Iceland is a Nordic island nation, defined by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. Massive glaciers are protected in Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull national parks. Most of the population lives in the capital, Reykjavik, which runs on geothermal power and is home to the National and Saga museums, tracing Iceland’s Viking history. Our article today looks deep into the wonderful country follow on as we take you into some of the most interesting Iceland facts.
Iceland is home to the very first parliament grounds in Europe. In the year 930 AD, the first Parliament met in Iceland in what is today Þingvellir National Park. The site has since been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its cultural, historical, and geographical significance.
Another wonderful part of the Iceland facts today is the “geographical significance” part of Þingvellir being dubbed a UNESCO site due to the fact that this is one of only two places in the entire world where you can see two of the earth’s tectonic plates meeting above the earth’s surface (the other is in Africa). The North American and Eurasian plates jut up out of the ground here in Þingvellir, moving apart roughly 2 cm per year. You can even go diving/snorkeling between the plates in nearby Þingvallavatn Lake.
- No Forests
Iceland was formed by some pretty harsh phenomena: volcanoes and glaciers. Much of the country was carved out by slow-moving glaciers, eating up the land and gouging deep valleys into it. But, contrary to belief, trees actually grow in Iceland. However, when the Vikings arrived, they carried a lot of deforestation, cutting down almost all the native trees in the country. Today, reforestation is being attempted, but you’ll still definitely notice the lack of forests when you visit.
- Viking ancestors
One of the most impressive Iceland facts still remains that Iceland was settled by Vikings from Norway sometime in the 800s. This fact makes Iceland a fairly “young” country when it comes to settlement, and also contributes to its distinct cultural background. The Icelandic horses in the country today are unique in the fact that they are direct descendants of the horses the Vikings first brought over from mainland Europe.
Making the list of the most impressive Iceland facts is that Iceland is perhaps the most eco-friendly country known to man. And the best aspect is, they don’t even have to try very hard. Because the whole country is essentially brought to life with volcanic activity, the nation harnesses hydro and geothermal energy to power more than 80% of the country. Very few fossil fuels are burned here (there are even some hydrogen buses driving around Reykjavik!), and most homes are heated using geothermal water that’s pumped up from beneath cities and towns.
Based on location at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is an incredibly active country geologically. There are more than 125 volcanic mountains in the country can you just believe that, a handful of which are still very active, and another handful that could easily awaken and become active as the country changes and grows. Iceland experiences a volcanic eruption roughly once every 4 years, though the past few years have seen one eruption or more each year. Because of this constant activity, a good portion of Iceland is covered in lava fields.
- Preserved Language
While very close to Danish and Norwegian, the Icelandic language remains totally unique. Words with far too many consonants abound, and syllables seem to just blur together. Unlike other languages that have changed drastically over the centuries, the Icelandic language remains very close to its original roots. One of the true Iceland facts is that a Bible from the early 1500s (the first one printed in Icelandic, which can be found in a folk museum in Skógar) can still easily be read by Icelanders today.
Elves and Trolls
The majority of present-day Icelanders about 45% of them believe in the existence of fantastical beings such as elves and trolls. There are many amusing stories and legends about these creatures and Icelanders go so far as to postpone construction projects if it’s believed that something is going to be built where elves currently live. Large fallen rocks in fields are said to be frozen trolls, bulging out as one of Iceland facts is that the smell present in Iceland isn’t from sulphur at all — it’s the smell of the trolls’ dirty bathwater unbelievable, isn’t it.
Iceland makes up for its lack of fast food with its bevy of downright weird traditional foods. Along with things like the whale, puffin, and dried fish, visitors can also try fermented shark, sheep’s head, and even pickled ram’s testicles. The even weirder part is that some of these dishes can be found in just about the most restaurant in Iceland. The most popular food in Iceland is Hotdogs.
The entire country of Iceland (which covers roughly the same area as the U.S. state of Kentucky) only holds a population of a little over 300,000 (as opposed to Kentucky, which has a population of more than 4.3 million). This small population makes for a largely rural country and a capital city which feels like a really big small town.
Believe it or not but it’s one of the amazing Iceland facts that is Iceland is one of the few habitable places on the planet that is mosquito-free, and nobody really seems to know why. It’s not nearly as cold as Antarctica, which is so frigid that mosquitoes (and people, for that matter) could never survive exposure to the elements there for long. Nor does Iceland lack the ponds and lakes where mosquitoes love to breed. And the insects are able to thrive in Iceland’s neighbors — Norway, Denmark, Scotland, even Greenland — which only adds to the mystery. The most likely theory proffered so far, scientists say, is that Iceland’s oceanic climate keeps them at bay. When mosquitoes lay eggs in cold weather, the larvae emerge with a thaw, allowing them to breed and multiply. Iceland, however, typically has three major freezes and thaws a year, creating conditions that may be too unstable for the insect’s survival. Others have suggested that there may be something about the chemical composition of Iceland’s soil and water that mosquitoes can’t tolerate.
Northern Lights and Midnight Sun
Located close to the Arctic Circle, Iceland experiences long winter nights and long summer days, with almost 24 hours of darkness/twilight in December and nearly 24 hours of daylight in June. Because of this, Iceland is a great place to see both the Northern Lights and experience the Midnight Sun. Though, both of these can be made difficult to see thanks to Iceland’s ever-changing weather.