Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland [ˈistlant]) is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 348,580 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country being home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.
According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin. The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world's oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century. The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Iceland thus followed Norway's integration into that union, coming under Danish rule after Sweden's secession from the union in 1523. Although the Danish kingdom introduced Lutheranism forcefully in 1550, Iceland remained a distant semi-colonial territory in which Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuous by their absence. In the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Iceland's struggle for independence took form and culminated in independence in 1918 and the founding of a republic in 1944. Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture, and was among the poorest countries in Europe. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, it became a part of the European Economic Area, which further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.
is the capital
, its largest city
, and the world's most northern
being 64°08' N, not far from the Arctic Circle
). It receives only four hours of daylight
per day in the depth of winter
, and during the summer
the nights are almost as bright as the days.
Reykjavík is located in southwest Iceland at the shores of Faxaflói bay. The Reykjavík area coastline is characterized by peninsulas, coves, straits and islands. The population of Reykjavík in 2005 was 114,800, the combined population of the Capital Region being about 190,000.
The first permanent settlement in Iceland by Nordic people is believed to have been established in Reykjavík by Ingólfur Arnarson around AD 870; this is described in Landnámabók, or the Book of Settlement. Ingólfur Arnarson is said to have decided the location of his settlement using a traditional Viking method; by dumping his high seat pillars, Öndvegissúlur, in the ocean when he saw the coastline and then settled where the pillars came to shore. Steam from hot springs in the region is supposed to have inspired Reykjavík's name, as Reykjavík translates to "Bay of Smokes".
Gullfoss, an iconic waterfall of Iceland
The Arctic fox is the only indigenous land mammal in Iceland and was the only land mammal prior to the arrival of humans
Ósvör, a replica of an old fishing outpost outside Bolungarvík
A map of Iceland published in the early 17th century
Reykjavík, Iceland's largest metropolitan area and the centre of the Capital Region which, with a population of 212,385, makes for 63% of Iceland's population. (numbers from 2016)
A church in the northwest of Iceland
British and Icelandic vessels collide in the Atlantic Ocean during the Cod Wars (Icelandic vessel is shown on the left; the British vessel is on the right)
Graphical depiction of Iceland's product exports in 28 colour-coded categories
Ingólfr Arnarson (modern Icelandic: Ingólfur Arnarson), the first permanent Scandinavian settler
Singer-songwriter Björk, the best-known Icelandic musician
The political system of Iceland
High-field overview of area around Reykir
Akureyri is the largest town in Iceland outside the Capital Region. Most rural towns are based on the fishing industry, which provides 40% of Iceland's exports
Nordic prime ministers and the president of Finland visiting the White House in 2016, with Iceland's Sigurður second from the left.
A typical Þorramatur assortment.
Three typical Icelandic landscapes
Arnaldur Indriðason (born 28 January 1961) is an Icelandic writer of crime fiction. He has repeatedly proved to be the most popular writer in Iceland in recent years – topping bestseller lists year after year. In the year 2004 his books were seven of the ten most popular titles borrowed in Reykjavík City Library. Arnaldur's books have been published in 26 countries and have been translated into German, Danish, English, Italian, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish and French. Indriðason received the Glass Key, a literature prize for the best Nordic crime novel, in both 2002 and 2003. He won the Gold Dagger Award in 2005 for the novel Silence of the Grave.
- November 24 2016: The Icelandic nation sues Iceland Foods in the UK for trademarking the name Iceland.(BBC)
- October 30 2016: Icelandic parliamentary elections make the final shape of an new government unclear. (Guardian)
- September 5 2016: Ancient viking sword found in Skaftárhreppur, South-Iceland. (RT)
- April 7 2016: The Icelandic prime minister resigns and calls for an early elections due to the Panama papers leak. (Reuters)
Did you know...
By repeated explosions in a number of locations, groups of craters have built up and now dominate the landscape on the shore of Lake Mývatn and also form some of the islands in the lake.
Things you can do
Wikipedia in Icelandic
Featured and good content