Facts and Figures
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.
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 60% of Icelanders live in Reykjavík.
É There aren‘t any McDonalds anywhere in Iceland.
F Raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy.
G Icelanders also speak when breathing in. Try it.
H Icelanders still practice whaling but make a lot more from whale watching.
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 most popular food in Iceland is the hot dog. Made from ground-up sheep intestines.
M The government must approve any name that hasn‘t been used before.
N Tourism is now Iceland‘s largest industry.
O Icelanders can app up and check how closely related they are to someone. Incest is no good.
Ó Icelanders can choose if the church tax goes to the University or a Church.
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.
Þ Is a uniquely Icelandic character, not to be found anywhere else.
Ö The Icelandic language contains quite a few uncommon characters.
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.
There is a volcanic eruption every four years on average in Iceland.
There are no forests in Iceland.
More than 85% of Iceland’s energy is renewable and more than half of that comes from geothermal alone.
Iceland is technically both in Europe and America. Geologically that is.
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.
In 1963 a new volcano appeared in the Atlantic close to Iceland. It kept erupting until it formed an island, now called Surtsey.
Iceland is about the size of Ohio.
Icelanders 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.
Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament was founded in 930, making it one of the oldest in the world and the oldest one still in existence.
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.
Icelanders, like most European nations, burned witches in the 17th Century. The difference is that the Icelandic witches were almost all males.
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.
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.
Iceland is one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans.
Icelanders can read texts written 1000 years ago. The language has stayed the same.
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.
There are no mosquitoes in Iceland.
The Arctic fox is the only mammal native to Iceland.
The Icelandic horse has a 5th gait. No other horse can Tölt.
There are no polar bears in Iceland.
If an Icelandic horse leaves Iceland, it can never return.
There are no reptiles or amphibians in Iceland.