10 interesting facts about Iceland

Today we bring you 10 interesting facts about Iceland, the land of fire and ice. Find out here some of the reasons that make this country and its culture unique.

Today we would like to show you 10 interesting facts about Iceland, a country full of natural wonders that was initially colonized by the Vikings.

  1. Iceland contains one of only two locations in the world where you can see two tectonic plates drifting apart. It is the Þingvellir National Park, where the North American and Eurasian plates separate. The other place is the Great Rift Valley in East Africa, where the African plate splits in two. 

Separation of tectonic plates at Þingvellir

  1. It is one of the places where humans most recently settled. Iceland was colonized by Vikings from Norway in the late 9th century. They decided to settle on this island since, as it was uninhabited, it could be occupied without any resistance, unlike other islands such as Ireland or Great Britain.  
  2. The Icelandic Parliament is the oldest parliamentary body in the world that still exists currently. Known as Alþingi, it was established in 930 in the region corresponding to Þingvellir National Park region. It interrupted its activity from 1799 to 1844. 
  3. The flag of Iceland represents the natural elements present on the island. Blue represents mountains, red represents fire and lava, and white represents snow and ice. Like other Nordic countries, the flag adopts the design of the Scandinavian cross, which represents Christianity.
Flag of Iceland
  1. Loanwords in the Icelandic language are kept to a minimum. Instead of borrowing foreign words for new concepts, the preferred option is to give new uses to old words or to create new words from existing ones with Nordic roots. For example, the word for a military tank is skriðdreki, generated from skrið (to crawl) and dreki (dragon).
  2. Traditionally, a system of patronymics is used instead of standard family names. The equivalent of surnames in Iceland is formed by adding to the father’s name (or, in recent times, alternatively to the mother’s name) a suffix, -son for sons and -dóttir for daughters.   
  3. There is an official list of allowed first names. Families cannot just give their children any name, but instead must choose one from the official list approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee. If parents wish to use a name not included in the list, they must make a formal request, which is evaluated by the committee and is only approved if it is deemed appropriate for integration into the language and culture of the country. However, foreigners moving to the country are allowed to keep their original name.
  4. There are almost no forests in Iceland. Trees are very scarce, and the few forests that exist tend to be very small. This is due in part to the extensive deforestation carried out by the Vikings. It is estimated that, prior to their arrival to Iceland, approximately 40% of the island was covered by forests. Nowadays, only 2% is wooded.
  5. It is common to see babies sleeping in their strollers on the street, despite the cold temperatures. This custom began in the early 20th century due to poor indoor air quality caused by inefficient air circulation systems.
  6. Beer was banned from 1915 to 1989. The ban was imposed after a majority of the population supported outlawing all alcoholic beverages in a referendum in 1908. The support for the vote was enhanced by the fact that beer consumption was associated with Denmark, a country from which Iceland had recently become independent at the time. The consumption of other alcoholic beverages, such as wine, was allowed again long before that of beer.

Here you can find our itinerary for a weekend in Iceland, which will allow you to enjoy the main attractions of the country even if you do not have much time.

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Lara and Rafa

Lara and Rafa

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