Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 360.390 and an area of 103.000 km2 (40.000 sp mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavik, with Reykjavik and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country being home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterized by sand and lava fields, mountains, glaciers and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.

Iceland maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens – Iceland ranks high in economic, democratic, social stability and equality and runs almost completely on renewable energy. Hit hard by the worldwide financial crisis, the nation’s entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. Some bankers were jailed. Since then, the economy has made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism.

The head of government is the prime minister who, together with the cabinet, is responsible for executive government. The president, in contrast, is elected by popular vote for a term of four years with no term limit. The president of Iceland is a largely ceremonial head of state and serves as a diplomat but may veto laws voted by the parliament and out them to a national referendum. in 1980 Icelanders elected the world’s first female head of state – she retired in 1996. In 2009, Iceland became the first country with an openly gay head of government.

Icelanders have freedom of religion guaranteed under the Constitution, although the Church of Iceland, a Lutheran body, is the state church.

Centuries of isolation have helped to insulate the country’s Nordic culture from external influence; a prominent example is the preservation of the Icelandic language, which remains the closest to Old Norse of all modern Nordic languages.

Much of Iceland’s cuisine is based on fish, lamb, and dairy products, with little to no use of herbs or spices. Due to the island’s climate, fruits and vegetables are not generally a component of traditionally dishes, although the use of greenhouses has made them more common in contemporary food.

Facts about Iceland:

  • Iceland has more than 125 volcanic mountains in the country, a handful of which are still very active, and another handful that could easily awaken and become active as the country changes and grows.
  • Iceland usually experience a volcanic eruption roughly once every 4 years, though in the past few years there has been an eruption every year – because of this a good portion of Iceland is covered in lava fields.
  • A majority of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls.
  • There are no forests in Iceland.
  • Iceland was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans.
  • The Icelandic police don’t carry guns. Crime in Iceland is very low and violent crime is practically nonexistent.
  • Mosquitoes do not exist in Iceland.
  • The country’s national sport is handball.