Iceland is a remote island located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is known worldwide for its immense geological activity and large glacier and has therefore often been nicknamed the land of ice and fire. Some people think Iceland is a city or a region in Europe or the United States but it is actually a very interesting country rich in history and culture.
Iceland is an isolated island in the North Atlantic Ocean often referred to as the land of Ice and Fire. Iceland or Ísland as it is called in the native language is in Northern Europe, and a part of the Scandinavian union with Denmark, Norway, Faroe Islands, Finland and Sweden. The island is situated in between the countries of Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Norway, South of the Arctic Circle.
The country has a population of about 350.000 people and a total ground area of about 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi). Due to its large land and small nation, Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe. Which might not be surprising given that about 10% off the country is covered with glaciers.
The native people, Icelanders speak their own language which is Icelandic and have a very rich history and heritage. The country was settled around 870 AD by Norse Vikings and there has been an ongoing settlement in Iceland ever since. The capital of Iceland is Reykjavík situated in the southwestern corner on the peninsula Reykjanes. It is home to over two-thirds of the nation but the second biggest towns are Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður and Akureyri.
Iceland is situated at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates come together. Due to its located Iceland is very volcanically and geologically active with daily earthquakes and numerous volcanoes. Its interior, for the most part, consists of a terrain dominated by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers and glacier river that flow down from the outlets. But, even though the country is covered in glaciers and glacier rivers it is still warmer than most would think. We have the Gulf Stream to thank for that which brings in waves of warmer oceans, especially in the fall time.
Iceland, as a whole, is on one timezone, the Greenwich Mean Time UTC+0 (WET) and therefore follows the same time as Portugal, Canary Island and Ireland.
Countries close to Iceland | Iceland’s Neighbouring Countries
- Faroe Islands
- United Kingdom
What is Iceland famous for?
Iceland is known for a lot of things, geologically it is known for volcanoes, glaciers and hot springs. The most famous of volcanoes being a glacier (a stratovolcano), Eyjafjallajökull, which erupted in 2010 and completely shut down all air traffic in Europe for many days.
It is also famous for gender equality and has been voted time and again as the best country in the world to be a woman. Icelanders also had the first democratically voted female president in the world, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir who served as the president of Iceland from the year 1980 to the year 1996.
The country is also known for its artists, be in music or contemporary art. The most famous Icelandic bands are Sigur Rós, Kaleo and Of Monsters and Men. The most famous singer is, of course, Björk and the most famous artist is the half Icelandic half Danish Olafur Eliasson.
Iceland is also famous for its green sustainable energy but the heating in houses, the local swimming pools, the electricity and even the greenhouses where our vegetables and fruits are grown are all run on this green energy provided by mother earth. In this Icelanders take great pride and have even in recent times found new ways to utilize it. First in the unbelievable harvest of bananas which made Iceland the biggest banana producer in the world and just recently with the geothermal brewing of beer.
Animals also play a big part in how Iceland is recognized but funny enough the Arctic Fox is the only known native mammal to the country. The Icelandic horse is widely renowned for its 5th gate, the soft tölt, where you barely move in the saddle and can ride for hours and hours without feeling sore afterward. The Icelandic sheep is known for its incredible wool and delicious lamb meat which has been marinated in the mountains of Iceland as they are let go, free to roam for months on end. The whales around Iceland are anything but shy and tend to come up close and personal to the boats that are there to visit them in their natural habitat. Around Iceland you can find up to eight different types of whales, the most common being the Minke whale, the Humpback whale and the Orcas.
The food in Iceland is of excellent quality and is something you will hear about from anyone who visits. The freshness of the product and the Nordic simplicity in the cooking makes for a wonderful combination and the people of Iceland are truly excited to share their tables with others. The most famous of Icelandic food is through not the best – the Vikings, back in the day, didn’t live with such luxury as we do today with refrigerators and tried their best to keep their food eatable for as long as they possibly could with all sorts of interesting methods. People also had to survive on what the land gave and importation was very limited so as a result dishes like the fermented shark, the ram testicles in jello, the hanging meat, the smoked lamb, the dry fish and the skyr. Many of these can be tried at restaurants downtown and we encourage you to!
The Icelandic language has also been a great fascination of many for a long time as it is the closest language to the one once spoken by the Vikings. The closest to the language is Norwegian and Faroe but Icelanders are more likely to understand the Norwegian than they are Icelanders but the Faroese and Icelanders can, for the most part, understand each other.
The reason for the language staying so well intact is believed to have been the isolation. The people who lived in Iceland were so far away and could not easily travel to and from mainland Europe and therefore influences from these countries were very low.
Icelanders have also put great emphasis on maintaining the mother tongue and for example, make up new words instead of adapting the English ones. They are very fond of their language and celebrate the day of the Icelandic Language every year on the 16th of November.
Fun Fact, no other country published more books per capita than Iceland.
Iceland is also recognized as having established the world’s first parliament which was founded at Thingvellir National Park in 930 AD. This same parliament had been ongoing ever since and is called Althingi. It is now located at Austurvöllur downtown Reykjavík.
30 Fun Facts about Iceland
- Iceland was one of the last countries in the world to be settled.
- The name Reykjavík of Iceland’s capital city means Smokey Bay.
- Icelanders are obsessed with black licorice – you will find out when you visit!
- Iceland had the first democratically elected female and openly gay Prime Minister, her name is Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
- There is literally nothing to be afraid of in Icelandic nature, no mosquitoes, no bears, no snakes, no lions, nothing!
- Iceland has a naming committee which chooses which names are allowed and which ones aren’t.
- Strip Clubs are banned in Iceland.
- Police do not carry firearms in Iceland.
- Iceland has no army.
- There was a Mcdonald’s in Iceland, but it was closed.
- Icelanders tend to leave their children in carriages outside to take a nap.
- A great part of the Icelandic population believes in elves or hidden figures.
- It is illegal in Iceland to pay women less than men.
- Iceland has a penis museum in downtown Reykjavík, one of the most popular museums in Iceland.
- The English word geyser is taken from the famous Icelandic Geysir.
- Icelanders take the longest showers, and due to our green energy, it is very cheap.
- Iceland ones had a political party called The Best Party.
- There once was an army base in Iceland but it belonged to the United States.
- Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
- Iceland has won the Miss World pageant four times.
- Iceland hosts the only Gay Pride in the world where no one protests.
- Iceland’s National Team in Soccer qualified and later competed at the World Cup in 2018, becoming the smallest nation every to quality.
- The Westfjords were the 1st to form on the landmass we now call Iceland.
- Iceland does not use family names but take up their father’s first name as their last with an added -son if they are male or -dóttir if they are female.
Example. Jón Einarsson is the son of Einar and Helga Einarsdóttir is the daughter of Einar.
- Icelanders love ice cream so much that in winter when it’s freezing outside you are still very likely to see a line at the ice cream parlour.
- Iceland was one of the first countries to legalize same sex marriage.
- Iceland was given two different names before landing on the one we use today, the first two were Snæland e. Snowland and Thule.
- Vatnajökull, Iceland’s largest glacier is the largest glacier in any European Country.
- Eidur Smari Gudjohnsen, the famous football player who played for both Chelsea and Barcelona is Icelandic.
- The Icelandic word for Prime Minister is Forsætisráðherra.
The 10 Most Famous Attraction in Iceland
10. Goðafoss Waterfall
The stunning wide arch waterfall in the North of Iceland. Goðafoss or the waterfall of the gods is a must visit when exploring the Northern parts of Iceland.
9. Skógafoss Waterfall
The powerful waterfall on the South Coast. Legend says that treasure is hidden behind the beautiful Skógafoss, adding even more magic to this captivating place!
8. Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
The waterfall you can walk behind on the South Coast. Seljalandsfoss first became famous when it appeared on the show the Amazing Race. A must-visit right off the Ring Road.
7. Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
In 1973 an American Army Plane crashed on Sólheimasandur Black Beach and was left there and you can still visit today!
6. Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach
The famous black sand beach on the South Coast, with the Reynisdrangar basalt columns and the mysterious cave. Reynisfjara has recently appeared in famous movies such as Noah, Star Wars: Rogue One and the epic Game of Thrones!
5. The Golden Circle; Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss
The most popular tour to do in Iceland with all the highlights packed in one. Arctic Adventures offers many different ways to do the Golden Circle.
4. Hallgrímskirkja Church
The towering church in downtown Reykjavík and the capital’s most famous landmark. You can visit the tower of Hallgrímskirkja for an amazing view over the city for only a small fee.
3. Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon
A glacier lagoon packed with crystal blue icebergs that float around after having broken off a gigantic glacier! Jökulsárlón is truly one of the places you need to have on your Iceland bucket list and don’t miss out on the stop at the Diamond Beach right next to it while there!
2. Kirkjufell Mountain
The most famous mountain in Iceland and the most photographed mountain in Iceland is unquestionably Kirkjufell. It was also displayed as the hooded mountain on the Game of Thrones which has been filmed all over Iceland. The mountain is found on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
1. The Blue Lagoon
The most famous turquoise blue bathing lagoon on the Reykjanes peninsula with natural healing powers. The Blue Lagoon is without a doubt the most famous attraction ever to exist in Iceland and our winner on the top attraction in Iceland list!