Iceland: Facts and Trivia

Iceland is an interesting country, unlike any other country in the world. It is a hot bed of geological activity – bubbling volcanos and moving tectonic plates. It is home to the largest glacier in Europe and has raging rivers. It is truly the land of fire and ice! There is so much about this lovely little island that amazes you and makes you want to plan a trip back even before you have left it’s shores.

Here are some amazing facts about Iceland…


Iceland has a total population of about 320,000 people only. Over 60% live in the capital Reykjavik and surrounding areas. There are only a couple of other towns that have a population of over 10,000 people. Considering that Iceland is a fairly large island (103,001 sq km), the population density is 3 people per square kilometre only!

Pristine Icelandic plains... Forget traffic jams!

Pristine Icelandic plains… Forget traffic jams!

We hail from India. It’s 1.2 billion of us that walk the planet. With so many people, it is rare that we drive a kilometer without running into fellow humans. The open uninhabited icelandic landscape was a welcome change. It was too cold and snowy to get into a yoga pose, but I am sure the vast expanse would be ideal for yoga, meditation and soul searching in summers.

Elves and Trolls

A lot of Icelanders believe in trolls and elves.

Elves are magical creatures, typically the size of humans and may possess the ability to change form. They live in the rocks and mountains. The routes of planned roads have been changed so that they do not traverse through the elves’ dwelling places.

Trolls are much bigger than humans and aren’t supposed to be pleasant looking. They venture out at night and take children and sheep back to their caves. If sunlight does fall on them, they turn into stone!

The 'not-so-pretty' Icelandic trolls

The ‘not-so-pretty’ Icelandic trolls

Icelandic Names

First names in Iceland need to be given as per Icelandic orthology. There are 1,853 approved girl names and 1,712 approved boy names. Any other name besides those in the list need to be approved by the Icelandic naming committee. The listing in the local directory is as per first names.

Also, Icelanders do not have the concept of a family name. The first name is followed by the father’s (or sometimes mother’s) name with son or dottir appended, which literally translates to ‘son of’ or ‘daughter of’. This convention was followed by the nordic countries a few centuries ago… Iceland has been true to it till date.

Glima, the national sport of Iceland

Iceland is gifted with plenty of hot water, courtesy geothermal energy. It is common for even the smallest town to have a heated swimming pool – that’s where parents love to take their kids for a day out, besides a picnic in the woods. Learning swimming is compulsory and every kid learns the skill by the time he or she is six.

So, is Glima some sort of a water or swimming related sport? Wrong! Glima, the national sport of Iceland is a form of wrestling or rather Nordic martial art. The sport has its origins in the viking culture.While most modern day Icelanders enjoy football and swimming, Glima continues to be the national sport of the country.


Althingi, the Icelandic parliament, was set up on 930 AD and is the oldest parliament in the world. Back then, the powerful chieftains met and decided on rules, regulations and policies. The head was supposed to learn it all and share it with the citizens. The parliament continued its sessions till 1799 when it was discontinued for 45 years. Since 1844, the parliament’s seat has been moved to Reykjavik. As of now, about 37% of the seats in the parliament are held by women.

The Althingi site

The Althingi site

The Althingi site is situated in the Thingvellir National Park. You may not want to visit the national park to see the parliament building or view the assembly site, but we highly recommend a trip to Thingvellir – is amongst the few places where you can have one foot on the Eurasian tectonic plate and the other on the American tectonic plate!

Two continental plates - left is America

Two continental plates – left is America

There is plenty more to share about Iceland, but I think I will hold on to a few facts for my future posts!

Let the travellers’ tribe grow!

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