General Facts

General Facts:

Population: 323,002 (2013)

Official?LanguagesIcelandic. English and Scandinavian languages are widely spoken.

Capital: Reykjavik

Area: 39,769 mi²

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Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK)

 

Culture
Their cherished ancient heritage lives on in harmony with the most exciting innovations from the world of arts and culture today. This refreshing mix of local, traditional, progressive and cosmopolitan culture appeals to almost every taste. 

Iceland was the last European country to be settled, mostly by Norsemen in the 9th and 10th centuries. They came mainly from Norway and elsewhere in Scandinavia, and from the Norse settlements in the British Isles, from where a Celtic element was also introduced. The language and culture of Iceland were predominantly Scandinavian from the outset, but there are traces of Celtic influence in some of the ancient poetry, in some personal names and in the appearance of present-day Icelanders.

All branches of the arts flourish in Iceland, especially painting, which started in earnest at the turn of the century. Literature has always been the mainstay of Icelandic culture but other aspects of the national heritage that used to be important in past centuries include manuscript illumination, woodcarving and folk music. There are many theatre companies in Iceland, including a National Theatre. In Reykjavík there is a symphony orchestra, an opera house and ballet company. International performers make regular visits, especially to the Reykjavík Arts Festival.

Economy
Iceland’s economy is heavily dependent upon fisheries, fish processing, aluminum, smelting, ferrosilicon production, and geothermal power. More than 70% of all exports are made up of seafood products.

Energy:
Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is a hot spot of volcanic and geothermal activity. Natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating. Rivers are harnessed to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power. The electrical current is 220 volts, 50 Hz, the same as in much of Europe.

Government

The country is governed by the Althing (Parliament) which has 63 members, elected for a maximum period of four years. Elections are also held every four years for the presidency, with no term limit. The original Althing was established by Vikings in 930 AD and is considered the world’s first parliamentary democracy. 

Health and Education

Life expectancy is one of the highest in the world, and a comprehensive state health-care system aims to keep it that way. The population enjoys a high-quality public school system, including its own university since 1911.

Religion

The Church of Iceland is Evangelical Lutheran with 80% of the population as members. The Church is open to everyone living in Iceland regardless of nationalities.

Time

Iceland stays on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) all year round.

Business, Banking & Shopping Hours

Office hours are generally Monday-Friday 9:00 to 17:00 and 8:00 to 16:00 during June, July and August. Banking hours are Monday-Friday 9:15 to 16:00. General Post Office hours are Monday-Friday 09:00–16:30. Shopping hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 to 6:00; Sat from 10:00 /11:00 to 14:00/18:00. Some food stores are open to 23:00 seven days a week or even 24 hours in the larger towns. Shopping malls, souvenir and bookshops in the city center are open on weekends.

Entry Requirements

A passport valid is at least three months beyond intended stay, is required for visitors to Iceland. . Travel between countries participating in the Schengen cooperation is allowed without formal passport control including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Germany. For additional information on passport and visa requirements see Icelandic Directorate of Immigration website www.utl.is/english.

Public Transportation

Extensive bus services are available in all major cities and towns. Tickets can be purchased at the local bus station or from the driver with exact change. Children under the age of four travel free of charge, and half price is charged for children aged 4–11. There is no rail or subway system in Iceland.

Public Smocking in Public / Drinking Age Transportation

Wine, beer and spirits are sold in government run stores called Vinbudin. The age limit for buying alcohol is 20. Smoking is not permitted on board aircrafts or other means of public transport. It is not permitted to smoke in public buildings and other places open to the public, offices, shopping centers, hotels, bars, and restaurants. The age limit for buying tobacco is 18.

Volcanoes

Iceland has many active and inactive volcanoes (about 130 altogether!) due to it being situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Basically, the country is in the middle of or on top of two tectonic plates and has 30 active volcanic systems running through the island. Most people are familiar with Eyjafjallajökull volcano after its eruption in 2010 caused a massive disruption in European flights. That eruption may have been a nuisance for many air travellers but in comparison to Iceland’s biggest eruptions in the past it was just (literally) the tip of the iceberg (or well, glacier). Eyjafjallajökull is right next to one of Iceland’s most dangerous volcaneos, Katla, in the south of Iceland. 

The last big volcanic eruption in Iceland took place between August 2014 and March 2015 in Holuhraun in Bardarbunga, that’s in the interior of the country, just north of Vatnajökull glacier. Hekla volcano is one of the most famous and active volcanoes in Iceland. In the Middle Ages, it was known as ‘The Gateway to Hell’. Hekla is in the southwest part of Iceland, only about a 2 hour drive from Reykjavík.

 

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