Iceland is a well-developed country in Europe that is known for being one of the favorite destinations of travelers due to the country’s beautiful natural sights that can be found pretty much anywhere in its region.
Not only is Iceland a picturesque country, but it also has a rich history that dates back to as early as the 9th century when Scandinavian settlers first arrived at the island and built the first houses in Iceland.
This beautiful European country ranks high in most Human Development lists, meaning that it is one of the best places to live in the world. But what do you know about this country? In this article, we’re going to show 8 interesting facts about Iceland. Stay tuned!
1. Iceland was first settled by Vikings.
According to the Landnámabók, a written work that details the settlement of Iceland, the first people to visit Iceland were a Viking called Naddoddr, who named the region ‘Snaeland’ (Land of Snow). Shortly after, another Norseman by the name of Garðar Svavarsson also arrived in Iceland and established that the region was an island indeed.
However, it is known that the first person to settle in Iceland was a Norseman called Ingólfur Arnarson, who settled in what is now known as Reykjavík, the country’s capital city. Ingólfur was follows by Scandinavian, British, and Scottish emigrants who also settled in the promising new island.
Icelanders — the people who were born in Iceland — are direct descendants of Vikings, and you can find Viking activities in the country even to this day. There is even an annual Viking festival that takes place in June where Vikings from Iceland and from all over get together to celebrate their culture, a fun fact about Iceland!
2. It is known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’.
Iceland is located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, right where the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates meet, which means that there are frequent earthquakes in this country.
The nickname ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ comes from the fact that Iceland has several active volcanoes and plentiful of glaciers. On top of that, there are also beautiful waterfalls and steamy geysers on the island. In fact, the English word ‘geyser’ derives from the Icelandic word ‘Geysir’, Europe’s first known geyser.
There are about 30 active volcanoes in Iceland and there are 13 large glaciers that cover approximately 12,000 km² of the country’s land.
3. Iceland is the youngest country in the world.
Geologically speaking, Iceland is one of the youngest landmasses on the planet, having been formed about 25 million years ago. To give you a general idea of the country’s age, the supercontinent Pangea started breaking up approximately 175 million years ago, meaning that Iceland is indeed pretty young.
Because of that, the land beneath the country’s surface is still constantly moving and shaping itself, which is why there are so many active volcanoes in Iceland.
On top of being the youngest, Iceland is the second-largest island in Europe, staying behind Great Britain and staying one spot ahead of Ireland.
4. This country has a ‘midnight sun’.
Due to their proximity to the Arctic Circle, Iceland and other European countries experience a natural phenomenon that is known as the ‘midnight sun’. Because the Earth’s axis turns towards the sun during the summer, Iceland and the other countries that are closer to the North and South Poles get to experience months of uninterrupted sunlight!
The name ‘midnight sun’ sees its origins in the fact that places like Iceland get to see the sun for 20 – 22 hours each day, even when it’s night time, an interesting Iceland fact.
By contrast, when it is winter time and the Earth’s axis turns away from the sun, the countries that are closer to these Poles experience total darkness for a while. Iceland, however, is not that close to the North Pole, so there is sunlight for 4 – 5 hours every day.
5. Iceland has one of the smallest populations in the world.
Although this country is pretty much the same size as the U.S. state of Kentucky, Iceland only has around 360,000 inhabitants, whereas there are over 4 million people living in Kentucky.
If you divide the total area of the country by the number of people who live there, you’ll see that there are 3 people for each square kilometer in Iceland, making it the most scarcely populated country in all of Europe.
Historians say that the country has experienced quite a few catastrophes due to the large number of active volcanoes that erupted in the area over the years. Because of these volcano eruptions, the population of Iceland has remained so small even though the country dates back to the Vikings era.
6. It also has one of the lowest crime rates on the planet!
According to the Global Peace Index, Iceland is the most peaceful country in the world, and it has remained in that position for quite some time now.
Although the volcanoes in Iceland can pose a certain threat, that’s pretty much the only threat you’ll encounter in this peaceful land. Violent crimes such as homicides are extremely rare, leaving Iceland with a significantly lower crime rate than most countries, a fun Iceland fact.
There are a few reasons as to why the Land of Fire and Ice is so peaceful: a) small population, b) high employment rates, c) high education levels, and many more!
7. Because of the country’s scenery, many famous movies and TV shows have been filmed in Iceland.
Iceland is, undoubtedly, one of the most beautiful places in the world. There are beautiful waterfalls, awe-aspiring geysers and glaciers, exquisite rock formations, and eerily mindblowing volcanoes all over this land.
Thanks to its natural beauty, Iceland has been the chosen location for the filming of several different movies and TV shows. Popular movies such as Star Wars, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and Batman Begins.
Most recently, a movie called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, featuring Ben Stiller, was filmed mainly in Iceland, showing a good deal of the country’s picturesque views. Popular series Game of Thrones also had some of its scenes shot in Iceland.
8. The people born in this country don’t have family names!
For a long time, Scandinavian countries used a patronymic/matronymic naming system in their cultures. Although other countries have set this system aside, it is still used in Iceland.
A patronymic/matronymic naming system means that children are named after their father/mother, and not after their family, an interesting fact about Iceland.
For instance, let’s imagine an American person called John Smith. John’s last name, Smith, indicates his relation to the Smith family. Now, let’s imagine an Icelandic woman called Jóhanna Stefánsdóttir. Her first name is Jóhanna and her last name, Stefánsdóttir, is made up of the combination of her father’s name (Stefán) plus the suffix -(s)dóttir, which means ‘daughter’.
Every Icelandic ‘surname’ ends in ‘-(s)son’ — meaning ‘son’ — or ‘-(s)dóttir’ — meaning ‘daughter’. On top of that, parents must check an official list of first names before naming their children. If a name is not on the list, parents have to send a request to the Icelandic Naming Committee, which may or may not approve the name chosen.
Iceland is a beautiful, well-developed country in Northern Europe who history dates back to as early as the year 874 AD. Because of that, this country’s culture is pretty rich, especially its medieval literature and music.
Due to its privileged location in the planet, Iceland displays some of the most ethereal views one can see and that is precisely why most travelers add this pictureque country to their bucket list of places to see. One can even see a place where two continents meet; at the Thingvellir National Park lies a valley that divides the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates!
On top of offering some jaw-dropping scenery, Iceland is one of the safest places on the Earth, so it’s definitely worth it visiting this exquisite country!
I hope that this article on Iceland facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!