Foreigners Request Ashes to Be Scattered in Iceland


Vala Hafstað

Many people have no idea there is an Icelandic law that applies to the scattering of ashes. It is, for example, illegal to scatter ashes at popular tourist destinations, Morgunblaðið reports. MP Bryndís Haraldsdóttir has heard of people who scattered the ashes of a relative at more than one location.

Bryndís, along with four other members of parliament, has introduced a bill in Alþingi , the Icelandic parliament, suggesting a change to the law regarding cemeteries, burial and cremation.

They want the scattering of ashes to be without restrictions. At present, the permission of a district commissioner is needed when ashes are scattered outside a cemetery.

Today, Morgunblaðið reports that cremations are becoming more common in Iceland, accounting for about 56 percent of burials in the capital area. About 2,300 burials take place in Iceland every year, including close to 1,000 cremations.


Siglufjörður. Helgason

Interest in scattering the ashes of loved ones in Iceland has increased among foreigners. Some of those who wished their ashes to be scattered in Iceland had never even been here and only seen pictures from the country.

The district commissioner in Siglufjörður, North Iceland, issues licenses for the scattering of ashes in open area.Halldór Þormar Halldórsson, who represents the district commissioner, tells Morgunblaðið that the number of requests to scatter ashes started rising a few years ago. A total of 52 applications for the scattering of ashes outside cemeteries were received in 2018, and 63 in 2019, half of which were from foreigners. The numbers declined in 2020 and 2021, as did the ratio of applications from foreigners, likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which greatly affected tourism.

Halldór states that the applications from abroad were mainly from the US, France and Germany. Among the people whose ashes were scattered was a wealthy American, who had never been to Iceland and only seen pictures from here. He wanted his ashes scattered in Siglufjörður, North Iceland — a request which was granted. Rescue workers scattered his ashes in the mountains by the fjord.

“Ashes may be scattered in uninhabited areas or at sea, once you have the permission of the district commissioner in Siglufjörður,” Halldór states. “Sometimes, we receive requests to scatter ashes at popular tourist destinations, but that is not permitted.”

Occasionally, too, the ashes of Icelanders who have lived abroad, are scattered in Iceland.


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