Iceland is really high on my list of places to explore, for tons of awesome reasons, first and foremost, the diving in Silfra between the continental plates. But even if you aren’t a scuba lover, Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Here are 30 interesting facts to get you ready to make a visit your’e self. A county everyone should go check out!
30 Interesting Facts About Iceland
1 Officially called the Republic of Iceland, Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe.
2. Iceland was originally settled in 874 by the Norwegians, although Celtic monks, known as Papar, are known to have lived here prior to that.
3. Iceland is made up of the main island and thirty minor islands, including the archipelago of Vestmannaeyjar and the lightly populated island of Grimsey.
4. Iceland gained its independence from the Norse in 1918 and became a republic on June 17, 1944.
5. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík.
6. The majority of Icelanders are descendants of Gaelic (Celtic) and Germanic settlers.
7. Following World War II, the fisheries of Iceland were industrialized. This along with the Marshall Plan aid made Iceland one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world.
8. It is a sad Icelandic fact that the world-wide financial crisis in 2008 had a major impact on the nation. A severe depression, political unrest, the failure of financial institutions and even the putting many bankers in jail followed.
9. Currently, Iceland has made a major economic comeback and in 2013 it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the UN Human Development Index in economic, political and social stability and equality.
10. Most of the arable land on the island was claimed by 930, which was the main impetus to start settling the Island of Greenland, the closest body of land to it, beginning in 986.
11. The Black Death wiped out 50-60% of the population in 1402, and hit again in 1494, killing 30-40% of the population that time.
12. It is an interesting fact about Iceland that the last Catholic bishop, Jon Arason, was beheaded along with his sons in 1550. Subsequently the nation’s official religion has become Lutheranism, which is still the dominant religion today.
13. It is an interesting fact about Iceland that they are the NATO member with the smallest population, and the only one with no standing army. A lightly armed coast guard is the only national defense.
14. Located at the juncture on the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans, the main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, but the Circle goes right through the island of Grimsey, which makes it the northernmost inhabited island of Iceland. The island of Kolbeinsey holds the northernmost point of the country.
15. Iceland is the world’s 18th largest island, and Europe’s second largest island after Great Britain.
16. The “Highlands of Iceland” is the interior of the main island and is a combination of sand, mountains and lava fields and is very cold and uninhabitable.
17. It is an interesting fact about Iceland that they have many geysers. Gersir is the oldest known geyser in the world, and world famous Strokkur erupts every 8-10 minutes.
18. There is a great availability of geothermal power as well as hydroelectricity being harnessed from the many rivers and waterfalls, thus almost all of Iceland’s electricity is from renewable energy.
19. The country also has approximately 30 active volcanic systems. The most well- known one currently is Eyjafjallajokull, which erupted in March 2010 causing major disruptions to air travel all across Europe.
20. The highest temperature recorded in Iceland was 30.5C (86.9F) and the lowest was -38C (-36.4F).
21. It is a fun fact about Iceland that the only mammal that is indigenous to nation is the Arctic fox. While polar bears are occasionally spotted, they are just visiting from Greenland.
22. Iceland was the first country that recognized the nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as they gained their independence from Russia.
23. There are several domestic animal species that have been developed and bred for life here. These include the Icelandic sheep, the Icelandic horse, Icelandic Sheepdog as well as cattle, chickens and goats which are all descendants of animals imported from Europe.
24.With around three quarters of the country barren of any vegetation, and the fact that the majority of the plant life there is consists of grassland, it is a surprising Icelandic fact that there is a sitka spruce tree that measured over 83 ft tall in 2013.
25. Iceland became the first nation in the world to have a female head of state when Vigdis Finnbogadottir was elected president in 1996. They were also the first to have a political party formed and led entirely by women, as well as the first country to have an openly gay head of government with Johanna Siguroardottir becoming prime minister.
26. Half of Iceland’s exports are from the fishing industry, making it one of the major sectors of the local economy.
27. Whale watching has also become an important part of the economy. With over 1.1 million visitors to the island a year, this has become one of the favorite tourist attractions.
28. Reykjavik was the site of the historic Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1986 which set the stage for the end of the Cold War.
29. A very interesting fact about Iceland is that they have been rated as the most peaceful country in the world by the Global Peace Index. They have also been ranked 2nd for the highest quality of life in the world according to the Economist Intelligence Index of 2011, and one of the happiest countries in the world according to OECD.
30. All public schools in Iceland have mandatory education in Christianity, but they do have freedom of religion.