Size and location - a large island in the North-Atlantic ocean
Iceland is a relatively large island in the middle of the North-Atlantic ocean, just south of the Arctic Circle, between 63.4°N and 66.5°N latitude. Iceland stretches over an area of 103.592 km2 (39.997 sq mi), which is similar to Hungary and Portugal, or the US states Kentucky and Virginia. It is the second-largest island of Europe, following Great Britain, and the 18th largest island globally. At its widest, Iceland measures approximately 500 km (305 miles) east to west and 300 km (185 miles) north to south.
Moss grown lava fields and volcanic raters are common landscapes in Iceland
The coastline of Iceland is 6.542,4 km (40.652,5 miles) long, and Iceland maintains a 200 nautical-miles exclusive economic zone, making the total economic area 751,345 km2 (290,096 sq mi). In addition, numerous smaller islands are found all around the coast, some of which are inhabited. The largest one is Heimaey in the Westman Islands archipelago in the south that is 13,4 km2, Hrísey island in Eyjafjörður fjord in the north covering 8 km2, and Grímsey, a 5,3 km2 large island lying on the Arctic Circle just north of Iceland.
Being an island it has no land borders with other countries. The nearest neighbor to the west is Greenland, just 286 km (180 miles) away, and although hard to grasp, stretches further south and east than Iceland, and in fact, in any direction. To the east, the Faroe Islands are closest or 420 km (260 miles), Scotland 795 km (495 miles), and Norway 950 km (590 miles). For a comparison of distances, It takes approximately five hours to fly from New York to Reykjavík and three hours from London.
Demography - Reykjavík is the capital
Reykjavík is the northernmost capital on the planet
Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, with a population count of 368.792*. The capital of Iceland is Reykjavík which is located at 64.1° N latitude, earning it the title of being the northernmost capital of the world. Almost two-thirds of the inhabitants live in the capital area in the southwest and the rest of the population is spread around the long coastline, mostly in fishing villages and farmland regions. Akureyri in North-Iceland is the largest town outside the SW region, with a population of 18.933. Only 2.672 people live in the largest town of the Westfjords region, Ísafjörður, and Egilsstaðir is the most prominent town of East-Iceland with just 2.552 inhabitants.
*Numbers from January 1st, 2021
Weather and climate - milder than could be expected
Stapafell mountain at Arnarstapi Nature Reserve in West Iceland
Iceland has a much milder climate than could be expected from its name and location on the globe. A branch of the Gulf stream brings warmer seas up to the south and west coast, moderating the climate significantly. However, it brings milder Atlantic air to meet Arctic air, resulting in frequent weather changes and storminess. There are significant regional differences in the weather with the northern part experiencing colder winter months and warmer summers than the south.
The average temperature in Reykjavík is +0.4°C in January and 12.5°C in July. The average for the year is 5.5°C. The average yearly precipitation in Reykjavík is 890.
Iceland is one of the most volcanically active places on Earth
An eruption started in Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes peninsula on March 19, 2021.
Iceland is one of the youngest landmasses on the planet, with the oldest rocks dating from just 14-16 million years ago. It is one of the most volcanically active places on Earth with 32 active volcanic systems erupting every four years on average. The island owes its existence to a unique geological setting. Iceland is a volcanic hotspot with a magma plume underneath the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Ridge where two tectonic plates, Eurasia and N-America, are spreading apart.
Constantly growing in the middle - but not in size
The Bridge between continents in Reykjanes peninsula.
The landmass is continuously growing in the middle by about 2 cm per year, as it splits wider at the points where the Eurasian and North-American tectonic plates divide. However, the island is not growing in size since the edges are constantly being eroded off at a similar rate.
Eruptions take place in Iceland every four years on average. The latest eruption started in Fagradalsfjall on the 19th of March 2021, still ongoing six months later. The last volcanos to erupt before that were Holuhraun in 2014, Grímsvötn in 2011, and the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010.
Iceland even keeps the world's newest island, Surtsey, which rose from the sea in a volcanic eruption between 1963-1967. Surtsey is considered a unique geological formation and has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.