The Republic of Iceland is Europe's most westerly nation and second largest island.
Located in the north Atlantic, just south of the Arctic Circle, it is one of only two countries in the world where a mid ocean ridge rises above sea level.
Although politically part of Europe, geologically it is both part of the European and North American continental plates, although tectonically it belongs to neither, as it is situated on a raised part of the oceanic crust, and not a continental land mass at all.
Situated on what is called the Icelandic Hotspot, and with the Atlantic ridge that runs straight through it, means that the country is geologically very active, hosting many active volcanoes and geysers, giving rise to a widespread availability of geothermic power.
The country also harnesses it's many rivers and waterfalls for hydro-electricity, giving the people of Iceland inexpensive energy for use in their homes.
99% of energy in Iceland comes from renewable sources.
Measuring 101,826 sq km, 63% of the country is made up of Arctic tundra, with 14% lakes and glaciers, and only 23% of vegetated land.
Many fjords and inlets surround it's 4,970 km coastline, which is where the majority of the country's 319,756 population reside.
The waters of the north Atlantic currents give it's coast a much milder climate than other places of a similar latitude, with temperatures there at least 10 degrees higher than it should geographically warrant.
It's interior is a mass of cold and barren highlands with an uninhabitable terrain of sand and mountain rock.
it's nearest neighbour is /greenland- some 287 km away to the west, and it's nearest point to the rest of Europe is 420 km away at the Faroe Islands.
It's nearest location to the mainland of Europe is 970 km in norway.
Few plants or animals have migrated or evolved in this Arctic tundra during the last 10,000 years.
There are only 1,300 species of insect, no native reptiles or amphibians, and only one native mammal, the Arctic Fox.
Some breeds have been brought to the island and flourished, those being the Icelandic Sheep, the Icelandic Horse and the Icelandic Sheepdog.
It's surrounding waters host a rich marine life of fish and whales, giving rise to the country's largest industry, fishing.
Polar bears have been known to visit the country, arriving on floating icebergs from /greenland-.
Sea birds are prolific in and around the coastline, harbouring Puffins, Skuas and Kittiwakes.
There are over 70 national parks, nature reserves and protected areas in the country.
Dettifosss, Europe's highest waterfall.
Iceland's government is a representative democracy and parliamentary republic, with a president at it's head.The presiding government has always been a coalition of two or more parties, voted from it's left-right wing multi party system.
The country is politically made up of 23 counties, with 79 municipalities governing local matters.
Icelanders enjoy complete freedom of religion, although there is one group that has a majority following, that of the Church of Iceland, a body of the Lutheran church.80 % of people belong to this group, with 2.5 % Catholics.
The largest non Christian group is the Asatruafelagio, a neo-pagan organisation.
Icelandic turf houses.
Education is free and mandatory by law for all children between the ages of 6 to 16.The Icelandic system has been ranked significantly below the O.E.C.D average. ( organisation for the economic and co-operation of development ).
Although further education and university progress ranks as quite high.
Iceland's official language is Icelandic, a Germanic language derived from Old Norse.
Icelandics also use patronymics. A patronym follows a persons Christian name, for example - Olaf Jonsson, means Olaf son of Jon or Katrin Karlsdottir means Katrin, daughter of Karl.
Because of this system, Icelandic telephone directories are listed by Christian name rather than Surname.
Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.
Courtesy of Srikanth Jandhyala, wikimedia commons.
Iceland's largest and most populated city is it's capital Reykjavik.With a latitude of 64.08 N, it is heralded as being the world's nothernmost capital city.
It was ranked first in the Grist Magazine of world's greenest cities in 2008.
It has a population of 119,900, or 2/3rd of the country's population, with a population density of 190 per sq km.
It is a coastal city with a mix of Nordic wooden buildings and modern architecture and reknowned for it's nightlife and shopping malls.
Map of Iceland showing it's 23 counties.
Iceland is home to one hundred and thirty volcanoes, eighteen of which have erupted. The total lava flow from these eruptions have resulted in one third of the world's total laval outflow.
The most active of these volcanoes is Grimsvotn, which last erupted in May 2011.
Iceland's worst ever volcanic eruption was in 1783 in the Lakagigar Crater, which caused the largest, single lava flow in history.
in recent history the worst volcanic eruption in Iceland was from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in March 2010.
Volcano pre March 2010. Volcano March 27TH 2010
On the-20th-of-march 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southern Iceland began to smoke, gurgle and spit.
it eventually calmed down after a few days, leaving residents to believe that the volcano had once again become dormant.
A week later the volcano began to smoke, gurgle and spit once more, only this time the volcano did not subside as it had the week before, the volcano went on to spit lava, ash and smoke high into the atmosphere, beginning a massive deluge of molten lava along with an ash cloud that was to disrupt air traffic all over Europe and some of North America for weeks afterwards, leaving travellers in chaos and causing untold disruptiion for airline companies and the economies of many European countries.
Giant ash cloud April 2010 Eruption May 2010.
Currency Icelandic Krone.
Telephone code + 354.
Time zone UTC + 0.
Int TLD .is
Tourist information for Iceland.
Images courtesy of wikimedia commons.
MORE ARTICLES ABOUT THE ARCTIC REGION BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
All Images courtesy of wikimedia commons.