This Nordic island nation is defined by its spectacular landscape: volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, lava fields, and massive glaciers protected within the Vatnajökull and Snfellsjökull national parks. Although most of the country is uninhabited, the capital, Reykjavik, runs on geothermal power. While most visitors come to explore the country’s geothermal powers, you can visit the Saga museum to learn about Viking history.
Iceland is a volcanic island
Iceland is home to several active volcanoes. The biggest one, called Katla’s Eldgja, erupted in November 1996. Powerful earthquakes trembled beneath the glacier and the lava flowed east, destroying villages in the region of Alftaveri and Skaftartungl. A subsequent electrical storm killed two people. It is the largest volcanic eruption in the past 800 years.
It has a stable democracy
With its constitutional republic between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is a member of the Council of Europe and NATO. The country has one of the oldest functioning parliaments in the world, and its economy is based on fishing, aluminum production, and geothermic energy. Ninety-five percent of Iceland’s population is Christian, and only 3.5 percent are unaffiliated. The remaining five percent are members of folk religions, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews. Human rights issues have also been raised in Iceland, including ethnic discrimination in housing, and the country’s parliamentary elections have been observed by the OSCE and NATO.
It has a large population
In many ways, Iceland is like the United States. It is small, has a high standard of living, a low unemployment rate, and the fourth lowest crime rate in the world. Yet, Iceland is also a polar nation, with the Huldufolk threatening to block highways and building projects. The inhabitants are wary of provoking them, and only 6% of Icelanders report seeing a Huldufolk.
It has a unique landscape
Known for its ethereal beauty and striking landscape, Iceland has become a popular destination for tourists and landscape photographers. Its subpolar climate, characterized by cold winters and cool summers, keeps Iceland’s climate temperate throughout the country. With over 30 active volcanoes, Iceland’s landscape is an awe-inspiring mix of deep fjords, towering sea cliffs, and iceberg-strewn beaches. While Iceland is not particularly populated, its nature remains largely untainted and unspoiled.
It has a long history
From the early days of settlement, Iceland was a country that relied heavily on its fishing industry. The country also traded with Danish merchants for cereals. As a result, the vast majority of Icelandic farmers were tenant farmers who used their surplus fish and tallow and butter to pay their dues. The resulting underdevelopment of fishing was due to the conservatism of Icelandic society. The Althingi passed resolutions prohibiting tenant farmers from establishing fishing villages.
It has a unique culture
Although the winters in Iceland are long and freezing, the country is known for its summers and long summer days. The first day of summer usually falls in late April, and is celebrated with parades and tasty dishes. The first day of summer also holds great historical significance, since it marks the change of the seasons on the Icelandic calendar. While the culture of Iceland is highly unique, the country’s people do share some traits common to other nations.
It has a unique language
Icelanders use their native language to describe everyday life. For instance, the word “computer” is derived from the Icelandic word tala, meaning number. The term for a midwife is derived from the Icelandic word volva, meaning female seer. Other Icelandic words don’t have such colorful undertones. The Icelandic language is remarkably free of influences from foreign languages. Regardless of their origin, Icelanders have preserved their language by not using English words for modern technology.