Top Ten Icelandic Attractions

Top Ten Icelandic Attractions


       Iceland is a European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 square km (39,769 sq mi). The capital and the largest city is Reykjavík, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country’s population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 AD when the chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the following centuries, Norsemen settled Iceland, bringing with them slaves of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918 Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied largely on fisheries and agriculture. Industrialization of the fisheries and Marshall Aid brought prosperity in the years after WWII. In 1994, Iceland became party to the European Economic Area, which made it possible for the economy to diversify into economic and financial services. Iceland has a free market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries, while maintaining a Nordic welfare system providing universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. In recent years, Iceland has been one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 2010, it was ranked as the 17th most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, and the 4th most productive country per capita. In 2008, political unrest occurred as the nation’s entire banking system systematically failed. Icelandic culture is founded upon the nation’s Norse heritage. Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse (particularly from Western Norway) and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic, a North Germanic language, is closely related to Faroese and some West Norwegian dialects. The country’s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, poetry, and the medieval Icelanders’ sagas.

  1. Reykjavík
    Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland. Its latitude makes it the world’s northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay. With a population of around 120,000 (and over 200,000 in the Greater Reykjavík Area) it is the heart of Iceland’s economic and governmental activity. Reykjavík is believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, which Ingólfur Arnarson is said to have established around 870. Until the 18th century, there was no urban development in the city location. The city was founded in 1786 as an official trading town and grew steadily over the next decades, as it transformed into a regional and later national center of commerce, population and governmental activities.
    Links: Cities,,
  2. Akureyri
    Akureyri is a town in northern Iceland. Nicknamed “the Capital of North Iceland,” Akureyri is an important port and fisheries center, with a population of 17,304. It is Iceland’s second largest urban area (after the Greater Reykjavík area) and 4th largest municipality (after Reykjavík, Hafnarfjörður, and Kópavogur). The area where Akureyri is located was settled in the 9th century but did not receive a municipal charter until 1786. The town was the site of Allied units during WWII. Further growth occurred after the war as the Icelandic population increasingly moved to urban areas. The area has a relatively warm climate due to geographical factors, and the town’s ice-free harbor has played a significant role in its history.
    Links: Sculptures,,
  3. Hafnarfjörður
    Hafnarfjörður is a port town located on the south-west coast of Iceland, about 10 km south of Reykjavík. It is the 3rd most populous city in Iceland, after Reykjavík and Kópavogur, with a population of 26,003. The population of Hafnarfjörður reached 25,000 on February 29, 2008. As the 3rd largest city, Hafnarfjörður has established local industry and a variety of urban activities, with annual festival events.
  4. Þingvellir National Park
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    Þingvellir is a place in Bláskógabyggð in southwestern Iceland, near the peninsula of Reykjanes and the Hengill volcanic area. Þingvellir is a site of historical, cultural and geological importance and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. It is the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is also home to Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. Parliament or Alþingi was established at Þingvellir in 930 and remained there until 1789. Þingvellir National Park was founded in 1930 to protect the remains of the parliament site and was later expanded to protect natural phenomena in the surrounding area. Þingvellir National Park was the first national park in Iceland and was decreed “a protected national shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation under the preservation of parliament, never to be sold or mortgaged.”
    Links: National Parks,,
  5. Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa Resort
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    Links: Spas, Resorts,
  6. Kópavogur
    Kópavogur is Iceland’s second largest municipality, with a population of 30,180. It lies immediately south of Reykjavík and is part of the Greater Reykjavík Area. The name literally means seal pup bay. The town seal contains the profile of the church Kópavogskirkja with a seal pup underneath. Kópavogur is largely made up of residential areas, but has commercial areas and a lot of industrial activity as well. Kópavogur’s main sports clubs are Gerpla, Breiðablik UBK and HK. The tallest building in Iceland, the Smáratorg tower, is located in downtown Kópavogur.
  7. Surtsey
    Surtsey, meaning “Surtur’s island,” is a volcanic island off the southern coast of Iceland. It is the southernmost point of Iceland and was formed in a volcanic eruption which began 130 meters (426 ft) below sea level, reaching the surface on November 14, 1963. The eruption lasted until June 5, 1967, when the island reached its maximum size of 2.7 square km (1.0 sq mi). Since then, wind and wave erosion have caused the island to steadily diminish in size: as of 2002, its surface area was 1.4 square km (0.54 sq mi). The new island was named after Surtr, a fire jötunn or giant from Norse mythology. It was intensively studied by volcanologists during its eruption, and afterwards by botanists and biologists as life forms gradually colonized the originally barren island. The undersea vents that produced Surtsey are part of the Vestmannaeyjar (Westmann Isles) submarine volcanic system, part of the fissure of the sea floor called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Vestmannaeyjar also produced the famous eruption of Eldfell on the island of Heimaey in 1973. The eruption that created Surtsey also created a few other small islands along this volcanic chain, such as Jólnir and other, unnamed peaks. Most of these eroded away fairly quickly.
    Links: Top Ten Volcanoes,,
  8. Links: Top Ten Icelandic Hotels, Top Ten Icelandic Restaurants,