Iceland

Iceland
Reykjavík
Icelandic
Icelandic króna (ISK)
+354

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Iceland, described as the Republic of Iceland is a European island country in the north Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km2 (39,769 sq mi). The capital and the largest city is Reykjavík, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the national population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterised by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while 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.

According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the following centuries, Norsemen settled in Iceland, and they brought in people of Gaelic origin as slaves. From 1262 to 1918 Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied largely on fisheries and agriculture. In 1994, the nation became party to an agreement that established the European Economic Area, thus allowing it to diversify from fishing to economic and financial services.

Iceland has a free market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries, while maintaining a Nordic welfare system providing universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. In recent years, Iceland has been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2010, it was ranked as the 17th most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index, and the fourth most productive country per capita. In 2008, political unrest occurred as the nation's banking system systematically failed.

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation's Norse heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse (particularly from Western Norway) and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is closely related to Faroese and some West Norwegian dialects. The country's cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, poetry, and the medieval Icelanders' sagas. Currently, Iceland has the smallest population among NATO members and is the only one with no standing army. According to Freedom of the Press, Iceland has one of the freest presses in the world.