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Facts about Iceland

Iceland is a wonderful nation that captivates just about everyone who is lucky enough to visit. The island is a wonderfully quirky place, with interesting people, unparalleled scenery and plenty of wonderful things to experience. Iceland is also a unique country, and in some ways, quite unusual and different. We’ve put together a comprehensive page to deal with all the fun facts about Iceland, from the most basic to the most fascinating. Some of the top facts include that more than 60% of the population live in Reykjavik and despite the sheer cold weather, you can swim outdoors all year round. Find out more about the top fun facts about Iceland.

Iceland has the lowest population density on the continent. The population of Iceland is 345,392, with the lowest population density in all of Europe with just 3 people per kilometre across the country. Harsh geographical landscapes contribute to this low number.

The capital of Iceland is Reykjavik. Reykjavik is the largest city in the country, located in the southwest on Faxa Bay. With a vibrant nightlife and fascinating attractions, Reykjavik is a must-see on your Iceland itinerary.

Iceland uses the Icelandic Krone (ISK) as the national currency. This is the most widely used currency, though you can use Mastercard and Visa credit cards in the more touristy areas of the country.

Iceland is not in the European Union. Despite popular belief, Iceland is not a member of the EU, despite applying for membership in 2008. It is involved in the European Economic Area as well as the Schengen Agreement and has many other modern European influences.

Icelandic is the official national language in Iceland. This Germanic language is notoriously difficult to learn and pronounce for non-natives, with little change since the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century. There are around 314,000 speakers, most of whom live in Iceland. However, English is also widely spoken by Icelanders.

Waterfall facts about Iceland

Iceland is no longer in lockdown. In fact, Iceland has now lifted all domestic restrictions combatting COVID-19. From 25th February 2022, there are no longer social distancing or mask measures in place in Iceland. 

You can see between tectonic plates in Iceland. Iceland is one of only 2 places in the world where you can see the separation between two tectonic plates on the earth’s surface. At Thingvellir National Park you can see this wonder quite easily. 

Iceland is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have McDonalds! There was once a Reykjavik location, but it closed in 2008 due to the recession and an overall lack of success. There are plenty of other great places in town to get a burger!

About 11% of Iceland’s land mass is covered in glaciers. In fact, there are more than 250 glaciers in Iceland! Some of them even sit atop ancient volcanoes, such as the Vatnajökull glacier.

Iceland once had witches! Like many European nations in the 1600s, Iceland had a series of witch trials. However, what’s unusual about Iceland is that all of the witches charged were actually men!

Iceland’s water is remarkably fresh and clean! This is because most of the water sources come from crystal glaciers. You don’t need to buy water bottles when visiting Iceland, as tap water comes straight from these glaciers, so tap water is perfectly safe to drink for visitors.

Icelanders love books and literature. In fact, books are one of the most popular Christmas gifts amongst Icelanders, and about 10% of the Icelandic population will, at some point in their life, publish a book!

Colourful roofs of Icelandic town

Native Icelanders don’t have surnames in the traditional sense. Instead, your surname is based off of your father’s first name, with the addition of “son” for male children, and “dóttir” for female children. So, if your name is Nicolas and your father is called Mikael, your name would be Nicolas Mikaelson. If you’re Nicolas’ sister Katrin, your name is Katrin Mikaelsdóttir. 

There are more sheep in Iceland than humans! With a population of around 350,000, Iceland’s sheep population is estimated to be around 800,000.

The only native mammal to Iceland is the Arctic Fox. All others, including Icelandic ponies, birdlife, and reindeer, were introduced by people. 

Many of Iceland's homes are heated in an environmentally friendly way - this is done through geothermal heating. Due to Iceland’s geothermal activity, this is something the nation has harnessed in order to use for good!

When in Iceland, the northern lights are typically most visible between September and March. There are many other factors to consider when searching for these phenomena, such as cloud cover and light pollution.

Puffins are one of Iceland's favourite animals. Iceland is also where you can find the world’s largest puffin colony, on the shores of the Westman Islands.  

Many Icelanders believe in elves and trolls. The island’s folklore and legends are full of stories surrounding the fairytale creatures. 

Icelandic babies are left out in the snow. Wait - it’s not as bad as it sounds! This tradition means that you’ll often find babies in their strollers outside shops, homes or even on balconies snoozing away. Some Icelanders claim it’s because of their hardy Viking DNA, but this strange tradition actually links back to poor living conditions from previous generations. Indoor living conditions could be cramped, dark and damp. Putting children outside to nap helped them get fresh air circulation and the custom has simply stuck. 

It’s illegal to park on the road and take photos. Many people are inspired to take photos when driving around Iceland - and who can believe them? The scenery is literally stunning. But, because it’s not safe to just stop your car any old place, drivers are required to find a designated stopping or parking area when they want to stop and take photos.

Iceland isn’t as cold as its reputation may suggest. The coldest month of the year is January, when the low averages about 29F. That’s only just below freezing, and many other places get much colder!

Beer was once illegal in Iceland. In 1915, this ban was imposed to try to dissuade younger people from heavy drinking - this ban has long since been lifted.

Puffin facts about Iceland

Polar bears do not live in Iceland, but sometimes they end up there accidentally! From time to time, polar bears drift on chunks of ice from Greenland to Iceland. 

Iceland is home to more than 120 volcanic mountains. Some of these are dormant, but every few years, one of Iceland’s volcanoes will erupt. 

Icelanders love ice cream and swimming pools all year round. That’s right, even in the depths of winter you’ll find Iceland’s ice cream parlous and public swimming pools full of locals. 

Natives tend to only use first names. Icelanders are not formal people, and tend to always address each other by their first name, even when speaking to superiors or someone they don’t know well. 

Iceland is the home to literally thousands of waterfalls - likely in the region of 10,000. In fact, there are so many waterfalls in Iceland, that most of them don’t even have names!

 

The best way to explore Iceland is to visit for yourself! Browse our wide range of rental vehicles to ensure you’re seeing the most of our incredible country.

 
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