12 Fascinating Facts about Iceland

Interesting Facts about Iceland

Getting ready for an Icelandic adventure? Iceland’s captivating heritage and vibrant traditions offer a treasure trove of experiences. From the fearless Norse explorers who settled its rugged shores to the modern-day pioneers leading the way in renewable energy, Iceland is a country steeped in history and innovation. Read these fascinating facts about Iceland to deepen your understanding of the land of Fire and Ice before you go.

Related: 4-day Iceland Itinerary

Interesting facts about Iceland:

  1. Viking Heritage: Iceland was settled by Norse explorers, primarily from Norway, during the late 9th and early 10th centuries. Settlers established small farming communities along the coast and river valleys. Despite harsh winters, they built a thriving society based on agriculture and established unique legal and political institutions. Today, Icelanders take pride in their Viking heritage and the pioneering spirit of their ancestors.
  2. Geothermal Wonders & Renewable Energy: Harnessing the Earth’s natural heat, Iceland is home to geothermal wonders like hot springs, geysers, and volcanic landscapes, offering unparalleled opportunities for relaxation and exploration. Iceland leads the world in renewable energy, with nearly 100% of its electricity generated from renewable sources like geothermal and hydroelectric power, making it one of the greenest countries on Earth.
  3. Icelandic Language: Icelandic is one of the oldest European languages, with roots dating back to Old Norse, the language spoken by the Vikings over a thousand years ago. The language has remained remarkably unchanged over the centuries, thanks to Iceland’s isolation and the country’s dedication to linguistic preservation. As a result, modern Icelanders can still read and understand Old Norse texts.
  4. Land of Fire and Ice: Iceland is often referred to as the “Land of Fire and Ice” due to its contrasting natural features, which include both volcanic landscapes and icy glacial formations.
    • Fire: Iceland is home to numerous active volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, and volcanic landscapes that showcase the country’s fiery geological activity. Eruptions, lava flows, and volcanic ash have shaped much of Iceland’s terrain, creating dramatic landscapes of rugged beauty.
    • Ice: Despite its volcanic activity, Iceland is also characterized by vast ice caps, glaciers, and ice fields that cover approximately 11% of the country’s landmass. These glaciers, including Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest ice cap, contribute to Iceland’s icy reputation and stunning natural scenery.
  5. Strollers Outside: In Iceland, it’s a common practice to leave babies outside, even in cold weather. Icelanders believe that fresh air is beneficial for babies’ health and well-being. Leaving babies outside exposes them to natural air and ventilation, which can promote better sleep and help build their immune systems. This also shows that Icelanders trust their community members. Parents feel confident leaving their babies outside knowing that neighbors and passersby will watch out for their safety.
  6. Dating in Iceland: Iceland has a population of around 380 thousand, so in a country where everyone knows each other, dating can sometimes lead to unexpected encounters with distant relatives. To address this unique challenge, a group of Icelandic software developers created a smartphone app that allows users to bump their phones together to see if they share any common ancestry. The app utilizes Iceland’s extensive genealogical database to quickly determine if two people are closely related, helping to avoid any awkward family reunions on a first date.
  7. Althing: The Althing is Iceland’s parliament and one of the oldest parliamentary institutions in the world. Established in AD 930, it originally convened at Þingvellir National Park and served as a legislative and judicial assembly where laws were debated, disputes were settled, and decisions were made by elected chieftains. Today, the Althing is a unicameral legislature with 63 members elected to four-year terms.
  8. Elves and Folklore: Elves hold a special place in Icelandic culture and folklore, with many Icelanders respecting their presence. Roads and buildings have been rerouted or altered to avoid disturbing elf habitats, demonstrating the deep-rooted belief in their existence. It is common to see tiny elf houses or “elf doors” placed in gardens or near rocks in Iceland. These miniature dwellings are believed to provide shelter for elves.
  9. Midnight Sun and Northern Lights: Experience the mesmerizing phenomenon of the midnight sun during Iceland’s summer months, where the sun never fully sets. In winter, the sun comes out just for a few hours, but during the long winter nights, you can marvel at the Northern Lights illuminating the Arctic sky.
  10. Unique Cuisine: Icelandic cuisine is a fascinating blend of traditional Nordic flavors and modern innovations. Sample delicacies like fermented shark, smoked lamb, Icelandic skyr, and hearty seafood dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.
  11. Puffin Capital: Iceland is home to one of the world’s largest puffin populations, with an estimated 60% of the global population breeding in the country during the summer months. Puffin watching is a popular activity for visitors to Iceland, particularly during the summer breeding season. Boat tours and guided excursions offer opportunities to see puffins up close in their natural habitat, either from land or by sea.
  12. Icelandic Currency: The official currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Króna, abbreviated as ISK. It is often symbolized by the letters “kr” or the symbol “kr.” Iceland is known for its high level of digital banking and cashless transactions. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted across the country, and contactless payment methods are increasingly popular, making it convenient for both locals and tourists to manage their finances.

Which of these facts did you find the most interesting? Let me know in the comments below.

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Hi, I'm Marina, passionate traveler and blogger, based in the United States and travelling the world. Thanks for following me on my life and travel adventures!

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