Klifatindur (93)
Photo: Klifatindur

Iceland191 photos


Iceland is a Nordic island country of Europe located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of 332,529 and an area of 103,000 km², making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population.

Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava 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. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.

According to the ancient manuscript Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, Norwegians, and to a lesser extent other Scandinavians, emigrated to Iceland, bringing with them thralls (i.e., slaves or serfs) of Gaelic origin. The island was governed as an independent commonwealth under the Althing, one of the world’s oldest functioning legislative assemblies. Following a period of civil strife, Iceland acceded to Norwegian rule in the 13th century.

The establishment of the Kalmar Union in 1397 united the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Iceland thus followed Norway’s integration to that union and came under Danish rule, after Sweden’s secession from that union in 1523. Although the Danish kingdom introduced Lutheranism forcefully in 1550, Iceland remained a distant semi-colonial territory in which Danish institutions and infrastructures were conspicuous by their absence.

In the wake of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, Iceland’s struggle for independence took form and culminated in independence in 1918 and the founding of a republic in 1944.

Until the 20th century, Iceland relied largely on subsistence fishing and agriculture, and was among the poorest countries in Europe. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity, and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, it became a part of the European Economic Area, which further diversified the economy into sectors such as finance, biotechnology, and manufacturing.

Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Scandinavian heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is descended from Old West Norse and is closely related to Faroese and West Norwegian dialects.

List of sights191 photos

Aurora Borealis (Iceland) (54) Jökulsárlón
Photo: Aurora Borealis (Iceland), Jökulsárlón

Aurora Borealis (Iceland)11 photos

An aurora borealis, sometimes referred to as polar lights, northern lights, is a natural light display in the Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in the…

Map: Aurora Borealis (Iceland)
Breiðamerkursandur (341)
Photo: Breiðamerkursandur

Breiðamerkursandur17 photos

Breiðamerkursandur (also called Diamond Beach for the pieces of glacial ice washed up on the beach) is a sandur (a glacial outwash plain) in…

Map: Breiðamerkursandur
Dyrhólaey (111)
Photo: Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey7 photos

The small peninsula, or promontory, Dyrhólaey (120 m) (formerly known as “Cape Portland” by seamen) is located on the south coast of Iceland, not…

Map: Dyrhólaey
East fjords (4)
Photo: East fjords

East Fjords (Iceland)6 photos

Eastern Region (Austurland, also known as Austfirðir: “East Fjords”) is a region in eastern Iceland. Its area is 22,721 km² and in 2007 its…

Map: East Fjords (Iceland)
Eystrahorn (91)
Photo: Eystrahorn

Eystrahorn4 photos

Part of the Krossanesfjall is the famous rock outcrop Eystrahorn (also called Austurhorn), on the other side of the wide bay of Lón the Vestrahorn

Map: Eystrahorn
Goðafoss (119)
Photo: Goðafoss

Goðafoss8 photos

The Goðafoss (“waterfall of the gods” or “waterfall of the goði”) is a waterfall in Iceland. It is located in the Bárðardalur district of …

Map: Goðafoss
Gullfoss (11)
Photo: Gullfoss

Gullfoss10 photos

Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) is a waterfall located in the canyon of Hvítá river in southwest Iceland. The wide Hvítá river rushes southward, and about…

Map: Gullfoss
Hverarönd (97)
Photo: Hverarönd

Hverarönd28 photos

Hverarönd, literally meaning “hot springs of the ducks”, also called by Námafjall metonymy of the name of the mountain at the foot of which it is…

Map: Hverarönd
Hvítserkur (76)
Photo: Hvítserkur

Hvítserkur7 photos

Hvítserkur is a 15 m high basalt stack along the eastern shore of the Vatnsnes peninsula, in northwest Iceland. The rock has two holes at the base,…

Map: Hvítserkur
Icelandic Horses (48)
Photo: Icelandic Horses

Icelandic Horses4 photos

The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Although the horses are small, at times pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic

Map: Icelandic Horses
Icelandic Landscapes (99)
Photo: Icelandic Landscapes

Icelandic Landscapes3 photos

Iceland has extensive volcanic and geothermal activity. The rift associated with the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which marks the division between the…

Map: Icelandic Landscapes
Jökulsárlón (211)
Photo: Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón26 photos

Jökulsárlón, literally “glacial river lagoon”, is a large glacial lake in southeast Iceland, on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park. Situated at…

Map: Jökulsárlón
Kirkjufell (43)
Photo: Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell5 photos

Mount Kirkjufell (463 m) is located in the west of Iceland, near the town of Grundarfjörður on the western shore of the fjord Grundarfjörður in the…

Map: Kirkjufell
Klifatindur (71)
Photo: Klifatindur

Klifatindur16 photos

The mountain Klifatindur is located in southern Iceland and is 889 m high. An important part of this mountain range is the Vestrahorn (757 m). In…

Map: Klifatindur
Lake Mývatn (5)
Photo: Lake Mývatn

Mývatn5 photos

Mývatn is a shallow eutrophic lake situated in an area of active volcanism in the north of Iceland, not far from Krafla volcano. The lake and its…

Map: Mývatn
Reynisfjara (105)
Photo: Reynisfjara

Reynisfjara20 photos

Reynisdrangar are basalt sea stacks situated under the mountain Reynisfjall near the village Vík í Mýrdal, southern Iceland which is framed by a…

Map: Reynisfjara
Skógafoss (27)
Photo: Skógafoss

Skógafoss5 photos

Skógafoss is a waterfall situated on the Skógá River in the south of Iceland at the cliffs of the former coastline. After the coastline had receded…

Map: Skógafoss
Ice caves (26) Vatnajökull
Photo: Ice caves, Vatnajökull

Vatnajökull ice caves9 photos

Glacier caves are caves formed within the ice of a glacier and are often called ice caves. The glacier caves are started by water running through or…

Map: Vatnajökull ice caves

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