FACTS ABOUT ICELAND

Facts about Iceland

http://www.visiticeland.com/DiscoverIceland/FactsaboutIceland/

The Country

Iceland is an island of 103.000 km2 (39,756 sq.miles), about one-third larger than Scotland or Ireland. Its highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, rises to 2.119 m and over 11 per cent of the country is covered by glaciers, including Vatnajökull, the largest in Europe.

Energy

Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is a hot spot of volcanic and geothermal activity: 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries, and natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating.  Rivers, too, are harnessed to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power.

People

Out of a population numbering more than 300.000, half live in the capital Reykjavík and its neighbouring towns in the southwest.  Keflavík International Airport is located about 50 km from the capital.  The highland interior is uninhabited (and uninhabitable), and most centres of population are situated on the coast.

Language

Iceland was settled by Nordic people in the 9th century – tradition says that the first permanent settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking who made his home where Reykjavík now stands.  The Icelanders still speak the language of the Vikings, although modern Icelandic has undergone changes of pronunciation and, of course, of vocabulary! Iceland is alone in upholding another Norse tradtion, i.e. the custom of using patronymics rather than surnames; and Icelander´s christian name is followed by his or her father´s name and the suffix -son or -dóttir, e.g. Guðrún Pétursdóttir (Guðrún, daughter of Pétur). Members of a family can therefore have many different “surnames”, which sometimes causes confusion to foreigners!

History

In 930, the Icelandic settlers founded one of the world´s first republican governments; the Old Commonwealth Age, described in the classic Icelandic Sagas, lasted until 1262, when Iceland lost its independence, and in 1944 the present republic was founded.  The country is governed by the Althing (parliament), whose 63 members are elected every four years.  four-yearly elections are also held for the presidency; President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was elected in June 1996 to succeed Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, and was re-elected in June 2000.  The head of state plays no part in day-to-day politics.

Health

Life expectancy, at 81.3 years for women and 76.4 for men, is one of the highest in the world, and a comprehensive state health-care system aims to keep it that way.

Tallest mountains:

Hvannadalshnjúkur 2119 m
Bárðarbunga 2000 m
Kverkfjöll 1920 m
Snæfell 1833 m
Hofsjökull 1765 m
Herðubreið 1682 m

Largest glaciers:

Vatnajökull 8300 km2
Langjökull 953 km2
Hofsjökull 925 km2
Mýrdalsjökull 596 km2
Drangajökull 200 km2

Largest lakes:

Þórisvatn 83 km2
Þingvallavatn 82 km2
Lögurinn 53 km2
Mývatn 37 km2
Hvítárvatn 30 km2

Longest rivers:

Þjórsá 230 km
Jökulsá á Fjöllum 206 km
Ölfusá / Hvítá 185 km
Skjálfandafljót 178 km
Jökulsá á Dal 150 km

Tallest waterfalls:

Glymur in Botnsá 190 m
Hengifoss in Hengifossá 128 m
Háifoss in Fossá 122 m
Seljalandsfoss in Seljalandsá 65 m
Skógafoss in Skógá 62 m
Dettifoss in Jökulsá á Fjöllum 44 m
Gullfoss in Hvítá 32 m

Largest islands:

Heimaey (Westmann Islands) 13.4 km2
Hrísey at Eyjafjörður 8 km2
Hjörsey at Faxaflói 5.5 km2
Grímsey 5,3 km2
Flatey at Skjálfandaflói 2,8 km2
Málmey at Skagafjörður 2,4 km2
Papey (East Iceland) 2 km2
Viðey near Reykjavík 1,7 km2
Surtsey (Westmann Islands) 1,6 km2

 

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