Iceland, home to some of the world's most active volcanoes, is the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain.
This geological activity is responsible for some of the most dramatic features of Icelandic nature. With almost 80% of the country uninhabited, much of Iceland's terrain consists of plateaux, mountain peaks, and fertile lowlands. There are many long, deep fjords and glaciers, including Europe's largest, Vatnajökull. The landscape is characterized by waterfalls, geysers, volcanoes, black sand beaches, and steaming lava fields.
The island owes its existence to a volcanic hotspot created by a fissure in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet. Even today, the country is growing by about 2.5 cm per year, as it splits wider at the points where the two tectonic plates meet. The western part of Iceland, to the west of the volcanic zones, belongs to the North American plate and the eastern part to the Eurasian plate, which means that Iceland lies in two continents.
Over 90% of housing in Iceland is heated by natural geothermal heat - one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of energy in existence. Hot springs can be found almost everywhere, such as the famous Blue Lagoon and Mývatn Nature Baths, whose high levels of silicates and other minerals are said to have a rejuvenating effect on the skin.
Northern Europe's first parliament was formed here in 930 AD. Thingvellir, the site of the Althing (parliament), is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Sessions were held at the location until 1798. It reconvened in Reykjavik in 1845 and remains there to this day apart from one special session at Thingvellir in 1944 which proclaimed the establishment of the Icelandic republic.
The Icelandic language most closely resembles the Old Norse once spoken across the Nordic countries. This is due to years of isolation in addition to the nation’s conscious struggle to preserve its language. Through the centuries, Iceland has developed a tradition for storytelling and literature, beginning with the esteemed Icelandic Sagas from the tenth and eleventh centuries. After being passed down orally for a couple of centuries, they were likely committed to paper in the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries.
A strong literary tradition still thrives in modern Iceland. Icelandic authors publish more books per capita than in any other country in the world. Iceland also prides itself of a prospering music scene and a burgeoning film industry.
The country has played host to dozens of Hollywood blockbusters including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Interstellar, Noah and Prometheus. It is currently best known for providing one of the backdrops to Game of Thrones and fans can join a popular Game of Thrones tour.
"just to say once again thanks for all the organising. It went brilliantly from start to finish including seeing the Northern Lights on our 1st evening. All the tours were fantastic."
A Knowles, Sept 2017