Iceland is an island of 103.000km2, with an average altitude of 500m above the sea level. Hvannadalshnjukur is the highest point, located 2.115 amsl. Over 10 percent of Iceland is covered by glaciers like Vatnajokull, the largest in Europe. About 10 percent of Iceland is covered by lava fields.
Volcanoes in Iceland creates life
Iceland is situated on the Atlantic ridge, a “hot spot” of volcanic and geothermal activity: The 30 “post-glacial volcanoes”, have had outbreaks in the past two centuries, and that provides the population with hot water heated by the nature, that is cheap and pollution free. The many rivers are being used simultaneously, to produce cheap electricity in Iceland using hydropower.
Out of a population of a little over 320,000, half of them lives in the capital Reykjavik, and the neighboring towns in the southwest. Keflavik International Airport is about 50 km from the capital. The interior highlands are harsh and uninhabitable, so most of the other settlements on the Island along the shore. In fact, 80 percent of Iceland is inhabited due to weather conditions, glaciers and lava fields.
Iceland was immigrated by Northerners in the 9th century, and traditionally considered Ingolfur Arnarson, who was a Norwegian Viking, as the first permanent resident. Ingolfur made the place where Reykjavík is now, to his home. Icelanders still speak the language of the Vikings, and although modern Icelandic has undergone changes in pronunciation and vocabulary, Iceland are alone in upholding another national tradition. Namely to use first names, rather than surnames. An Icelander’s name is followed by his or her father’s first name, and nickname son or dottir, like Guðrún Pétursdóttir (Guðrún, daughter of Pétur). Family members can therefore have many different “surnames”.
In the year of 930, Icelandic Vikings held the world’s first people court hearing on Þingvellir. Althing was held every summer until late 1700 century. When the Icelandic independence struggle got started in the 1800s, Þingvellir became the symbol of the historical pride. When the Icelanders got their constitution in 1874, when they celebrated the people’s court one thousand year anniversary in 1930 and when the modern republic was founded in 1944, the Icelanders sought to Þingvellir.
Þingvellir National Park was recently listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, among 788 other important natural and cultural sites around the world.
Today Iceland is led by the Althingi in Reykjavik, where 63 members are elected for a term of 4 years. Presidential elections are also held every four years. The president of Iceland does not participate in the daily political debate.
The economy of Iceland is heavily dependent on the fishing industry, which accounts for nearly three quarters of the exports of merchandise, and about half of the export earnings. The standard of living is high, with a per capita income among the highest in the world. The financial sector has been liberalized lately. The economy is service-oriented, two-thirds of the workforce is employed in the service sector, both public and private. Iceland is a member of EFTA and EEA.