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INFORMATION ABOUT ICELAND


The country


Iceland is an island of 103,000 square kilometers, so Great Britain is 2 times bigger while the United States are approximately 74 times bigger. 23.800 sq. km. is vegetated land, and 64.500 sq. km. does not or hardly have any vegetation. Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, is 2.110 m. Iceland has the largest glaciers in Europe, in fact, around 10% of the country is covered by glaciers.

The coastline is dotted with more than one hundred fjords and green, fertile valleys extend from them. Iceland also has more than 10,000 waterfalls and countless hot springs.  The total surface of Nature Protection areas is 16.900 sq. km.


Energy


Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is a hot spot of geothermal activity. Thirty post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries.   Because the earth crust underneath the country is so thin, the water in the soil is close to the fluid magma and as a result there is a lot of natural hot water in the soil. 

This supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free warm water which is also used for house-heating and to fill swimming pools!  Rivers, too, are harnessed to provide inexpensive and clean hydroelectric power. The electrical current is 220 volts, 50 Hz.  The electric sockets are European.


Language


The Icelanders still speak the language of the Vikings (Old Norse). When humanity invents new things and new words are needed, they simply coin words that are combinations or modifications of old words. TV is called “sjónvarp”, literally meaning something that throws out pictures. 

Iceland is alone in upholding another Norse tradition: the custom of using patronyms rather than surnames. If, for example, Einar has a son named "Pétur", the son's name is Pétur Einarsson (Peter Einar's Son). If Einar has a daughter whom he names "Margaret", she becomes Margrét Einarsdóttir (Margaret Einar's Daughter). Members of the same family can therefore have different "last names", which often causes confusion to foreigners.

If you are looking for someone in the phone directory, you look them up by their first name.  


Time

In spite of its mid-Atlantic location, Iceland is on Greenwich Mean Time all year round.  


History

The first permanent settler of Iceland was Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking who in 874 AD made his home where Reykjavik now stands. In 930 AD, the Viking settlers of Iceland founded one of the world's first republican governments. They established a constitution based on individual freedom, land ownership, and sophisticated inheritance laws. In the year 1000, Icelandic-born Leifur Eiríksson (Leif Eriksson, sometimes called "Leif the Lucky") became the first European to set foot in North America. On another Viking expedition a couple of years later, Icelander Guðríður Þórbjarnardóttir had a son, Snorri, who became the first child of European descent to be born in America.

The Old Commonwealth Age, described in the classic Icelandic Sagas, lasted until 1262, when Iceland lost its independence. In 1918 it regained independence and in 1944 the present republic was founded. 


Politics

The country is governed by the Alþing (Parliament), whose 63 members are elected every four years.  It consists of the following political parties (elections from 2013, in April 2017 there will be new elections):

Independence Party: 19
Progressive Party: 19
Social Democratic Alliance: 9
Left Green: 7
New Democratic Party: 6
Icelandic Pirate Party: 3

A government with 8 ministers is put together from the parliament.  Elections every four years are also held for the presidency; President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was first elected in 1996.

Uit het parlement wordt een regering samengesteld met 8 ministers.  Er zijn ook om de vier jaar presidentsverkiezingen, en de huidige president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson werd in 1996 voor het eerst gekozen.


The people

Of a population numbering around 320,000, more than half lives in the Greater Reykjavik Area.

The other half lives along the coast where there are many fishing villages and in the agricultural areas of the lowlands.   About 2.9% of the population works in agriculture and 2.7% in fisheries. 18.7% of the Icelanders base their income on industry while 75.7% work in services.  Unemployment rocks between 7 and 8%.


Economy

The economy is by now quite dependent on tourism and traveling: around 1.000.000 tourists visit Iceland every year.  But fisheries are still important as well: 36,7% of all exports are made up of seafood products.  Agricultural products are only a small part of exports, but industrial products make up 54.1% of all export. Icelanders enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world.  


Health

Life expectancy, at 83.6 years for women and 79.9 for men, is one of the highest in the world, and a comprehensive state health-care system aims to keep it that way.  There are modern hospitals and about 370 doctors per 100.000 inhabitants.  The mortality rate of live-born babies is only 2,2 in every 1000


Religion

The National Church of Iceland, to which ± 76 percent of the population belongs, is Evangelical Lutheran. In addition to the many Lutheran churches in Reykjavik, there is a Roman Catholic Cathedral at Landakot, with regular Sunday Mass. 

There is freedom of religion in Iceland, and most religions of the world are represented in Iceland, but often the numbers are small, due to the fact there are not many people in Iceland.  
For those who are interested in statistics about Iceland, there is a very handy brochure on the internet: https://hagstofa.is/lisalib/getfile.aspx?ItemID=13913

TOP-TOURS & EXCURSIONS

ICELAND
Iceland Complete
14 nights, May-September
Iceland Classic Circle
10 nights, 1 May – 30 September
Iceland's Fantastic Interior
7 nights, late June - late August
Winter: Relaxing in Iceland, Northern Lights
7 nights or more, October-April
Group tours: Bustours - Iceland Circle tour
7 nights, fixed dates
ICELAND
Iceland Complete
14 nights, May-September
Iceland Classic Circle
10 nights, 1 May – 30 September
Iceland's Fantastic Interior
7 nights, late June - late August
Winter: Relaxing in Iceland, Northern Lights
7 nights or more, October-April
Group tours: Bustours - Iceland Circle tour
7 nights, fixed dates
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