Iceland is an island country that lies just below the Arctic Circle in the
North Atlantic Ocean. It is about 320 kilometers east of Greenland and about
1,050 kilometers west of Norway.
Iceland is sometimes called the Land of Ice and Fire because large glaciers lie
next to steaming hot springs, geysers, and volcanoes. The country was named
Iceland by an early settler who was upset by seeing the coastal waters choked
with ice after an unusually cold and long winter.
But Iceland is not as cold as most places so far north. The Gulf Stream ocean
current warms most of Iceland's coast. Iceland is also a land of midnight sun.
It is light almost 24 hours a day in June, and dark for a similar period in
A Short Background
Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the
late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning
legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300
years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark.
Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and
caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's
population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US.
Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence
attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate
by world standards.
||Northern Europe, island between
the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK
||65 00 N, 18 00 W
||277,906 (July 2001 est.)
||Evangelical Lutheran 93%, other
Protestant and Roman Catholic, none (1997)
||Icelandic krona (ISK)
1 EURO to Iceland Krona: 88.43694 (April 2004)