- Facts, History and
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Location: European island in the North Atlantic
(3 hours' flight from London, 5 ½ hours from New York).
Capital: Reykjavik (pop. 116,446 (2006)). 1/3 of
total population of Iceland lives here!!
Total area: 103,000 km² (39,756 square.miles);
vegetation: 23.1%, lakes: 2.7%, glaciers: 11.6%, wasteland:
Sea area within fishing limits: 758,000
Coastline: 4,970 km.
Population July 2006: 304,334 (2.9 per sq.
Ethnic groups: Homogenous mixture of descendants
of the original Nordic and Celtic settlers.
Religion: State Lutheran Church 84%.
Type: Republic since 17 June 1944. Independent
since 1 December 1918.
President (since 1996): Mr. Olafur Ragnar
Prime Minister (since 2006): Mr. Geir H. HAARDE.
The cabinet is responsible to the legislature.;
Currency: Icelandic krona (ISK)
Gross domestic product (GDP) per capita 2005:
Labour force: 165,600 (2005).
Unemployment: 2.6% (2005).
Employment by industry: Agriculture: 3.4%.
Fishing: 3.1%. Industry: 21.7%. Services: 71.8% (2005).
Europe's most western state -
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in Iceland twice, once in 1998 and again the following
year in 1999 as sort of an adventure to conquer the pain and
depression from my first battle with cancer.
is a great stop-over on
your way to more distant and popular European destinations and a
great weekend getaway for us New Englanders as it is only about a
five hour flight from Boston, Massachusetts.
My first impression and
thoughts on my ride from the airport into the capital
of Reykjavik to my hotel was one of…. "What in God am I
doing here>!!" Looking out of the windows on both sides of the
small bus, all I could see was lava rock. Miles and miles of lava
rock formations. I remember one of my first thoughts was that it
looked similar to pictures I had seen of the moon's landscape.
And then I learned in a lecture that I attended that the
astronauts had been sent to Iceland for their training for the early trips to the
moon! However, I was soon to learn that not all
of Iceland was covered with lava rock and it is a
beautiful land of mystery, culture and discovery.
Iceland is a European borderless state. It is
officially referred to as the Republic of Iceland and it occupies a volcanic island in the
Ocean . Iceland is the
westernmost European country having a population of approximately
300,000 people, with 1/3 of it's population found in the
southwestern capital city of Reykjavik . The state's area is of
39,698 sq mi and it is situated a little south from the Arctic
Circle, about 600 mi west of Norway and about 180 mi south-east
of Greenland. The republic occupies a whole island in the
Atlantic Ocean , but the fact is that it also includes several
other smaller islands that gravitate around the main
is the world's 18th largest island
and started to be populated only in the 9th century when the
Scandinavian Vikings discovered it. Iceland is
the youngest land formation on earth, having been formed by
volcanic activity approximately 10,0000 years ago.
The island's coasts are indented by
wonderful, deep fjords, which are more visible in the northern
and western parts. Geologically speaking, the island is a young
plateau of approximately 2,000 ft in height. The highest point
is 6,950 ft high. The island is
covered with about 200 volcanoes, many of which are still active.
The highest volcano is that of Mt.Hekla of
4,900 ft. Because of the tectonic plates that move under the
ocean the Island is abounded with hot springs, which are a great
attraction for tourists, but they are also a source of
inexpensive heating. The most famous hot spring is the great
Geysir, whose name is now used for all the water springs around
the world. The climate in Iceland is
quite mild and humid because of the North
Atlantic Drift. It has a moderate climate averaging temperatures
between 28 and 65 degrees, year round. It seldom goes lower or
higher. However, only one fourth of the island is habitable
because of the central large barren areas of volcanic rock.
The most populated areas in Iceland are, of course, the coasts and the largest
inhabited city as notated before is Reykjavik,
a sheik, ultra-modern city. The population represents the
offspring of the Norse settlers and the slaves they brought with
them. Most of the population follows the Lutheran religion, which
is also the established church. However, Iceland is
very well known for its complete religious freedom. The language
of this interesting people is called Icelandic and it is very
similar to the Old Norse. The Vikings that conquered the country
have established their language as the official language and
since there hadn't been any native language on the island Old
Norse didn't suffer too many changes along the centuries. Another
interesting thing about the Icelanders is that practically all of
them are literate, having been proven that they read more books
per capita than any other people in the world.
One of the things you will notice
when visiting Iceland
is that homes do not have any
chimney's. This is because of the natural resource of geothermal
Geothermal energy is the heat
energy that occurs naturally in the earth. The energy is
recovered from the heat of the earth's core. In nature,
geothermal heat shows up in the form of volcanoes,
hot springs and geysers. The heat itself is derived from
radioactive decay beneath the earth's surface. In certain
locations, it is concentrated and is close enough to surface
waters to be brought to the surface for many different purposes.
When it is above 150 degree Celsius, it is considered hot enough
to be used to generate electricity and heat in
For thousands of years, humans have
used naturally occurring hot
springs for bathing. More
recently, geothermal energy has been used to generate
electricity, and to provide heat for homes and industries.
Geothermal energy is a versatile and reliable source of heat and
electricity which generally produces none of the greenhouse gases
associated with the combustion of fossil fuels. Unfortunately,
the best geothermal resources are concentrated in areas of
volcanic activity and are not widely distributed.
California, Iceland, Italy, New
Japan are all areas where geothermal energy is used
on a significant scale.
In Iceland there are mainly two sources of energy;
geothermal energy and hydro power . Geothermal heat is one
greatest natural resources. The Iceland's
capital has enjoyed this valuable power source for more than 60
years. Icelanders are very lucky to have this geothermal heat.
For that reason central heating and warm water are rather
On the more expensive side of
things is food as most everything must be imported. There is very
little vegetation and animal life is mainly goats and the
beautiful Icelandic horse. Salmon is plentiful and is a favorite
food menu item.
A must visit would be to The Blue
Lagoon which is a beautiful, geothermal hot springs lagoon filled
with natural healing mineral salts where you can visit and bathe
if you wish on your way from Reykjavik to the airport in Keflavik
for your trip home.
Icelandic people are warm and
inviting and if you're looking for a place to visit for an
adventure or for something out of the ordinary, this is a place
for you to check out. Icelandair Airlines offers trip package
holidays where you can travel to Europe and visit cities like
London, Paris, Amsterdam or Copenhagen and have a stop-over in
Iceland, (for up to six days), on your way to or from another
European destination with your only additional charges being for
your hotel stay.