Visiting this interesting country has been on many bucket lists and is probably being added to even more bucket lists at this very moment! It’s only natural you’d want to know more about this place. To that end, we proudly present another collection of facts about this arctic nation to quench your wanderlust thirst.
Icelandic rye bread is often cooked underground in hot volcanic sands. Sometimes, it's called “lava bread” or “volcanic bread”.
The idea of using the ground as an oven spans many cultures and generations. With Iceland's geothermal activity being so prevalent, it’s clear that they would use the ground for cooking.
Most of Iceland Is Uninhabited
If you're looking to get away from all the crowds and get a little more in touch with nature, Iceland will be great for you! Due to Iceland’s unique topography, only 20 percent of it is actually inhabited by humans.
Many of the remote, uninhabited areas can be visited, but we recommend checking with experts first. You wouldn't want to get lost in the middle of a foreign country with no cellphone service available.
Iceland is bursting with rugged and demanding landscapes, with many of them being off-road, remote, and hard to reach, which is why locals use 'super jeeps.'
These modified trucks often have an elevated suspension along with massive tires to drive through snow, ice, and across deep flowing rivers.
Mild Summer Temperatures
When we picture Iceland, we might imagine freezing winds and heavy snowstorms, but that's not the case in summer.
Iceland's average high temperature in the summertime is only 57 degrees Fahrenheit, with the overnight average summer low being 43 degrees Fahrenheit, so it never gets too cold, either.
Traditional Icelandic Food
Many of Iceland’s traditional foods have been regarded as strange and bizarre by most people's standards. In part, due to the popular foods that originate from the Viking age.
Fermented shark, or Hákarl, as Icelanders refer to it, is considered a delicacy in Iceland. Fresh shark meat is actually poisonous so to combat this, it is buried in a shallow sandpit under heavy rocks and left to ferment for several weeks.
Coca-Cola in Iceland
Even though Iceland is touted for being one of the healthiest countries in Europe, it's officially the world's most thirsty consumer for Coca-Cola. Icelanders knock back 417 bottles a year per capita.
That's higher than any other country at about eight a week each! To put that in perspective, Americans on average drink about three colas a week.
Seeing as Icelanders don't have hereditary last names, and the whole culture is on a first-name basis, telephone directories in Iceland list their residents by their first name alphabetically, with no mention of last names. As they don't have them.
Iceland's telephone directories are called the 'white pages phonebook,' and yes, it's a very small book.
The Police Service in Iceland
Icelandic Police don’t carry any weapons or firearms. Being responsible for law enforcement throughout the country, the Police have found that they don't need to use weapons like firearms or tasers to carry out their duties.
With crime in Iceland being so low and violent crime is mostly nonexistent, Iceland is considered one of the safest countries in the world.
Someone Tried Selling the Northern Lights
Icelandic poet and lawyer Einar Benediktsson, born in 1864, was editor of Iceland’s first daily newspaper and tried to sell the northern lights.
Benediktsson believed foreign investment could better utilize Iceland's natural resources, so he spent years touring Europe to try to find a buyer and hopefully raise some capital for Iceland.
The first known Viking to reach Iceland in the ninth century was named Naddodur. He was actually swept off course and dragged westwards from the Faroes when he discovered a large country with no sign of civilization.
According to legend, he was surprised by the snow in September and decided to name the island 'Snowland.'
A Little Town Called Húsavík
The town of Húsavík along the North-Eastern coast has long been known as the ‘whale watching capital of Europe’. One could also visit the Whale Museum at Húsavík, which is a non-profit that forms the educational component of the whale-watching trips.
This little town was also featured in the Netflix movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” starring Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell.
The Midnight Sun
During the summer, an annual event happens called the ‘midnight sun.’ For a few days, the sun can be seen at midnight, and this invites many golfers from all around the world to grab their clubs and make for the course.
This group of golfers was playing at midnight in The Arctic Open at the Akureyri Golf Club in Iceland.
The Smallest Nation in the World Cup
This fact is a little more recent, plus, it could be one that you might know already: Iceland is the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup.
Many of the players actually have regular day jobs, from a filmmaker to a dentist! Despite being such a small country, Iceland's team is actually pretty good.
Iceland Was Once Covered in Trees
One of the few things about Iceland that’s not exactly ideal is this interesting fact: before the Vikings plundered Iceland, 40% of the entire island was covered in trees.
However, the new inhabitants needed all those trees to build homes, boats, and to clear land for agriculture. Now, that amount is only 2%, with reforestation efforts underway.
No Pet Reptiles
While Icelanders can own a pet dog or cat, it’s illegal to own a pet reptile, even though they exist in Iceland.
Pet snakes, turtles, and lizards were banned in the early 90s after it was found that someone was infected with salmonella which they contracted from their pet turtle.
So Many Swimming Pools
Despite the weather, Icelanders love swimming, and accordingly, it has the highest swimming pool-to-human ratio in the world, so you needn’t fret about being bothered by other swimmers.
In fact, swimmers are more likely to find themselves taking a dip completely alone in one of their many pools, lagoons, or hot springs.
The Only War
The 'Cod War', which is mentioned in another slide, was the only war waged in Iceland, and it can barely be called war. It began as a dispute between the UK and Iceland over fishing grounds in the 60s and 70s.
It's worth mentioning that besides these confrontations, Iceland has never participated in anyone else's war or been involved with an invasion of any kind.
Interesting Origin of Word
For those interested in the origin of words, they would be delighted to learn that the English word "geyser" actually comes from the name of the great geyser, which is called Geysir in Haukadalur.
This erupting water source is located in the south of Iceland and was the first geyser ever recorded in a printed source.
Pure, Clean Water
The water in Iceland is so pure, you can forget about buying bottled water that's already been filtered. Instead, you can drink straight from the purest and most refreshing water in its streams, lakes, and rivers.
All you need is your own bottle to dip into the water source and collect some deliciously fresh drinking water.
Iceland Has 13 Santas
With most of the Western world waiting in anticipation for their presents on Christmas, Icelanders expect 13 Yule Lads to visit them instead of Santa Claus.
Each rugged-looking Santa visits once, starting 13 days before Christmas as children in Iceland excitedly wait for their small gift.
100 Words for Wind
With a language notoriously difficult to grasp, locals also speak English quite well, which makes it easy for tourists to get around. One interesting fact about Icelandic is that it holds 100 words for wind, which makes sense.
It's also very similar to Old Norse which means many Icelanders are able to read ancient texts written in it.
Iceland’s National Sport
While Icelanders love many kinds of sports, from football to volleyball, they most revere handball. Being the national sport of Iceland, handball is a game is played between two teams with the objective to score by driving the ball into the opposing net.
In 2008, Iceland's national team took home a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Icelanders and Their Books
Being a nation of book and magazine lovers it's quite clear that Iceland has a strong focus on literature. With a strong tradition of reading dating back to the 13th century, Iceland can also boast about the number of published authors it has.
One out of every ten people in Iceland publishing a book in their lifetime, which means Iceland produces more writers per capita than anywhere in the world
The Last Frontier
Did you know that Iceland is the last place on earth to be settled by humans? This all happened over 1,100 years ago when Norse people from the Norwegian Viking age discovered Iceland by accident.
There are some records that state Iceland had been inhabited by Irish monks before the Vikings arrived but they soon gave up on the rough and isolated terrain and left.
Most of the Population Lives in Reykjavik
Even though it's very small, Reykjavik is home to 60% of Iceland's population. So that means more than half of Iceland's population is concentrated in one city!
Reykjavík is famous for its colorful buildings and thriving nightlife scene but it also houses the National and Saga museums, which trace Iceland’s Viking history.
Iceland's Sustainable Energy
With almost all of Iceland's electricity production coming from renewable sources, like hydropower and geothermal power, is it any wonder that Iceland is considered a leading force in sustainable energy?
And because of their incredible approach, electricity prices are low. So low, in fact, it's nearly free.
The tallest bird cliffs in all of Europe are located in Iceland. These towering rock faces of Látrabjarg are situated in the distant point of the Westfjords region.
This western point is where many bird species can be spotted, including the Arctic Skua, Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins, and Guillemots.
Iceland's Featured Locations
As we would expect, Iceland's spectacular landscape is a popular shooting location for major TV and movie productions.
From 'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' to 'Game of Thrones,' with so many epic locations, you'd probably be able to recognize the backdrop of some of your favorite movies and shows. Other honorable mentions include, 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty', 'Prometheus' and 'Batman Begins.'
The Icelandic Language
The language of Iceland is basically a North Germanic language that's relatively unchanged from Old Norse and now it's called Icelandic. It has been spoken in Iceland for over a thousand years.
Obviously, they have had to come up with new words for new inventions, like the computer, which is called a 'tolva' and actually translates into 'Numbers Witch.'
Iceland Doesn't Have an Army
Instead of relying on its own armed forces, Iceland depends on the defense capabilities of NATO. Iceland does, however, have a coast guard which has previously seen conflict during ‘The Cod Wars’ with the UK.
Iceland emerged as the winner over this dispute over fishing rights, and ever since then, no one has dared challenge this fearsome Viking nation.
Europe’s Largest Glacier
This tremendous force of nature is called the Vatnajökull (“Water Glacier”) and it is the largest glacier in Europe. While this photo isn't the whole thing, it's taken inside only one of its caves.
It covers approximately 8% of the country’s total landmass, with ravines, mountain tops, and even dormant volcanoes beneath its dense layer of ice.
Iceland has a very strict protocol when it comes to horses. Seeing as Icelandic horses and among the world's purest bred, if they ever leave, they are not allowed to return.
This may seem harsh but their horses have remained isolated for 1,000 years and Icelanders don't want to change that anytime soon.
Thanks to a family-tree app, Icelanders have a thoroughly detailed database of each generation. This was made possible by collecting surveys throughout the country and recording all their genealogy.
Now, Icelanders can easily trace their family back hundreds of years with a quick check of the internet. Most of them discovered they are descended from a small clan of Celtic and Viking settlers.
You Wouldn't Guess How Long...
With such a small country, we can imagine that getting around must be quite easy and take up very little of your time. Basically, Iceland fits easily within the state borders of Colorado or Ohio.
But most of its landmass is tundra, which means it's a vast, treeless Arctic terrain. If you were to drive all around Iceland, it would only take you 17 hours.
Oldest Church in Iceland
This 17th century Grafarkirkja Church is the oldest church in Iceland, and it also has a turf wall growing from the ground, all over the roof, and down the other side.
Apparently, only 5 other turf churches like this remained in Iceland. Turf architecture like this originates in building techniques dating back to the Iron Age, with the Romans using "turf bricks" to build forts and citadels.
While most countries would have their most famous and notable people featured on their coins, Iceland decided to go a different route and paid tribute to their marine wildlife.
As we can see in the photo, there are beautiful imprints of fish and shellfish on their coins.
Iceland experiences up to 21 hours of daylight during the summer, which means you will literally never be in the dark, and may well find yourself at an outdoor bar in broad daylight, look at your watch, and realize it’s 11:30 pm.
In other words, it's really easy to lose track of time and you find yourself up all night if you don't remember to check your watch.
Iceland's Favorite Food
As one of Iceland's favorite foods, Hot dogs were definitely not what we expected. Famous people like Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian have visited the stand and got a taste of the famous hot dogs. These hot dogs are special because Icelanders use lamb meat instead of pork or beef.
They make their own ketchup with apples as an ingredient. You can have a hot dog with sweet mustard, along with raw or crispy onion and ketchup, with apples of course!
The Colors of Iceland's Flag
A blue flag with a red cross inside a white cross, the Icelandic flag was adopted in 1918 and represents its independence from ruling Denmark. The colors in the Icelandic flag reflect the three elements which make the little island's landscape.
Red represents the fire from the volcanoes, white symbolizes the ice and snow, and blue is for the mountains of the island when looked at from the coast.
The Longest Running Parliament
Althingi is the national parliament in Iceland and it's also the longest-running parliament in the world. First founded in 930, the first assembly was attended by all free men.
The Althingi continued existing in some form, even when Icelanders submitted to the authority of the Norwegian king in the 13th century and thereafter to the Danish monarchy till the end of the 14th century. It was disbanded only in 1800 by royal command. This parliamentary building was re-established in Reykjavík and assembled again in 1845.
The World's Most Northern Capital
The country's capital, Reykjavik is the world's northernmost capital! But that's not all, Iceland has another city that's located even further north.
The place is called Siglufjörður and it has a population of 1,300 people.
The Old Norse Tradition Where Trees Are Planted on Graves
Evidence of Iceland's fascinating folklore shows up in the unlikeliest of places. Like this tree-filled cemetery in Reykjavik, called Hólavallagarður cemetery.
According to the local legend, this graveyard was originally a Viking burial ground. It’s been said that these trees were planted on graves as an old Norse tradition and now visitors can touch the trees as a way to connect with their loved ones who have passed.
Dogs Were Banned in Reykjavik
From 1924 to 1984, dogs were banned in Iceland's capital of Reykjavik and it's not because they didn't like dogs. Back then there was a nasty tapeworm going around and it was discovered that dogs were also carriers.
This tapeworm was especially dangerous as it caused intestinal infections and sometimes even death. Ever since the ban was lifted, residents of Reykjavik had to apply for permits to have a dog.
There Isn't a Public Railway System
Despite being so progressive, Iceland doesn't have a public railway system, while they do have a railway meant exclusively for the transportation of produce and goods, it's not meant for the public.
Apparently, Iceland's population is too sparse and the weather conditions are too harsh to accommodate a smooth and functioning railway system for the public.
Iceland's Female Workers on Road Work Signs
Iceland is setting trends when it comes to challenging preconceived ideas about gender stereotypes. Take this sign that has a woman working on the road for example.
It might just be a sign but this small gesture demonstrates just how dedicated Iceland is to equality.
Between Two Continents
Believe it or not, Iceland is the only place in the entire world where you can swim between two tectonic plates, with some of the openings so narrow that you can touch both sides at once — which means you're touching two continents at once!
This is a crack between continents formed because of the tectonic plates pulling apart. Not only that, but it’s also where you’ll find some of the cleanest water in the world.
Iceland Has a Pledge for Tourists
Iceland clearly gets a lot of tourists. And we mean a lot. Like 2 million tourists a year!
So when they come, there are certain rules they need to follow. This pledge is there to help tourists manage their expectations as well as keep them in check.
Iceland’s Only Native Land Mammal
Iceland's only native land mammal is the Arctic Fox. This bad boy is also known as a Snow Fox, White Fox, or Polar Fox, and its fur changes color along with the seasons.
So they're not always white, depending on the time of year, they could be different shades of bluish-gray or brown.
Wishing Wells Are Not Tolerated
We all know what wishing wells are and that throwing coins in them can supposedly bring you good luck.
But Icelanders have no time to indulge in your fairy tale, only in serious folklore like elves and fairies. They even put signs up like this as a warning to visitors.
The Sheep Population of Iceland
If you are anything like us, you like nothing more than fascinating facts. So, here's another — the sheep population in Iceland doubles the human population in Iceland.
To be honest, that makes sense. With temperatures that low, Icelanders are going to need all the sweaters they can get their hands on, and what better way to do it than keeping all those sheep around?
'Ice-Cream Road Trip'
No matter the temperature, Icelanders can never get enough ice cream. As a matter of fact, they enjoy their ice cream so much that they have a word for eating it while driving in a car.
It's called ísbíltúr and translates to 'ice cream car trip' and never mind the icy blizzard outside, they'd still enjoy their ice cream.
After a series of volcanic eruptions, there was an array of significant damage to the Westman Islands but all that molten lava forged this basalt rock shaped like an elephant's head on the surface of the area.
Because of its particularly defined structure, it's become quite a unique landmark.
Red Heart Traffic Lights
After the economic crash in 2008, Iceland's citizens were devastated and the town of Akureyri decided to lift everyone's spirits by adding heart fixtures to the traffic lights.
Now, this symbol has become a reminder to stay positive. This unexpected display of love really is the only piece of investigative journalism you need today.
You Are Here at Your Own Risk
If ever a warning sign could be called a party pooper, it would be this one. Found at the site of the first geyser ever recorded in a printed source, this geyser hot spring in southwestern Iceland is the country's most visited geyser as well as the first known to modern Europeans.
It's also home to boiling mud pits, exploding water spouts, and erupting hot geysers, of course.
Blue Lagoon in Iceland
Of course, we weren’t going to have a list about Iceland without including the giant, geothermal hot springs!
Just outside of Reykjavik there lies the Blue Lagoon Spa, which is most famous for its soft white silica mud and steaming mineral-rich water, both of which have healing effects on the skin.
Alerts for Northern Lights
Of course, we all know about the magnificent display of Northern Lights in Iceland, but did you know that hotel establishments offer a service where hotel staff wakes their guests up if the Northern Lights make an appearance?
Well, they do! This is the perfect solution for anyone who travels to this part of the world and wants to enjoy both the lights and a good night's sleep.
Icelandic Winter Hack
Many people don't know that Iceland uses geothermal heating to heat not only their homes but also car parks and sidewalks to keep them snow-free. Now that's genius!
That means there's no need for Icelanders to thoroughly shovel snow anymore. The best thing about this is, it's all done with natural resources!
Viking Sword Road
When we think of Scandinavia, we often conjure up images of the Vikings, who first settled in Iceland in the 9th century.
In honor of their sword-wielding Nordic descendants, they created this "Sword Road." Set on the Snaefellsnes peninsula, north of Reykjavik, it leads to many popular sights.
Iceland's Brimming With Rainbows
What better way to celebrate their diversity than painting this cool rainbow brick road in the eastern town of Seyðisfjörður? This seemingly small town has been hosting its own festival since 2014.
Along with that, Reykjavik also celebrates Reykjavik Pride by painting a different street each year in rainbow colors.
Iceland Has 130 Volcanoes
Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the island of Iceland sits right on the tectonic plates that separate Eurasia and North America. Since these plates are in constant motion, the spaces fill up with magma causing volcanoes to erupt.
This means that out of 130 volcanoes currently in Iceland, 30 are active. Yikes!
You Won't Find Any Mosquitoes in Iceland
Despite there being over 1,300 types of insects in Iceland, there's not one mosquito. This is due to the low temperatures which can't accommodate a mosquito's lifecycle.
Now that might sound wonderful, but they have to deal with other insects, like midges, which are similar to mosquitos and they also bite.
Most Icelanders Work Two or Three Jobs
During the frigid cold winters, many Icelanders work more jobs and it's not for the reasons you would think.
With long, dark, and wintery days, they sometimes have only four hours of sunlight which means they could easily get seasonal depression, so they try to keep themselves busy by working more jobs.
Iceland's Postal Service Goes Above and Beyond
Because of Iceland's striking landscape and sparse population, the Postal service really has their work cut out for them.
As we can imagine, they must get mail like this all the time, with a hand-drawn map.
The World's First Female President
Iceland's fourth President and first democratically elected female President was Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. She was the world's first female president!
This happened during the 1980 presidential campaign when she ran against three male candidates and won 33.6% of the votes. She was very popular and after four years in office, she was elected again and again in 1988 with 94.6% of the votes!
Iceland is a land of staggering beauty; with ancient bejeweled rivers that originate from the country's most famous longtime residents; glaciers.
This intricately flowing Glacier river travels all the way to Thórsmork, Highlands
Marriage in Iceland
Getting hitched is not as popular in Iceland as it is in other countries.
With more than half of babies in Iceland being born to unwed parents, it's just not a big deal in this Arctic state. In the US, 32% of babies are born to unwed parents.
"Closing time" can vary a lot depending on where you are in the world, but in Iceland, stores close very early and open rather late as well.
Most stores close their doors around 5 pm, and only open the next day around 9 am! Anything open beyond those hours will charge you a pretty penny.
Back in 2010, an Icelandic comedian by the name of Jón Gnarr founded the 'Best Party' with a number of other people who had absolutely zero background in politics.
Obviously, his campaign to run for mayor was a joke. But to his surprise, he actually won! He ended up serving for four years from 2010 to 2014.
Babies Sleep Outside
In most Scandinavian countries, babies are wheeled outside to nap in the outdoors and Iceland is no exception.
Parents believe that the fresh air helps to ward away illness, with some sleep experts maintaining that the cold air can induce a deeper slumber.
Buying Books Is a Christmas Tradition
In Iceland, there's a tradition called Jólabókaflóð, which means "Christmas book flood" and everyone receives a book for Christmas.
And that's not Iceland's only literary fact! Being a country full of bookworms, Iceland boasts one of the highest rates of books per capita.
There's an Elf School
In the thoroughly modern city of Reykjavík, there's a quirky Elf school that offers lectures and guided tours on Icelandic mythology and folklore.
According to tradition, there are 13 different kinds of elves and over 60% of Icelanders believe they're real!
There's an App to Check Your Relatives
On this little island nation that's sparsely populated with under half a million inhabitants, it's understandable that it can be difficult to date a person that you're not related to.
That's why an app was created by a group of college students, that lets people screen out potential dates before they find out if they're second cousins. The app is called ÍslendingaApp, or "Book of Icelanders," which provides info on Icelandic genealogy.
Iceland Has Europe's Largest Banana Plantation
Not to get too technical, but Spain's plantations in the Canary Islands grow more bananas but they aren't located in Europe, which means that Iceland comes in first.
With their use of geothermal energy, the Icelandic Agricultural University can grow up to 4,500 pounds of bananas every year.
Iceland is truly a special place on the planet with a steady population of 360,000, and not one single McDonald's. That's right, the last McDonald's closed in 2009 and a new one hasn't opened since. It's not that Icelanders don’t like fast food, as they dine out quite often.
But despite that, McDonald’s just couldn't figure out how to survive among the volcanoes, hot springs, and fjords of Iceland.
Here’s another pleasantly surprising fact from the uncanny valley of Iceland. This one is a real plus for Iceland’s tourism — a lot of women are business owners.
When it comes to gender equality, Iceland fares way better than most, with an overflow of inspiring success stories. Women are supported by a progressive-right movement that underpinned Iceland's standing as the best country for gender equality nine years in a row.
Polar Stratospheric Clouds
The Polar Stratospheric Clouds are a mesmerizing attraction in Iceland. These rare clouds mainly occur at high latitudes when temperatures are low enough during winter, and their appearance casts an iridescent pastel hue across the sky.
These clouds are so rare that witnessing them can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Iceland takes baby names very seriously and as such, they have very strict rules that dictate all names must conform to the Icelandic language and come from the official register of approved names.
If parents want to choose a different name for their newborn, they first have to request permission from the official "Naming Committee."
On the beaches of Reynisfjara, you'll spot the striking black sand that blankets the shoreline and lays side by side with unusually geometric basalt cliffs.
This unearthly looking beach is located in Vík, the country’s southernmost village.
No Last Names in Iceland
There are some exceptions to this, but in general, Icelanders don’t have surnames or family names. Most Icelanders have a patronymic last name, which means it's their father's first name with the suffix for daughter or son attached.
Women also don't change their names when they get married. But all this doesn't matter too much as everyone is always called by their first name, from teachers to doctors and even politicians!