All the Scandinavian countries are sights to see, but Iceland is on a different level. This wondrous country is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and for good reason. Iceland is a natural beauty with a rich history and amazing features like glaciers and volcanoes. However, that’s not all it has to offer.
From beautiful glaciers and dramatic scenery like volcanoes to idyllic spots like the Blue Lagoon, Iceland is full of gems that you can’t help but want to explore.
Read about amazing Iceland facts here to learn more about this phenomenal country.
Amazing Iceland Facts That Will Astound You
1. Icelanders Use a Unique Naming System
Most people you know probably have a family name. However, Icelanders don’t use family names.
Instead, they use a patronymic or matronymic naming system which was once common throughout the Nordic region. Because of this, all family members have distinct last names that usually end in -son (son of) or -dóttir (daughter of).
2. Iceland Is One of the Oldest Democracies in the World
When we think of ancient democracies, it’s probably countries like Greece that come to mind.
However, one of the lesser-known Iceland facts is that Iceland has the oldest parliament in the world still in existence. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park in Iceland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great significance since this is where Icelandic chieftains first met to create the first parliament.
This was in the year 930 CE and continued in the spot until 1798. It was only after a decree that the Alþingi (Allthing) was re-established again in 1845 in Reykjavik.
3. More Than Half of the Icelandic Population Lives in Reykjavik
Iceland isn’t a very populated country, and only has about 368,782 residents. Of these people, an astounding 63% live in the Greater Reykjavik area.
Reykjavik is a pretty small city but is the most northern capital city in the world. Known for its colourful buildings, it boasts a number of cafes, restaurants, bars, and museums.
The Greater Reykjavik Area consists of the city and six neighboring municipalities.
4. Iceland Has Three National Colors
Another interesting Iceland fact is that their national colors are red, white, and blue. These are displayed on their flag, and represent the different elements present in the country.
While the color red represents Iceland’s volcanic fires, white represents snow and ice. The last of the three colors, blue, represents the ocean.
5. Iceland Is the Safest Country in the World
Are you worried about violent crimes? You don’t have to be in Iceland. An unbelievable Iceland fact we love is that the country has the lowest crime rate in the world. It was the safest country in the world in 2019 and is the only NATO member that doesn’t have a standing army, navy, or air force.
Instead, they have an air defense system, a national coastguard, and a crisis response unit. This response unit is a peacekeeping force of approximately 200 who don’t carry arms.
6. Icelanders Believe In Elves and Trolls
Some of us believe elves and trolls to be the stuff of fairytales, but many Icelanders actually believe in them.
These mystical and magical creatures can be traced back to the Viking age and many Icelanders will tell you of the folklore surrounding the Huldufólk or “the hidden people.”
These magical creatures are said to live in lava fields and even have a special spokesperson speaking on their behalf when construction takes place on these fields!
7. Every March 1st Is Beer Day in Iceland
One of the most surprising Iceland facts is that although the country has a national Beer Day (Bjórdagurinn), it once banned beer!
Iceland was beer-free for 74 years from 1915 to 1989. The ban finally ended after a referendum by the population. Now, beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Iceland.
8. You Can See the Northern Lights in Iceland
Another great Iceland fact is that it’s an amazing country from where to see the Northern Lights.
If you’ve dreamed of experiencing the Aurora Borealis, Iceland may be the destination for you.
You can see the breathtaking phenomenon from September to March when the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with solar particles and puts on a natural light show.
9. Iceland Is One of the Most Eco-Friendly Countries in the World
Most of the electricity in Iceland is produced via renewable energy sources and it’s regarded as one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world.
In fact, Reykjavik plans to become carbon-neutral by 2040, with transport being one of the final challenges they have to face.
The capital already uses hydroelectric power and geothermally heats all houses. Once it cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by changing travel modes, it will become even more eco-friendly.
10. Does Iceland Have 13 Different Santas?
Yes, you read that right. 13 different Santas. However, it’s not exactly that simple. Instead of the traditional Santa Claus distributing presents, Icelandic children expect the 13 Yule Lads instead.
According to Icelandic folklore, children expect the 13 different trolls to visit them, one each night from December 23rd to January 6th.
As per tradition, Icelandic children place their shoes in their bedroom windows during the Christmas period and are visited by one Yule Lad every night and left small presents. Each Yule Lad has a distinct personality and their own quirks, making this an extremely fun time for those who celebrate it!
11. Their National Sport Is Handball
From horseback riding and glacier hiking to football and basketball, Iceland is known for being a sporty country.
However, a little-known Iceland fact is that the country’s national sport is actually handball.
While not as popular as other global sports, this is widely loved in Iceland. In fact, in the 2008 Olympics, Iceland took home the silver medal in handball.
12. You Can Swim Outside in Hot Springs All Year Round
It gets freezing cold in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t swim outside.
There are a number of outdoor pools and hot springs throughout Iceland, and you can swim in them all year round.
These geothermal pools are a perfect way to relax after a long day of sightseeing or simply to sit and admire the gorgeous surroundings. The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular geothermal spas and is one of the most visited attractions in the country.
13. Stunning Glaciers Cover 11% Of the Country
People all around the world come to Iceland to look at stunning glacier lagoons and ice caves. About 11% of Iceland’s land mass is covered by glaciers, with the ice cap, Vatnajokull, being the largest glacier in Europe.
It covers an astounding 8,300 sq. km! Apart from these, Iceland is home to more than 250 named glaciers, which come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
In addition to taking in their beauty, locals and visitors alike engage in glacier hiking, exploring ice caves, sea kayaking, and snowmobiling.
14. Iceland Has Fjords Too
Geothermal pools, glaciers, and volcanoes make up Iceland’s breathtaking landscape. However, this isn’t where the natural beauty ends.
While fjords are usually associated with neighboring Norway, Iceland has its own fjords too.
Hundreds of these U-shaped inlets are seen across Iceland’s coastline and are divided into two main groups – Westfjords and those in the east.
15. Icelandic Horses Are the County’s Only Horse Breed
Horses are majestic creatures, but Iceland only has a single horse breed. Icelandic horses are one of the purest horse breeds in the world and are known for their beautiful, long manes and muscular bodies.
They’re an important part of the country’s history and are present throughout the nation. Those visiting always manage to take pictures with the friendly creatures since they’re known to be curious and inviting!
16. Icelanders Love Books
One of our favorite Iceland facts has to do with the country’s literary tradition, which dates back to the 13th century.
Readers and writers alike are everywhere in Iceland, and the country is even known for the large number of writers it produces. 1 in 10 Icelanders publish a book.
In fact, there’s even an Icelandic phrase that references this. “Ad ganga med bok I maganum” literally translates to “everyone has a book in their stomach.” In addition to this, Icelanders have a book-giving holiday called “Jolabokaflod” which they celebrate on Christmas Eve.
17. Iceland Has More Than 100 Volcanoes
Iceland is famous for its volcanoes. One of the most well-known Iceland facts is the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in 2010.
However, this is just one of Iceland’s active volcanoes. The country has more than 100 volcanoes, many of which are active and spew lava. Another unbelievable Iceland fact is that because of this, a lot of Iceland is covered in lava fields from constant activity.
15 Things You Didn’t Know About Iceland
From what it is like to the facets of Iceland that people don’t know, this video tackles several important facts about the unique country.
From its stunning geographical features like glaciers and fjords to its reputation as one of the safest countries in the world, Iceland is an idyllic place that’s perfect to read about. We hope our round-up of amazing Iceland facts helped you better understand this popular destination!
Hi I’m Jay. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and live in Los Angeles, California. I have travelled to 23 countries so far and planning to go explore more countries soon! My Favorite trips so far have been to Israel, Japan, Rome, Iceland and Australia. I started this site to share my love of travel with everyone and build a community of like-minded, free thinking, free exploring people.