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Flag of Iceland
Coat of arms of Iceland
flag coat of arms
Official language Icelandic
Capital Reykjavík
State and form of government parliamentary republic
Head of state President
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Head of government Prime Minister
Katrín Jakobsdóttir
surface 103,125 km²
population 361,000 ( 172nd ) (2019; estimate)
Population density 4 inhabitants per km²
Population development + 2.4% (estimate for 2019)
gross domestic product
  • Total (nominal)
  • Total ( PPP )
  • GDP / inh. (nom.)
  • GDP / inh. (KKP)
2019 (estimate)
  • $ 24 billion ( 109. )
  • $ 21 billion ( 146. )
  • 67,857 USD ( 6. )
  • 58,965 USD ( 15. )
Human Development Index 0.949 ( 4th ) (2019)
currency Icelandic krona (ISK)
National anthem Lofsongur
National holiday 17th of June
Time zone UTC ± 0
License Plate IS
ISO 3166 IS , ISL, 352
Internet TLD .is
Phone code +354
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Location of Iceland in the northern hemisphere
Location of Iceland to Greenland, Great Britain and Scandinavia
Location of Iceland to Greenland, Great Britain and Scandinavia
Template: Infobox State / Maintenance / NAME-GERMAN

Iceland ( Icelandic Ísland [ ˈi: sland ], Eisland ') is an island nation in the far northwest of Europe . With around 103,000  square kilometers (of which land area 100,250 and water area 2,750 square kilometers; with a fishing zone 758,000 square kilometers) Iceland is - after the United Kingdom - the second largest island nation in Europe. The main island is the largest volcanic island on earth and is located just south of the Arctic Circle . Iceland is a member of EFTA , the European Economic Area , the Nordic Council and a founding member of NATO .

With its 356,991 inhabitants (as of January 2019), Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe and one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with a population density of 3.5 inhabitants per km² . Over 60 percent of the Icelandic population is concentrated in the capital region of Reykjavík . Human settlement did not begin until the 9th century.

Iceland is one of the leading countries in the world in terms of standard of living and per capita income. In 2019, the country ranked fourth on the human development index, on par with Hong Kong .


Geographically, Iceland belongs to Northern Europe , geologically at the same time to Europe and North America, geopolitically to the Nordic countries and culturally to Northwest Europe , especially Scandinavia .

The island nation is located southeast of Greenland . To the northeast is the island of Jan Mayen , to the east is Norway , to the southeast is the Faroe Islands , Great Britain and Ireland .

The Denmark Strait lies between Greenland and Iceland . North of Iceland is the Greenland Sea , to the east the European Arctic Ocean , the former a tributary of the Arctic Ocean , the latter of the Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic begins to the south .

The area of ​​Iceland is 103,125 km², of which 100,329 km² are land and 2,796 km² are water. The longest river is the Þjórsá with 230 km. The highest point on the island is the Hvannadalshnúkur at 2110 m and the coastline is around 4,970 km.

Iceland and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge


Iceland lies on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and thus on both the North American and Eurasian plates , with the plate boundaries stretching approximately diagonally across the island from southwest to northeast. The plates move about 2 cm apart every year. A mantle plume under the island, the so-called island plume , ensures a constant supply of molten rock material from the earth's interior by means of volcanism, which is why the island does not break apart. The active volcanoes in Iceland are classified into about 30 volcanic systems .

Iceland glaciated almost completely in the ice ages . After a warm period, the island was almost free of glaciers before it began to get cooler again about 1000 years ago. Today glaciers again cover 11.1 percent of the country's surface. The glacier with Europe 's largest ice volume is the Vatnajökull . Its ice cap is up to 1000 m thick.

In 2010, the volcano Eyjafjallajökull with its ash cloud brought air traffic to a standstill in large parts of northern and central Europe.

German Aerospace Center (DLR): Elevation model of Iceland based on satellite data (2012)

Landscape picture

Black sand beach with a view of Dyrholaey

The landscape is characterized by volcanism and abundance of water. There are numerous, partly active volcanoes , rivers , lakes and waterfalls . Among them is the Dettifoss, the most energetic waterfall in Europe, measured by the volume of water per second × height of fall. The Icelandic highlands in the center of the island form a periglacial desert and are almost uninhabited. A multitude of glaciers shape the face of the island.

The coastline is heavily furrowed in the area of ​​the Icelandic fjords . In addition to the main island, there are a number of smaller islands , including the Westman Islands ( Vestmannaeyjar ). This inhabited archipelago south of the main island comprises fourteen islands, plus skerries and rocks.


Vík í Mýrdal , the rainiest place in Iceland outside of Vatnajökull

The climate is oceanic cool, characterized by the relatively warm Irminger Current (5  ° C ) on the south coast and the cold Greenland Current on the northeast and southwest coast. The precipitation is up to 2000 mm per year in the lowlands in the south and up to 4000 mm on the Vatnajökull . The lowest amount of precipitation is found on the plateaus in the north of Iceland (less than 600 mm).

Due to the warm Gulf Stream , the climate in Iceland is milder than in other regions of these latitudes . The winters are comparatively mild and the summers are rather cool. In the last few decades global warming has made itself felt through a slight increase in average temperatures, which can be observed from the retreat of individual glacier tongues to the complete melting of smaller glaciers ( e.g. Okjökull, which has now disappeared ). It is warmest in Iceland from mid-June to late August / mid-September.

The daytime temperatures fluctuate between 0 and 3 ° C in winter and between 12 and 15 ° C in summer, although it can be significantly cooler inland. In summer there are also much higher temperatures (over 20 ° C) in some privileged locations. Especially because of the Gulf Stream, snow falls comparatively rarely in the south of the island .

The lowest rainfall in Iceland occurs in the early summer months, although there are significant local differences. In the northeast it tends to be drier, as the clouds coming from the south often rain over the 8100 km² Vatnajökull glacier. The duration of sunshine is therefore longer in the area of ​​Lake Mývatn than in other regions of the country. In the case of north wind, the effect is reversed: in the north the clouds rain down, while in the southern regions it is sunny and warm (see also foehn ).

Iceland in winter, taken by NASA - satellite Aqua on 28 January 2004
Average monthly temperatures and rainfall for Reykjavík
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. Temperature ( ° C ) 1.9 2.8 3.2 5.7 9.4 11.7 13.3 13.0 10.1 6.8 3.4 2.2 O 7th
Min. Temperature (° C) −3.0 −2.1 −2.0 0.4 3.6 6.7 8.3 7.9 5.0 2.2 −1.3 −2.8 O 1.9
Precipitation ( mm ) 89 64 62 56 42 42 50 56 67 94 78 79 Σ 779
Hours of sunshine ( h / d ) 0.8 1.9 3.6 4.7 6.2 5.2 5.5 5.0 4.2 2.7 1.3 0.3 O 3.5
Rainy days ( d ) 13.3 12.5 14.4 12.2 9.8 10.7 10 11.7 12.4 14.5 12.5 13.9 Σ 147.9
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Time zone

In Iceland, the official time is Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), i.e. Greenwich Mean Time, although geographically speaking it should be UTC − 2 or UTC − 1 hour, see time zones . There has been no daylight saving time in Iceland since 1967 .


Due to the arctic climate, the flora and fauna of Iceland are not very rich in species compared to central and southern Europe. Before human colonization, there were only birds, fish, insects, seals , arctic foxes and sometimes polar bears that happened to be driven here from Greenland with an ice floe. Domestic animals came with humans, especially sheep and horses, but mice and rats were also brought in on ships.

In contrast to other animal classes, the variety of birds is enormous. In the interior z. B. redwing , short-billed goose and the ptarmigan , in the coastal regions countless seabirds.

Land mammals

The arctic fox is a land mammal with a population of approximately 10,000 individuals in Iceland today. He probably settled Iceland independently of humans and reached it during cooler climates such as the Little Ice Age via the frozen polar sea. The American mink that escaped from fur farms is a threat to bird life. Seals can be seen on the coast, especially in the north of the island . Mice and rats spread from ships. The walrus was already exterminated in Iceland by the Vikings .

The Nordic settlers imported all of the island's farm animals when they took the land, including today's Icelandic sheep . To this day, the well-marked animals are left to fend for themselves during the short summer. They roam freely within defined agricultural districts. However, if they overcome the separating fences or natural obstacles (rivers, deserts, mountains), they are killed on the spot to prevent disease. In autumn the animals are caught again when driving cattle ( Réttir ). Sheep farming is quoted to prevent overgrazing.

An Icelandic horse in winter

A change in the climate and the clearing of the original birch forests , with subsequent extensive grazing, has permanently changed the landscape of Iceland. In 1771, 13 reindeer were brought into the country from Norway and hoped for breeding so that they could be hunted or otherwise benefit from their keeping. Today around 3000 reindeer live wild in the eastern highlands of the island. But they never achieved the economic importance they had hoped for. At the beginning of the 20th century, attempts were also made to settle the musk ox - but without much success.

Iceland is the home of the Icelandic horse . As one of only a few horse breeds, it masters the tölt , a sure-footed, slow to fast gait without a jumping phase. The horse always has one leg on the ground, which is very comfortable for the rider and protects his back. Like all living livestock, Icelandic horses may be exported, but not reintroduced. This is to prevent the introduction of diseases and the introduction of foreign genetic material, for example by mares carrying fetuses, which endanger pure-bred Icelandic horse breeding.


Puffin at Dyrholaey

Iceland is famous for its bird life, especially the numerous bird rocks are a magnet for bird watchers from all over the world. The most famous bird in Iceland is the puffin . On the bird cliffs there are also guillemots , thick-billed muzzles , fulmars , black guillemots and the northern gannet .

Inland, you will encounter the ptarmigan , the golden plover , the red-necked phalarope , the phalarope , and glacial lakes is red-throated divers to watch. On the sands , beware of attacks by skuas and arctic terns . Three North American species, common loons , ringed ducks and spatula , have their only European breeding population on Iceland.

Lake Mývatn is known for its unusual abundance of species of waterfowl (e.g. scupper and spatula). The world's largest variety of duck species can be found at this lake in the spring, summer and early autumn months. A third of the duck and sawwire species overwinter there. The world of birds of prey in Iceland is also considerable, with gyrfalcon and merlin being relatively common.

Sea and inland waters

Blue whale with calf

Since the warm Irmingerstrom ( Gulf Stream ) and the cold East Greenland Current meet off the coast, the waters around Iceland are particularly rich in fish. In addition, the water is hardly polluted with pollutants, which is why around 270 species of fish live in the sea around the island. Plants grow up to a water depth of 40 m.

The Icelandic mussel can reach an age of over 500 years.

In Icelandic waters are home to many species of whales such as minke whales ( Balaenoptera acutorostrata ), blue whale ( Balaenoptera musculus ), fin whale ( Balaenoptera physalus ), sei whale ( Balaenoptera borealis ), humpback whale ( Megaptera novaeangliae ), porpoise ( Phocoena phocoena ), white-beaked dolphin ( Lagenorhynchus albirostris ), white-sided dolphin ( Lagenorhynchus acutus ), pilot whale ( Globicephala melas ), killer whale ( Orcinus orca ), northern duck whale ( Hyperoodon ampullatus ) and sperm whale ( Physeter macrocephalus ). Current population counts show that there are around 50,000 minke whales and 17,000 fin whales in the waters around Iceland. The total number of whales is estimated at around 230,000.

After almost 20 years of forced hiatus, Iceland resumed a scientifically declared whaling program in 2003, despite international protests. Up to 250 minke whales and around 40 fin whales may be killed over a period of three years.

In 2006 Iceland decided to re-allow commercial whaling in addition to scientific whaling. Thirty minke whales and nine fin whales, which are endangered species, are allowed to be killed off the coast - despite all global protests. In the meantime the first whales have been shot; on October 22, 2006, the first fin whale to be killed was towed ashore. Japan is the most important market for Icelandic whale meat. In 2010 Iceland killed significantly more fin whales than the Japanese whale meat market could absorb. Jun Yamashita, who works for the Japanese Fisheries Authority, failed to draw Iceland's attention to this market situation, thereby reducing the number of whales hunted to an economically reasonable level.

Since the providers of whale watching tours fear a collapse in the number of visitors, the suspension of whaling is now being discussed in Iceland itself. Whaling was suspended in 2019 and 2020.

The fish species abundance in Iceland's inland waters is not as great as off the coast. Eels , trout , salmon , sticklebacks and char live in the rivers and lakes, almost exclusively salmon-like ( Salmonidae ), some of which migrate into the sea for weeks and months.


Single-flowered cucumber , a typical Icelandic lava desert plant
Forest plantings by Lake Skorradalsvatn
Banana plants in the municipality of Hveragerði in 2007

The flora of Islands has some endemic species . Different lichens and mosses growing in different colors are particularly common . With the Ice Ages , most of the plant species belonging to the temperate and subtropical zones disappeared from the island, including sequoia and maple .

The remaining plant species were and are adapted to the harsh climate. There are, for example, numerous saxifrage species and various subspecies of the catchfly , for example the single-flowered catchfly (a. Cliff catchfly), one of the first plant species to colonize lava fields and therefore to be found a lot in the highlands . The umbelliferous plants are also widespread on damp brook edges and lake banks. Angelica , which is traditionally also used to make tea and as a medicinal herb, is particularly popular . Lots of dandelions bloom in the courtyard meadows and alpine roses in the mountains .

The lupins (especially the Alaskan lupins ), which bloom in large quantities in purple in June , were only introduced after the Second World War . With their dense roots, they fix the low-clay and therefore heavily exposed to winddrifts in the mother and desert soil. They serve to nitrogen enrichment and help in the fight against the erosion . In addition, dune grasses , especially sea ​​rye , were sown to counter wind erosion.

The lack of forests is striking for Central Europeans . At the time of the conquest, about 20% of the land was forested. The old chronicles Íslendingabók ("Icelandic book") and Landnámabók ("land grabbing book") even report that the country was forested from the coast to the mountains. As research has shown, there are mainly extensive birch forests to be found. These forests disappeared through clearing for pasture land reclamation , for firewood and for wood burning . The subsequent grazing prevented offspring from coming up, so that the island was completely deforested after a few centuries of settlement. Only sparse remnants of the low-growing birch forests survived. Only in a few, often remote, places, especially at Lake Lagarfljót in East Iceland, the Vaglaskógur , in the northeast (south of Akureyri ) and in the West Fjords, are there still contiguous forest areas consisting of birch, mountain ash and woolly willow . Lumber was imported from Norway and suitable driftwood was used for carpentry and joinery work. Today efforts are being made to reforest the country. In 2015 Iceland covered 492 km² of forest, which means a significant increase in the forested area compared to 2000 (288 km²) and 1990 (161 km²). Particularly in the north and east, but also on the Skorradalsvatn or in the Krossátal on the Þórsmörk ridge in the south of the country, successes have already been achieved.

Lush vegetation is often found at warm springs and streams, provided the nature of the soil allows it. Water heated by geothermal energy is used in Iceland for greenhouses. That is why even banana trees grow just below the Arctic Circle  - the northernmost in the world - but cut flowers and even vines are grown here. The flora and fauna can be observed particularly well in the three national parks of Iceland .



Population distribution

Iceland has 356,991 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2019), of which over 60 percent are concentrated in the capital region . With 3.5 inhabitants per km², Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe and one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world . Only Australia , Namibia , Mongolia and Western Sahara , which is partially recognized as an international state, are even more sparsely populated.

For the distribution of the population across the eight regions of Iceland, see the administrative division of Iceland .

Population development

Population development
year population
1950 143,000
1960 176,000
1970 204,000
1980 228,000
1990 255,000
2000 280,000
2010 320,000
2017 340,000
Iceland has one of the youngest populations in Europe

In contrast to many other western states, the population in Iceland increased continuously until 2008. On January 9, 2006, the 300,000 mark was exceeded. As a result of the financial crisis from 2008 onwards , there was a slight population decline; In January 2012 the number of inhabitants was again at 319,575.

Between 1950 and 1990 the proportion of foreigners averaged around 1.5%, by 2003 the rate had risen to 3.5%. At this point in time, Poles had the largest share of foreigners with 18.2%, followed by Danes with 8.6%, Filipinos with 6.0% and Germans with 5.4%. In 2017, 12.5% ​​of the population were migrants.

A major trend in recent years has been rural exodus . Particularly remote areas such as the Westfjords, Snæfellsnes or the extreme northeast suffered from this. Significant parts of the population hoped for better living and earning opportunities in the city, especially in Reykjavík. Later, however, this trend seemed to weaken, see, for example, Statistisches Amt Hagstofa on Ísafjörður 1990: 3498 inhabitants; in 2000: 2828 inhabitants; in 2010: 2677 inhabitants, beginning of 2019: 2703 inhabitants.


Reykjavík, view from Hallgrímskirkja tower to the harbor

The Icelandic State Church is an Evangelical Lutheran community and is supported and protected by the state (Article 62 of the Constitution ).

As of January 1, 2015, 73.8% of the population belonged to the state church and 5.9% to various Lutheran free churches . A total of 7.7% belonged to other state-registered religious communities , of which the Roman Catholic Church made up the largest proportion with 3.6% of the population. The neo-pagan religion, organized in Ásatrúarfélagið and recognized since 1972, accounted for 0.8%. 0.6% belonged to the Pentecostal Church . This was followed with 0.3% each by the Buddhists and Siðmennt , a non-religious organization affiliated with the International Humanist and Ethical Union , which is legally equal to the religious communities. The Iceland Statistical Yearbook for 2015 also lists ten other registered religious communities individually, each with 0.2% or less of the Icelandic population, including Jehovah's Witnesses (0.2%) and two different Muslim communities with 0.1% each . A large number of organizations, each with fewer than 200 members and together accounting for 0.5% of the population, are summarized under the heading “Other smaller, registered religious organizations”.

In 2019, only 64% of Iceland's population were members of the state church, while the Roman Catholic Church had 14,400 members (4%), making it the second largest religious community in the country.

On January 1, 2015, 7.1% of the population belonged to another (not state-registered) religious community or did not provide any information. 5.6% said they did not belong to any religious community.

The Icelandic form of a church tax, the so-called “community fee” ( sóknargjald ), goes to the state-recognized religious community or secular-humanistic group of which the person is registered. A current development in this context is the so-called Zuismus , a movement officially registered as a religious community for the practice of the Sumerian religion in Iceland, which promises its members a reimbursement of the “community fee” and at the end of 2015 saw a strong increase in membership.


Medieval manuscript Möðruvallabók
Extract from a modern Icelandic text

The Icelandic alphabet has 32 letters, from A to Á to Æ and finally to Ö. Unlike in German , umlauts like Ö are treated as independent letters and are therefore not sometimes circumscribed and sorted as Oe. The words in the lexicon and the names in all Icelandic registers, including the telephone book, are arranged accordingly.

Language development and language purism

The Icelandic language is spoken in Iceland . It is de facto the official language , but has never been officially declared. It developed from Old Norse . Even today Icelanders can read texts from the first centuries after the settlement of the country without any major problems, as the written language has hardly changed since immigration over 1100 years ago. This is explained by the island's isolated location in the North Atlantic . However, the debate has definitely changed during this time.

The Icelandic language purism is responsible for ensuring that foreign words are usually replaced by Icelandic neologisms. However, this endeavor to keep the language clean does not in any way prevent technical languages ​​from having foreign-language equivalents in addition to the Icelandic term .


In Iceland, first names are the most important part of the name. Family names are rare. Instead, the Icelanders carry the father's name , or more rarely the mother's name, with the second link -dóttir ("-daughter") or -son (" -son "). An Icelandic boy who is the son of Jón Einarsson and is to be named Ólafur is called Ólafur Jónsson (son of Jón), his sister Sigríður was called Sigríður Jónsdóttir (daughter of Jón).

These names are retained at the time of marriage. First names are often passed on in families. To avoid confusion, the children are often given several names. If you introduce yourself with “My name is…”, the counter-question “Whose son / daughter?” Often comes up. This also asks about the family. Many Icelanders can their lineage over 1000 years to the time of the conquest traced.

Scripture and grammar

In Icelandic there is also a runic letter , the Þ , and three letters derived from the Latin alphabet : Ð , Æ and Ö .

If the German language already has extensive word and sentence structure rules , they are even more complex in Icelandic. This is explained by the fact that Icelandic has essentially retained an ancient form of language due to centuries of isolation on a remote island.


middle Ages

Vikings of the first Vikings around Iceland

The Swedish Viking Gardar Svavarsson , who wintered in Húsavík in northern Iceland around 870 and named the island after himself Garðarsholmur (Gardarsholm), is considered to be the discoverer of Iceland .

The next explorer, Flóki Vilgerðarson , went out to find Garðarsholmur (Iceland) with the help of three ravens . A report on these fancy navigation methods can be found in the Landnámabók .

According to written sources, Iceland was populated by emigrants from Norway and other Scandinavian countries as well as by Celtic settlers in the late 9th and early 10th centuries . However, an earlier settlement can be proven archaeologically. On the Westman Islands , the foundations of a typical Norwegian long house were discovered beneath a layer of lava from the 7th century. German-Icelandic relations date back to around 900 .

Print edition of the Snorra Edda , 1666

While monarchs ruled elsewhere in Europe, Icelandic history began with the unique development of an oligarchic social system. After democracy in Greece of antiquity that's Althing assimilated as a meeting Goden together with the Faroese Løgting one of the first parliamentary systems in Europe. The legislative and judicial assemblies met annually in Þingvellir . The actual decision-making body was the Lögrétta , the assembly of the Goden. First there were 36 in number, then 39. These have been added since the appointment of bishops for Iceland (1056). The Goden were each supported by two assistants during the discussions and negotiations that preceded any decision-making. In addition, they were dependent on the support of their retinue of free men. Unfree women and children, who made up a considerable part of the population, did not take part in the democratic process.

Map of Iceland around 1621

The godhood, which had developed in the course of the conquest by 400 Norwegian chief families, lasted for almost 300 years. It only ended with the submission by the Norwegians in 1262. In this context, Reykholt- based Snorri Sturluson  - one of the most important political figures of the time - played a decisive role.

According to legend, Erik the Red discovered Greenland from Iceland in 982 AD . In fact, the first sailor to sail to East Greenland was Gunnbjörn Úlfsson , followed by Snæbjörn Galti , who set up his winter quarters there. After all, Erik the Red circled the southern tip of the island and reached the west coast of Greenland.

In the year 1000 the Icelander Leifur Eiríksson landed on the northern tip of Newfoundland and founded a - non-permanent - settlement on the site of today's L'Anse aux Meadows . Bjarni Herjúlfsson discovered the new continent a little earlier . He was lost, saw the American coast, but did not land, but returned to Greenland. In the same year the Icelanders decided to adopt Christianity through the Althing in Þingvellir .

In 1262 Iceland came under Norwegian rule. In 1380 Norway came under Danish rule; In 1397 the Kalmar Union was established and Iceland was ruled with Norway under the Danish crown.

Modern times

Map of Iceland around 1888

In 1552 was in Iceland by order of the Danish King Christian III. the Reformation enforced.

For a long time trade monopolies , first Norwegian and later Danish, blocked the economic development of Iceland. The Peace of Kiel on January 14, 1814 once again sealed Danish sovereignty. The old motherland Norway fell to Sweden , but was able to set off towards independence. With the return to the old traditions, the revival of the old thing and the breach of trade restrictions, Iceland celebrated the millennium of the conquest in 1874 with its own constitution.

In 1882 women had limited voting rights when they participated in local elections. In 1882, the king agreed to change the restrictions so that widows and other unmarried women who headed a farm household or otherwise ran an independent household were given the right to vote and stand for election in local elections.

20th century

In 1904 Denmark granted the Icelanders autonomy ( Hjemmestyre based on the Irish Home Rule ). Iceland gained sovereignty on December 1, 1918. The Danish King Christian X remained the Icelandic head of state until the founding of the republic on June 17, 1944. Therefore, members of the Danish royal family who were born before June 17, 1944 also have an Icelandic first name, such as the current Queen Margrethe II , who has the first name Þórhildur.

In 1908 women were given equality with men in local elections, and in 1913 the Icelandic parliament passed an ordinance that allowed women to vote in all elections . However, as relations with Denmark deteriorated, the law was not ratified until June 19, 1915. Only then were women given the right to vote. The right to vote only applied to women aged 40 and over; every year the age limit should be reduced by one year. The law on passive women's suffrage was also ratified on June 19, 1915 and restricted to women over 40 who did not receive poor benefit that had to be paid back.

The University of Iceland was founded in 1911 . Before that, Icelanders had to move to the Danish motherland to study or higher positions in Iceland were filled by educated Danes. Danish was a second language in Iceland well into the 20th century.

The first Icelandic government was formed in 1917. Iceland gained independence in 1918, but remained in real union with Denmark; Iceland's flag was officially hoisted for the first time.

In 1920 universal suffrage for people aged 25 and over was introduced.

The Second World War began on September 1, 1939 ; on May 10, 1940, British troops occupied Iceland in violation of its neutrality in order to thwart the feared invasion by the German Reich . Even before the USA entered the war , they were reinforced by troops of the United States Army in 1941 and largely replaced.

On June 17, 1944, the Democratic Republic of Iceland ( Icelandic Lýðveldið Ísland ) was proclaimed. Denmark was still under German occupation at that time . Iceland has been a member of the United Nations since 1946 and a founding member of NATO in 1949 . Iceland's contribution to the defense alliance is to lease out localized areas of its territory for military use free of charge. During the Cold War, Iceland played an important strategic role as a base for NATO naval and air force units, in order to prevent Soviet submarines in particular from penetrating the Atlantic in the event of war (see also GIUK gap ). The most important foreign military base in Iceland until 2006 was the naval air base in Keflavík , which was mainly operated by US personnel, but also by Danes and Norwegians. After 2006, the military presence of NATO partners was reduced to a minimum. The permanent presence of the American Iceland Defense Force was a domestic political issue in Iceland for decades.

Iceland has been a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) since 1994 .

21st century

In 2001 Iceland implemented the Schengen Agreement , which it had already signed up to in 1996. For a long time there has been no clear position in Icelandic politics on the country's possible EU accession . The status of Icelandic fishing rights is seen as problematic in Iceland. The island relies on these rights like no other country. After the conservative government of Geir Haarde resigned as a result of the financial crisis , the Social Democratic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir announced an initiative for Iceland to join the EU. The Icelandic parliament confirmed its political course and on July 17, 2009 an application for membership was made.

On February 24, 2010, the EU Commission recommended starting accession negotiations. The veto of the President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson against the law on the repayment of almost 4 billion euros due to the bankruptcy of the Icesave bank to Great Britain and the Netherlands and the rejection of this law in the vote on March 6, 2010 by a majority of 93, However, 2 percent of the voters questioned Iceland's accession process to the European Union. The mood in the country also changed. After the change of government in April 2013, the accession process was suspended because the new government - supported by the majority opinion in the population - now refused to join. On March 12, 2015, Iceland withdrew its membership application.


Political indices
Name of the index Index value Worldwide rank Interpretation aid year
Fragile States Index 17.8 out of 120 174 of 178 Stability of the country: very sustainable
0 = very sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy index 9.37 out of 10 2 of 167 Full democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 94 of 100 - Freedom status: free
0 = not free / 100 = free
Freedom of the press ranking 15.12 out of 100 15 of 180 Satisfactory situation for freedom of the press
0 = good situation / 100 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 75 out of 100 17 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2020

State building

Seat of the Icelandic parliament Althing

Iceland has been an independent parliamentary-democratic republic since June 17, 1944 (see Constitution of the Republic of Iceland ). The Althing , the legislature , consists of 63 members. The judiciary in Iceland is divided into two stages. The district courts form the lower level. The Hæstiréttur Supreme Court , the Supreme Court, also functions as the Constitutional Court. The head of state is the Icelandic President , since 2016 Guðni Th. Jóhannesson . The Icelandic Prime Minister is in charge of government .

Since the parliamentary elections in 2013 , the country has been ruled by a coalition of the Progress Party (rural center) and the liberal-conservative Independence Party , initially as the cabinet of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and since the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson (Progress Party) in early April 2016 as the cabinet of Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson .

Early elections were held in autumn 2016, the 54th parliamentary elections in Iceland in 2016 , after which forming a government initially proved difficult. Since January 11, 2017, the Bjarni Benediktsson cabinet (2017) was a coalition government made up of the independence party and the liberal parties Viðreisn and Björt framtíð under Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson . It broke up after Björt framtíð announced on September 15, 2017 that he would leave the coalition. Therefore, early elections were held again on October 28, 2017 . Since November 30, 2017, a coalition of the Left-Green Movement , the Progressive Party and the Independence Party has been in power as Katrín Jakobsdóttir's cabinet .


In the mid-1970s, the traditional four-party system in Iceland was broken up. The four state-sponsoring parties were until then:

  1. the Independence Party (Sjálfstæðisflokkur, SF, conservative),
  2. the progressive party (Framsóknarflokkur, FF, liberal),
  3. the Social Democratic Party of Iceland (Alþýðuflokkurinn, AF, social democratic) as well
  4. the People's Alliance (Alþýðubandalagið, AL, socialist).

The attempt to unite all left parties led to the formation of two new parties, which:

  • social democratic and pro-European alliance (Samfylkingin, Sf) and the
  • left-green-patriotically oriented left-green movement (Vinstri hreyfing-Grænt framboð, VG).

In the social democratic alliance, the women's alliance , which was the first women's party in the world to move into a national parliament in 1983 and was consistently represented there until the merger, also merged.

The following parties are also currently represented in parliament: the pirate party Píratar (since the 2013 election ), the liberal and pro-European Viðreisn party (since the 2016 election ), the populist Flokkur fólksins (since the 2017 election ) and the 2017 split from Center Party founded by the Progressive Party . From 2013 to 2017, representatives of Björt framtíð (“Bright Future”) (pro-European, liberal) also belonged to the Althing.


There are various branch unions and a trade union confederation ( ASÍ ) in Iceland . More than 90% of the employees are organized. Even if it is tending to decline, the cooperative system plays a role on the island that is almost unique in the world. Almost all important areas of life (pensions, special holiday payments, health care, child and youth recreational facilities subordinate to school, cultural events, fishing vessel pools and their income distribution, ...) are organized, partially or completely, on a cooperative basis.

Foreign policy

Countries with diplomatic missions in Iceland

Iceland is a member of the following organizations: FAO (since 1945), United Nations (since 1946), NATO (since 1949), Council of Europe (since 1949), Nordic Council (since 1952), EFTA (since 1960), OECD (since 1961) , UNESCO (since 1964), OSCE (since 1975/1992), West Nordic Council (since 1985/1997), Barents Sea Council (since 1993), EEA (since 1994), WTO (since 1995), Baltic Sea Council (1995), Arctic Council (since 1996), since October 2002 member of the International Whaling Commission again , in addition to these memberships there is a defense agreement with the USA (since 1951).

Administrative structure

Administrative division of Iceland

Politically Iceland is divided into eight regions: Höfuðborgarsvæðið , Suðurnes , Vesturland , Vestfirðir , Norðurland vestra , Norðurland eystra , Austurland and Suðurland . The eight regions are (traditionally, but not administratively) divided into 22 sýslur ( Syssel , about counties) and 20 independent municipalities (eight kaupstaðir , seven bæir , one borg and four others). At the lowest administrative level there are 76 Sveitarfélög (municipalities) (as of 2010), including the eight kaupstaðir (as of 2005).


Around 93% of the Icelandic population lived in cities in mid-2008 , 118,918 of a total of 321,857 inhabitants of the country alone lived in the capital Reykjavík (2013 extrapolation). The high level of urbanization is due to the ongoing rural exodus that began in Iceland in the 20th century.

In the majority of the municipalities outside the capital area, however, population growth has now been recorded again. Of the eight regions in Iceland, five now have stable, positive population growth. Only the majority of the municipalities in the North West Iceland region are still losing residents.


Iceland has 74 parishes , the largest are listed below.

local community Residents
(January 1, 2019)
Reykjavíkurborg 1 128,793
Kópavogur 1 36,975
Hafnarfjörður 1 29,799
Akureyri 18,925
Reykjanesbær 18,920
Garðabær 1 16,299
Mosfellsbær 1 11,463
Árborg 9486
Akranes 7411
local community Residents
(January 1, 2019)
Fjarðabyggð 5070
Fljótsdalshérað 3600
Seltjarnarnes 1 4664
Skagafjordur 3992
Vestmannaeyjar 4301
Ísafjarðarbær 3800
Borgarbyggð 3807
Norðurþing 3042


Iceland does not officially have its own military . The approximately 120-strong Icelandic Coast Guard with its base in Reykjavík takes over the protection of the coast . She is equipped with three patrol boats , a surveillance aircraft and several helicopters. In the event of storms or accidents, the helicopters take over SAR tasks and rescue flights for the population. Iceland recruits civilian contingents for UN and NATO missions ( Íslenska friðargæslan ) from the forces of the police and coastal defense . Iceland has been a founding member of NATO since 1949 . In the event of an alliance , it has agreed to provide medical assistance.

As part of NATO (command: ISCOMICE), the USA had the so-called Iceland Defense Force stationed in Keflavík with around 1,650  soldiers . The force consisted of 960 Marines , 600 US Air Force soldiers and 80 US Marine Corps soldiers . The American troop presence dates back to 1941. During the Second World War, the soldiers served to secure supply routes. Later, during the Cold War , the US military used the strategically important island as a base to fight submarines in the event of a conflict with the Soviet Union .

In 1951, the United States signed a bilateral defense agreement to defend Iceland. The support of the Icelandic coast guard by the five stationed helicopters and the patrols in the Icelandic airspace by four F-15 fighter planes played a role. The stationing cost the United States of America about 260 million US dollars a year.

On March 19, 2006, the USA decided unilaterally and surprisingly for Iceland to withdraw its armed forces . On September 30, 2006, the last US soldiers stationed in Iceland left the country. 600 Icelanders lost their jobs in the military base . The United States continues to guarantee the Icelandic government military protection based on the bilateral treaty. An authority for national defense issues was set up, which took over the American-led electronic air surveillance. In order to guarantee a physical military presence, regular flight patrol campaigns (two to three times a year) have been agreed with several NATO partners. Friendly squadrons will then be billeted at the former American base. For the first time, a French squadron with Mirage fighters came to Iceland in April 2008.

The governments in Oslo and Reykjavík agreed that the Norwegian Air Force would take over security, surveillance and rescue tasks in peacetime. The Norwegian Army recruits a small number of volunteers for military service in Iceland. Reykjavík has agreed to work with the Danish Navy to monitor the Icelandic coast .

Although Iceland does not have its own armed forces, it was represented in the coalition of the willing in 2003 .

State budget

The state budget in 2016 comprised expenditures equivalent to US $ 7.911 billion , which was offset by income equivalent to US $ 10.350 billion. This results in a budget surplus of 12.2% of GDP .
The national debt in 2016 was $ 10.6 billion, or 53% of GDP. Iceland has been able to reorganize its public finances in recent years.

In 2006 the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of GDP) was in the following areas:



Iceland was an agricultural country until the 20th century. In a census in 1703, 69% of the population worked exclusively in agriculture , 30% also engaged in fishing in addition to agriculture . At the end of the 19th century, the transition to deep-sea fishing took place. The rural population found new jobs here and so in 1901 only half of the population was active in agriculture. In 2008, only around 4.8% of the Icelandic population worked in the primary sector, around 22.2% worked in industry and 73% of those employed in the service sector. At 2.8% in 2017, Iceland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.

In 2005 the Hoyvík Agreement was concluded with the Faroe Islands , which includes a free trade area between Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

Iceland was particularly hard hit by the financial crisis that broke out in 2007 . The country's three largest banks had proven to be particularly vulnerable to the crisis due to their strong international ties, which is why the Icelandic government decided at the beginning of October 2008 to nationalize the entire banking sector. In addition to averting the threat of national bankruptcy , this emergency measure was also intended to prevent further devaluation of the Icelandic krona, which had lost more than 70% of its value against the euro between October 2007 and October 2008.

On October 16, 2008, the Icelandic government announced that it would fail to repay a $ 750 million bond due from the nationalized Glitnir Bank, making Iceland de facto insolvent. However, there was no formal insolvency as the bond was not issued by Iceland itself. However, the CDS spread islands implied a high probability that the formal insolvency could occur in a few years.

According to the US economist and Nobel laureate in economics, Paul Krugman , Iceland was the country with the greatest risk of national bankruptcy ahead of Ireland and Austria in April 2009 . After the nationalization, the three largest banks (Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir) left behind a mountain of debt ten times the previous annual economic output in Iceland.

According to the OECD report of May 2010, Iceland has achieved considerable consolidation in the economic sector. According to the OECD, they formed a good basis for a further economic recovery and an upswing to begin in 2011. The recommendations of the OECD commission were to install more energy-intensive companies in Iceland in 2011 in order to stimulate private demand. In addition, the successful course of fiscal consolidation will continue to be pursued. The banking sector has stabilized and there are corresponding reserves in international currency. Currency consolidation will continue to be a goal.

Iceland returned to the international capital market for the first time in June 2011. Iceland began repaying both the IMF stand-by loan totaling US $ 2.1 billion and the Nordic countries' loans ahead of schedule in the spring of 2012.

In 2013, Iceland became the first European country to sign a free trade agreement with China . China is particularly interested in the island state because of its favorable location on the Northern Sea Route .

In the Global Competitiveness Index , which measures a country's competitiveness, Iceland ranks 28th out of 137 countries (2017-2018). In 2019, the country ranks 11th out of 180 countries in the index for economic freedom .


The currency in Iceland is the Icelandic krona (ISK), 100 ISK has the equivalent of 0.66133 euros, corresponding to 1 € = 151.21 ISK (as of Apr 24, 2021). There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 kroner in circulation as well as banknotes of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 kroner.

Basic data

Iceland's economy recovered quickly after the financial crisis. Iceland's gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.2% in 2016 (2015: 4.1%, 2014: 1.9%, 2013: 4.4%). Unemployment averaged just 5% in 2014. Iceland maintains a wide range of foreign trade relations. In 2014, exports of goods and services accounted for around 53% of GDP and imports 47%.

Despite the financial crisis, the per capita income in Iceland is still at the top of the world. However, this also applies to expenses due to the high taxes and cost of living. The life expectancy of Icelanders is one of the highest in the world. In the ranking of the Human Development Index , Iceland was in first place worldwide for the first time from November 2007, just ahead of Norway, which had been at the top of the index for six years. Compared with the average gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the EU (EU27 = 100), Iceland achieved an index of 129 in 2005. According to the Global Wealth Report 2017 by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse , the inhabitants of Iceland have the world's highest average and median wealth ( $ 587,649 or $ 444,999).

10% of Icelanders are fishermen. More than 50% work in the service sector. The core of Icelandic agriculture is livestock farming, mainly sheep, Icelandic horses and cattle.

Export and import

The main export -partner the country in 2009 were the Netherlands (30.7%), the United Kingdom (12.8%), Germany (11.3%), Norway (5.8%) and Spain (4.8 %). The main import -partner were Norway (13.0%), the Netherlands (8.6%), Germany (8.3%), Sweden (8.1%) and Denmark (7.3%).


Driving the sheep in
Þjórsádalur near the Hekla
Taking blood from the horse

A large part of the island consists of lava deserts that are neither habitable nor agriculturally useful. This affects large areas of the inland ( Icelandic highlands ). 11% of the country is covered by glaciers .

The inhabited areas are mainly along the coast. 20% of the fertile part of the country is used for extensive cattle breeding (especially sheep and horses ). Since 2015 the importance of the export of PMSG has increased rapidly. PMSG is a sex hormone in pregnant mares , the administration of which increases fertility and meat growth in other mammals and also enables the due date to be controlled. The hormone is therefore approved as a component of veterinary drugs in intensive animal husbandry in many countries. The hormone is obtained from the horses' blood serum . Since Iceland offers optimal conditions in terms of price, quality and keeping conditions on the large natural pastures, the country has meanwhile become Europe's main supplier. 100 grams of the hormone is said to cost around $ 900,000. Currently, around 5,000 mares from almost 100 farms have a total of around 170,000 liters of blood drawn from late summer to autumn. The hormone is then exported to North America and Europe in the form of a protein powder. In 2020, the proceeds were around 10 million euros. Production has tripled since 2009 and more farms join them every year. However, there are concerns about Icelandic animal welfare law.

Only 1% of the land area is used for growing grain or other crops. One reason is the relatively cool summer temperatures, while in winter the Gulf Stream ensures a relatively mild climate, especially in the southwest. The average temperatures are 11 ° C in July and −1 ° C in January. In 2017, 7,400 tons of barley were harvested, making Iceland 90th worldwide. The barley is primarily used as fodder for cows and cattle, and the main growing areas are on Eyjafjörður and Skagafjörður and in the south-west of the country. Potatoes were grown on an area of ​​600 hectares in 2017, and Iceland was 130th in the world in terms of the amount harvested, with 9,000 tons. Cauliflower was grown on an area of ​​11 hectares and the amount harvested was 55 t. Carrots were grown on an area of ​​5 hectares, and in 2017 750 tons were harvested.

The Icelandic economy was high pasture to the 19th century, comparable to the Seter - Serviced Norway. Modern pasture farming on natural pasture grounds, on the other hand, is its own form of mobile pastoralism . In order to relieve the valuable lowland pastures, the sheep and horses are on the inland high pastures in summer . The ewes with the lambs are driven to the high pastures in June or brought there by truck. The animals roam freely during this time. They always follow the freshest vegetation when grazing, which is why the lamb in Iceland is particularly tasty. In autumn, that is in September / October, the animals are gathered on horseback and driven back. The pasture has to be combed up to three times to find all the animals. They spend the winter on the pastures in the inhabited area or in the barn. The downforce is a festive affair. Schoolchildren take buses to the respective collection points, large pens called Réttir . They watch the last phase or lend a hand. For the adults there is a festive ball in the evening. The most important high pasture areas are to be found south of Hofs - and Langjökull between Hvítá and Thjorsa , north and northwest of Langjökull and in the east of the country between Hofsá and Fljótsdalur .

In the meantime, for example in Hveragerði , with numerous greenhouses, geothermal energy is used for growing vegetables and fruit. For example, tomatoes are grown under glass on a total area of ​​4 hectares, and 1,334 t of tomatoes were harvested in 2017.

The reforestation of the forests is also a big issue, for example in the area around the capital Reykjavík and around the Skorradalsvatn in West Iceland. In 2015 492 km² of the country were forested, which corresponded to 0.5% of the country's area. In the year 2000 forest covered only 288 km², i. H. 0.3% of the area of ​​Iceland.


The Kapelan's trains around Iceland

Due to its location on a shelf of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge , the fishing grounds around Iceland are particularly productive. The sea around the island is rich in phytoplankton , which forms the basis of the oceanic food chain .

Iceland is dependent on fishing (fish products make up 42% of exports). To protect the fishing grounds, a protection zone of 32 nautical miles was established for the first time in 1631 . However, it was repealed and it was not until 1901 that a new protection zone of three nautical miles was established. After the Second World War, the use of the modern fishing fleet led to overfishing of the Icelandic waters within a few years . Therefore, the protection zone was extended to four nautical miles in 1952. Because of renewed overfishing, the zone was then expanded to twelve nautical miles in 1959. In the early 1970s, the stocks of economically used fish species collapsed again. Iceland extended the protection zone to 50 nautical miles. As in the late 1950s, there was a dispute between Iceland and the United Kingdom because the British were unwilling to accept the extended protection zone. The dispute escalated and British trawlers were escorted by warships. This second cod war was eventually settled by negotiation. Since the extension of the protection zone to 50 nautical miles did not have the hoped-for effect, the protection zone was extended to 200 nautical miles in 1975. The dispute broke out again between Iceland and the United Kingdom, but the third “cod war” was also settled through negotiation. The 200-mile zone is now an international standard and recognized under international law. Since 1991 Icelandic fishery products can be imported into the European Union duty-free.

Despite the importance of fishing, only about 5.2% of the country's workers are directly employed on boats and another 6.7% in fish processing .

To this day, Icelandic companies are whaling off Iceland . As one of the few remaining countries in the world, the country holds on to the highly controversial hunting of fin whales and minke whales for commercial use. This branch of industry is closely interlinked with the conventional fishing industry.

In 2019, whaling was initially suspended (according to a report by Deutsche Welle).


Hotel Borg, Reykjavík
Campsite in Landmannalaugar

Tourism plays a huge role in the Icelandic economy. Nature is popular, especially the glaciers , horse riding tourism and other activities. While the country was still visited by 302,900 foreign tourists in 2000, in 2014 it was already 998,600, which means that the number has more than tripled in this period. From 2014 to 2015 the number of tourists jumped to 1,289,140. The 2015 visitor statistics for travelers who visited Iceland via Keflavík Airport are topped by travelers from the USA (242,805), followed by the United Kingdom (241,024) and Germany (103,384) among the individually listed countries of origin, with others mentioned individually Countries also 231,851 people were grouped under "other".

Tourism has become an increasingly important source of foreign exchange income for Iceland over the past few decades. As of 2015, the share of export revenues in this sector was 31% and thus exceeded the Icelandic fishing and aluminum industries . In 2010 it was 18.8%.

While around 4,000 visitors came to Iceland in 1950, the number rose to around 190,000 in 1995. Since the mid-1990s, the flow of tourists has increased significantly every year. In 2000, with over 300,000 travelers, for the first time there were more tourists than Iceland had inhabitants at that time. At the same time, the number of overnight stays in hotels and guest houses as well as on farms in the countryside rose significantly.

Due to the geographically remote location in the North Atlantic, transport companies also benefit from the increasing tourism, as Iceland can only be reached by plane or by ship ( Norröna car ferry ). In the meantime, however, the strong growth in tourism is also perceived as a burden. Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, the director of the Icelandic tourist board Ferðamálastofa , said in 2014 that tourism was growing too fast. The problems that arise include the heavy use of housing by tourists and the overuse of sparse infrastructure in the sparsely populated areas away from the capital.

Energy industry

Búrfell hydropower plant
Kárahnjúkar hydropower plant

The electricity in Iceland is completely renewable : Around 73% is hydroelectric power provided and just under 27% by geothermal energy .

In the years 2000–2004, the share of large-scale industry in electricity consumption was 63.4–64.9%. The aluminum smelters are responsible for almost 80% of this, so that their share of total electricity consumption is just over 50%, but is expected to increase significantly in the coming years due to expansions and new construction. The total generation capacity is around 2.4 gigawatts of hydropower and geothermal systems. The government is aiming for further expansion. In its own words, it tries to convince international industry with the lowest electricity prices in Europe. For the required amounts of energy, large hydropower and, more recently, geothermal power plants have to be built, which in some cases requires considerable interventions in nature. An example of a controversial project in this context is the construction of Kárahnjúkavirkjun , a hydroelectric power plant in eastern Iceland, whose current mainly for Aluminiumverhüttungswerk company Alcoa near the village of Reyðarfjörður is used.

In order to limit the environmental impact of the dams, especially small hydropower plants, and at the same time to take account of the changed water runoff as a result of global warming , it is increasingly proposed to supplement the electricity mix with wind power plants . The plan is to connect Iceland to the European power grid by means of an HVDC submarine cable to Scotland and to export electricity.

In addition to hydropower production, which could be doubled from 18 TWh to around 36 TWh, Iceland in particular has very good wind energy resources.

In 2000 the changeover of the Icelandic energy industry to a hydrogen economy was announced, for which Iceland received a lot of international attention at the time. However, this plan has not yet been implemented.



Infrastructure of Iceland
A typical Icelandic road sign with information about the individual farms
Road traffic away from the main roads

Road traffic

As of the end of 2016, Iceland had 12,901 km of roads managed by the Vegagerðin Road Administration , of which 5575 km were paved. The ring road no. 1 is Iceland's longest road and roughly follows the coast run, but cuts off all large peninsulas. It is currently (as of 2017) 1332 km long and was completed in 1974 after the last bridges in the Skaftafell area had been built. The ring road (Icelandic Hringvegur ) is called, depending on the part of the country, Suðurlandsvegur , Vesturlandsvegur , Norðurlandsvegur and Austurlandsvegur, according to the custom of designating all roads in the country by name and not by street number. The name jóðvegur Nr 1 (literally: "National Road No. 1") is also used. The street numbers, starting with 2 to 9, provide information about the administrative division in road construction, which is not congruent with the other administrative divisions. Right-hand traffic was introduced on Sunday, May 26, 1968; before that, left-hand traffic was the rule .

There are no motorways in Iceland, but the road between Keflavík and Reykjavík as far as the suburb of Hafnarfjörður has been upgraded to a four-lane expressway. In the capital area there are now some up to six-lane entry and exit roads.

The ring road is - except for a section of a few kilometers on Berufjörður in East Iceland - paved. A few years ago this was only the case near Reykjavík. The most important country roads are now largely asphalted. Side roads, but also some main roads (especially in the West Fjords), are often gravel roads with a confusing route. Highland slopes are also mostly gravel roads and have only limited maintenance. The Icelandic highlands are therefore a popular destination for drivers of all-terrain vehicles. Because of the very sensitive vegetation in Iceland, off-road driving is generally not allowed. Even individual tire tracks can, due to the very loose soil structure, offer new areas of attack for erosion and, in the worst case, develop into washed-out stream beds within a few years. Only driving on designated routes is therefore allowed.

In winter, the main roads are mostly cleared, but there can also be traffic obstructions due to black ice or snowdrifts. Therefore, most Icelanders drive with spikes and prefer four-wheel drive cars. On some days in winter, parts of the main connecting roads can also be closed at short notice. The current road conditions are announced in the media, but above all on the Internet by the road watch (in Icelandic and English).

Air traffic

The largest international airport, Leifur Eiríksson Airport , is located near Keflavík , about 60 km west of Reykjavík. The local airline Icelandair connects the airport with numerous international destinations on the European and American mainland. There is also an alternate airport in Egilsstaðir in eastern Iceland and three other airports in Akureyri , Ísafjörður and Höfn . There are a total of 98 airfields in the country.


Important ports in the country are Akureyri, Grundartangi , Hafnarfjörður, Hornafjörður, Reykjavík, Seyðisfjörður . The latter offers the only car ferry connection between Iceland and the European continent with the ferry Norröna (ports in Denmark and on the Faroe Islands , until the end of 2008 also Norway and Scotland ). There is no river navigation in Iceland.

Local and long-distance public transport

The Strætó bus system in Reykjavík offers regular and fast connections both within Reykjavík and to the suburbs of Seltjarnarnes, Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, Garðabær and Mosfellsbær. The central bus terminals are Hlemmur at the end of the Laugavegur shopping street, and Mjódd in the Breiðholt district . Stops where the Strætó buses stop are marked with a yellow “S”.

In Akureyri and Reykjanes , Strætó also offers city bus routes.

Long-distance transport

Strætó also offers long-distance connections from Reykjavík to most of the main parts of Iceland.

Iceland has an extensive network of long-distance bus routes operated by various providers. They are monitored by the BSÍ ( Bifreiðastöð Islands ), which is located at the BSÍ terminal in Reykjavík. In smaller towns and villages, the bus stop is almost always at the local main petrol station.

From around mid-May to mid-September there are scheduled buses to most destinations on the ring road, major cities in the West Fjords and Reykjanes and Snæfellsnes. There are also connections to Kjölur and Sprengisandur, which are located in the highlands and cannot be reached with normal two-wheel drive cars. The providers often offer various group tickets to make long-distance transport in Iceland as easy as possible. The advantage is that you can cover several routes and destinations with one ticket. The Golden Circle Passport , the Hiking Passport and the Highland Circle Passport are very common .

There is no rail transport in Iceland . From 1913 to 1917 there was a transport line in Reykjavík that brought rocks from the Öskjuhlíð to the port. A railway line between Reykjavík and Keflavík International Airport is being planned.


In Iceland, there were 2004 190.500 Phone Connections, & 290,100 mobile phones . Direct dialing by telephone is possible everywhere within Iceland. The country code for Iceland for long distance calls from abroad is +354, followed by the seven-digit extension number , area codes no longer exist. For international calls, dial the VAZ 00 followed by the country code , then the area code and the subscriber number of the person you want to call.

There are two GSM network operators in Iceland: Síminn and Vodafone Iceland (TAL). Together they cover most of the island including all communities over 200 inhabitants. These and other providers sell prepaid GSM phone cards and offer GSM / GPRS service.

Síminn also operated a network for NMT ( Nordic Mobile Telephone ) cell phones until the end of 2007 , which covered almost all of Iceland including the highlands. In comparison to the GSM network, NMT cell phones operated at a lower frequency (450 MHz), which enabled a considerably increased range. As a replacement for the disconnected NMT network, the GSM operators have also installed long-range transmission masts in the highlands, which means that they can be reached across the board to a large extent. Digital technology was also introduced in the Tetra network for rescue services and the police .


Iceland is integrated into the Internet via three submarine cables ( Cantat-3 , Farice-1 and, since mid-2008, Greenland Connect ). In the past, broken cables or other damage often resulted in Internet and sometimes telecommunications failures. In the catchment area of Reykjavík and Akureyri is one often free Wi-Fi - hot spots .

In 1998 a comprehensive collection of patient data for research into hereditary diseases began. By 2014, more than one in three Icelanders provided their health data and a blood sample. As a by-product of this project, every Icelander can have his / her relationship to any fellow citizen displayed in an internet-accessible data area called IslendingaBok .

There were around 301,600 internet users in Iceland in 2009; the number has more than doubled since 2000.


Íslandspóstur post offices can be found in every major municipality in Iceland.

Structures and buildings

The tallest structure is the Gufuskálar transmitter , the tallest building is the Smáratorg tower .



The battle-ready Grettir, one of the heroes of the Icelandic Sagas

The Icelandic literature shaped the culture of the country for many centuries until today. The Edda is one of the best-known works of Old Icelandic literature . Two works are usually summarized under this name, the so-called Lieder Edda and the Snorra Edda , which Snorri Sturluson wrote around the year 1220. The Snorra Edda is a unique source of ancient Norse mythology and poetry (Skalden prose / Skáldskaparháttur ).

The Icelandic sagas , written according to oral tradition in the 13th and 14th centuries , not only laid the foundation for the development of northern European literature, but also inscribed Iceland into the literary world cultural heritage. The time in which the secular events described in them took place extends from the conquest of Iceland around 860 to the 11th century. However, they are only part of the Icelandic saga literature, which in the narrower sense also includes the royal sagas ( Konungasögur ), the prehistoric sagas ( Fornaldarsögur ), the Sturlunga saga ( Sturlunga saga ) and the bishop's sagas ( Byskupasögur ), which are counted among the present day sagas .

Modern Icelandic literature has also long had many followers outside Iceland - not just the works of Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness . The thrillers of the writer Arnaldur Indriðason have achieved bestseller editions in German translation in recent years.

In 2011, Iceland was the guest of honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair under the motto “Legendary Iceland” . The focus of the Icelandic guest country appearance was on the revision and translation of the Icelandic sagas. In addition, the focus was on the classics of the 19th and 20th centuries, important contemporary authors and the new voices of Icelandic literature. Icelandic artists from all branches of art presented an extensive art and cultural program, from music and fine arts to film, fashion, design, architecture and photography in Germany.

Visual arts

Although the first settlers in Iceland brought Norwegian folk art with them to the island in the North Atlantic, many documents were destroyed over the centuries due to the harsh climate and limited resources. A real development, such as painting, did not begin until the modern age, and Icelandic art did not develop in other areas until around the middle of the 19th century.

Apart from Sigurður Guðmundsson (1833–1874), Þórarinn B. Þorláksson (1867–1924) can be seen as the first modern painter who succeeded Icelandic painting with the artists Ásgrímur Jónsson (1876–1958), Jón Stefánsson ( 1881–1962) and Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval (1885–1972) gained increasing importance, while Einar Jónsson (1874–1954) and subsequently Ásmundur Sveinsson (1893–1982), Sigurjón Ólafsson (1908–1982 ) were the beginners of Icelandic sculpture ) and Gerður Helgadóttir (1928–1975).

Through trips and study stays abroad, European current art movements gained influence on many artists in Iceland. In the early pictures of Jón Engilbert (1908–1972), parallels to German Expressionism can be found, Nína Tryggvadóttir (1913–1968) is clearly influenced by Cubism , and the play of colors and forms of the CoBrA group can be found in Svavar Guðnason (1909–1968) 1988), who was one of its members.

The internationally successful Erró (* 1932) moves between Surrealism and Pop Art . Conceptual art has also emerged in Iceland since the 1960s . An important representative of this art movement is Sigurður Guðmundsson (* 1942), whose work includes performances, photographs, drawings, prints, sculptures, installations and musical compositions.

The Swiss by choice, graphic artist, jewelry and furniture designer, filmmaker, painter and sculptor, poet and musician Dieter Roth (1930–1998) , who has lived in Iceland since 1960, had a not inconsiderable and lasting influence on younger Icelandic art . His broad-based work influenced many young artists who turned to process installations, for example. Roth's preference for collaborations between artists from various disciplines, and even collaboration with laypeople, are still trend-setting and at the same time characteristic of current Icelandic art.

Numerous museums, galleries and project rooms, institutions such as the Center for Icelandic Art (CIA.IS), festivals such as the annual Reykjavík Arts Festival and the biennial SEQUENCES Real Time Art Festival as well as magazines such as LIST icelandic art news are evidence of the growing trend Importance of fine arts in Icelandic culture.


Icelandic photography has a broad spectrum. This ranges from Magnús Ólafsson (1862–1937), who shed light on the living conditions of a half of the century marked by technological progress, social changes and urban developments, to the portrait photographer Sigriður Zoëga (1889–1968), Vigfús Sigurgeirsson ( who became famous for his landscapes) ( 1900–1984) to the photographer Ragnar Axelsson (* 1958, known under the pseudonym RAX), who has been a photojournalist for Morgunblaðið , National Geographic , Time , Life , Stern and Le Figaro and has been awarded numerous prizes -Documentary photography in the tradition of the American New Topographics , photographer Guðmundur Ingólfsson (* 1946). Numerous Icelandic photographers have done landscape photography and book publications, including Páll Stefánsson , Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson and Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson .

Haraldur Jónsson (* 1961), Hrafnkell Sigurðsson (* 1963), Bjargey Ólafsdóttir (* 1972), Katrin Elvarsdóttir (* 1964) and with groups of photographic works also the artist group Icelandic Love Corporation , Rúrí (* 1951) and Gabríela Friðriksdóttir (* 1971) clearly represent artistic positions. Members of the SÚM artist group used to cause a stir, especially Sigurður Guðmundsson .


Traditional and classical music

The Icelandic chants and the Icelandic rhymes are known . A popular group with folk music are the Álftagerðisbræður . The most renowned classical composers include Jón Ásgeirsson , Hafliði Hallgrímsson and Jón Leifs . The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra resides in Reykjavík and also gives concerts abroad. The pianist Víkingur Ólafsson is also internationally known .

Rock, pop, jazz and songwriter

Björk, 2008

A number of internationally successful artists come from Iceland, such as the musician Björk , who sang in the Icelandic band Sugarcubes before her solo career . This alternative band was known worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. Another successful band is Sigur Rós , whose singer Jónsi released a solo album in 2010. Other well-known bands include Amiina , Dikta , GusGus , Kælan Mikla , Megas , Mugison , múm , Of Monsters and Men , Sólstafir and Vök . Rock singer Bubbi Morthens released his first album in 1980 and has been popular for years. Emilíana Torrini , a younger Icelandic artist with an Italian name, is also internationally successful. The rock festival Iceland Airwaves has been held annually in Reykjavík since 1999 .

Iceland also has an active jazz scene. The existing since 1977 radio - fusion band Mezzo Forte had 1983 Garden Party a European hit. Another well-known musician is the bassist Skúli Sverrisson . Internationally known artists also perform at the annual Reykjavík Jazz Festival .

There is also the type of politically engaged songwriter who is embodied, for example, by Hörður Torfason , who took on a leading role at the demonstrations in Reykjavík in 2009. A popular songwriting band is Baggalútur . There is also great interest in Iceland in the annual Eurovision Song Contest . Iceland achieved the best results with second place at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1999 with Selma and in 2009 with Yohanna .


The most important venue for Icelandic theater is Þjóðleikhúsið in the capital Reykjavík. Another large theater located there is the Borgarleikhúsið . There are also numerous smaller theaters in Reykjavík. One of them can be found in the Museum of Land grabbing ( Landnámssetrið ) in Borgarnes and performs pieces based on the saga of Egill Skallagrímsson (in summer also in English). There are also theaters in Hafnarfjörður and Akureyri. The amateur play groups are also popular with Icelanders .


The Icelandic film is attracting increasing attention. In 1988 Hrafn Gunnlaugsson's The Shadow of the Raven ( Í skugga hrafnsins ) was nominated in two categories for the newly introduced Felix , the European Film Prize. The filmmaker Friðrik Þór Friðriksson was nominated for an Oscar in 1992 with his film Börn Náttúrunnar (Eng. Children of Nature - A Journey ) . Also the film Noi the Albino by Dagur Kári made a splash in 2003 at the Festival of Rotterdam. Another prominent exponent of Icelandic cinema is the actor and director Baltasar Kormákur , who made 101 Reykjavík and Die Kalte See, two of the most successful Icelandic films to date.

Iceland is also a frequent location for Hollywood films. After the movie James Bond 007 - Die Another Day , episodes of Tomb Raider and Batman Begins were filmed here. Clint Eastwood was filming scenes for Flags of Our Fathers in Iceland in 2006 , Ridley Scott was filming scenes from Prometheus in Iceland and in September 2012 Ben Stiller was in many parts of the island filming scenes for The Amazing Life of Walter Mitty . Some scenes from Darren Aronofsky's 2014 film Noah were also shot in Iceland. The Icelandic state is promoting these campaigns on a large scale.


In addition to numerous museums for art, the National Museum and the National Gallery in Reykjavík as well as numerous smaller museums in the capital Reykjavík and other cities remind of Iceland's cultural heritage. In particular, the open-air museums such as Glaumbær document life in past centuries.

In Húsavík there is a whale museum , in Hofsós there is a museum on the life and fate of emigrated Icelanders, especially in the USA and Canada.

Tourist Attractions

Gullfoss waterfall , one of the locations in the Golden Circle
The Hafragilsundirlendi Gorge in Jökulsárgljúfur National Park

Þingvellir, a traditional gathering place of the Althing , was declared a national park in 1928 and a world heritage site in 2004 . The site is part of the popular Golden Circle , a day tour that covers some of Iceland's most iconic attractions. In addition to Þingvellir, the Gullfoss waterfall and the geothermal area in Haukadalur (South Iceland) with its geysers are visited on this day tour. Besides Þingvellir, Iceland has three other national parks. In west Iceland, near the capital Reykjavík , the Snæfellsjökull National Park is located on the glacier volcano of the same name, in the south the Vatnajökull National Park and in the northeast the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park .

Similar to the world in the mythical account of the Edda , the island of Iceland was created by the elements fire and ice, i.e. H. built up by glaciers and volcanoes . The most diverse volcanic phenomena can be observed on Lake Mývatn around the northern central volcano Krafla or on the famous Hekla volcano in the south . The most famous large glacier shields in Iceland, which can also be driven on by snowmobiles and jeeps, are Langjökull , Vatnajökull and Mýrdalsjökull .

The highlands of Iceland are considered to be worth seeing. You can z. B. cross on the highland slopes Kjalvegur , Kaldidalur or Sprengisandur and have a view of all kinds of glaciers. The high temperature areas of Landmannalaugar and Kerlingarfjöll are known for the colorful rocks of their mountains. The areas of the Westfjords and the Ostfjords , which cut deep into the mountainous country, are also ideal for hiking. In winter you can ski at Ísafjörður and Neskaupstaður .

There are also many places where you can watch birds such as B. on Lake Mývatn or on bird cliffs such as Látrabjarg in the West Fjords. In the eastern highlands, reindeer live freely on the plateaus. Arctic foxes live all over the country, especially many around Mount Ingólfsjall in the south of Iceland. Whale watching is mainly possible from Reykjavík and Húsavík .

The capital Reykjavík has a lively cultural life with many museums (see there) and numerous sights such as B. the island Viðey or the Höfði house, where Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev met.

time management

Traditionally, the day in Iceland was divided into three-hour intervals with - starting at midnight - the names Lágnætti , Ótta , Rismál , Dagmál , Miðdegi , Nón , Miðaftann and Náttmál .



There is equality between the sexes in Iceland . The country is liberal towards homosexuals ; Same-sex marriages have been possible since 2010.

Iceland has a comprehensive social security system. There is a (state) health insurance and various pension insurance, an accident insurance, an unemployment insurance and a family insurance. These insurances are organized by the “State Social Security Institute”. It is financed through contributions made by all taxpayers.

The share of employees in the total population was 78.2 percent in 2010, which is higher than the average for the EU member states . The unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in 2010, undoubtedly as a result of the economic crash of 2008, but by 2016 (June) it had fallen back to 2.3%, de facto full employment. The per capita income in Iceland is the highest of the member countries of the OECD after Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland and Denmark.


Iceland has a well-developed, high-quality healthcare system.

According to UN figures, Iceland had the 8th highest life expectancy worldwide in the period from 2010 to 2015 with a total of 82.2 years (80.7 for men, 83.8 for women)


Main building of the University of Iceland

Iceland is at the forefront of education among the OECD countries. The comprehensive school comprises grades 1–10, the grammar school grades 11–14. Since autumn 1999, a new curriculum has put English first from grade 5, Danish falls back to second place and is only taught from grade 7. A third foreign language (e.g. German ) is possible from grade 9 onwards.

In the PISA study , Iceland ranks in the middle, ranking 27th out of 57 in 2007.

The country has a total of seven universities with a total of around 16,500 students, the most important of which is the University of Iceland, founded in 1911 .

Public and non-public institutions offer a wide range of Icelandic language learning (for immigrants) and specialty language courses (nursing staff).


Well-known newspapers on the island are Morgunblaðið , Fréttablaðið , 24 stundir (discontinued) and Dagblaðið Vísir . In Iceland there is the public broadcaster Ríkisútvarpið (RÚV) and 13 private broadcasters (three of which are religiously oriented). There is one public television channel and eight private channels (two of which are religious), including Stöð 2 and Stöð 2 Sport .

With the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative , Iceland has media legislation that particularly protects online investigative journalism . Reporters Without Borders rates press freedom in the country as "satisfactory".


The handball player Ólafur Stefánsson , five times "Sportsman of the Year" and holder of the Icelandic Knights Cross

The traditional national sport of Iceland is glíma , a type of wrestling. The fighters are only allowed to grab their belts and have to try to throw their opponent off balance. The championship belt Grettisbeltið takes its name from the saga hero Grettir the Strong . However, glíma has recently been losing its popularity. Boxing has only been allowed again in Iceland since 2002, after it was banned in 1956 "for the protection of health".

The Olympic silver medal of the athlete Vilhjálmur Einarsson in the triple jump in 1956 is the greatest success of an Icelandic individual athlete on an international level.

Although it is difficult to be competitive in team sports at least across Europe due to the size of the population, it has succeeded in handball . The men's national handball team made it into the top five at both a European and a world championship. The greatest team success in the history of Icelandic sport was the entry into the Olympic final in 2008 and the associated win of the silver medal.

The men's national football team has so far qualified for the European Championship finals once, for the 2016 European Championship in France. A big surprise was the victory over the English national football team and the associated move into the quarter-finals . There Iceland lost 2: 5 to hosts France . Iceland took part in a soccer world championship for the first time in 2018 at the soccer world championship 2018 in Russia. Icelandic football produced players of international stature such as Eiður Guðjohnsen , Ásgeir Sigurvinsson , Eyjólfur Sverrisson and Gylfi Sigurðsson , who became a fixture in top foreign clubs. The women's national soccer team is part of the extended European top and was able to qualify for the finals of the European Championship in 2009 and 2017 , and in 2013 it reached the quarter-finals.

The riding is in Iceland is still a popular sport. Icelanders also win many medals at international competitions, especially with their own Icelandic horses.

The particularly high sporting level compared to the other small European states is also reflected in the all-time medal table of the games of the small states of Europe , in which Iceland takes first place.

The game of chess is very popular in Iceland. With twelve grandmasters born as Icelanders , the country has the highest figure in the world with one grandmaster per 30,000 inhabitants.

In addition, the CrossFit fitness trend has been enjoying growing popularity for several years. At the beginning of 2012 there were five Icelanders among the top 10 “fittest” women in Europe. Annie Thorisdóttir is the best-known Icelandic representative of this sport and won the Women's CrossFit Games in 2011 and 2012 .


The Icelandic cuisine includes some specialties (eg. As þorramatur ), which are mainly eaten on holidays and drinking. Typical Icelandic specialties include, for example, black-smoked sheep's head, fermented shark or mutton testicles pickled in whey.

Customs and traditions

Gvendarlaug in the Westfjords

Iceland is known for its special bathing culture . Hot springs were already used in the Middle Ages for relaxation and bathing, as can be seen from the sagas , for example . Some still preserved have been found, such as the Snorralaug in Reykholt or the Gvendarlaug . Today there are seven open-air thermal baths in Reykjavík alone , and there are also numerous open-air thermal baths in the countryside. The open-air swimming pool Blue Lagoon near Grindavík has meanwhile become a tourist attraction. Many private houses and hotels as well as the numerous swimming pools have their own artificially created "hot springs", the so-called hot pots .

Alcoholic beverages with a content of more than 2.25% vol. Are only available in state monopoly shops ( Vínbúðin ), tobacco products must not be openly visible in the shops. The sale and public consumption of alcoholic beverages (over 2.25%) is legally permitted from the age of 20, and that of tobacco products from the age of 18. Since June 1, 2007, smoking has been banned in restaurants, cafes and public buildings .

public holidays

January 1st: New Year

variable: Maundy Thursday

variable: Good Friday

variable: Easter Sunday

variable: Easter Monday

Thursday between April 19 and 25: 1st day of summer

May 1st: Labor Day

variable: Ascension

variable: Pentecost Sunday

variable: Whit Monday

1st Sunday in June: Sailors' Day

June 17th: National Day

1st Monday in August: merchants holiday

December 1st: Sovereignty Day

December 24th: Christmas Eve (from noon)

December 25th: Christmas Day

December 26th: Boxing Day

December 31: New Year's Eve (from noon)

Despite their historical and cultural connection to the Scandinavians and despite Iceland's close proximity to the Arctic Circle, Icelanders do not celebrate a midsummer festival .

National holiday

Iceland celebrates its national holiday on June 17th, in memory of the birthday of Jón Sigurðsson (1811–1879). He was the pioneer for Iceland's independence. On June 17, 1944, the republic was proclaimed in Þingvellir .

Holiday sumardagurinn fyrsti

A specialty is the holiday sumardagurinn fyrsti , the first day of summer. It falls on the first Thursday after April 18th. It is the first day of the first summer month of harpa according to the old Icelandic calendar . Long before Christmas presents became common, there were so-called summer presents for children and loved ones on this day. You wish each other a "happy summer" and thank you for the time spent together (here the winter). Accordingly, there is also a “first winter day”, on which you thank you for hours spent together in the past summer, but which is otherwise not specially celebrated. The old Icelandic month names are still partly known today. In the past only the seasons winter and summer were differentiated. Even today, the age of horses is given in winters and not in years.

Holidays for professional groups

The Sjómannadagur Seaman's Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in June. It developed in the 20th century, but has only been an official holiday since 1986, when the law requires the entire fishing fleet to be in port. In the past, only Seaman's Day and Christmas holidays were dates that seafarers could safely spend with their families. Even today, this day is celebrated with a lot of seafaring folklore and ports and ships are flagged. Especially in the remote fishing villages, this day is still an important, identity-creating festival, not least because it is the first major occasion for outdoor gatherings after a long winter.

Another public holiday is the Verslunarmannahelgi merchant holiday on the 1st Monday in August. Many Icelanders use this extended merchant weekend for excursions into nature, visits to open-air festivals and exuberant celebrations. Although it is originally the holiday of the merchants, offices and authorities as well as factories and construction sites are closed. The retail sector is most likely to be excluded from this, as it is the high point of the summer travel season, for both local and foreign tourists. However, since 2002 retailers have been trying to limit store openings to the bare minimum.

The sovereignty day ( Fullveldisdagur ) refers to the proclamation of the independent (sovereign) Kingdom of Iceland in personal union with Denmark on December 1, 1918. This literally means the attainment of “full state authority”, the term “independence day” “On the other hand, colloquially it is associated with the proclamation of the republic in 1944. To celebrate this day, the students and pupils have no lessons, but otherwise business life goes on as usual. It is particularly noticeable as a student holiday. However, in a speech in autumn 2008, the president called for the Icelandic nation to return to its sovereignty day. For the time being, it remains unclear whether this refers to the 1st December survey as an official holiday.

Christmas customs

Like other continental European customs, Christmas trees did not become established in Iceland until late. In the absence of suitable trees, tree-like slatted frames were made at the beginning of the 20th century and painted green. Candles, evergreen branches and tree decorations were attached to it. Conifers as Christmas trees have only been around since the 1960s. Today, in addition to Christmas trees imported from Scandinavia, there is also production from local reforestation, and plastic trees are also enjoying unbroken popularity.

There are numerous children's Christmas parties in the run-up to Christmas, and festive meals are held for which some farmers traditionally slaughter a Christmas sheep. For many, the Christmas feast consists of a smoked pork loin (similar to Kasseler ), which is considered a delicacy and goes back to Danish influence. For others, wild ptarmigan (hunted by yourself) are an indispensable part of the Christmas table. Smoked mutton and fish are more traditional, but no less popular, accompanied by beer or orange lemonade mixed with malt beer ("Christmas beer"). Another popular Christmas tradition is the almond congee with, among other things, a single whole almond in it; if you find the almond in your plate, you keep it secret until the end of the meal and then get an extra gift. An Advent custom is the consumption of fermented rays on the day before Christmas, Torlaksmesse , not unlike the Catholic fish meal on Ash Wednesday. The day is named after the holy Icelandic bishop Þorlákur von Skálholt . This day of remembrance of saints was also preserved after the Reformation , which was introduced in Iceland around the middle of the 16th century; Þorlákur is the patron saint of Iceland.

A specialty of Iceland is the tradition of Santa Clauses , the jólasveinar (literally "Christmas companions "). There are 13 of them; they live with their mother, the witch Grýla , and their dissolute companion Leppalúði and the huge Christmas cat in a cave in the mountains. In the 13 nights before Christmas Day (December 25th) they come to the populated areas; Every evening someone comes and they stay for 14 days each, so that the first comes on December 12th and the last on Christmas Eve, the first on December 25th and the last on January 6th. The Santa Clauses do not correspond to the European-American conception of St. Nikolaus or Santa Claus, but are rather mischievous lads who are always joking.

See also

Portal: Iceland  - Everything about Iceland


Web links

Commons : Island  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Iceland  travel guide
Wikimedia Atlas: Iceland  - geographical and historical maps
Wiktionary: Iceland  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
 Wikinews: Iceland  - on the news
Wikisource: Iceland  - Sources and full texts

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Coordinates: 65 °  N , 18 °  W

This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on September 30, 2005 .