Get to Know Iceland
Iceland is a country of extreme contrasts. Widely known as "The Land of Fire and Ice", Iceland is home to some of the largest glaciers in Europe, and some of the world's most active volcanoes.
Iceland is also the land of light and darkness. Long summer days with near 24-hours of sunshine are offset by short winter days with only few hours of daylight.
Iceland is also a very young country with old traditions. In fact, it is the youngest landmass in Europe with the continent's oldest parliament, formed in 930 AD. Þingvellir, the site of said parliament, is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. Commonly said to be located at the juncture between the North American and Eurasian continental plates, Þingvellir are in fact at the juncture of the North American continental plate and a smaller plate (approx. 10,000 km2) called the Hreppar Microplate. No need to worry though, the juncture between the North American and Eurasian continental plates can be experienced on many other places in Iceland, for example at the wildly popular Blue Lagoon.
From the moss covered lava fields in the southwest, through the barren highlands in the centre, to the soaring fjords in the northwest, a drive around Iceland will attest to the great diversity of landscape, which changes with every turn in the road, and of course with every changing season, each with its own charm.
Iceland was the last country to be settled in Europe, when emigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles first came to live on the island in the ninth and tenth century. It remains the most sparsely populated country in the continent with less than three inhabitants per square kilometre. Shaped by the unrelenting forces of nature, Iceland's harsh natural environment has bred a resilient nation that has learned to exist under extreme conditions, and harness the natural resources for its own prosperity.
The cornerstone of Icelandic culture is the Icelandic language, which has spawned a literary tradition that dates back to the ancient Icelandic Sagas. Violent tales of blood feuds, traditions, family and character. A strong literary tradition still thrives in modern Iceland. Icelandic authors publish more books per capita than in any other country in the world. Iceland also prides itself of a prospering music scene, a burgeoning film industry, and Icelandic design, that is coming of age.
Icelandic customs and traditions are inspired by centuries long insular existence and a curious mixture of pagan influence on a Christian religion. Icelandic folk tales are ripe with mysticism, ghosts and elves and trolls, and further shaped by the natural forces and a taxing environment.
Iceland was the last country in Europe to be settled. To this day, it is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Located in the middle of the North Atlantic, Iceland was settled by emigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles in the tenth century. Due to Iceland's geographical location, it was mostly outside the influence of contemporary culture in Europe and America, until the late nineteenth century.