Interesting facts about Iceland have emerged from the country’s steamy heart and cool exterior.
A quick look at what Iceland is all about is enough to capture any travelers’ imagination and make his or her pulse quicken — its landscape composed of fjords, geysers, glaciers, ice caps and lava fields, its variable and ever-changing climate featuring wind and rain, and the active volcanoes that still rumble beneath its surface.
Basic Information About Iceland
- Iceland is a northern European island in the North Atlantic Ocean. A volcanic eruption from the ocean floor formed the island about 20 million years ago, making it, relatively speaking, a young country. Flights to Iceland take about three hours from London, England, and five and a half hours from New York.
- The capital of Iceland is Reykjavik, with a population of about 120,000 people. The total population of Iceland is about 300,000, and most of those people live in or around Reykjavik. The “official” settlement of Iceland took place in Reykjavik in the late 9th century AD. Today, it offers visitors nightlife, galleries, museums, restaurants, and historical sites.
- The people of Iceland are a homogenous mixture of descendants of the original Nordic and Celtic settlers. Most of them (70 percent) are employed by the services industry, three percent earn living fishing, and the agriculture industry employs about three percent of Icelanders, according to Gateway to Iceland.
Iceland Geology Consists of Volcanoes
- In November 1963, the ocean floor southwest of the Vestmannaeyjar (West Islands) rumbled and spewed forth lava that formed what is now the islet of Surtsey. Research scientists are the only people allowed onto Surtsey, but other mere mortals can get close to the island (but not onto it) via a boat trip.
- Iceland’s glaciers and ice caps are believed to have been formed during a cold spell around 500 BC. Vatnajokull is Europe’s largest icecap at up to 1 kilometer thick and 8,300 sq. Kilometers in area, which also makes it bigger than all the other European icecaps put together. Ice covers about 11 percent of Iceland’s 103,000 sq. Kilometers.
Iceland and its People
- There are fewer atheists in Iceland than in any Western country except the United States. Some 97 percent of Icelanders say they believe, although a smaller number than that attend church on a regular basis. In terms of otherworldly encounters, 41 percent of Icelanders claimed having had contact with the dead.
- The average workweek in Iceland is the longest in Europe, at 46-49 hours. In Icelandic culture, however, work is not just a means to Icelandic krona (the nation’s currency), but a means to self-respect. Back in the 1960s, Icelandic hippies reportedly had to head over to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a lifestyle more suited their own, as they would have been too embarrassed to be in Reykjavik without a job.
Iceland is a country shaped by ice and lava, and its hard-working and spiritual people have adapted to such harsh conditions, with many making their livings off the land and sea. They live under the threat of volcanic eruptions, with one in 1963 spawning the islet of Surtsey, which is only fully accessible to research scientists.