100 Facts About Iceland

Iceland flag1. In Iceland, prohibition of alcoholic beverages came into effect in 1915.

2. Prohibition was partially lifted for wines in 1922, because Spain and Portugal refused to import Icelandic salted cod unless Iceland imported Iberian red wine.

3. Beer remained illegal in Iceland until 1989.

4. In 1956 boxing was banned here. In 2002 amateur boxing was allowed under strict conditions, but professional boxing is forbidden until this day.

5. Geothermal fields cover up to 20% of the country’s electricity needs.

6. Icelandic horses display two additional gaits as compared to all other breeds.

7. In Iceland, if something is sold at a sale price for six consecutive weeks, that discounted price becomes the new regular price and it cannot be advertised as the sale price any more.

8. Selling panties, boxers, thongs, and jock straps with the Icelandic flag on them is forbidden here.

9. In Iceland it is illegal to sell or advertise products of foreign origin with an image of the Icelandic flag.

10. In 2010 Iceland banned strip clubs.

11. Iceland does not have army, navy or air force, only the coast guard. If an Icelander wants to serve in the military, they can join the Norwegian army according to an agreement between the two countries.

12. Military manpower available: 75337 (2010 est.).

13. Consumption of Coca-Cola per capita here is higher than in any other country.

14. Icelandic state has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol.

15. The sale of food items containing more than 2 grams of trans fat for every 100 grams is forbidden.

16. The majority of Icelanders don’t have surnames.

17. A family name can be inherited (mostly from foreign parents), but since 1925 it is illegal to adopt new family names.

18. Women do not take their husbands’ names, because usually there is no such name to take.

19. Icelandic telephone directories list Icelanders by first name alphabetically. To reduce the huge amount of ambiguity, directories also list people’s professions.

20. Second names of Icelanders are names of their parents plus the word ‘son’ for men and ‘daughter’ for women. The second name of a man whose father’s name is Jón would be Jónsson (son of Jón). The second name of Jón’s daughter would not be the same, but Jónsdóttir (daughter of Jón).

21. Icelandic second name may be derived from a parent’s middle name, not the first name. Occasionally also the mother’s name is used.

22. Icelanders formally address others exclusively by their first names, even their prime minister.

23. By 1 January 2011 the population of Iceland was only 318,452.

24. Reykjavík is the only city in Iceland and its capital city. Its name means Bay of Smokes. Other centers of population are small-sized villages.

25. If Icelandic parents give their child a name that has not been previously used in Iceland, that name has to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.

26. The mosquitoes are not found in Iceland and Faroe Islands, the only countries in the world where they do not exist.

27. Christianity was adopted by Icelanders in 1000.

28. The last Roman Catholic bishop in Iceland was beheaded in 1550.

29. Between 1625 and 1683 twenty one Icelanders were burned alive for their supposed practicing magic.

30. Evangelical Lutheran Church is the state church of Iceland.

31. Icelanders can understand texts written in their language over 800 years ago.

32. Iceland is not a very cold country. The average temperatures for January is -0.4°C.

33. Because of the mild climate, Iceland is very green. Icelanders like to say that Iceland should be named Greenland and Greenland should be named Iceland.

34. Iceland is home of one of the world’s oldest democracies. The Althing, Icelandic parliament, was established in 930.

35. In 2010, 97.6% of Icelandic population had Internet connection.

36. 60% of Icelandic population live in Reykjavík.

37. The country has the highest rate of cinema attendance per capita in the world.

38. The smell of Hákarl (fermented shark), traditional Icelandic food, is so strong and particular, that it may cause you to vomit.

39. Iceland was the first country in the world to have a democratically elected female head of state.

40. Not a single runestone has been found in Iceland until today.

41. About 11% of the country’s territory is covered by glaciers.

42. The largest glacier in Europe, Vatnajökull, is located in Iceland (8300 km2).

43. During the last two centuries, 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in Iceland.

44. The highland interior of the country is uninhabited.

45. Life expectancy is at 81.3 for women and at 76.4 for men.

46. The most common Icelandic names are Jón and Anna.

47. Several scenes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were filmed on an Icelandic glacier.

48. James Bond movies were filmed in Iceland twice: first in A View To A Kill (1983) and then in Die Another Day (2002).

49. Puffin is one of the most popular birds in Iceland.

50. Geothermal water heats about 90% of homes of the country.

51. The highest point in Iceland is Hvannadalshnúkur (2,119 m).

52. Öskjuvatn is the deepest lake in Iceland. It was formed as a result of a volcano eruption in 1875.

53. Iceland’s area is 103,000 square kilometers.

54. In 1963 a new volcano appeared in the Atlantic near Iceland.

55. Greenland was colonized by Icelanders in 986.

56. In 2009 Icelanders applied to European Union for membership.

57. Rabbits were first imported to Iceland from Spain in 1976. Some were released into the wild.

58. As late as 1413 Icelanders used dried fish as a unit of money.

59. The first known fire and plague insurance policy was issued in Iceland in 1151.

60. Vladimir Ashkenazy, Russian conductor and pianist, became Icelandic citizen in 1972.

61. English word geyser derives from the Icelandic Geysir, a name of a geyser that may not erupt water for years. When it does, the boiling water is hurled up to 70 meters in the air.

62. Male orca named Keiko, who was captured near Iceland in 1979, starred in the Free Willy movie. In 1998 he was returned to Icelandic waters.

63. The ‘Game of the Century’ between Bobby Fisher (US) and Boris Spassky (USSR) took place in Reykjavík in 1972.

64. According to 2007 statistics, Icelandic men on average work 10 hours more than Icelandic women every week.

65. Very few trees remain in in the country today, since for a long time they have been used for timber and firewood.

66. In 2004 Mountain Avens was chosen as the Iceland’s National Flower.

67. Icelandic universities are attended by more women than men. In 2004 63.5% vs 36.5%.

68. Geologically, Iceland is one of the youngest islands in the world.

69. Iceland was one of the latest places on earth to be settled by humans.

70. The rate of literacy among Icelanders is the highest in the world.

71. Only 1% land in Iceland is considered arable.

72. Only a quarter of the country is covered with vegetation.

73. Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle.

74. On average, the country is populated by three people per square kilometer.

75. Arctic fox is believed to be the only native animal of Iceland. Domestic animals first came there with the settlers.

76. The country’s national sport is handball.

77. The Hvalfjörður Tunnel near Reykjavik is one of the longest underground tunnels in the world.

78. Icelandic counterpart of Santa Claus are Yule Lads. They are 13 in number.

79. The most common fish caught near Icelandic coast is cod.

80. Iceland could generate electricity for all Europe, but the difficulty is to transport it there.

81. Police officers here do not carry guns.

82. In Iceland owning a pet snake, lizard or turtle is against the law.

83. The majority of Icelanders believe in elves.

84. The main industry in Iceland is fishing and fish processing.

85. Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city in the world.

86. Banking collapse in Iceland is the largest suffered by any country in economic history as compared to the country’s size of economy.

87. As a result of two referendums held in 2010 and 2011 Icelanders rejected a proposal to pay 4 billion Euros to the UK and the Netherlands after the collapse of the Icesave bank.

88. Between 1380 and 1944 Iceland was subject to Danish crown.

89. The number of Catholics in the country is under 2% of the population.

90. The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki, known as the Mist Hardship, in 1783-84, caused the famine that decreased the population of Iceland by about 25%.

91. Iceland’s revenue from whale watching exceeds any income from whaling.

92. Fish and fish products constitute more than 70% of Icelandic exports of goods.

93. Vatnajökull National Park is the largest in Europe.

94. Labor force in the country: 178,800 (2010).

95. Nearly every known type of volcanic activity is found here.

96. Dettifoss waterfall on the Jökulsá á Fjöllum river is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.

97. Drinking water piped to Icelandic homes is very pure, it is not even chlorinated.

98. According to the 2000 United States census, there are more than 40,000 Icelandic Americans.

99. Icelandic government offered an island to Björk, but she turned down the offer.

100. Eyjafjallajökull was probably the most complicated word the newspersons around the world had to learn in 2010.

32 comments… add one
  • Aldo Ferraro

    I land tomorrow from Canada and looking to hookup with some HOT elf and eat puffin all day long! Hopefully they’ve got some good imported beer :)

    • Viking Rune

      Do share with us your impressions when you’re back home :)

  • Tara

    I just got back to US from Iceland 2 weeks ago, it was a very educational visit and learned about some of the facts on the list. I enjoyed the waterfalls and the Golden Circle trip also saw the Aurora Borealis a few times, bathed in the Blue Lagoon in sub-zero temperature, ate some national dishes (not hakarl, nope) made friends with some of the people. I found Icelandic people to be extremely courteous, was amazed at their command of the English language. Heard about the elves and it seems like they do believe this. Loved the geothermal heating system, would definitely visit again.

    • Viking Rune

      Very interesting Tara, thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Franksson

    Just spent a short vacation in Iceland and I would go back in a heart beat. My only regret was that I was not there long enough to visit the whole country. I hope there is a next time.

    • Viking Rune

      I would like to spend my next vacation in Iceland, too!

  • Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir

    I don’t think too many people genuinely believe in elf folk. I think it’s more of a “hold fast to tradition” sort of thing. Something you tell children to amuse them, based on old folktales.

    As for the imported flag thing, it’s more than some countries can say, as most flags are probably made in China.

    • Viking Rune

      You are probably right, Ragnheiður.

  • Svenni

    And the meeting between the US president: Ronald Reagan and the Soviet General Secretary: Mikhail Gorbachev that took place in Reykjavík in 86 (also known as the Reykjavik Summit) should not be forgotten. It resulted in the INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty).

    • Viking Rune

      Thanks for this important addition, Svenni.

  • Svenni

    81: in 2014 the government in cooperation with the Norwegian government has imported around 20 firearms for the Icelandic police force.

  • Eveilyn Sharlio

    I find that the orca thing on 62. isn’t fair for the poor orca to stay captured that long if you agree with me do this: :-/

  • jötun

    looks like someone forgot to mention the discovery and first European settlements in America.

    • Viking Rune

      I think it would not be a fact about Iceland but a fact about America.

  • Hitokaji

    Wow i didnt know the icelandic flag on underwear was banned. interesting.
    strip clubs banned in 2010 may be true but not that far from my house theres a strip club. and its open and active. so..

    Not majority of icelanders believe in elves. probably more like 50% or 40% or mabye less. youngsters like me “20 something” dont believe in elves.

    Icelandic second name: youre right about the “may be” part.

    I love not having mosquitos :D

    puffin is a popular bird? in what sense? Ive never seen one with my own eyes.(exept dead ones for show. taxidermy puffins.)

    Yule lads? never heard that word. we just call them “santa clouses/jólasveinar”
    Yule lads doesnt seem to be an icelandic word either.

    • arnþór

      the underwear thing is because we do in a way hate that flag. when we wanted our own flag, the Danish navy took it, found it lame and threw our current flag at us.

      the puffin thing.. i guess its because it is a unique bird and we famously grab him out of the air, rip its head off and eat it. some of us like to grab seagulls when they fly by our fishing boats and of course we use them as bait.

      welcome to iceland

      • Viking Rune

        I love the country :)

        • bugger face

          why do you love the country so much

  • Daði Petersson

    83: The majority of Icelanders believe in elves.

    this one is far from the truth, good list otherwise:)

    • Melinda

      Now by your name, I figure that you are an Icelander and i’m sorry for this ahead of time but there was an hour long documentation on Icelanders of their beliefs on supernatural, elves, outer space beings and so on and so forth. So I doubt that one is far from the truth my friend.

      • Dagný Ágústsdóttir

        I might be late but so what…

        I am Icelandic and the majority of Icelandic people believe in elves. Although, the younger generations don’t believe that much. I think that sadly in a few years (50-100) no-one will believe in elves. But for now, that fact is true :)

        • Viking Rune

          Hello Dagný. No, you are not late. Thanks for stopping by and commenting here. Your witness is important.

Leave a Comment