The land of fire and ice is known for its extraordinary beauty and wonderful people. It’s an incredible country with features that are hard to find anywhere else in the world. Almost everyone has the destination on their bucket list to visit and experience the sheer Scandinavian culture. The small island in the North Atlantic gets more than 1 million visitors every year. There’s just something mystical about Iceland that makes you want to visit the place at least once in your lifetime. Until you can make that trip, read these fascinating facts about the country and its rich culture.
1. Iceland is actually one of the only places in the world where mosquitoes are not endemic. Oh, they don’t have snakes either and only a few species of spider; none of which are dangerous to humans.
It might come as a surprise that there is such a place in this world where mosquitoes don’t exist. Iceland is the only country in the world that has zero population of these pesky insects. According to scientists, the reason why the country has no mosquitoes is due to its oceanic climate. Mosquitoes require different environments such as hot and humid climates and cold conditions to multiply.
Iceland has no lakes, so laying eggs is not possible for them. The country also sees three main freezes and thaws throughout the year. This makes it hard for them to survive and scientists believe this is one of the main reasons that mosquitoes have decided to stay away from Iceland.
2. Iceland is an eco-friendly country. Nearly all of the heating and electricity needs are served by hydroelectric power and geothermal water reserves.
Iceland is perhaps one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world. The country is essentially “alive” with volcanic activity which is harnessed by means of hydro and geothermal energy to power more than 80% of the country. While some places do use fossil fuel to generate power and some buses running on hydrogen around the city, most homes are heated using geothermal water which is pumped from beneath cities and towns.
3. Icelanders still believe in elves and trolls.
Many Icelanders still believe in the existence of mythical creatures such as elves and trolls. 50% of the Icelandic population believe in elves which are 36 inches high with big ears and old-fashioned clothing. Some of them believe they still exist in the country. If there is construction going on and the people believe that the elves reside on the path the construction is taking place, they would go as far as rerouting the paths. If you ever get a chance to visit Iceland, make sure to go on an “elf walk” in Hafnarfjörður, a harbor town just outside Reykjavík reputed to be the elves’ capital.
4. There are no McDonald’s in Iceland.
In a world where fast-food is preferred over home-cooked meals, it might come as a surprise that the famous fast-food chain is not present in Iceland. McDonald’s sells more than 75 hamburgers every second to more than 68 million people per day but none of them are in Iceland. McDonald’s opened three outlets in the country but it soon found that it was hard to stay in business in the small nation of just 300,000 people.
Although the first McDonald’s opened in 1993 in Iceland, the franchises were run by a firm called Lyst. The restaurants imported goods from Germany, which made things expensive, along with the fact that the import taxes caused the prices of goods to skyrocket. The stores were booming with plenty of business but just did not make enough profit to sustain. This forced the owners to shut down all three restaurants and according to BBC, they don’t plan to return.
5. Iceland has no army and is also recognized as the worlds most peaceful country.
A country’s strength is often measured by the strength of its Army. Each country takes it’s own measures and steps to display power but Iceland on the other hand has no army at all. It is one of the few countries in the world without a standing army. In fact, Iceland has not had an army since 1869, and the country is a member of Nato and has defense agreements with the United States.
6. Iceland experiences long winter nights and long summer days.
Being located very close to the Arctic Circle comes with a lot of advantages and disadvantages. One such advantage is being able to witness the incredible Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Iceland however, experiences long winter nights and long summer days, with almost 24 hours of darkness/twilight in December and nearly 24 hours of daylight in June.
7. 100% of Icelanders have access to internet.
Data collected from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), World Bank, and United Nations Population Division shows that Iceland ranks at the top when it comes to providing its citizens with internet. Iceland’s 331,778-strong population are connected to the internet by either home internet access or use of a device with internet connectivity. Meanwhile, the US has 324,118,787 people with 88.5 % of the population having access to the internet.
8. Iceland has a geothermal spa, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world.
The Blue Lagoon is a wastewater pool of the geothermal plant in Reykjanes peninsula. While most people visit this unusual spa for its magical blue color, others go there because of its healing power. The Blue Lagoon was naturally formed in 1976 during the construction of the geothermal power plant during the time period. Today, the geothermal spa is so popular that owners had to find ways to limit admittance to prevent it from becoming overcrowded.
Today, anyone wanting to take a dip in the magical waters has to buy tickets online as well as 1-2 weeks in advance. No matter how frigid the temperatures get, the Blue Lagoon water temperature stays within 37–39 °C (99–102 °F), giving its users a pleasurable experience.
9. The island nation with just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world.
There is a phrase in Icelandic, “ad ganga med bok I maganum”, everyone gives birth to a book. The phrase is to be taken seriously because one in ten Icelanders will publish at least one book during their lifetime. Reykjavik, the country’s capital, has so many writers and readers that they hold an annual book festival.
It is also a famous Christmas tradition to gift books to your friends and family members. Jólabókaflóð, or “Christmas Book Flood” is a term used to describe the excessive amounts of books published between September and December. During early Novembers, the Iceland Publishers Association provides free books to enthusiastic readers.
10. The parliament of Iceland, which was established in 930, is not only the oldest establishment in Iceland but also the oldest running parliament in the world.
Althingi, the Icelandic Parliament, was established in 930 in Thingvellir National Park. In the beginning, it was an outdoor assembly held in Thingvellir but as the world became advanced, so did the parliament. In 1915, women got the right to vote after a hard fight. Iceland has not only the oldest parliament in the world but also holds the title for being the first country to elect a woman as head of state, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who was elected president in 1980.