20 Fascinating Facts About Iceland: From Vikings to Elves and Beyond

DestinationEurope20 Fascinating Facts About Iceland: From Vikings to Elves and Beyond

Embark on a captivating journey with us at Mihitravel as we delve into ’20 Fascinating Facts About Iceland’. This treasure trove of knowledge reveals the rich history, unique culture, and extraordinary natural wonders that define this island nation. Let’s unearth the many surprises that Iceland has in store, and uncover why it continues to fascinate and inspire travelers worldwide.

Geographical location of Iceland

Geographical Position and Population:

about Iceland
about Iceland

Spanning an area of approximately 103,000 square kilometers, Iceland is a sovereign island nation found in the North Atlantic. This Nordic European country is home to a little over 347,949 inhabitants. Due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle, Iceland experiences cold winters and cool summers, with a moderate maritime climate that never gets excessively hot nor unbearably cold. It’s a land of natural contrasts, where geothermal activity like geysers and volcanoes sit side by side with frozen landscapes of glaciers and ice fields.


Iceland’s culture is deeply entwined with its Nordic roots, offering a unique blend of traditions and customs that can be traced back to the Vikings and Celts. The modern Icelandic language is a testament to the continuity of these ancient cultures, retaining its essence with only minimal changes over the centuries. The local folklore filled with tales of elves and dwarves, the architectural aesthetic, and even the music scene, echo this cultural heritage. Iceland’s commitment to literature is notable, with the medieval sagas, being one of the most valued historical documents.

What Makes Iceland Unique:

Iceland’s cuisine is a journey of tastes, from fermented shark to smoked lamb, offering insights into traditional food preservation techniques and unique Icelandic flavours. Beyond food, the enchanting cultural tales of mythical creatures, elves, and dwarves captivate locals and visitors alike. Moreover, Iceland is a pioneer in environmental sustainability, with ambitions to achieve carbon neutrality and generating virtually all its electricity from renewable geothermal and hydroelectric sources. This underscores the country’s deep respect for the environment, and its commitment to preserving its natural wonders for generations to come.

A Viking Legacy on an Atlantic Isle: Iceland

“A Viking Legacy” refers to Iceland’s historical connection to the Vikings. Iceland was settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the Viking Age of the late ninth and tenth century. These Viking settlers were the first to establish a lasting, organized society on the island, and their influence can still be seen in Iceland today. For example, the Icelandic language has changed little from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, and many Icelanders still read and cherish their country’s Viking-era sagas.

“On an Atlantic Isle” highlights Iceland’s geographical position. As an island located in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland is geographically isolated from the rest of Europe. This isolation has helped preserve Iceland’s unique cultural heritage, as well as its stunning, rugged landscapes.

Finally, “Iceland” is not just a label for the country being discussed. In this context, it is a symbol of the country’s identity – a place of cold and ice, but also of hardy resilience, a rich cultural history, and stunning natural beauty.

Together, these elements tell a story of a unique island nation that carries forward its Viking legacy amidst the vast, cold beauty of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Viking and Celt Footprints in Iceland’s History

Centuries ago, the shores of Iceland were first settled by Norse Vikings and Celtic immigrants, leaving an indelible footprint on the island’s history. The tales of these rugged pioneers continue to color the cultural landscape of Iceland, as the sagas they authored still resonate with modern Icelanders. Their lasting influence on the island’s language, customs, and traditions is one of the fascinating facts about Iceland that captivates visitors. Journey with us as we trace back the Viking and Celt footprints in Iceland’s history, illuminating the rich heritage that shapes Iceland today.

Reykjavik: Heart of Icelandic Civilization.

At the heart of Iceland’s civilization lies its capital, Reykjavik, where a substantial 60% of the national population resides. As a fun fact about Iceland, this city offers an intriguing blend of modern urban life and ancient Norse culture. With a lively arts scene, rich history, and easy access to the country’s breathtaking natural wonders, Reykjavik captures the essence of Icelandic life. Whether you’re enjoying a cozy local coffee shop or witnessing the awe-inspiring spectacle of the Northern Lights, Reykjavik is an integral part of any Icelandic adventure.

Elves and Dwarves: The Folklore of Iceland

These folkloric narratives aren’t just tall tales. They are a testament to Iceland’s rich heritage and love for storytelling, impacting the very way locals relate to their environment. Every rock or hill potentially harbors these unseen inhabitants, further deepening Iceland’s unique allure. As we navigate this enchanting terrain, we uncover not just Iceland’s physical beauty but also the stories that give it soul.

Vatnajökull: Europe’s Largest Glacier in Iceland

One of the most remarkable facts about Iceland is the existence of Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier, within its borders. Covering an incredible 8% of the country’s total landmass, Vatnajökull is not just a wonder of Iceland, but a wonder of the world. It’s an absolute paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers, offering experiences from ice-caving to glacier hiking. The enormity and magnificence of Vatnajökull are reminders of the power and beauty of nature that is so intimately intertwined with the identity of Iceland.

Iceland’s Prohibition Era: From Beer Ban to Celebration

One intriguing fact about Iceland is its unique history with beer. Despite being known for its liberal approach to most things, Iceland had a stringent beer prohibition that lasted for 74 years, stretching all the way until 1989. This surprising piece of history is an interesting facet of Iceland’s cultural and legislative evolution, painting a complex picture of a society that is both open and yet, at times, cautious in its approach to change.

In a delightful twist, Icelanders now celebrate the end of this prohibition every year on March 1st, turning a historical oddity into a national celebration. It’s a testament to the Icelandic spirit of resilience and celebration, making “Beer Day” an endearing addition to the list of fun facts about Iceland. It’s just another reason why the nation is so fascinating to explore and understand.

The Althing: One of the World’s Oldest Democracies in Iceland.

The spirit of democracy runs deep in Iceland, with roots reaching back to its Viking settlers. The Althing, Iceland’s national parliament, is a remarkable symbol of the nation’s commitment to democratic governance. Established in the year 930 CE, it ranks as one of the world’s oldest parliamentary institutions, marking the country as an early adopter of democratic principles.

The Althing’s enduring existence is a testament to Iceland’s resilience and its commitment to democratic ideals. It serves as a fascinating insight into the country’s historical commitment to societal organization and collective decision-making. With its ancient beginnings and continuous operation, the Althing truly embodies Iceland’s profound and enduring democratic spirit.

An Island of Many Winds: The Linguistic Quirk of Iceland

Iceland’s rich linguistic heritage is yet another testament to the country’s unique character. The Icelandic language, noted for its remarkable preservation of Old Norse roots, possesses an unusual quirk: it boasts over 100 different words for wind. This extraordinary linguistic phenomenon reveals much about the island’s climate and the deep connection its inhabitants have with nature.

Living on an island in the North Atlantic, Icelanders experience an incredible array of wind conditions, from gentle zephyrs to raging gales. The multiplicity of terms for wind signifies not only the variety of atmospheric conditions but also how integral these forces of nature are to the Icelandic experience. In this sense, language in Iceland is a mirror of the island’s climatic realities and a symbol of its inhabitants’ adaptive spirit.

Iceland: A Beacon of Sustainability

When it comes to environmental stewardship and sustainable practices, Iceland truly stands out as a beacon of sustainability. The country’s commitment to renewable energy and eco-friendly practices is nothing short of impressive, making it one of the leaders in the global sustainability movement.

Almost 100% of the electricity in Iceland is produced from renewable sources, a testament to the country’s abundant geothermal and hydroelectric resources. Also, Icelanders have capitalized on the country’s geothermal energy for heating homes, making traditional heating methods nearly obsolete. The use of geothermal energy doesn’t just save resources but also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing significantly to the country’s eco-friendly profile. There’s no doubt that these sustainable practices make for fascinating facts about Iceland, highlighting its role as an environmental trendsetter.

Reykjavik’s 2040 Vision: Aiming for Carbon Neutrality

Reykjavik, the capital and largest city of Iceland, is setting the standard for sustainable urban living with its ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. This vision showcases Iceland’s commitment to preserving its pristine environment while modeling sustainable practices for the rest of the world.

The city’s strategy involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the use of renewable energy, and implementing sustainable transportation and waste management systems. This initiative reaffirms Iceland’s position as a global leader in renewable energy and sustainability, making it an excellent example of a country working proactively to combat climate change. By aiming for carbon neutrality, Reykjavik is not only securing a sustainable future for its citizens but also offering valuable lessons for other cities globally. Another fascinating fact about Iceland that reflects the country’s eco-consciousness and forward-thinking nature.

Land of Ice: Iceland’s Glacial Majesty

Iceland’s moniker, the “Land of Fire and Ice,” is not without merit. The island is renowned for its extraordinary landscapes filled with active volcanoes and expansive glaciers. Notably, around 11% of the country’s total land area is covered by glaciers, an awe-inspiring testament to Iceland’s natural grandeur.

The crowning glory of these icy landscapes is the Vatnajökull glacier. As Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull forms a significant part of Iceland’s geography and is a mesmerizing sight to behold. Its vast ice cap envelops several volcanoes, offering an arresting juxtaposition of fire and ice that is both powerful and picturesque. There’s no doubt that these remarkable facts about Iceland underscore its unique and diverse natural beauty.

The Icelandic Horse: A Unique Equine Breed

In the realm of fauna, Iceland cherishes a truly unique equine treasure. The Icelandic horse, an integral part of the country’s cultural heritage, holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors alike. This breed, characterized by its small stature, muscular build, and striking array of coat colors, is famous for its adaptability and endurance in the harsh Icelandic climate.

Moreover, the Icelandic horse exhibits two distinct gaits in addition to the usual walk, trot, and canter/gallop observed in other breeds. These extra gaits, known as tölt and flying pace, add to the breed’s charm and uniqueness. The preservation of the breed’s purity is a matter of national pride and strict laws prevent horses from being imported into the country. Undoubtedly, the fascinating facts about Iceland would be incomplete without mentioning its one-of-a-kind horses.

The Pulse of Icelandic Melodies: Björk and Sigur Rós

Iceland’s contributions to the global music scene are as vibrant and eclectic as the country itself. This small island nation has a massive influence in the world of music, with its most famous exports being Björk and Sigur Rós.

Björk, an internationally renowned singer, songwriter, and actress, is celebrated for her eclectic music style that encompasses a broad range of genres, including pop, electronic, classical, and avant-garde music. Her distinct voice and creative artistry have carved a unique niche in the global music industry, putting Iceland on the map.

Meanwhile, Sigur Rós, an iconic post-rock band, has crafted ethereal soundscapes that mirror the sublime and often surreal natural beauty of their homeland. Their sweeping compositions and evocative imagery have resonated with a global audience, further elevating Iceland’s reputation as a hotbed of musical talent.

Together, Björk and Sigur Rós capture the rhythm of Iceland, embodying its dynamic cultural landscape in their groundbreaking music. They represent the pulse of Icelandic melodies and the country’s impactful influence on global music culture.

Iceland’s Sagas: Relics of Medieval Literature.

Among Iceland’s rich cultural treasures are the Icelandic sagas – captivating narratives that provide a window into the nation’s medieval past. These sagas, dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries, are considered some of the most significant contributions to world literature during the Middle Ages.

The sagas are primarily prose narratives, often blending history, mythology, and folklore to recount the tales of Icelandic settlers. These riveting stories are filled with heroic exploits, compelling characters, intense family feuds, and supernatural elements, presenting a vivid depiction of Viking-age society.

These sagas have left an indelible mark on Iceland’s cultural fabric. Not just historical documents, they’re considered literary masterpieces, notable for their complex character development, intricate narratives, and exploration of universal human themes. Through the sagas, we journey back in time, uncovering the soul of medieval Iceland and celebrating its enduring literary legacy.

Harnessing the Earth: Iceland’s Geothermal Power

Known for its abundance of geysers and hot springs, Iceland stands as a global frontrunner in the utilization of geothermal energy. This island nation, sitting atop a geological hotspot, has harnessed the earth’s internal heat to produce sustainable power, providing heat and electricity to the majority of its population.

Geothermal energy, a renewable and virtually inexhaustible resource, is central to Iceland’s strategy of achieving energy independence and reducing its carbon emissions. The country is home to a number of geothermal power plants which convert underground heat into electricity. Moreover, geothermal hot water is used for heating buildings, making it a critical component of Iceland’s infrastructure.

This successful exploitation of geothermal energy is not only a testament to Iceland’s commitment to sustainability but also to its innovation and resilience. By harnessing the earth’s power, Iceland offers a compelling example of how countries can transition towards cleaner, more efficient energy systems.

Iceland: Peaceful Isle Without an Army

Living in the peaceful harmony of spectacular landscapes and rugged coastlines, Iceland stands out on the global stage for an unusual characteristic: it is one of the few nations in the world without an armed forces. For decades, the island nation has thrived without the presence of an army, navy, or air force, demonstrating that security can take different forms beyond military might.

Iceland’s peaceful status can be attributed to its diplomatic relationships, strategic geographical location, and the values held by its society. The country is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) but contributes through non-military means such as search and rescue capabilities, surveillance, and peacekeeping roles.

Iceland’s lack of a military is a fascinating aspect of its national identity and contributes to its reputation as one of the most peaceful countries in the world. This unique fact not only underscores the nation’s commitment to peace, but also reflects its progressive approach to global relations and security.

High Living Standards: The Icelandic Success Story

Iceland is not only known for its majestic landscapes but also for its high living standards. This North Atlantic island has become a beacon of prosperity, offering an example of a society that thrives on egalitarian principles, strong education, and a robust healthcare system.

The country consistently ranks high in various global indices measuring quality of life, economic stability, and political freedom. Its robust economy, which is a blend of free-market principles and significant welfare measures, ensures a high standard of living for its inhabitants.

Moreover, Iceland’s commitment to social, economic, and political stability is strongly rooted in its societal values and governance. This commitment is reflected in its progressive policies, such as gender equality, excellent healthcare, and strong emphasis on education. Hence, the success story of Iceland is not just about economic growth, but also about the holistic well-being of its citizens.

Unique Delights: Iceland’s Exotic Cuisine

Icelandic cuisine offers a unique gastronomic journey, reflecting the country’s historical dependence on fishing and farming. The nation’s traditional fare might challenge some palates with dishes like hákarl (fermented shark) and hangikjöt (smoked lamb), which are staple delicacies that embody the spirit of resilience and resourcefulness of the Icelandic people.

Meanwhile, Iceland’s modern culinary scene has creatively evolved, embracing global influences while keeping its roots firmly grounded in locally sourced ingredients. The abundant seafood, free-roaming lamb, and dairy products are celebrated in dishes that are as fresh and unspoilt as the Icelandic landscape itself.

From eating traditional Skyr yogurt for breakfast to dining on freshly caught cod for dinner, a trip to Iceland is not complete without indulging in its unique and exotic cuisine. The culinary delights of Iceland are a testament to the country’s rich heritage and innovative spirit, serving as another fascinating reason to explore this North Atlantic island.

Leading in Gender Equality: Iceland’s Female Leadership

Iceland leads the world when it comes to gender equality. The country’s progressive attitudes and policies have set a global benchmark, providing an inspirational model for other nations. Iceland’s commitment to gender equality is highlighted by a historic milestone: in 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected as the country’s president, making her the first woman to be elected as a head of state in a democratic election worldwide.

Since then, Iceland has consistently topped the World Economic Forum’s gender equality index. The nation’s robust policies encourage balanced representation in politics and business, ensuring equal pay, and promoting shared parental leave. These initiatives reflect the nation’s collective effort towards creating an environment where opportunities and responsibilities are equally shared regardless of gender. Iceland’s female leadership and its commitment to gender equality make it a trailblazer, showcasing how societies can thrive when equality is prioritized.

Experience Iceland’s Natural Spectacle: From Northern Lights to Geysers

Iceland is an astounding country with unimaginable natural landscapes. The colorful sky of the night’s rainbow – also known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis – is just a small part of this peculiar natural beauty. These impressive green, purple, pink, and yellow lights are truly one of the most captivating natural phenomena that you can ever witness in your lifetime.

In addition to this, Iceland is renowned for its natural hot springs and hot water pools, along with the marvelous systems of geysers. Particularly, the Strokkur Geyser, one of the most significant geysers, can erupt water up to 30 meters (98 feet) in the air. Witnessing the power of the Earth through these hot water springs is truly an unforgettable experience.

Iceland: a captivating destination with a vibrant history and ethereal natural beauty that seems as if it’s been pulled straight from a fairy tale. From the rich Viking heritage and deep-seated folklore of elves to the enchanting Northern Lights and powerful geysers, the island nation holds numerous surprises. As you’ve discovered through these 20 fascinating facts about Iceland, this country is much more than just an isolated place in the North Atlantic. It’s a living saga of history, culture, and unmatched geophysical marvels. So why just read about it? Pack your bags, it’s time to experience Iceland in all its glory!

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Hello, I’m Hieu. I’m a project manager living in Vietnam. I am a fan of travel, music, and sports. I’m also interested in gym and chess. You can visit my company website with a click on the button above.


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