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Facts

What to know about Iceland

Size Population Language Currency Capital Time zone
102.775 km2 ~346.750 Icelandic Icelandic Króna ISK Reykjavik area (population in the capital area ~ 221.480) Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) all year round

 



 

Iceland is an island the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, more than 64° North, Grímsey, an island off the coast, actually touches the Arctic Circle! This extraordinary land was formed by subaquatic volcanic activity around 18 million years ago, so Iceland is very young with many powerful volcanoes and great glaciers. The twin forces of fire and ice have created some rare geology and sensational mountains and fjords. Some Icelanders say more than the scenery is otherworldly, there are well-known Elf Rocks and Elf Castles, homes to the hidden people. Maybe, when Jules Verne chose Snæfellsjökull as the Center of the Earth, he knew something?

Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with, at the last count, 346,750 (2017) people in an area of around 103,000 km2. The capital, Reykjavík, situated in South Iceland, is the largest city. 221,480 (2017) live in the capital region, 125,630 of them in Reykjavík. Akureyri in the north is the next largest settlement with 18,620 people. There are quite a few little towns and villages, some are extremely remote.

So, Iceland is a land of extremes: Fire and ice; settled by the Vikings in 870 CE; the oldest continuous Parliament in the world, established in 930 AD/CE; the closest language, still in use, to Old Norse; and the great Icelandic Sagas. Icelanders greatly value their culture, history, and language. The adventurous spirit which brought their ancestors to this land has given them a great openness to new ideas, new people and all that life bring. The Icelandic people want to welcome you!

 

The best way to reach Iceland is by air. More and more airlines have scheduled flights to Keflavik International Airport and we have listed few of them below. If you don’t like flying or you need to bring a viechle, you can also sail to Iceland with Norræna

Icelandair Wow air SAS British Airways
EazyJet BlueBird Air Berlin Norwegian Air Shuttle
Air Greenland Air Atlandic Air Iceland

 

From the airport, you can choose to take a bus (see Grayline or Reykjavík Excursion) or a taxi to Reykjavik. If you are planning a self-drive tour, you can choose to pick your rental car up at the airport. There are both pros and cons of renting a car in Iceland, depending on your traveling plans joining a guided tour might be the better option. You can read more about self-drive Iceland vs. Guided tour here.

Reykjavik_Iceland

Depending on your travel plans and what time of the year you are visiting – You always have a lot of options! Camping, hotels, hostels, guesthouses, cabins, Airbnb – you name it, Iceland has got all kinds of accommodation. If you wish to travel to Iceland but do not know where you would like to stay – our multi-day tours have accommodations included.

Icelandic is the closest language to Old Norse. This is largely due to the relative isolation of the island and also, in modern times, to the efforts of the Icelandic people. When something new arrives on the scene, new Icelandic words are often carefully formed. For example, tölva, meaning computer, was developed from two words meaning to predict and to count. Icelandic people are very talented with languages, most have a very high standard of English and they are usually proficient in a couple of other languages too. It is nice to know a few Icelandic words though:

Já/yes, the ‘j’ is pronounced ‘y’ and the ‘á´ as ‘ow’, so this kind of becomes ‘yauw’

Nei/no is pronounced, ‘nay´.

Góðan daginn/Good day which is pronounced ‘go-than daginn’ with a softened ‘g’

Gott kvöld/good evening, the ‘ö’ is pronounced ‘ur’ is little like in urgent but soft and shorter.

Góða nótt/Good night. Gothah note, with the ‘ó’ pronounced as in ´gold.

Takk, takk takk or takk fyrir/Thank you, the ‘y’ is pronounced ‘i’ as in ‘link’.

Bless/bye, bless, bless is also often said.

The climate in Iceland is relatively mild despite its northerly location. The Gulf stream sends us warm currents all year around so along the coast we normally do not have severe low temperatures. The average temperature in Reykjavik is 5°C but during the summer it goes up to 12°C and down to -1°C in January. The annual downpour in the south of Iceland is quite high, or about 3000 mm, while it is about 400 mm annually in the northern part.

The weather can change fast in Iceland and the winds can be strong, especially beneath the mountains. The northern lights are visible during the dark winter months in Iceland, given the right conditions. Skies have to be clear and the activity level has to be high.

It depends on the seasons and your plans what you should bring to Iceland but always be sure to bring swimwear as well as rain- and windproof clothing. Please read the “What to bring” segment for more details about your tour.

Equipment-tour-Iceland

 

Money

Icelandic Króna (ISK) is our currency and all our prices are given in ISK. Credit cards are widely accepted in Iceland and in Reykjavik and bigger towns you should easily find ATM’s.

For showers in the highlands and some toilets you need cash in Icelandic krónur (ISK), ATMs are to be found in Reykjavík and large towns. For everything else plastic is great.

Prices

A swim will cost you around 900 ISK, a hot dog is even cheaper, a pot of yoghurt or Icelandic Skyr is around 350 ISK, after that it gets a little more expensive! You should expect to pay 2000/3000 ISK per day for lunch, and your evening meals will cost 2500/6500 ISK each. So on average, you need to budget around 7000 ISK per person per day. A beer is about 1000/1400 ISK, and wine is about 1000/1500 ISK per glass.

Water

The water in Iceland is clear and clean and can be drunk from the tap all around the country, so there is no need to spend a fortune on bottled water. You can even drink from rivers and streams if you like. Icelanders make good use of their geothermal hot water to heat their homes and shower. Sometimes there is a sulfur smell, run the cold tap a little before you take a drink and all will be fine!

Electricity

F-Type two prong plugs are in are used in Iceland, the power supply is 230V and 50Hz. You need to use an adapter if you are from the UK, USA or another country using different plugs, voltage or hertz.

Heating

Iceland has an abundance of hot water because of the geothermal activity. We harness the heat to provide heating for our houses and we also generate electricity from the steam. As the water in most parts of the country is geothermal your shower might smell a bit of sulfur.

Alcohol

The state has a monopoly on selling alcohol in Iceland. Thus, wine, beer and spirits can only be bought in the state-run Vínbúðin stores and/or at bars and restaurants. It is a good idea to buy alcoholic beverages in the duty-free store at the airport because the prices in Vínbúðin are quite high. You have to be 20 years old to buy and consume alcohol in Iceland. If you see beer or wine in grocery shops, do not be fooled, the alcohol content of these drinks will be virtually zero!

Smoking

Smoking in public places was banned in 2007 in Iceland. Many restaurants and public places have designated outside smoking areas. Cigarettes and tobacco can be bought in many stores, gas stations, and kiosks. You have to be 18 years old to buy tobacco in Iceland.

Swimming pools

Because all the hot water you can find swimming pools in even the smallest towns in Iceland. Icelanders just love to unwind in the hot tubs after work, families go to the swimming pools to enjoy some quality time, the pool is a popular setting for a first date and some say that this is the Icelandic answer to the Brits “going to the pub”. Bring a swimming suit and join the locals in the hot pot.

Manners

Take off your shoes if you visit someone, many hotels and guest houses also ask their guests to do so. Blowing your nose in company, particularly at the table, is bad manners in Iceland.

Miscellaneous

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir former president of Iceland was the first women to be elected as head of state in Europe.

Emergency

Dial 112 for police, ambulance or fire emergency. If you need some medical assistance after hours call 1170 or 575 – 0505 for dental emergency.

Lost and found

Dial 444 -1000.