Iceland Facts and Figures – Brief History
History of the island in the North Atlantic Ocean we presently know as Iceland begins in the late 9th century with migration of first settlers who came to Iceland from Norway. Over the next few centuries, Iceland was being populated by Nordic and Celtic people whose primary focus was fishing and agriculture. Iceland established its legislative assembly (the Althing) in 930 A.D. making it THE world’s oldest assembly of its kind. 300 years of independence was followed by Norwegian rule which was later replaced by the jurisdiction of the Danish monarchy. It wasn’t until 1944 when Iceland regained its full independence. Iceland was hit by several massive volcanic eruptions in the past. The eruption of Laki in 1783–1784 and subsequent famine devastated the economy of Iceland and killed almost a quarter of Iceland’s population. Crime rates in Iceland are very low, literacy and life expectancies very high, and if it wasn’t for bad management of local banking system which almost got Iceland bankrupt in 2008, we’d be talking about a prosperous country with strong economy.
Iceland Facts and Figures – Geography
Iceland is located between mainland Europe and Greenland and is Europe’s second largest island, after Great Britain. On a worldwide scale, Iceland is 18th largest island in the world (Greenland being the largest).
The westernmost point of Iceland is Bjargtangar (24°32’V) which is also the westernmost part of Europe, the easternmost point is Gerpir (13°30’V), the southernmost is Kotlutangi (63°23’N) and the northernmost is Hraunhafnartangi (66°32’N).
The total area of Iceland along with its adjacent islands is about 103.100 km² with its mainland being 101,826 km². Most of the area of Iceland – about 63% – is uninhabitable, covered by deserts and lava fields. Glaciers cover about 11% of Iceland (there is more land covered by glaciers in Iceland than there is in all of continental Europe), lakes about 3% and 23% are vegetated.
Iceland is the westernmost country in Europe. Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world.
Iceland Facts and Figures – Population
In mid-19th century, the population of Iceland was in the neighborhood of 60,000. By the end of 2008, the population has grown to almost 320 000 people. This rapid growth is thanks to high living standards, high life expectancy (80.5 years) and low crime rates. At present time, the population is growing at an estimated rate of 0.78 percent.
Only about 20% of Iceland populated. Parts of the northwest as well as the central highlands and are uninhabited. Most densely populated areas are in the south west, around the capital city of Reykjavik.
Iceland Facts and Figures – Weather
If it wasn’t for Gulf Stream, entire Iceland would be covered in Ice 24/7. Thanks to warm Gulf Streams, winters in Iceland are mild, contrary to what it’s location would suggest. Average monthly temperatures in hardly ever drop below 0°C (32°F) in winter. Just as in the rest in Scandinavia, Iceland doesn’t get very warm summers. From the viewpoint of average Canadian, winters in Iceland are mild, but summers are cool. Average temperature in July, Iceland’s warmest month is around 12°C (54°F). Iceland also gets rather windy any time of year. It’s recommended that you wear water-proof and wind-proof clothes regardless of which time of year you pay visit to Iceland. December, January and February are the coldest months in Iceland.
There are variations in the climate depending on which part of Iceland you’re in. Mountains are colder than lowlands, north coast gets more snowfall than south coast, but south coast is windier with more rainfalls.
Iceland Facts and Figures – Polar Nights
Midwinter is Iceland is accompanied by periods of no sunlight, while June and July have periods with nonstop sunlight and no darkness. The polar nights in Iceland are a perfect time to observe one of northern phenomenons – Aurora Borealis also known as The Northern Lights.
Iceland Facts and Figures – People
The Icelanders are very friendly and polite. You will find them always willing to help. Many speak foreign languages. There is no illiteracy in Iceland. The Icelanders are very proud of their country and will always love to hear if you liked something about Iceland. It is normal for The Icelander to believe in supernatural beings, like fairies, trolls or elves.
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