Iceland Facts
Iceland Facts

41 Iceland Facts, Land of Fire and Ice

By Nathan James, Associate Writer
Published September 20, 2017
  • Iceland is known as “The Land of Fire and Ice” because of the active volcanos lurking among its many glaciers.[6]
  • Iceland uses 100% renewable electricity, making it the “greenest” country in the world.[13]
  • It is likely that the Icelandic explorer Leif Erikson discovered North America nearly five hundred years before Christopher Columbus.[11]
  • Iceland’s Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state. Finnbogadóttir served as president of Iceland from 1980 to 1996.[3]
  • Reykjavík, Iceland, is home to the Icelandic Phallological Museum, which boasts of a collection of over 200 penises from various animals.[1]
  • Icelandic Vikings were bold explorers and warriors, attacking coastal villages in England and France, and settling parts of Greenland.[9]
  • Iceland Viking Facts
    This painting depicts a Viking battle from King Olaf Tryggvasson's Saga, a medieval King of Norway who had many dealings with the growing Norse settlements in Iceland. (Angus McBride)

  • The world-famous musician Bjӧrk is an Icelander.[12]
  • Icelandic babies don’t mind the cold. It’s common for parents to let their little ones nap outside year-round.[1]
  • Much of the popular HBO show “Game of Thrones” is filmed in Iceland.[13]
  • With over two dozen regularly erupting volcanos, Iceland is one of the most volcanically active spots on Earth.[6]
  • Founded in the year 930, Iceland’s parliament, the Althingi, is the oldest parliamentary body in the world.[1]
  • In 1975, women’s groups in Iceland declared a nationwide “Day Off” in protest of unequal gender practices. Ninety percent of Iceland’s women participated, refusing to go to work, cook, clean, or watch their children, as a way of illustrating women’s importance to the nation. One year later, Iceland’s parliament passed a law guaranteeing greater wage equality.[16]
  • Icelandic cuisine contains some unique dishes, including sour ram testicles (súrir hrútspungar) and sheep’s head (svið). Sheep cheeks and eyeballs are considered special delicacies.[5]
  • Iceland Food Facts
    Traditional Icelandic dishes, including sheep's head, fermented shark, and ram's testicles.
  • Hákarl is a traditional Icelandic dish made from shark meat that has been buried in the ground for several months to ferment. Past versions of this recipe included the use of human urine to help with the fermenting process.[5]
  • The Icelandic language has changed little over the past thousand years. Because of this, even schoolchildren are able to read Icelandic texts written as early as the 12th century AD.[10]
  • Iceland has strict naming laws limiting new parents’ choices to a list of traditional Icelandic names. Parents who opt for names not on the list must get them approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.[1]
  • Icelandic surnames are formed by adding ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ to the end of one of the parents' first names.[1]
  • “Few people take an interest in Iceland, but in those few the interest is passionate.”

    - W.H. Auden

  • The English word “geyser” is derived from Geysir, the name of an enormous geyser in Haukadalur, Iceland.[1]
  • Icelandic folk legend holds Midsummer’s Night, the longest day of the year, to be magical and dangerous; cows are said to speak and seals to take on human form.[8]
  • The physical landscape of Iceland is in constant flux due to its lively volcanos and shifting fault lines. All this activity makes Iceland an ideal setting for geological research.[17]
  • Iceland Flag Fact
    The Icelandic flag was officially adopted in 1915.
  • The colors in Iceland’s flag symbolize three of its dominant elements: white glaciers, red volcanos, and blue sky.[14]
  • Icelanders love licorice. Salty black licorice is paired with fruit, chocolate, ice cream, and meringue by Icelandic confectioners; and licorice alcohol is an Icelandic specialty.[4]
  • Iceland is the only country in NATO without a standing army.[13]
  • Iceland was settled by Norse explorers around 870 A.D.[9]
  • Nearly 5% of Icelanders still practice Ásatrú, the traditional Norse religion.[14]
  • Most Icelanders—nearly 80%—are members of the Lutheran State Church.[14]
  • Brennívin liquor—the “Black Death”—is an Icelandic favorite made from potatoes and caraway.[5]
  • Written in the Middle Ages, the “Icelandic Sagas” contain thrilling tales of seafaring Vikings and their epic battles against enemies both earthly and supernatural.[9]
  • Iceland adopted Christianity around 1,000 AD. This abrupt cultural change marked the end of the period of Viking exploration and plunder.[9]
  • Icelandic myths were often intertwined with the doings of magical creatures such as elves, ghosts, and trolls.[15]
  • The elves of Icelandic folklore were devious and unpredictable creatures whose activities ranged from aiding humans and rewarding bravery to spreading illness or stealing children.[15]
  • Iceland Troll Facts
    The Huldufólk (hidden folk) making an appearance on a shopping street.
  • Due to a common belief in elves that persists to this day, road construction in Iceland is occasionally delayed or even rerouted to preserve customary elven lands.[15]
  • Iceland’s unique rock formations were often believed to be trolls that had turned to stone.[15]
  • Iceland has never won a gold medal in the Olympics.[7]
  • The only mammal that is native to Iceland is the arctic fox.[1]
  • Like many people, Icelanders knock on wood to ward off bad luck, but their ritual has been expanded to include the recitation of the numbers 7, 9, and 13 as they do it.[18]
  • The bands Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men are from Iceland.[12]
  • Icelanders celebrate the beginning of Lent with Bolludagur, or “Bun Day.” On this day, children make traditional wands called bolluvöndur, which they then use to spank their parents. For every spank they give, they receive a chocolate bun.[18]
  • The Northern Lights are visible in Iceland for more than eight months out of the year.[2]
  • Iceland Northern Lights
    Few places on Earth enjoy such a view of the Aurora Borealis.

  • Slátur, which means “slaughter”, is an Icelandic blood pudding made from sheep guts, blood, and fat.[5]
  • Icelandic custom holds that it’s bad luck to receive a knife as a gift.[18]
  • Intriguing Facts about Iceland INFOGRAPHIC
    Iceland Infographic
References

120 Strange and Awesome Facts about Iceland.Iceland Monitor: News, January 29, 2017. Accessed: August 20, 2017.

2Einarsdottir, Katrín Sif. "Northern Lights in Iceland." Guide to Iceland. Accessed: August 24, 2017.

3First female head of state, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, elected 35 years ago today.” Iceland Magazine, June 19, 2015. Accessed: August 22, 2017.

4Guðmundsdóttir, Sóley Bjork. “Iceland’s Love Affair with Liquorice.” Iceland Monitor: Opinion, August 20, 2017. Accessed: August 20, 2017.

5Gunnarsdóttir, Nanna. “The World’s Most Disgusting Icelandic Food.” Guide to Iceland. Accessed: August 22, 2017.

6Iceland: Fire and Ice.” PBS: Nature. May 14, 2008. Accessed: August 22, 2017.

7"Iceland." Olympic.org. Accessed: August 24, 2017.

8"Important Dates and Holidays." Icelandic American Association of Southern California. Accessed: August 24, 2017.

9Kellogg, Robert. “Introduction.” The Sagas of Icelanders. New York: Viking Press, 2000.

10"Language." iceland.is: The Big Picture.  Accessed: August 22, 2017.

11"Leif Erikson." BBC: History. Accessed: August 24, 2017.

12McMahon, Sara. “10 World Famous Icelanders. Do You Know Any of Them?” Iceland Magazine, July 31, 2014. Accessed: August 24, 2017.

13Morgans, Richard. “Iceland is the magical land of fire and ice, the Northern Lights, Game of Thrones - and much much more.” The Mirror: Lifestyle, December 24, 2016. Accessed: August 20, 2017.

14"Quick Facts." iceland.is: The Big Picture. Accessed: August 22, 2017.

15Simpson, Jacqueline. Icelandic Folktales and Legends. Stroud, UK: Tempus Publishing, 2004.

16The Day the Women Went on Strike.” The Guardian: World, October 18, 2005. Accessed: August 22, 2017.

17Thordarson, Thor, and Ármann Hӧskuldsson. Iceland. Edinburgh: Dunedin, 2014.

18Torfadóttir, Áslaug. “How Do You Like Iceland? - Icelandic Traditions, Customs, and Habits.” Iceland Travel (blog). Accessed: August 22, 2017.

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