There is perhaps no other country in the world more fascinating and alluring than Iceland. It has everything one needs and is the perfect touristic destination. It has picturesque landscapes, guilt-free electricity, exciting climate, rich culture and literature, magnificent volcanoes, glaciers, snow-capped mountains, the aurora borealis, and what not. Despite being a small country and sparsely populated, it ranks among the best countries in the world. Hence, here are some fabulous facts about Iceland that you’ve probably never heard of before.
1. Iceland is the only country in the world with no mosquitoes.
Though mosquitoes are known to breed in places with various climatic conditions, including in Antarctica and nearby Greenland, they are very much absent in Iceland. According to scientists, the Icelandic climate helps keep them away. Unlike in other cold countries, where the pupa could hibernate during winters and hatch when the ice melts in spring, the climate in Iceland changes rapidly and unexpectedly. There could be a sudden rise in temperatures in the middle of winters, which thaw the ice, and then a sudden drop in temperature, all of which disrupt the life cycle of mosquitoes making it impossible for them to breed and multiply. (source)
2. 100% of Iceland’s population has access to the internet.
From a rate of 99.8 percent in 2015, Iceland has reached 100 percent of internet users according to the data collected from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Bank, and United Nations Population Division. The data refers to internet users as those who can access the internet at home on any device type and connection. (1, 2)
3. Iceland is located on the boundaries of two tectonic plates and was formed from volcanic eruptions on the Mid-Atlantic ridge, about 18 million years ago.
Iceland is a part of the ridge between Eurasian and North American plates. It was created because of the rifting and volcanic activity when the plates were pulled apart. The presence of the ridge also means that there are hundreds of volcanoes in Iceland with approximately 30 volcanic systems being active and a lot of geothermal phenomenon like geysers. Iceland sits directly above a hotspot, known as Iceland Plume, which is believed to be the cause for the formation of the country. (1, 2)
4. At 103,000 sq km, Iceland is around the same size as England. However, its population is only 332,529, and 60% of this population live in Reykjavik, the capital city.
Since the time of its original settlement, the population of Iceland had faced lots of calamities like cold winters, ash fall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plagues along with 37 famine years. All these tragedies affected the population severely. Until the mid-19th century, the population of Iceland varied between 40,000 to 60,000 and only reached 320,000 in 2008. (1, 2)
5. The language of Iceland, Icelandic, has remained vastly unchanged from Old Norse.
Icelandic descended from Old Norse, and compared to other Nordic languages, its grammar and vocabulary did not change much. Instead of borrowing from other languages, Icelandic has developed its own vocabulary based on native roots, and so they preserved more noun and verb inflection. The reason the development of Icelandic had stayed puristic was because of conscious language planning that started in the 18th century as well as the country’s geographic isolation. (source)
6. More than 99% of the power generated in Iceland is from renewable sources like hydropower and geothermal power.
Owing to its unique geology, being located over the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and the resultant large number of volcanoes and geysers, Iceland became the world’s largest green energy producer and electricity producer per capita. Being located on the ridge makes the island tectonically active. This means there are over 200 volcanoes and 600 hot springs. There are over 20 high-temperature steam fields with temperatures of at least 150 0C and with many of them even reaching 250 0C. Because of their such features, they are harnessed to geothermal power. There are also many glacial rivers and waterfalls through which hydropower is harnessed. (1, 2)
7. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon, is actually man-made. It is filled with wastewater from a nearby geothermal power plant, Svartsengi. This power plant takes the water superheated by lava from the ground to generate electricity and sends it to the lagoon when done.
The Blue Lagoon spa is located in a lava field in Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. The waters of the spa are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and have average temperatures between 37 and 39 0C. The geothermal power plant Svartsengi uses the superheated water (240 0C) from the ground near a lava flow to run turbines to generate electricity. After that, the water is passed through the heat exchanger to heat the municipal water and is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal use. (source)
8. Iceland has more books written, published, and sold per capita than any other country. An average Icelander reads four books a year while one out of ten publishes something in their lifetime.
Iceland has a rich literature and a majority of the population that indulges in it. The prevalence could be due to the fact that the long winters and the long distances to between places like movie theaters make it difficult to go out very often. More importantly, there is also a great amount of pre-Christian literature in the form of The Sagas, the folklore and mythologies which remain an intrinsic part of Icelandic identity and culture. Also, taking the small population into account, it comes as no surprise that reading and writing are so common.
During Christmas Eve, Icelanders give so many books as gifts that it has become a national tradition called Jólabókaflóð, or “Christmas Book Flood”. Typically, most books are published between September and December, and during the early November, the Iceland Publishers Association releases a catalog of new publications called Bokatidindi, which is distributed for free to almost every home. (1, 2)
9. Despite being so far in the north, the climate in Iceland is remarkably mild. In fact, New York would feel comparatively cooler than Reykjavik.
Iceland lies in the path of the North Atlantic Current, which means that the climate is more temperate than can be expected in a place that is situated so close to the Arctic Circle. Also, the Irminger Current keeps the island’s temperature moderate. Iceland’s winters reach an average temperature of 0 0C (32 0F) while the summers reach an average of 10 – 13 0C (50 – 55 0F) in the south, while the lowest recorded was -39.7 0C (-39.5 0F) and the highest was 30.5 0C (86.9 0F). (1, 2)
10. The parliament of Iceland, established in 930, is the oldest active parliament in the world.
The Althing (meaning “all the assemblies”) is the national parliament of Iceland and was first formed around 930, about 60 years after first settlement on the island. It consisted of district leaders, members, and a speaker whose responsibility was to say the laws and decisions out loud to people. During the 13th century and until mid 19th century, this form of administration was replaced with a legislative power shared with Norwegian king and progressed to absolute monarchy, Althing only serving as a court of law. In July 1843, Althing was recreated, elections were held a year later, and a new parliament established by 1845. Consequently, it is considered “the world’s oldest parliamentary democracy.” (1, 2)