Iceland is certainly a country of contrasts and opposites. On this unique island in the North Atlantic you will find a modern society built on stories since the Viking era in a wild and exciting scenery with volcanoes, northern lights, geysers and unique waterfalls.
When I planned my trip in 2013, I found many quirky facts about this mesmerizing island. Read along 🙂
1) The Mighty Vikings
The Vikings came from Norway and settled on Iceland around the year 900s CE. They arranged great feasts with great steaks and giant mugs of beer on their viking farms. These vikings were the first to write history in Iceland. The Icelandic sagas can be found in The Althing (The Icelandic Parliament) and dates back to the time of specific names and dates.
2) Last Names
Surnames on Iceland are on like the rest in the world. Children are often named after their father. For example, if their fathers name was Daniel and he gets both a son and a daughter, they would probably be named Anna Danielsdottir and Kristian Danielsson. Or in some cases one of the children would be named after their father and the other after their mother. It is quite common on Iceland that siblings don’t have the same surname.
3) Crazy Letters
On Iceland, they have a very peculiar language – very much like the Faroese. However, it is also a language that has not evolve much since the old ancient Nordic language, where the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark spoke the same language. Their alphabet has some unique letters whom only Icelandic and Faroese people understand.
The Icelandic alphabet consists of:
a, á, b, (c), d, ð, e, é, f, g, h, i, í, j, k, l, m, n, o, ó, p, (q), r, s, t, u, ú, v, (w), x, y, ý, (z), þ, æ, ö. The letters in parenthesis are very rare, almost non existing.
4) Icelandic Fame
The most famous person from Iceland must be Björk Guðmundsdóttir – just known as Björk. Born in 1965 and already in 1977 she made her first CD, primarily with Icelandic children songs. Personally I know her best for the 90’s song “It´s Oh So Quiet“.
Do you remember the Free Willy movies? The orca Keiko was actually Icelandic. He was captured in Reyðarfjörður, Iceland in 1979 and brought to an Icelandic aquarium in Hafnarfjörður. Before his fame in 1993, he was also in Marinelands in Ontorio, Canada and Mexico City. In 1998 Keiko came back to Iceland preparing for his release. This happened in 2001 in the Icelandic waters. Keiko died in a Norwegian fjord 2 years after his release.
5) Elves and Magic
The Land of Fire and Ice is purely magical. Which invites most of the Icelandic population to believes in elves, or huldufólk (the hidden people). Quite a lot of legends and myths evolve around the hidden people who lives in stones, hills and rocks.
As late as in 2013 a construction of a highway was stopped and rescheduled, because they were convinced the highway would disturb the elvish homes as there was an elvish church in the area 🙂
6) The Powerful Volcanos
Iceland is located on top of the Eurasian and North American continental plate and this ignites the Icelantic volcanos into frequent eruptions. Iceland has approx. 130 volcanos, of which 30 have specific names. The most famous one is Hekla who had its first recorded major eruption back in 1104. A more recent eruption came from the famous Eyjafjallajökull who grounded all airline traffic in Northern Europe during the spring of 2010. This have actually led to a record high number of tourists on the island since then.
Credit to: Steinar Hugi Sigurdarson
7) Green Energy Iceland
Iceland is a progressive country in terms of sustained and efficient energy. Today, 86% of the country’s energy comes primarily from geothermic sources and hydro plants. Because of the vast volcanic activity on Iceland, they can utilize it for production for electricity and heating and they supply approx. 5,8% of the world’s production of geothermic energy. You see several places where green houses are built and where they grow veggies heated from geothermal sources. Something they have in abundance.
8) Mesmerizing Lights
During winter you can experience a unique spectacle across the northern hemisphere. To actually stand there and watch the northern lights dance across the dark night sky can only be described as hypnotic. A phenomenon you will never grow tired of.
9) Notes and Coins
Iceland has their own currency, called Icelandic Kronur. The funny part is that they have a relative large amount on their notes and coins, but not worth a lot. For example, where other countries have 5 and 10 cents, a quarter or other small coins, Icelandic coins are between 1 ISK (0,01 USD) and 100 ISK (0,86 USD) and the notes comes in 500 ISK (4.30 USD), 1000 ISK (8,60 USD), 2000 ISK (17,20 USD) and 5000 ISK (43 USD).
10) Famous Brands
Almost everywhere I have been, I see world renowned brands such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, whether I like it or not. An interesting fact about Iceland though is that it doesn’t have a single McDonald’s, 7-11 or even a Starbucks. Actually, until just a few years ago Iceland did have McDonald’s; three of them in fact. So if you want to enjoy a Big Mac or a cool fruity frappuccino on your vacation, Iceland will not be the place.
11) Breakfast Time
Skyr is a traditional Icelandic dairy product with high contents of protein and low content of fat.
I am personally a big fan of skyr, always present in my fridge in several different flavors. Perfect to mix with fruits and almonds.
12) Annoying Bugs
I will end this list of facts with the best part of visiting Iceland during the summer: There are no mosquitoes! They simply don’t exist on Iceland, so you can sit outside and enjoy the long evenings and the midnight sun.
Hope you found this fact list useful 🙂
I am sure this list could be much longer – do you have some fantastic, weird or cool fact about Iceland you want to share ??