Iceland is a land of diversity and contrast. Geologically speaking, Iceland is relatively young, and the landscape is still being forged by frequent volcanic eruptions. Iceland is located on a volcanic hot spot resulting in many geothermal areas around the country with steaming vents, geysers, mud pools, and sometimes warm natural pools to bathe in.
Iceland is just over 100,000 square kilometres (40,000 square miles) with 11% covered with glaciers including the largest one in Europe, Vatnajökull Glacier. This land of fire and ice offers a variety of stunning landscapes and breathtaking scenery.
Over 322,000 people live in Iceland with over half of them living in and around the capital, Reykjavík. Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe with an average of just over three persons per square kilometre.
The national language is Icelandic, but most Icelanders speak very good English.
Most historians agree that Iceland was settled in the year 847 when a man named Ingólfur Arnarson settled in Reykjavík, although some indications point to the conclusion that Iceland was first settled by Irish monks living on the small island of Papey just of the shores of Iceland.
Most Icelanders where heathens until the year 1000 when a mass conversion to Christianity occurred. Today most people (over 80%) are Lutheran Christians. Religious freedom is guaranteed by law through the Icelandic constitution.
Because of its location on a volcanic hot spot, Iceland possesses almost infinite geothermal energy. Most Icelandic homes are heated by geothermal water collected in deep boreholes and channelled through a network of pipes. This method of heating houses is environmentally friendly and rather cheap compared to other methods of heating. In Iceland there are over 100 swimming pools heated by geothermal energy. Hydroelectric power produces over 80% of Iceland’s electricity.
Iceland´s greatest resource is fishing; Icelanders have always been highly dependent on fishing and fish processing as the main recourse of revenue for the nation. Today, the main industries in Iceland are fish processing, aluminium smelting, geothermal power, hydropower, and tourism.
For the natural environment of Iceland to be sustainable and accommodate the increasing numbers of visitors, it is vital to promote sustainable tourism. Iceland´s nature is fragile and relatively unspoiled; it needs to be approached with caution and respect. In order to preserve the unique natural environment for future generations, we encourage all visitors to do their very best to leave no trace of their visit behind.