Iceland isn’t just one of the most popular travel destinations, it’s also a land of geological and environmental wonders. Whether exploring the historic and cultural centers of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, or traveling the famed Golden Circle, a visit to Iceland is truly an unforgettable experience.

Here are 12 facts about Iceland:

  • Iceland about the size of Kentucky and has roughly 5,000km of coastline.
  • Iceland was founded by the Vikings. Scandinavians were the first to settle in Iceland in 870. It was later ruled by the Norwegians and the Danes before becoming independent from the Kingdom of Denmark in 1918. It has been a republic since 1944.
  • The country lies on two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and North American.
  • There are a vast number of volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, mud pools and geothermal vents throughout Iceland. The energy from the volcanoes and vents is used by geothermal power stations and supplies, heating 85% of all households.
  • Icelanders do not have to pay school fees. All education is free of charge.
  • The world’s first female president was an Icelander named Vigdis Finbogadottir. She was elected in 1980.
  • Icelanders typically do not have a family name or surname. They take their father’s name. If the father is called Jakob, the daughter is given a first name and then the father’s name with an added “-sdottir” and so is called Jakobsdottir (Jakob’s daughter). For sons, they add “-sson.”
  • Rotten shark – called “hakarl” – is considered a specialty in Iceland. Other specialties include Skyr, a yogurt like white cheese, dried fish, lax, and pickled herring.
  • There are no forests in Iceland. There are also no mountains, just valleys, despite what photos may depict. Yhe country was carved out by slow moving glaciers which gouged deep valleys as they passed.
  • The Icelandic language remains unchanged from ancient Norse.
  • Iceland is home to the very first parliament grounds in Europe. The first Parliament met in Iceland in 930 AD in what is today Þingvellir National Park.
  • The majority of present-day Icelanders believe in the existence of elves and trolls. It is believed that large rocks in fields are frozen trolls, and the common smell in Iceland isn’t from sulphur but of the trolls’ dirty bath water.

Learn more about our educational travel programs to Iceland.