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Facts and Figures

About Iceland

Iceland is the best in the world!

Per capita…

Icelanders suffer from a small nation complex and love the phrase “per capita”. Try and tell an Icelandic person Iceland isn’t the best in the world, and they will refute it, citing several articles to the contrary. Per capita, that is. Examples of such statements could be that Icelanders have the most beautiful women in the world, per capita (Miss World 3 times). That Icelanders have the best handball team in the world, per capita. That Icelanders produce most music and bands in the world, per capita. Icelanders have the strongest men, per capita. Icelanders have the happiest people, the safest country, and the prettiest landscapes (that last one isn’t per capita though, nor measurable). The list goes on for some time, and Icelanders even have a common phrase: “Ísland, best í heimi!” (Iceland, best in the world!). It’s mostly a joke, and the stats are only occasionally exaggerated. But even the real statistics are quite impressive. Here are some 50+ odd stats and facts about Iceland.

Where we are number #1

  • Iceland ranks 1st in gender equality.
  • Iceland ranks 1st in income equality.
  • Iceland has the most sold books in the world. Per capita.
  • Icelanders produce more writers and books than any other nation in the world. Per capita, that is. 10% of Icelanders will publish a book at least one time in their lives.
  • Iceland had the first democratically elected female president.
  • Iceland had the first openly gay Prime Minister.
  • Icelanders used to have the longest workweek in Europe at an average of 45 hours but currently, it’s at 27.9 hours.
  • 97.8% of Icelanders have internet connections. Also, 70,7% of those have fiber connections, making Icelanders the highest internet-connected country!
  • Iceland hosts Europes’ largest glacier, Vatnajökull. It covers approximately 8% of the country.
  • Iceland is the safest country in the world. Per capita.
  • Icelanders were the first to jail bankers after the 2008 Financial Crisis.
  • Iceland used to have the most swimming pools in the world. Per capita. Now Australia has the most swimming pools in the world. Per capita.
  • Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe.
  • Iceland was the first country with under a million inhabitants to win a medal at the Olympics in group sports: handball during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
  • Iceland hosts the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
  • Iceland has the largest cluster of pseudo-craters in the world.
  • Icelandic people attend the cinema/movie theatres more than any other nation in the world, per capita.
  • Iceland has the only penis museum in the world. It has a human specimen. We don’t know how big it is.
  • Iceland has the smallest army in Europe with not a single soldier.
  • Iceland has one of the most active volcano areas in the world.

We are Weird!

A. When Iceland re-wrote its constitution in 2011, the public made suggestions and alterations via Facebook.

Á. Beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989.

B. Iceland‘s SWAT unit is officially named and called, Víkingasveitin (The Viking Squad).

D. There is no railway system in Iceland. At all.

Ð. Icelanders leave their babies outside to nap. Even during winter.

E. 64% of Icelanders live in Reykjavík.

É. There aren‘t any McDonald’s restaurants anywhere in Iceland.

F. Raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy.

G. Icelanders sometimes speak while breathing in. Try it.

H. Iceland is one of the largest whale-watching destinations in Europe, with an estimate of 300.000 to 400.00 tourists going whale watching in Iceland every year! Whale hunting has been slowed down due to covid restrictions, low demand & profitability, with only 1 whale killed in three years. In 2024 a ban on whale hunting is expected.

I. Icelanders all strip down naked together in the showers and wash before going in the public pools.

Í. Icelanders make traditional bread by burying a baking pot in the ground near a hot spring.

J. In the middle of the summer, it never gets dark. During the height of winter, the day lasts just over 2 hours.

K. Hekla is Iceland‘s most active volcano and a very common woman’s name.

L. The Icelandic hot dog is one of the most popular foods amongst tourists visiting Iceland. Eina með öllu!

M. The government must approve any name that hasn‘t been used before.

N. Iceland boasts some of the strongest men in the world. The famous Hafþór Júlíus has two world records in deadlifting.

O. Icelanders can app up and check how closely related they are to someone. Incest is no good.

Ó. Icelanders have only one Noble Prize. Halldór Laxness was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1955.

P. Barbara Ara bar Ara araba bara rabbabara.
– Translation: Barbara, the daughter of Ari, gave Ari the Arab only rhubarb.

R. Á á á? Á á á í á.
– Translation: Does a sheep own a sheep? A sheep owns a sheep in a river. Yes, that’s a proper sentence.

S. Árni á Á á á á beit við á.
– Another version: Árni from Á, the farm, has a sheep grazing by a river.

T. Á á á á á á Á.
– Still works just fine: A sheep on a river owns a sheep on Á, the farm.

U.  Most Icelanders are of Norse and Gaelic descent. The Vikings would take slaves from Scotland and the Shetlands on their way to Iceland, mostly women.

Ú. There are no trains or subways in Iceland. The only public transportation available comes in the form of buses and taxis.

V. Most Icelanders are very comfortable speaking English.

X. Iceland has a State Church which is Lutheran. It also has complete freedom of religion.

Y. Once such religion is Ásatrú – or heathenry. Its practitioners – over 1% of the population – follow the old Norse gods.

Ý. Iceland’s contribution to world literature is the Icelandic Sagas. These are novels focusing on historical events around the time of settlement and following 2-3 centuries.

Þ. Is a uniquely Icelandic character, not to be found anywhere else.

Æ. Some letters may seem complicated but are actually quite simple. Æ is pronounced I – as in “I can now speak Icelandic”.

Ö. The Icelandic language contains quite a few uncommon characters.

Cultural Oddities

  • Icelanders speak a dialect of Old Norse. The place was settled mostly by Nordic Vikings a long time ago, and Iceland’s modern-day language is mostly the same.
  • Icelanders don‘t have surnames as they are traditionally used. The children take the first name of the father as their second name. And we don‘t use these surnames to address each other, calling everyone by their first name. We even alphabetize the phone book by first names.
  • The English language derives it‘s word „geyser“ from Geysir, the geyser in the Golden Circle.
  • In 2010, Iceland banned all strip clubs.
  • Icelanders are not allowed to own a pet snake, lizard or turtle by law.
  • Citizens of Reykjavík were not allowed to own dogs until 1984.
  • LGBTQIA+ are celebrated annually with a parade in August through the capital.
  • Iceland is often considered the most gay-friendly nation in the world.
  • Locals protested the construction of a highway due to the fear of disturbing local elf habitats.
  • There was a peaceful revolution in Iceland from 2008-2009 where we forced the prime minister & his whole government to resign. We did this by banging pots and pans.
  • Jule Lads (Santa Claus) eat and steal children in Icelandic Christmas traditions. Their mother, a mountain ogre, cooks the children in a large cauldron.
  • From the discovery and founding of Iceland, one man has been shot and killed by the police.

Geography and Geology

Einn.
Reykjavík is the northernmost capital in the world. But don‘t worry, it doesn‘t get very cold. Average temperatures in January are similar to New York.

Tveir.
There is a volcanic eruption every four years on average in Iceland.

Þrír.
There are no forests in Iceland.

Fjórir.
More than 85% of Iceland’s energy is renewable and more than half of that comes from geothermal alone.

Fimm.
Iceland is technically both in Europe and America. Geologically that is.

Sex.
There are several places in Iceland where you can walk between continents, where the land is slowly splitting apart or grinding together. There are only two places on earth where you can see two tectonic plates meeting above the earth‘s surface. One is in Africa, and the other is in Þingvellir, the birthplace of one of humanity’s earliest parliaments, the UNESCO site and the home to Silfra fissure.

Sjö.
In 1963 a new volcano appeared in the Atlantic close to Iceland. It kept erupting until it formed an island, now called Surtsey.

Átta.
Iceland is about the size of Ohio.

Níu.
There’s a joke that Greenland should be called Iceland and Iceland, Greenland. Only 10% of Iceland is ice while Greenland has ice covering more than 80% of the country.

History

I
Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament was founded in 930, making it one of the oldest in the world and the oldest one still in existence.

II
The only time Icelanders have engaged in war was when the Þorskastríð or Cod War took place. It was a war of fishing grounds rights or territorial waters and involved ramming fishing ships into the English fishing and naval vessels.

III
Icelanders, like most European nations, burned witches in the 17th Century. The difference is that the Icelandic witches were almost all males.

IV
During the later years of the 19th century, 25% of Iceland‘s population emigrated to Canada and the USA. A region in Canada was named New Iceland and is still a symbolic center of the Icelandic heritage in Canada today.

V
The first European to set foot in America was Icelandic. This happened 500 years before Columbus was born. He named the country Vinland after he found grapes growing there.

VI
Iceland is one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans.

VII
Iceland gained independence on June 17 1944, after being ruled by Denmark. We now celebrate independence every June 17 annually on Icelandic National Day.

VIII
The 1783 volcanic fissure eruption in Laki killed 20-25% of the entire population. It also killed 80% of sheep, 50% of cattle and 50% of the horses in Iceland. The ash fallout in Europe is considered to be a contributing factor in the French revolution.

Biology

Gulur.
There are no mosquitoes in Iceland.

Rauður.
The Arctic fox is the only mammal native to Iceland.

Grænn.
The Icelandic horse has a 5th gait. Alongside the usual walk, trot, canter, what sets the stunning animal apart are the tölt and skeið, known, as the flying pace. The tölt is a natural, fluid gait, in which the rider can bounce free in such a way that they could even have a beer during the ride without spilling a drop.

Blár.
There are no polar bears in Iceland.

Svartur.
If an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never return.

Hvítur.
There are no wild reptiles or amphibians in Iceland.