Iceland car rental Show menu

Why are Icelanders so Happy?

Iceland has done it again. In 2023, Icelanders bagged position 3 on the World Happiness Report. Given the long winters and harsh conditions that can make life challenging, you be wondering why. So, how is this possible? What are the secrets to such happiness, optimism and resilience in Iceland?

If you’re curious about what makes Iceland a happy country, here are the top factors.

1. A Sense of Community

The population of Iceland is notoriously small. These 375,000 people living on an island in the Arctic North experience the same hardship when it comes to navigating the harsh climate. They also have a strong sense of community and concern for each other’s well-being. This has resulted in Iceland’s immigrants reporting the same happiness as locals.

Did you know that Icelanders are often distantly related to one another? So much so that they can check they aren’t closely related on a government database before they start dating! 

2. Equality and Inclusion 

The country’s inclusive culture has a huge role to play in the overall happiness of Icelanders. Locals are proud of their Reykjavík Pride, which is the only gay parade that has never been protested. What’s more, Iceland has bridged more than 90% of its gender gap. Maternity leave is awarded to both parents. It is also illegal to pay men and women different wages for the same job. The country’s strong sense of equality and inclusion undoubtedly contributes to their well-being. 

Two women wearing LQBTQ+ flags at a pride parade.

3. Stimulating Scenery

Iceland’s landscape is otherworldly, to say the least. With majestic mountains, stunning waterfalls, calming lakes and rivers, black sand beaches, and geothermal pools, nature in Iceland is always breathtaking. With such scenic wonders to gaze at, the Icelandic population’s stress levels are naturally low.

4. Passion for Arts and Culture

A passion for arts and culture is another reason why Iceland is such a happy country. With a Christmas tradition centred on book gifting - Jólabókaflóð - and the Reykjavík International Literary Festival, Iceland is the biggest publisher of books per capita in the world. 

The country’s music scene is also buzzing, with the Harpa Concert Hall hosting several music festivals each year. From classical to contemporary rock, the culture of music in Iceland is vibrant, to say the least. 

Recently, artists such as Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir have put the limelight on Iceland in the contemporary visual arts scene. Art galleries and museums are plentiful in Reykjavík and beyond. 

5. Active Lifestyle and Balanced Diet 

Good health is one of the biggest factors contributing to a happy population. Icelanders lead an active lifestyle and they enjoy spending time outdoors soaking up that Arctic sunshine. Moreover, their diet consists mainly of fish and fresh farm vegetables, with lean red meat on occasion. These factors have contributed to the Icelandic population’s long life expectancy.

Langoustines - an Icelandic dish made of lobster.

6. Quality Education  

In Iceland, most people attend state schools no matter how wealthy they are. This is not because there are no tuition fees, but due to the high quality of education. Literacy rates, therefore, are soaring, which is also responsible for low unemployment. The excellent quality of education is yet another reason why Iceland is a happy country.

7. Low Crime Levels 

Iceland is one of the most peaceful countries in the world and the rate of crime is extremely low. Not only are children allowed to walk to school in the dark, but babies are left in their strollers outside to enjoy the fresh air.  Icelanders are happy because they feel safe in their country. 

8. A Responsive Government

The Icelandic government has always practised transparency in its operation. Following the 2008 financial crisis, for instance, banks were made accountable for their irresponsibility, ensuring justice. 

Similarly, a problem with underage drinking a few decades back resulted in the Icelandic government creating a curfew legislation and investing in activities for young people. This level of responsiveness from their government has also contributed to Icelanders feeling happy.

Purple lupines blooming in Iceland.

So, is Iceland a happy country? Absolutely! From its sense of community and effective governance to a passion for arts and an active lifestyle, everything contributes to the happiness of this nation. Not to mention the stunning scenery, which is a great stress buster in itself. 

Enjoy happiness in Iceland for yourself. Our rental cars will keep you safe and comfortable so you can experience Iceland your way. Find us at Keflavik on your next trip!