Interested in witnessing the magic of the Northern lights? Want to visit natural geysers? Want to ride Icelandic horses? Iceland is your gem. You can have all these experiences just by visiting Iceland. Let’s learn some interesting facts about Iceland.
The land of Vikings, Iceland, is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, positioning it in northern Europe. It is a volcanic island that is sparsely populated, with a population of 375,318 (2023 est.) at mid-year.
One of the most amazing things about Iceland is that it is the second-largest island in Europe. The Icelandic coastline has several smaller islands. Some of these islands are inhabited for various reasons, one being that they are in a volatile volcanic region. The largest islands of these are the Heimaev, Hrísey and Grímsey islands.
Although the land is famous for many natural and unique phenomena, including fjords, waterfalls, ice caves and geysers, Icelandic people are also uniquely famous for their achievements.
Some famous Icelanders include Leif Erikson, the first explorer from Europe in North America, and his father, Erik Thorvaldsson, who founded the first Norse settlement in Greenland. Halldór Laxness won the only Nobel prize for Iceland.
Some of the famous Icelanders of the present day are the singer and actress Björk and the captain of Iceland’s national football team, Aron Gunnarsson.
So, before we discuss more about this iconic country, let us first learn some interesting facts about it.
1. Fun Facts About Iceland
Due to its unique global position, Iceland enjoys and experiences different special phenomena. This is one of the reasons that most of the population in Iceland is concentrated in its capital city, Reykjavík.
Continuous eruptions in the periphery of the Island and cold weather cooling off the lava fields, beautiful Icelandic ponies grazing in the green pastures, and ice-cold water falling from stoned heights to convert into a beautiful waterfall are some beautiful sights to soothe your traveller’s eye.
The country is rich in history and has diverse flora and fauna, which makes it different from other countries in Europe and the world. Hence, many fun facts people do not know.
1.1. About Two-Third Of The Population Lives In The Capital
Although Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe, most people live in the capital region, and is home to about 36% of the country’s population. No matter how big and beautiful Iceland is, almost 80% of the Icelandic lands are uninhabited. The remaining population lives on the coastline in fishing villages and farms.
1.2. One Of The Most Eco-Friendly Countries
Iceland is one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world due to its extensive use of renewable energy sources, including geothermal and hydroelectric power, as well as its commitment to sustainable practices and environmental policies.
The country uses all the volcanic activity on its land to generate geothermal and hydro-energy. Fossil fuels are hardly burned, and the country’s buildings are heated and supplied with geothermal water pumped deep into the Icelandic soil.
So do not feel weird if your shower smells pungent; it’s the geothermal water.
1.3. The Country Is Politically Unique
Iceland is unique not only because of its geographical significance but also because of its political significance. It is home to Europe’s first parliament grounds, The Althing, in þingvellir National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage.
Iceland was also the first country to elect a female head of state. If you are thinking of Margaret Thatcher now, hold on. We are not talking about a female prime minister here, but Iceland was the first country to elect a female president. Isn’t this one of the most interesting facts?
1.4. Iceland Is Not An EU Member
Aside from being part of these processes, Iceland is also part of the Schengen area, which makes it easy for people to move freely between Iceland and the rest of Europe. Most of the foreigners in Iceland are EU citizens, and many Icelanders move to other EU countries to make a life there.
1.5. The Icelandic Language Is Unique
The Icelandic language is very similar to Danish and Noweignish, but it is unique. Because of the country’s great history dating back to the Vikings, the Icelandic language is very similar to Old Norse.
However, languages in the world have changed dramatically over time. Iceland has managed to preserve its language and has remained virtually the same. The first Bible printed in Icelandic, from the 1500s, can still be easily read by Icelanders today.
1.6. There Are No Family Names
Iceland, like all the countries in the Nordic region, had a patronymic ramming system in the past, meaning there was no family name throughout the Nordics. But now, only Iceland follows it.
Under the traditional patronymic system, a person’s last name is typically based on the name of their father, with sons adding ‘-son’ and daughters adding ‘-dóttir.’ However, there are exceptions, including matronymic naming, personal choice, and legal name changes. For example, if Jacob Robertson becomes the father of a girl, XYZ, she would traditionally be named XYZ Jacobsdóttir, but this is not universally applied to all Icelanders.
1.7. Your Given Names Need To Be Approved
In Iceland, there is a list of forbidden names, and a naming committee ensures that these names are avoided. Therefore, every child in Iceland must obtain approval from this committee to be given a first name.
1.8. Ride An Icelandic Horse
An Icelandic horse, called a pony, is a great breed of animal. It is so strong and well-adapted to Icelandic weather that it can stay in open fields in winter.
Icelandic horses were brought to Iceland from mainland Europe by the Vikings and are very popular with tourists.
1.9. Native Animal Of Iceland
The Arctic fox is a rare and special sight for the eyes. This animal is native to Iceland.
The animal came to Iceland from Europe during the ice age.
1.10. No Mosquitos
According to some scientists, Iceland experiences a series of drastic weather changes resulting in mosquitoes’ absence. But the country has its share of sand flies, which could be worse than mosquitoes.
1.11. Country Is Choke-Full Of Volcanoes And Hot Springs
Who does not know about Iceland and its volcanoes? The country has roughly 130 volcanoes, of which about 32 are active, and a few are not dormant. The country becomes active at least once every four years, but in the past few years, the phenomenon has occurred at least once a year.
All this volcanic activity has resulted in the island being covered with lava fields, and large parts have become uninhabitable.
Of course, the active volcanoes scare everyone, but for Iceland, they are beneficial. All the volcanic activity under this land is why there are geothermal waters and hot springs everywhere.
The country is full of wild hot springs accessible to ordinary people all year round. But there are also some commercial, artificial hot springs (with natural geothermal water), like the Blue Lagoon.
1.12. Iconic Fjords Of Iceland
There are plenty of serene fjords in Iceland, about 109 of them. They are divided, mainly between the east coast and the Westfjords.
You can easily spot them on the map, self-drive, book a cab, or explore them.
1.13. Iceland Has Many Glaciers And No Forest
Iceland is carved out of volcanic eruptions and glaciers. This co-existence of lava and glaciers in Iceland is included in some of the most interesting facts and is also why Iceland is called the land of fire and ice.
About 10.2% of Iceland is covered in glaciers, which is more land than all the European countries combined, but not more than some other countries such as Greenland or Antarctica.
Surprising as it may sound, trees grow in Iceland despite the presence of active volcanoes. Most of the native trees were cut down by the Vikings, and reforestation may occur in a few years, but there are fewer trees in Iceland.
1.14. No McDonald’s For Iceland
To most people’s surprise, a few European countries, including Iceland, don’t have a single McDonald’s Franchise. In Western Europe, the capital city of Reykjavik has no McDonald’s stores.
Some joints like KFC and Taco Bell in Reykjavík, but it would be impossible for you to get a Big Mac or some chicken nuggets if you crave them.
1.15. Home To Wierd Foods
As Iceland lacks in the fast food segment, it’s been replaced with some unique, strange traditional snacks.
These dishes are available in any restaurant in Iceland. These foods include whale, puffin, dried fish, pickled ram’s testicles, fermented shark and sheep’s head.
1.16. The Land Of Vikings Celebrates Beer Day
Among the fun facts is that the country celebrates Beer Day, known in the local language as Bjórdagurinn. This day celebrates the legalization of beer in Iceland, which was banned between 1915 and 1989.
Over time, several breweries have opened in Iceland, and there is even a beer spa to enjoy. One of the breweries even uses geothermal energy for its brewing process, which is one of the interesting, fun facts about the country.
1.17. Midnight Sun And Northern Lights
Since Iceland is close to the country, so this place has a nearly 24-hour night in winter and a nearly 24-hour day in summer.
Because of its location, Iceland experiences some of the greatest phenomena, such as the northern lights and midnight sun. However, the harsh weather conditions in Iceland make it difficult to observe these phenomena.
To see the Northern Lights, people go to remote areas far from the capital city in complete darkness to enjoy an incomparable sight.
1.18. Iceland Doesn’t Have A Standing Army
Despite the popular Nordic noir, the violent crime rate in Iceland is relatively low. As a result, the country has no standing army, making it the only NATO country without a navy, air force or army.
However, the country has a national coast guard with a full air defense system and a crisis response unit due to shared maritime borders.
1.19. The Country Makes A Physical Boundary Between Europe and America
Iceland is home to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the only place on Earth where two prominent tectonic plates can be easily seen drifting apart.
The country lies on both the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. They meet in Thingvellir National Park and appear to drift apart by a few inches each year.
1.20. Iceland Is Home To Many Legends And Folklore
There is a famous Icelandic folklore known as “Huldufólk,” which means hidden people. Many Icelanders believe in the existence of elves and trolls on Icelandic soil.
On the Icelandic beaches, many rocks look like trolls. Icelanders believe that these are the trolls that were frozen in time.
1.21. Unique Icelandic Christmas
Unlike Christmas, which is celebrated worldwide, Icelandic Christmas is very special. According to Icelandic culture, the country is visited by 13 Santa Clauses until the day of Christmas arrives. Icelandic children start hanging stockings and wishing for a present 13 days before Christmas.
Christmas in Iceland is different in another way. Icelanders are big fans of books, and family members exchange books as gifts on Christmas Eve. Even the markets are full of books, called the Christmas book flood.
2. Some Other Iceland Facts
These Iceland facts seem quite simple initially but are important to know. These Iceland facts should be known to every traveller to get to know the country in a better way.
The land of fire and ice: Like all other Nordic countries, Iceland also has a nickname that suits it in every way. Because of the land’s co-existence of lava and glaciers, Iceland is often addressed as the land of fire and ice.
The capital is Reykjavik: Icelandic capital is known as Reykjavik and is home to almost 2/3rd of the population of Iceland.
One of the oldest democracies: Iceland practices democracy, one of the oldest in the world.
Languages: Languages spoken in Iceland are Icelandic, English, German, Finnish and other Nordic languages.
Icelandic Krona: The Icelandic currency is the Icelandic Krona, and there is one thing you need to keep in mind when traveling to Iceland. You will need to carry some Islandic Krona while traveling to Iceland as the locals do not accept Euros, as with other European destinations.
Independence Day: Iceland celebrates its Independence Day on 17 June, which commemorates the foundation of the Republic of Iceland.
National Anthem: The National Anthem of Iceland is Ó, guð vors lands (Our Country’s God).
The national symbol and national colours: The national symbol of Iceland is “the order of Falcon,” and the national colours are red, white and blue.
3. Bottom Line
Iceland is a cold country with dramatic scenery. The country owns the land where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. This drifting of the plates is a unique phenomenon that the country witnesses. Apart from this, the country is choke-full of fjords, geysers and waterfalls.
Do not miss visiting some iconic places when you visit Iceland to learn more about the country. Apart from visiting the tectonic plates ground, try to visit ice caves to experience a completely different phenomenon.
If you are interested, visit the national museum to learn more about Icelandic history and Vikings. You can also celebrate Christmas here; some villages have a bonfire to celebrate the day with the tourists traveling alone.
Hope this Icelandic encyclopedia and the list of facts about Iceland have brought you loads of information to enlighten your curious souls. Happy reading!