The Republic of Iceland (in Icelandic, Lýđveldiđ Ísland).
Iceland comprises one large island and numerous smaller ones, and is
situated near the Arctic Circle. Iceland is sometimes called the “land
of ice and fire”
for the striking contrasts in its landscapes, where grand glaciers and
magnificent fjords coexist with over 200
volcanoes, many of which are still active today.
Geologically speaking, Iceland is the youngest country in Europe, formed
only 16-20 million years ago by volcanic eruptions on the North Atlantic
seabed. The rift can clearly be seen running through Iceland where the American and European continental
plates are moving apart, making the country spread by 1-2 cm a year. Its land area measures
103,000 km 2 (40,000 square miles).
Population in Iceland is 300.000 (January. 9th, 2006). Population density:
3 per square kilometre. Iceland is the most sparsely populated
country in Europe (seventh in the world). Most of the people are of Norwegian descent, with some admixture of Celtic blood from
those who came from Ireland and the Scottish islands.
Life expectancy in Iceland (2001) is among the highest in the world. Average life expectancy at birth for females is 81,4 years and
for males 77,6 years. Infant mortality is among the lowest in the world, 3,0 per 1000 live births.
Reykjavík Area, population
Complete religious freedom is safeguarded in the constitution. The
largest denomination is the Evangelical Lutheran Church (state
church of Iceland) to which 87.1% of the population belong.
Christianity was adopted in Iceland – one of few countries where
this took place peacefully – in the year 1000 at Thingvellir,
the ancient parliament site.
Education is mandatory from 6 to 15 years of age. There are 50
schools and colleges at secondary level, where one out of every
three Icelanders in the age group 16-19 is studying.
University-level education is offered at five establishments in
Iceland and one in every five Icelanders aged 20-24 is studying at
university or a comparable institution, in Iceland or abroad.
The Icelandic language belongs to the Nordic family and is virtually unchanged from the ancient Viking tongue spoken since the
settlement. Icelandic is one of the oldest living languages in Europe. The Icelanders have comprehensive records of their origin
as a nation, in their native language: the Sagas.
Danish and English are mandatory subjects in school. Literacy is 99.9%, the highest in the world.
The first people believed to have settled in Iceland were Irish
monks who came in the eight century AD. They left, however, with
the arrival of pagan Norsemen, who came in 874 to seek freedom
from Norway’s oppressive king Harald Fairhair. In 930 the
Icelanders founded the Althing, their supreme general assembly,
the oldest national parliament in the world. They had no king, a
unique arrangement at that time.
Christianity was adopted in 1000, the same year that
Icelandic-born Leifur Eiríksson (Leif the Lucky) became the first
European to set foot in North America.
In 1262, Iceland became subject to Norwegian control and in 1380
came under Danish control, along with Norway. After the granting
of a constitution (1874) and with an improving economy, Iceland
finally became an independent sovereign state under the Danish
king in 1918. The Republic of Iceland was formally declared on
June 17, 1944.
folk museum in Vopnafjörđur
Parliamentary democracy. A centre-right coalition was formed in 1995 by
the Independence Party (IP) and the Progressive Party
(PP), and continued for a second term after the general election in May
The Prime Minister is Davíđ Oddsson, chairman of the IP. The Minister
for Foreign Affairs is Halldór Ásgrímsson, chairman of the PP. In the
May 1999 general election, seats were won by the IP (26), PP (12), Social
Democratic Alliance (17), Left Greens (6) and Liberals (2).
Head of State
His Excellency Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, was
inaugurated for his second term of office in August 2000.
First elected in
1996, he was a professor of political science at the University
of Iceland and a member of the Icelandic parliament
(including a term as finance minister) before he was elected president.
Iceland is a member of numerous international organizations, including the
United Nations and its agencies, the European Economic Area and the
Schengen Co-operation on free passage over European borders, NATO, the
Council of Europe, OECD, EFTA, WTO and the Nordic Council.
Daily flights link Iceland with more than 20 gateways in Europe and North
America. Flight time is 2-4 hours to Western Europe
and 5-6 hours to North America. Domestic services operate to several main
regional communities, with a flight time of less than one hour.
Some 99% of imports and exports are carried by marine transport. There
were 40 merchant vessels registered in the Icelandic shipping
fleet at the beginning of 2002. Fishing and fish processing is the main
economic activity in Iceland, accounting for 40% of foreign
currency revenues, and the fishing fleet numbered 80 trawlers and 875
smaller vessels on January 1, 2002.
indicators for 2004
Domestic Product Million ISK
Domestic Product per capital ISK
Passengers in 2005
is the capital city of Iceland.
Population of main cities and towns as of Dec. 2005:
Iceland is by no means as cold as its name would suggest, thanks to the Gulf Stream which keeps its ports ice-free all year round.
Temperature: Average temperatures in Reykjavík range from about 0°C (32°F) in December and January to 12°C (54°F) in July and
August. Inland temperatures are generally lower. The weather in Iceland is notoriously changeable and travellers should always be
prepared for all kinds of weather, and even sharp contrasts within the same day.
Iceland offers a very high standard of healthcare services which is virtually free – only nominal charges are made. The following
conditions apply to healthcare for visitors to Iceland, depending upon whether they are from the European Economic Area or not:
Citizens of the Nordic Countries and Great Britain must have medical insurance and a valid identification in case of medical
emergency. Other citizens of EEA countries must have with them the E-111 form, which may be obtained from their
respective health insurance companies. Failing this, patients will be charged in full. Similarly, citizens of other countries
must show proof of valid medical insurance, otherwise they will be charged in full. For further information on medical
insurance contact the Icelandic Embassy or Consulate in your
Within the EEA: Patients shall complete a form and produce a photocopy of their passports on being admitted for medical
care. In the case of emergency treatment, they must present the E-111 form, filled in and signed by an insurance company in
their home country, before being discharged from hospital. Visitors domiciled in Nordic Countries and Great Britain are
exempted from needing to present the E-111 form. If an emergency is not involved, patients pay their own costs.
Outside the EEA: Patients pay their own costs. Patients who are insured in their own countries will have the cost reimbursed
there. Vaccinations are only needed if visitors come from countries where infectious diseases such as cholera, smallpox, yellow
fever, etc. are known