremely vicious, especially if cornered or feel their territory is being encroached upon.

Other than that, it’s mainly just animals such as frogs, fish and mice that need to fear these ferret-like creatures.

4. Reindeer

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (5)

Being a relatively new addition to the fauna of Iceland, there are now around 7,000 reindeer in Iceland. Brought over by humans in the 18th century, they take the title of Iceland’s largest land mammal and are found in the east of the country.

Spending their time in herds, close to rivers, mounded hills, and dams, you may think of these animals as being fairly friendly and docile (after all, they are Santa’s loveable helpers), however, they can be easily spooked and, in turn, could be rather dangerous.

Although, in general, reindeer tend to avoid humans, and will often run from any possible interaction, but it is recommended to be very wary during mating season (typically between late September and November). During this time, males are known to be incredibly volatile, due to the increase in testosterone levels, so best to keep a safe distance around this period. After all, even just one knock from those razor-sharp antlers could do a whole lot of damage.

5. Seal

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (6)

For any seal enthusiast, Iceland is the place to be. With many seal colonies spread throughout the country, you are never far from a possible sighting. From seeing them lounging along the shorelines, to curiously peaking their heads out of the waters, these loveable semiaquatic mammals are always a joy to gaze at in the wild.

However, are they always as sweet-natured as they look? The answer, unfortunately, is no. In some instances, such as disturbing them as they rest, they can become overly aggressive. And just one bite could transmit an infection called ‘seal finger’, which can result in joint inflammation and swelling of the bone marrow.

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With sharp claws and interlocking teeth, these guys are not to be messed with and you should always back away at the sight of any seal that looks in distress or agitated…however much you may want to just give it a hug.
Some of the reasons for seals to become aggressive are if they feel cornered or threatened, if defending their pups, or if you interrupt feeding time.

So again, like all the world’s wildlife, just using caution is the sure-fire way to keep on their good side.

6. Polar Bear

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (7)

Although not native to Iceland, polar bears have been known to drift on icebergs from their nearby homes in Greenland. This often happens when the weather becomes warmer and, therefore, ice breaks away, allowing the perfect transport method for country hopping. You will mostly find them in the Westfjords area, as this is the closest point to Greenland. However, if they fancy going for a longer swim, a favorite hangout for them is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, due to the abundance of seals for a tasty meal.

Although they rarely go on land and prefer to chill out on the icebergs, tourists are warned to keep a safe distance from this lagoon. While generally considered to be the largest bear in the world, polar bears are not inherently vicious, however, with the strength and speed they possess, one wrong move could end in tragedy. So, if you do happen to be in the area when a polar bear is taking a little vacation, you might want to be aware of a few bear safety tips:

Always carry a bear spray if a bear sighting is possible.

Make yourself big and act like a threat if a polar bear looks ready to attack.

Never run.

7. Wasps

The 7 Most Frightening & Dangerous Animals in Iceland (8)

Last but not least, we have the humble wasp. Not present in Iceland before the 70s, due to inhospitable weather conditions, they can now be found buzzing all over the country – thanks to global warming. Although not quite the terrifying prospect of encountering a grizzly bear on holiday, wasps are still a fairly annoying fixture of Icelandic summers.

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For the most part, a sting from a wasp is little more than just a bit of pain and discomfort, however, there are cases of wasp stings that can be much more dangerous than that. If there is an allergic reaction, then a whole host of symptoms could occur, ranging from redness and swelling to nausea and vomiting. And in rare cases, anaphylaxis can occur, which is a severe allergic reaction causing the person to have difficulty breathing, and could ultimately be fatal.

However, many people can go a lifetime without ever being stung by a wasp, so just following these simple little tricks should keep you free from that nasty sting:

Move away slowly and don’t try to swat at them, as this only makes them angry.

Wear neutral colors, as bright colors attract them.

Avoid wearing strong scents.

Cover food and beverages, especially those of the sugary kind.

What is the most dangerous animal in Iceland?

The most dangerous animal you could possibly encounter in Iceland would most likely be the polar bear. Although, as mentioned above, only a few rogue ones may reach the Icelandic shores. However, if an encounter with one of these guys goes wrong, let’s just say there’s not much chance of escape.

Are there spiders in Iceland?

Arachnophobes fear not, as there are very few spiders to be found in Iceland. But the even better news is that none are dangerous to humans. The garden spider is the most likely eight-legged creature you may run into around these parts, so, nothing close to the terrifying tarantulas you might find around the Asian continent, for example.

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Are there wolves in Iceland?

There are currently no wolves in Iceland. However, in the ninth century, at the time of settlement, numerous wolves roamed the landscape. Due to this, the wolf has become a popular feature of Icelandic mythology.


What are the deadliest animals in Iceland? ›

The most dangerous animal in Iceland is probably the arctic fox. These are the only mammals native to Iceland and typically are not aggressive unless you try and pet one. However, with sharp teeth and a willingness to protect their young, these animals should not be underestimated due to their cute and cuddly looks.

What is the largest predator in Iceland? ›

Are there any dangerous animals in Iceland? Not really, the island is thankfully free of large predators. The only native mammal in Iceland is the Arctic fox, which due to its isolation in Iceland for 10000 years is now its own species called Alopex lagopus fuliginosus.

What is the 7th most dangerous animal in the world? ›

Freshwater Snails: 10,000 people per year. It's a three-way tie for seventh place on this list of fearsome fauna. Freshwater snails release the parasite that causes schistosomiasis in tropical and subtropical freshwater.

What is the number 1 deadliest animal? ›

Mosquitos are by far the deadliest creature in the world when it comes to annual human deaths, causing around one million deaths per year, compared to 100,000 deaths from snakes and 250 from lions. Perhaps surpringly, dogs are the third deadliest animal to humans.

Why are dogs not allowed in Iceland? ›

Dogs were forbidden in the capital

In 1924, a complete ban on dogs was enforced in Reykjavík. Those out in the countryside could own working dogs for farming, but in the city, it was illegal to keep a dog as a pet due to increased cases of fatal tapeworms passed on from dogs.

What is the 4 deadliest animal in the world? ›

These are the 10 deadliest animals in the world:
  • #10. Sharks. A Great white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, jumps out of the water. ...
  • #9. Elephants. An Elephant challenges the photographer in the wilds of Africa. ...
  • #8. Hippopotamuses. ...
  • #7. Tsetse flies. ...
  • #6. Kissing Bugs. ...
  • #5. Crocodiles. ...
  • #3. Dogs/Wolves. ...
  • #1. Mosquitoes.
6 days ago

Are there grizzly bears in Iceland? ›

Unlike other Arctic locations like Alaska or Canada, there are no bears in Iceland!

Are there big spiders in Iceland? ›

Iceland, however, is an island in the lower Arctic or higher Boreal region, where very big spiders are not found naturally. There are 91 species of spider in Iceland—none of which are poisonous to humans— plus the occasional visitor or migrant. This is a small number, compared with 44,000 species known worldwide.

What do Icelanders think of Americans? ›

The individual American is most often friendly and kind. Not necessarily so different from the average European. The biggest difference for me is how they will casually start a conversation with strangers (Canadians do this as well).

What is the number 2 deadliest animal? ›

2. Mosquito. Clocking in at just three millimeters at their smallest, the common mosquito, even tinier than the tsetse fly, ranks as the second most dangerous animal in the world.

What animal kills the most humans list? ›

After mosquitoes, these animals are most deadly to humans each year, according to Discover Wildlife:
  • Freshwater snails: 200,000 deaths per year.
  • Saw-scaled viper: 138,000 deaths per year.
  • Assassin bugs: 10,000 deaths per year.
  • Scorpions: 2,600 deaths per year.
  • Ascaris roundworms: 2,500 deaths per year.
Feb 2, 2023

What animals are feared the most? ›

This confirms the general agreement in the literature that snakes and spiders are the most intensively feared animals in humans with the highest prevalence in the general population.”

What is the nicest animal in the world? ›

#1 Dogs. First on our list of the top 10 friendliest animals in the world is man's best friend – dogs.

What animals see humans as food? ›

Although humans can be attacked by many kinds of non-human animals, man-eaters are those that have incorporated human flesh into their usual diet and actively hunt and kill humans. Most reported cases of man-eaters have involved lions, tigers, leopards, polar bears, and large crocodilians.

What mammal kills the most humans? ›

Ungainly as it is, the hippopotamus is the world's deadliest large land mammal, killing an estimated 500 people per year in Africa. Hippos are aggressive creatures, and they have very sharp teeth. And you would not want to get stuck under one; at up to 2,750kg they can crush a human to death.

Why is McDonald's illegal in Iceland? ›

Unlike Zimbabwe, though, Iceland had McDonald's before the 2009 crash, in its capital city. Rumor has it, though, that the government of Iceland wasn't that happy to have Happy Meals in the first place, since Iceland is an incredibly health-conscious nation.

What should you avoid in Iceland? ›

Let's find out.
  • Bringing an Umbrella to Iceland. ...
  • Buying Bottled Water. ...
  • Going Out Partying and Stopping at Midnight. ...
  • Not Going to a Swimming Pool Because it's Cold Outside. ...
  • Not Bringing a Swimsuit. ...
  • Relying Solely on Your GPS. ...
  • Trying to Book a Room in an Ice Hotel.

What animal kills the least humans? ›

Here are the top 10 most harmless animals in the world.
  • Llama. Llamas (Lama Glama) are related to camels. ...
  • Manatee. The manatee (Trichechus) is an herbivore that is not aggressive and doesn't prey on other species. ...
  • Red Panda. ...
  • Manta Ray. ...
  • Giant African Millipede. ...
  • Opossum. ...
  • 3. Aye-Aye. ...
  • Rabbit.
Jan 5, 2022

What is the deadliest creature in the ocean? ›

Considered the most deadly creature in the sea, the box jellyfish may be beautiful to look at, but it has enough venom to kill a human in a matter of minutes. Native to Australia and found in Indo-Pacific waters, the box jellyfish has around 15 tentacles that can reach lengths of upto three meters.

What is the deadliest thing in the universe? ›

Black holes are obviously terrifying: These crushed remnants of a massive star that exploded as a supernova are so massive that nothing, not even light, can escape its grasp.

Are there poisonous snakes in Iceland? ›

There are no snakes in Iceland, and few spider species, none of which are dangerous to humans. Yellow jackets have been found in Iceland since 1973, and can get somewhat aggressive around late August to early September.

Does Iceland eat horse meat? ›

The production of horse meat in Iceland has been approx. 1000 tons per year. It is about 4% of meat production in the country. Relatively speaking, Icelanders only consume 2% of horse meat compared to other types of meat.

Do polar bears swim to Iceland? ›

Polar bears normally swim over to Iceland. But sometimes they get a ride with a drifting iceberg most of the way from Greenland to Iceland, as the warmer weather breaks some of the ice apart. They can however swim the whole way, as the shortest distance between Greenland and Iceland is only about 300 km.

Are there black widows in Iceland? ›

They confirm that over recent history, there have actually been 13 confirmed cases of black widow spiders making it all the way to Iceland, also in grapes from North America, most of them sold in the capital area. It is not unusual for non-native insects to make their way to Iceland.

Are there poisonous bugs in Iceland? ›

But, there are no animals in Iceland that are dangerous, poisonous, venomous or harmful. There aren't any mosquitos, there are no snakes, and only one species of wasp. However, there are animals in Iceland that can be a nuisance and some that can harm the ecosystem.

Does Iceland have bugs that bite? ›

The reason is biting midges (Ceratopogonidae) - tiny flies, only 1.5 mm in size, which in recent years have become a common nuisance in South and West Iceland.

What US state is most like Iceland? ›

Well, as can be seen from the maps below, Iceland fits easily within the state borders of Colorado, USA. Alternatively, it is comparable in size to the area of Wales and central and southern England combined. Almost all of Iceland's inhabited areas are located in coastal parts around the country.

Can a US citizen live in Iceland? ›

Moving to Iceland as a United States citizen is possible. However, what the country allows is pretty restrictive. If you plan on staying for more than three months, you will need to contact the Directorate of Immigration to apply for a residence permit, and acceptance depends on your reason for staying.

Do Americans retire to Iceland? ›

Many retirees are traveling abroad to live out their post-work lives these days, and the island of Iceland is becoming an increasingly popular locale.

What causes the most deaths in Iceland? ›

Diseases of the circulatory system and neoplasms the main causes of death in the past 10 years. The two most common causes of death in the period 2011–2020 were diseases of the circulatory system (32%) and neoplasms (28.4%).

Are polar bears killed in Iceland? ›

The polar bear can also be captured, transported to a holding facility in Akureyri and shipped or airlifted back to its home in Greenland. The killing of the polar bear should only serve as a last result if and when the bear serves as a threat to human lives or livestock.

Are there many murders in Iceland? ›

The homicide rate in Iceland varied between 2010 and 2020, from roughly 0.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2019, to 1.37 in 2020.
Rate of intentional homicides in Iceland from 2010 to 2020 (per 100,000 inhabitants)
CharacteristicMurder rate per 100,000 inhabitants
8 more rows
Nov 10, 2022


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