31 Weird Facts About Iceland That Will Amaze You

REYKJAVIK ICELAND

I’m not the only person who has a bad case of the Iceland bug. It seems that nearly everyone I talk to has either been or wants to desperately visit this small island in the North Atlantic. There’s just something mystical about Iceland, something that grabs a hold of our collective travel souls and refuses to let go. I’ve been a couple of times and am already plotting my return visits; the allure is just too strong. Add to that the fact it’s a short and easy flight from both North America and Europe, and it really is the perfect destination for a quick getaway. In trying to better understand what makes it so special though, I uncovered some strange and weird facts about Iceland that I thought I’d share with everyone. If nothing else, I guarantee it’ll only make you love this fun but slightly odd country that much more.

Reykjavik, Iceland

  1. A majority of Icelanders believe in elves.
  2. At about 39,000 square miles, Iceland is small – close to the size of Ohio.
  3. There is a volcanic eruption every 4 years on average.
  4. There are no forests in Iceland.
  5. Beer remained illegal in Iceland until 1989.
  6. At 43.5 hours per week, they have the longest work week in Europe.
  7. The Icelandic language remains unchanged from ancient Norse. That means 1,000-year-old texts are still easily read.
  8. Babies in Iceland are routinely left outside to nap.
  9. There are no surnames or family names in Iceland – Icelanders use the traditional Nordic naming system, which includes a last name that is comprised from their father’s (or mother’s) first name with the addition of -dóttir (-daughter) or -son.
  10. 60% of the Icelandic population lives in Reykjavík.Stykkishólmur Iceland
  11. Iceland’s revenue from whale watching exceeds any income from whaling.
  12. Usually a temperate country, not too hot or cold, the highest temperature recorded was 30.5 °C (86.9 °F) at the Eastern fjords in 1939.
  13. Iceland had the first democratically elected female and openly gay Prime Ministers.
  14. Consumption of Coca–Cola per capita is higher than in any other country.
  15. But there aren’t any McDonald’s Restaurants anywhere in Iceland.
  16. In 2010 Iceland banned strip clubs.
  17. Roughly 85 percent of Iceland’s energy is from renewable resources, and well over half of that is geothermal alone.
  18. Icelandic horses display two additional gaits as compared to all other breeds.
  19. First names not previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee.
  20. Iceland was one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans.Blue Lagoon Iceland
  21. Icelanders watch more movies than any other nation.
  22. Iceland is home to one of the world’s oldest democracies; established in 930.
  23. In Iceland owning a pet snake, lizard or turtle is against the law.
  24. The country’s national sport is handball.
  25. Iceland does not have an army, navy or air force.
  26. Mosquitoes do not exist in Iceland.
  27. The Icelandic police don’t carry guns. Crime in Iceland is very low and violent crime is practically nonexistent.
  28. Per capita Iceland has the highest number of book and magazine publications and 10% of the country’s population will publish a book in their lifetimes.
  29. Icelandic telephone directories list Icelanders by first name alphabetically.
  30. In 2010, 97.6% of Icelandic population had Internet connection.
  31. Raw puffin heart is considered a delicacy.
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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

60 Responses

  1. Jean | Holy Smithereens

    I really enjoyed seeing and having no McDonalds in Iceland. The “unhealthiest” meal I had there was Subway!

    Reply
    • Hugh Akston

      If Subway was the “unhealthiest” meal, you did not eat where I ate.

      Reply
  2. Paulo Azevedo

    Even though they are not really Mosquitoes, at the Mývatn lake I found the biggest swarms of insects.

    Reply
    • Davíð Þór

      They’re small flies called gnats. The name “Mý-vatn” actually translates as “Gnat-lake”.

      Reply
      • Dorian Moffat

        Thought it was “midge-lake”.

  3. Johann Thorsson

    Oh yeah… raw puffin is delicious, as is raw whale with soy and wasabi (although I think Iceland should stop all whaling).

    Keep forgetting what a gift from the gods not having mosquitos is.

    Great post, always fun to read about how others see your country.

    Reply
    • Sergei O'Connor

      AHHH I know you! Your the son of Thors….Thors-son In that case in Iceland I’d be Davidson I guess

      Reply
  4. Jenna

    I’m one of those people who has the Iceland bug (because I want to visit so badly!). I love these random facts! A fun way to get to know a bit of the country.

    Reply
  5. Bjarki Einarsson

    “violent crime is practically nonexistent.” Well that’s just not true

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Violent crime includes murders, rapes and violent assault and in those categories yes, crime is practically nonexistent. There is however petty theft and other related crimes.

      Reply
      • Icelander

        That’s just incorrect Matt. I’m sure Bjarki understood the definition of violent crime. There are plenty of violent assaults and rapes in Iceland, and refusing to accept it when being told so by an Icelander is pretty disrespectful. We all know several people who have been assaulted, sexually or otherwise.

  6. Kim

    These are some really fascinating facts about Iceland! Their naming system is pretty fascinating, especially the idea of having a Icelandic Naming Committee. It seems like they’ve maintained a fascinating culture and language over the decades!

    Reply
  7. Linds

    How can you protect yourself on the trip around the entire island

    Reply
    • Aðalsteinn Lárus Skúlason

      Well you are safer in Iceland than almost anywhere in the world, there are cases of violence everywhere but it is low in Iceland, don’t know what there deal is but violent crime rate is low but existing.

      Reply
  8. Donald Sugg

    You are so correct in your assertion that Iceland is mysterious and fascinating to the non-Icelander, I once was on a plane that made an emergency landing there and was awed by the landscape – I have often thought of going there and your article has convinced me to do it sooner than later, thanks for a great piece.

    Reply
  9. Abulurd

    When I finally found the perfect excuse to go to Iceland I slapped myself over the head because I didn’t go sooner.

    I could live there. Not the easiest place to live but there’s a lot about Iceland to love.

    Stay away because: tourists are complaining there are too many tourists (I am not making that up).

    Reply
  10. Fran

    I have an Icelandic friend who says that the one about the tortoise is a lie, tho it’s perhaps not ideal to have a snake because it’s cold.

    Reply
    • Sigurður Ingi

      This is not a lie. It is forbidden to have some sort of turtles. Because of salmonela. All animals have to be healthy if you take a horse and move it from iceland it may never return.

      Reply
  11. Elísa Jónsdóttir

    These are really fun facts to read, altho some of them are incorrect. Like we do have forests, actually a lot of them and it’s more close to minoraty that believe in elves ? And the crime thing, well we do have violent crimes. But everything else is pretty on spot ! Oh and we also had the worlds first democratically elected female president.??

    Reply
    • Len

      What you call forest we call small hedge.

      Reply
      • Keiko

        Yes there is plenty of small hedge, but I went there and it does look like forests from a distance.

      • Maureen

        The Icelandic forests do exist being 1 meter high. The tall trees are usually importantly from Scandinavia, this information is from my Icelandic daughter in law and Icelandic freinds .

  12. Róbert

    There is alot there that is incorrect.
    The first “fact” for example is just not true. A very small minority believe in elves, they’re usually mentally unstable self proclaimed psychics that are very vocal about it.

    Reply
  13. Joy Gill DC MUCA RGN (ret)

    I have been to Iceland twice now, and yes I can’t wait to go back. I found the people charming and hospitable, who knew how to perform customer service still, something wich I fear is lacking in much of the Western world now. I will be back soon.

    Reply
  14. Deb Hepplestone

    Yes, there are indeed forests because I have been through them 🙂 The trees are shorter than in Europe for example, due to the short growing season, but forests they are never the less and they are beautiful and green and pristine. A beautiful place, with lovely people. I hope this is never spoiled by visiting tourists.

    Reply
  15. anna

    Does Iceland has croods??

    Reply
  16. logan.sullivan

    hello world i wish you would kill me with your greenness

    Reply
  17. logan.sullivan

    and what’s up with the guy in rock

    Reply
  18. Sherry

    My husband and I are visiting Iceland in November and are very excited. I am a little apprehensive about the food though as I am not a raw fish enthusiast. Any suggestions as to where to eat (besides Subway)?

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      There are tons of restaurants catering to all tastes, not to worry – have fun!

      Reply
    • Hannea

      It’s Iceland, not Japan. We cook our food, or at least ferment it.

      Reply
  19. Bryan

    Iceland is cool. The people are so warm and funny. I mainly spent time in Reykjavik but it was a very special place. It has a very creative energy and I will be back. I did not find it too expensive. Food is good and beer is great.

    Reply
  20. Giselle

    No mosquito in Iceland, what a place!

    Reply
    • Aðalsteinn Lárus Skúlason

      And I have never had bedbug like when I travel to Europe or the US.

      Reply
  21. Chris

    I’ve been always wanting to go here. I’ve been interested and looking at hundreds of pics on web for a lot of years. Friends have turned me down and didn’t want to go. Gonna go by myself. Forget them. How is the currency exchange go as compared to the USA dollar? Is it very expensive? Hotels? All inclusive? As you can see I haven’t a clue. Lol. Please give me any helpful info. Thank you very much

    Reply
  22. Úlvur

    nr 1. Almost noone in Iceland believes in elves. Lived here all my life. 37 years. Yet to meet one how does.
    nr 7. The Icelandic language has changes A LOT past 1000 years and its hard for most Icelander to understand ancient Norse, even though its much much closer to Icelandic than modern Norwegian.

    Reply
  23. Jörky

    What languages besides Icelandic are spoken there? I guess, English, Swedish and Finnish are somewhat common, but I could be wrong too.

    Reply
  24. Rocky Murasing

    When it comes to Wonder of Nature, Fairy Tales, Picturesque Places, People with Peace, and NoMosquitoes (Unlike my Home Land India), my stomach always gets full with Butterflies! The place Iceland you have just talked about resonates a lot with my dreamland. I am just wondering, how lucky are the people living over there.

    Reply
    • Myra Malik

      true….. 🙂

      Reply
  25. Natalie

    I wanna feel what a hot spring feels like!! It looks so relaxing!

    Reply
  26. Suse

    Just (flight landed 1am today) returned from three days in Iceland (Reykjavik) and already booked to return. Can’t comment on most of the “facts” but can tell you what I learnt in my three days.
    People are lovely, customer service excellent, English is commonly, and well, spoken just about everywhere. Hugh choice of food types/styles, hardly any raw fish! Definitely no McDonalds (brilliant) they left in 2008/9 after financial crash. Prices seem high, don’t keep comparing to your own currency, just accept it for what it is and enjoy this beautiful country. Try their own Schnapps, our fantastic bartender at Centrum Hotel introduced them to us, lets us sample and even wrote down cocktail recipes for us for when we got home, so we bought in duty free on way home and we were sampling them again this morning for elevenses (no we are not hardened or regular drinkers)! This time of the year you very rarely see the sun, daylight is about 11am to 3:30pm ish, first morning we though we had slept right through the day as it was so dark! Do as many of the tours and trips as weather will allow, also lots of attractions easily within walking distance of most hotels, lots of small art exhibitions, cafes in odd places, an Icelandic Punk Museum in the old public toilets! A restaurant with a Laundromat (good food and service, amazing atmosphere, great play area for kids). I could go on, and we were only there three nights!

    Reply
  27. Mercy

    Plz, is iceland comfortable to reside and get a job? i mean staying for a long period of tym?. really need answers.

    Reply
    • naren

      well…lets go togethor

      Reply
    • Jon Jonsson

      Very good place to live in. I would pick Akureyri, north iceland. Not hard to get a jab at hotels or supermarkets and something that way

      Reply
  28. DANISH MALIK

    I WANT TO COME THERE .

    Reply
  29. Monica Bennett

    I have been fascinated by Iceland since childhood, but I have been watching Icelandic movies and TV shows on Netflix and international streaming channels, and this has fueled my curiosity. I am also someone who studies linguists and the Icelandic language is one of my favorites to delve into. Bad luck has put me in a wheelchair so does anyone know what the available services for the disabled are in Iceland?

    Reply
    • Annette

      Hi Monica, you will absolutely no problems being in a wheelchair apart from some cobbled paving in Reykjavik which may be a bit on the bumpy side lol!! Icelandic busses have access ramps, nearly all shops either have disabled access or staff who are more than willing to help if needed…..to be fair, this is a country where equality for all is better than in many, many other countries-go and have an amazing time!!

      Reply
  30. Annette

    For anyone really wanting to see Iceland, don’t just do Reykjavik-it is an easy and scenically amazing route to take the ring road north and then head to the Eastern Fjords with a hire car (4 X 4 is preferable). Yes, hiring a car will be probably more expensive than your flight…..but it will be the trip of a lifetime with u forgettable scenery and plenty of places to stop (without it being too touristy). As mostly everyone speaks English and there is only one road around the island when you get out of Reykjavik, you really can’t go wrong!

    Reply
  31. Alex Scott

    Iceland is literally MLG!!!

    Reply
  32. donna

    wow i was doing a research project your stuff is so cool thanks for riting this i prabrolly spelt a feiw words wrong cus im only 8 but i love reading your stuff so so so muck so i just wanted to say thanks bye (katie).

    Reply
  33. Tausif Khan

    I’m so obsessed with Iceland! Always read about it. Would love to visit your country at least once in my lifetime!

    Reply
  34. Christy

    We just spent a week in Iceland and although the scenery was fantastic we found it very EXPENSIVE! We live on the east coast of the US where a 12 pack of beer costs us $20. In Iceland it cost us $56 and 3 boxes of wine cost $200. It wasn’t just alcohol either… everything was pricey! We went to the grocery store and bought food rather than eating out! On our road trips through the Golden Circle we ate PB&J’s. The one dinner we ate in a restaurant cost me alone $40 for fish and chips and a drink! On average I say expect to pay 2 to 3 times more than our American prices!

    Reply
  35. nik

    hey, i just want to ask people who live there, what are their needs? i mean what do they like buying, what do they want to buy but they cant because they dont have any there.(only legal staff please) ? also what are their everyday hobbies? because am thinking moving to Iceland and i would love to open a store or something there to live by.

    Reply
  36. Angela Borges

    Hi, everyone!
    Watching 2 movies + 2 documentaries of Iceland, I was xtremely hooked and curious. So, last July 29 I was on WOW AIR on a flight SFO-Reykjavic. First time in life I was “solo”. My B-day is on Aug 2nd. Yes, I was there!
    I booked 5 days @ Hostel International Downtown. Location outstanding yet very quiet. On my 2nd day I learned about the top the line kitchen in the back yard where one can cook/eat 24/7. There’s a neighborhood small market and a larger supermarket-Bonus, where you can shop. And also when guests leave, there’s lots of “free food”, etc. So, I spent basic NOTHING. It’s the expensive country I had visited. Super! But very safe. I was sleeping by day and strolling by night, midnight, on my own. What a good feeling!!! Now, Summer, there’s no darkness.
    I turned 66 in Iceland!!! Be fit, cause everything is done by foot. I love so much and can’t take Iceland off my mind…Takk fidir!!!

    Reply
  37. Angela Borges

    Contact the tourism information/Iceland, via e-mail and ask for VISA requirements for citizens of Pakistan. It’s worth a visit. Do next summer. Good Luchy!!!Enjoy!

    Reply
  38. Angela Borges

    I meant, LUCK!!!

    Reply
  39. Kóngur

    I went to Iceland and I saw a guy called Hrafnkell and he is a total king

    Reply

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