Real Life Pirates Are Taking Over Iceland

A paradise for anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks.

The secret’s out—Greenland isn’t the vacationer’s paradise; Iceland is.

In an alarming reminder of the perils of suddenly becoming too popular, Icelandic residents are facing two of history’s biggest threats to peace and tranquility: tourists and pirates.

Let’s take pirates first. Yes, we’re talking real ones—well, modern-day rogues, at least. Four years ago, the Pirate Party didn’t exist. Now, its ragtag band of “anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks,” as the Washington Post put it, is poised to turn the island nation into “a Switzerland of bits,” where digital snooping would be wiped out and Edward Snowden could (theoretically) live out his days free from the oversight of his Russian hosts.

For a country as small as Iceland, the weirdness of life under the Pirate Party might not be so bad. But what would it do to the tourism? There are only so many anarchist hackers without travel restrictions to go around. This year, the number of vacationers just from the United States is set to exceed Iceland’s entire native population of 332,000. Most probably aren’t ready to spend their hard-earned time off in a political petri dish.

Believe it or not, head Pirate Birgitta Jonsdottir isn’t ready to share space with them, either. “It’s like the city is not my city anymore,” she recently complained of the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. “It’s like Disneyland downtown.”