Gazing into a volcanic crater lake, leaping across a tectonic fissure in the earth’s crust, descending into the magma chamber of an extinct volcano … Iceland is filled with unforgettable experiences. This beautiful country is packed with tourist-attracting natural wonders: waterfalls, glaciers, rivers, fjords, cliffs, thermal springs and geysers.

Though magnificent, this landscape is perhaps the most dangerous place in Europe. Several times a year, Icelanders are captivated by a full-scale land and helicopter search for travelers sucked out to sea by a wave, separated from their snowmobile tour group, or lost in the wilderness. Iceland is more popular than ever, but it shouldn’t be the last trip you ever take. Before you visit, consider these 10 ways a trip to Iceland could put you in danger.

1. Wind: The signature feature of Icelandic weather is wind. For Icelanders, good weather means no wind or a light breeze; bad weather means it’s blowing hard. Even in summer, you’ll likely encounter winds that are uncomfortable or dangerous to walk or drive in. When picking up my rental car on my most recent trip, I was talked into a $20-a-day insurance supplement for “wind damage and sand storms.” And later, while I was standing on a rock to snap a photo, a freakish gust nearly blew me into the sea. Check the forecast on the Icelandic weather service’s website. If it’s windy and icy at the same time, use extra care.

2. Slips and falls: In winter, Reykjavik’s sidewalks generally aren’t cleared or salted, and are very slippery and icy. Falls are common. Paths in the countryside ice over, too. Cautious travelers visiting between December and February should pack a pair of ice cleats to strap over their shoes.

3. Getting lost: When traveling in less inhabited parts of the country, be prepared for the unexpected. Your car could break down or run out of gas, or you could take a wrong turn. Travel with extra clothing (even summer days can turn cold and windy, especially at higher elevations) and keep your mobile phone charged. Carry a paper map as a backup. Before heading into wilderness areas, upload your itinerary to

4. Sneaker waves: Iceland’s south coast has some very dangerous beaches with strong waves that regularly pull unsuspecting tourists out to sea. Those breathtaking black-sand beaches can become dangerous very suddenly. Obey all signs, and stay much farther from the water than you think is necessary.

5. Trail hazards: There are very few ropes, guardrails or warning signs in Iceland — but if you see any, take them seriously. Step carefully, and watch out for loose stones, crevices, and sharp lava rocks.

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