Iceland is an island country, located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a part of the Europe continent with a total population of fewer than 350,000 people. Iceland is the spread over 40,000 miles sq, making it the most sparsely populated country of Europe.
Iceland is a land of vivid contrasts. You will be able to see captivating lava fields and picturesque mountains and sparkling glaciers and many glacial rivers that flow through Iceland into the sea. Offshore Gulf stream provides a pleasantly mild climate to the land, which is the northernmost inhabited country of the world, as it lies just outside the Arctic Circle. Scorching hot geysers are in found in abundance as well, which provide heat to various homes and buildings.
Geographically, Iceland is the World’s 18th largest island. It is the second-largest island in Europe after Great Britain. Reykjavík is the largest city in Iceland and also it’s the capital city. Almost two-thirds of the total population of Iceland is settled in Reykjavík and it’s surrounding areas. Other major populated cities are Kópavogur, Akureyri, and Hafnarfjördhur. One would think that a country so far off, mostly covered in snow, would lack the basic technologies and amenities, however, one would be surprised to learn that Iceland is ranked ninth most developed country in the world. The best part is that it runs almost completely on renewable energy. It also ranks high on political, economic and social stability.
Iceland ranks number one in the Global Peace Index. Apart from a few coast guards, it has absolutely no standing military and is also the least populated country who is a member of NATO.
When humans first set foot on Iceland, the only mammals on the whole land was the Arctic Fox. Occasionally some Polar Bears wanders and come to Iceland from the neighboring country, Greenland, however, they are just visitors. One would be surprised to know that Iceland has absolutely no mosquitoes, or reptiles or amphibians. The only animals found here are Icelandic sheep, goats, chickens, cattle and the magnificent Icelandic horses. The wild animals that made Iceland as habitat, apart from Arctic fox are the mice, minks, rabbits, and reindeer. Few species of seals are the only marine mammals on the island. However, they are many species of fish in and around the island. The fishing industry is the biggest part of Iceland’s economy, accounting for nearly half of the country’s exports. That leaves the birds. Gorgeous looking seabirds like Puffins, Skuas, and Kittiwakes are found nesting in Iceland’s sea cliffs.
Nearly three-quarters of Iceland is a barren land. So no vegetation is possible in that area. The island was full of forests when the first settlers came in. A lot of trees were cut down by these settlers, for timber and firewood, which disturbed the ecosystem of thin volcanic soils. Such mass deforestation along with overgrazing by sheep that the settlers brought along with them, led to drastic soil erosion. This led to the land rendered useless. Today, they plant new trees in order to bring back the glory of old forest area, but it’s a long way to go. The only vegetation now is done in reservoir areas. The plant life consists of grassland which is regularly grazed by the livestock.
Iceland has more volcanic vents and hot springs than any other country. There are nearly 250 hot springs throughout the country. The biggest one of all is Deildartunguhver, that emits nearly 190 liters of boiling hot water per second. Since Iceland is located on both continent plates of North America and Europe, earthquakes here is a regular occurrence. However, they rarely result in any severe damage, since most of the buildings were establishes in the mid 20th century with reinforced concrete so that they can withstand any impacts from earthquakes.
Originally, people of Iceland were of Nordic and Gaelic origin. Genetic studies have revealed that among the early settlers, nearly all the men were of Nordic origin while the women were of Gaelic origin, leading to the theory that Nordic men brought Gaelic slaves with them to the land, to work. The official spoken and written language is called Icelandic. It is basically a North Germanic language descended from the Old Norse. As for religion, Icelanders have the freedom to practice any religion they want, however, Lutheran faith is the dominant religion among the people.
Icelandic culture has its root in North Geman traditions. People are intelligent and peaceful. Equality is highly valued by the people of Iceland. They refrain from using noble titles and ranks, as they address each other by first name only. The income inequality has been the lowest for Icelanders, in the world. They even value equality between sexes, in the highest regard. Iceland has been always ranked among the top countries, for women to live in. It was also the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, in the year 2010. Icelanders are known for their deep sense of community. They are very helpful people, always eager to lend a hand. They love to communicate and socialize, with others.
Iceland’s cuisine mostly consists of fish, lamb and dairy products. They utilize almost no herbs and spices. It is because of the climate, that fruits and vegetables are very difficult to grow, however, installations of greenhouses have enabled them to grow them as well. Traditional cuisine mostly includes skyr (yogurt-like cheese), cured shark, cured ram, dried fish, flatbread, sheep heads, and dark rye bread. Puffins are also broiled and considered as a delicacy. Coca-Cola is surprisingly a main beverage for the Icelanders and is considered to be the highest per capita consuming country for the beverage. Other than that people prefer drinking Coffee. Brennivín is their signature alcoholic beverage, which is kind of Schnapps which is made from distilled potatoes.
Tourism in Iceland accounts for a major factor in their economy. As a tourist, you will be wanting to try out skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, hiking, rock climbing, and fishing. Landscape photographers find it the most exotic of all destinations. From beautiful mountains to snowy landscapes, from lava fields to hot geysers, cool glaciers to mesmerizing waterfalls, beautiful horses and puffins and to top it off, watching the aurora lights with a backdrop of clear skies, Iceland is truly the most beautiful country in the world. Here are 25 photographs from Iceland that will make you pack your bags and visit this alluring land of diversity.
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