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ICELAND

Iceland: A Nordic Island Country nestled in the North Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 332,529, and an area of 103,000 km2, Iceland is in fact the most sparsely populated country in all of Europe. One of its most impressively unique features. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, and by far the largest city. Along with its surrounding areas in the southwest of the country, Reykjavik forms more than two thirds of the entire population.

Did you know that Iceland is a volcanically and geologically active country? Iceland’s interior features a picturesque plateau, peppered with sand, lava fields, mountains and glaciers. Many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands.

Not many people think of “Ice” land as a warm place, however, it is indeed warmed by the Gulf Stream, boasting a temperate climate, in spite of its high latitude on the outskirts of the Arctic Circle. However, Summers are kept cool thanks to the land’s marine influence (combined with a high latitude). Most of the archipelago boasts a tundra climate.

Culture

Iceland is infamous for its literary heritage; with roots stemming back to the 12th century. Still; Iceland’s culture is rich and varied, meaning no day goes by that is of a boring nature. Popular historical Icelandic traditional arts include weaving, silversmithing, wood carving and more.

People & History

Iceland was first discovered by a group of Viking settlers who unearthed the country in the late 9th century A.D. All they found was an empty, uninhabited island. From that day forth, momentum was created. It’s thanks to that very group of Vikings that Iceland has evolved into the modern country it is today. While the spark of contemporary life is at every turn, the country’s rich cultural heritage is clear to see. The settlement period was traditionally thought to have lasted around 60 years (870 A.D. to 930 A.D) It is also assumed that all inhabitable land was claimed by this time, with the population standing at circa 30,000.

Iceland is a country of sharp contrasts. A place where fire and ice co-exist. Where dark winters are offset by the summer’s midnight sun. A country where insular existence has spurred a rich and vibrant culture.

Volcanoes

Every country has that one thing that makes it so unique. While Iceland has several things, the country’s volcanic activity is a fact of life that locals are forced to come to know and love. The people of Iceland understand how to live with the drawbacks of the volcanoes, however, contrary to popular belief, there are many advantages too. These include geothermal energy, and a dramatically natural environment.

Iceland sits above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge; a 40,000-km long crack in the ocean floor. This was initially caused by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. To this very today, Iceland is still growing by about 2.5cm per year! It splits wider at the point where the two tectonic plates actually meet. The west of the volcano zones (The western part of Iceland) falls under the North American Plate AND the eastern part to the Eurasian plate. Yes, this in fact means that Iceland spans two continents – a fun fact that not many people are aware of.

DID YOU KNOW!

  • A majority of Icelanders believe in elves.
  • At about 39,000 square miles, Iceland is small – close to the size of Ohio.
  • There is a volcanic eruption every 4 years on average.
  • There are no forests in Iceland.
  • Beer remained illegal in Iceland until 1989.
  • At 43.5 hours per week, they have the longest work week in Europe.
  • The Icelandic language remains unchanged from ancient Norse. That means 1,000-year-old texts are still easily read.
  • Babies in Iceland are routinely left outside to nap.
  • There are no surnames or family names in Iceland – Icelanders use the traditional Nordic naming system, which includes a last name that is comprised from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son.
  • 60% of the Icelandic population lives in Reykjavík.
  • Iceland’s revenue from whale watching exceeds any income from whaling.
  • Usually a temperate country, not too hot or cold, the highest temperature recorded was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) at the Eastern fjords in 1939.
  • Iceland had the first democratically elected female and openly gay Prime Ministers.
  • Consumption of Coca–Cola per capita is higher than in any other country.
  • But there aren’t any McDonald’s Restaurants anywhere in Iceland.
  • In 2010 Iceland banned strip clubs.
  • Roughly 85 percent of Iceland’s energy is from renewable resources, and well over half of that is geothermal alone.
  • Icelandic horses display two additional gaits as compared to all other breeds.
  • First names not previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.
  • Iceland was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans.
  • Icelanders watch more movies than any other nation.
  • Iceland is home to one of the world’s oldest democracies; established in 930.
  • In Iceland owning a pet snake, lizard or turtle is against the law.
  • The country’s national sport is handball.
  • Iceland does not have an army, navy or air force.
  • Mosquitoes do not exist in Iceland.
  • The Icelandic police don’t carry guns. Crime in Iceland is very low and violent crime is practically nonexistent.
  • Per capita Iceland has the highest number of book and magazine publications and 10% of the country’s population will publish a book in their lifetimes.
  • Icelandic telephone directories list Icelanders by first name alphabetically.
  • In 2010, 97.6% of Icelandic population had Internet connection.
  • Raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy.