We are at the top of the world in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Greenland, the Foroe Islands and Norway, and we are not so far from Scotland and England.
Iceland is often called the land of Ice and Fire.
We touch the Arctic Circle in the north and on the island Grímsey, you can step over the Arctic Circle. It takes us only 2 hours to fly to Glasgow, 3 hours to fly to London, and 5 hours to fly to New York.
The sea around our beautiful island is full of fish and whales. The Gulf Stream is our best friend; without it, we could not live here. We also have an abundance of hot water to heat up our homes and outdoor swimming pools. There is no pollution in the air, and visibility is very good. We have unspoiled nature. We have plenty of electricity from national resources and plenty of salmon in our rivers. What more could you ask for?
We are a proud nation, and we are always comparing ourselves with other nations. We like to discuss things, and even though we are few in number, we usually win our arguments!
Close to the year 900, some vikings from Norway, who did not like to pay taxes, set out to sea on an open ship, trying to find a better place to live. The first permanent settler was Ingólfur Arnarsson. You can find his statue on the little hill in the center of Reykjavík. We joke about many things here in Iceland. We say we are ancestors of robbers and thieves who avoided paying taxes for as long as they could.
We also say that the vikings stopped first in England and took all the beautiful girls, and on their way to Iceland, they stopped in the Foreo Islands and left the seasick girls behind. So, only the most beautiful and the toughest girls came to Iceland, and they are the mothers of the nation.
When the vikings from Norway arrived, the island had great forests from the seafront to the top of the mountains. The vikings brought with them some livestock, and it is said the sheep ate all the forests and the rest were chopped down and used to make fire to keep them warm. These must have been very hungry sheep if that story is true. I never believed this, and there must be some other explanation as to why the forests are gone. Now we only have low bushes and we joke about it and say, “If you get lost in an Icelandic forest, you better stand up and have a look around and see where you are.”
We are blending with other nations now. Many foreigners are moving to Iceland and settling in, bringing different knowledge and cultures to enrich the country.
Our language is the old Norse the vikings used when they came. Icelanders are able to read old Norwegian books. The new Norse is more difficult for us. There are 32 letters in the Icelandic alphabet. We have some strange letters like Ð Þ Æ Ö and also letters with commas on top like Á É Í Ó Ú. We don’t use Z or Q in our language.
Common Jobs in Iceland
The fishing industry is the biggest and most important industry we have. We increased our territorial water to 200 miles, and we invented the fishing reservation system and the quota system. We had to fight for these 200 miles of territorial waters; we went to war with the UK and we won. We are one of the only nations in the world to have beaten the UK in a war. The war was called the Cod war and it was back in 1976 with only one confirmed death.
The second industry is the tourist industry. This industry has been growing rapidly and has increased by big numbers for many years, but lately, it has been slowing down a bit. We do need to keep a track with this industry because our visitors are coming because there aren’t many people here. They do not like to be in a crowd seeing our national treasures. We want to take good care of our nature and be responsible keepers.
There are 19 power stations operating in Iceland, and we produce over 15,000 GW hours in one year. Over 80% of the production is sold to power-intensive industries and the rest to the public. Our power company is called Landsvirkjun, and you can visit some power stations. Have a look at https://www.landsvirkjun.com/company/visitus
We like to think of ourselves as an educated nation. We have fifteen colleges and seven universities in Iceland, which is a lot considering the size of our population. We also have number of other schools.
We have agriculture, farming, aluminum factories and many other industries.
Why Visit Iceland?
Many of our guests talk about our colors when they visit us. I have a younger sister, and she was away for 6 years; when she came back, she was amazed by the sharp colors in our environment.
Many of our guests come here for the midnight sun. It is quite the experience to be in 24 hours of daylight. Some years ago, there was a NATO military base in Keflavik. Some troops could not sleep with all that daylight until they covered their windows with aluminum paper.
In the winter, the darkness is hard to live with, and after December 21, the days start to be longer.
The Northern Lights is a big attraction. It is beautiful to watch them dance in the sky during our dark winter days. Einar Benediktsson was an Icelandic poet (1864 – 1940). He had an idea to sell the Northern Lights. People thought he was crazy, but today, we are selling Northern Light tours in abundance. The Northern Lights are beautiful and you can watch them endlessly. You do not need a tour to see them. You only need to get out of the city lights when the sky is clear.
Our island is bigger than you think. If you are planning a visit and want to see everything, you need a lot of time. Visitors with a tight schedule are often to tired to enjoy everything. If you are coming to Iceland from the US (east), your biological clock will need time to adjust.
The Blue Lagoon is a great attraction, but it is very expensive. The Blue Lagoon is only 15 minutes away from Keflavik Airport and 30 minutes away from Reykjavik. The Blue Lagoon is water from the Svartsengi power station, which was built in 1976, and it was the world´s first geothermal power plant for electric power generation and hot water production for district heating.
Since February 2020, the earth has been shaking and rising in this area. People are advised NOT to go into the caves in the area.
The Golden Circle is a tour from Reykjavik to the great waterfall Gullfoss and to the hot spring area in Haukadal where you can see geysers and other hot springs. Records of hot springs at Haukadalur date back to 1294, and they are not going anywhere. On your way to Gullfoss, there is an old crater called Kerið, and it is worth visiting. On your way back to Reykjavik, you can drive to Laugarvatn and Þingvellir (Thingvellir) and even visit the Nesjavallavirkjun power station where the hot water comes from to heat up houses in Reykjavik.
At Þingvellir, the Alþingi (Parliament) took place in an open-air assembly from 930 to 1798. This two-week meeting set laws and settled disputes among people. This area is simply beautiful. The lake at Þingvellir is the biggest lake in Iceland where you can fish for the biggest trout I have ever seen.
All our major events take place at Þingvellir. When we got our independence from Denmark, it was held at Þingvellir on June 17, 1944. June 17 has been our National Day ever since.
Going to an Icelandic outdoor swimming pool is a must. They are all filled with hot water and open all year around. But there is one rule you have to obey. Before you enter the swimming pool, you need to take a shower naked. The shower rooms are gender separated.
The Icelandic horse is unique. They are the only ponies in the world with five different walks: fet, brokk, tölt, skeið and stökk. If you try horseback riding and get your horse to do tölt, you will be pleased. It is a very smooth ride.
There are so many places to visit, and I will be creating posts to my website talking about them.
The weather can change rapidly. The day can start calm with sunshine, but it can change before you know it. Be sure to wear layers and pack for the unexpected.
If you are going to rent a car and drive in the snow, be sure you car is equipped accordingly. Have snow tires with spikes. Have a look at the road and check the road conditions before you start your journey.
Iceland is an expensive country, but the price of a hamburger or a steak is comparable to other countries.
You can drink all the water you can from the tap. Our water is very clean. You do not need to buy bottled water.
It’s not necessary to tip a waiter. It’s nice if you are pleased with the service, but you do not have to. It’s all included in the waiter’s salary.
Has This Been Helpful?
In this short article, it is not possible to describe Iceland to the fullest. I have included some links for you to explore. I hope this information helps you plan your visit.
If you have a comment or a question, please leave it below.
Þórhallur / Thorhallur
founder of FactAboutIceland.com