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Senior lecturer

Micael Runnström

Senior lecturer

Senior lecturer

Purism scale approach for wilderness mapping in Iceland


  • Rannveig Ólafsdóttir
  • Anna Dóra Sæþórsdóttir
  • Micael Runnström

Summary, in English

Coincident with increased utilization of the Icelandic highlands, its image as a unique and pristine wilderness is gradually changing. People’s perception of wilderness is influenced by a number of factors relating to their culture and socio-economic background. Furthermore, how people value pristine land or define wilderness varies depending on the location and function of the assessment. Therefore, understanding perceived wilderness is likewise of major importance in the planning and long term management of tourism within the Icelandic highlands. This paper attempts to identify and map perceived wilderness areas within the southern Icelandic highlands, using the purism scale approach. The results indicate that constructions related to power plants (i.e. plants, power lines, and dams) are considered undesirable by all four tourism market groups. The results moreover show that non-purists visiting the Icelandic highlands do not favour paved roads. Conversely, mountain huts do not affect the perceived wilderness for any of the purism groups. The perceived wilderness mapping of the southern Icelandic highlands shows that nearly the whole area, or 97.2 %, is perceived as wilderness by the nonpurism group, while less than half, or 45.4 %, is perceived as wilderness by the strong purism group. Once a wilderness area becomes known as a tourist destination, maintaining its wilderness condition becomes increasingly difficult. In order to avoid the overuse of wilderness for tourism and other economic sectors, ambitious planning and appropriate management are critical. This includes identifying limits of growth and further development. Without such limitations, the use of wilderness is simply unsustainable.


  • Centre for Geographical Information Systems (GIS Centre)

Publishing year







Mapping Wilderness: Concepts, Techniques and Applications

Document type

Book chapter




  • Social and Economic Geography


  • Iceland
  • Purism scale
  • Tourism
  • Tourist perception
  • Wilderness mapping




  • ISBN: 9789401773973
  • ISBN: 9789401773997