Iceland facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Republic of Iceland

Lýðveldið Ísland
Flag of Iceland
Coat of arms of Iceland
Coat of arms
Anthem: Lofsöngur
Location of  Iceland  (dark green)on the European continent  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]
Location of  Iceland  (dark green)

on the European continent  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]

and largest city
National language Icelandic
Ethnic groups
  • 298,618 (93.44%) Icelandic
  • 9,049 (2.83%) Polish
  • 11,908 (3.73%) others
Demonym(s) Icelander
Government Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic
• President
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
• Prime Minister
Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Einar Kristinn Guðfinnsson
Legislature Althing
• Settlement
9th century
• Commonwealth
• Union with Norway
• Danish monarchy
• Constitution
5 January 1874
1 December 1918
• Republic
17 June 1944
• Total
103,001 km2 (39,769 sq mi) (108th)
• Water (%)
• 1 January 2015 estimate
329,100 (182nd)
• Density
3.2/km2 (8.3/sq mi) (233rd)
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
• Total
$12.831 billion
• Per capita
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
• Total
$13.654 billion
• Per capita
Gini (2010) 25.0
low · 1st
HDI (2013) Steady 0.906
very high · 13th
Currency Icelandic króna (ISK)
Time zone UTC+0 (GMT)
• Summer (DST)
not observed
Driving side right
Calling code +354
ISO 3166 code IS
Internet TLD .is

Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland) is an island country in the North Atlantic, between Greenland and Norway, formerly a possession of Denmark. It is culturally considered to be part of Europe. Iceland is 300 kilometres east of Greenland and 1000 kilometres west of Norway. There are about 329,100 people who live in Iceland. Iceland has an area of 103,000 km².


The first people who lived on Iceland are thought to have been Irish monks. They came to Iceland around the year 800.

In the 9th century, Norsemen went to live in Iceland. The first Norseman who lived in Iceland was Flóki Vilgerðarson. He was also the one who gave Iceland its name.

Ingólfur Arnarsons was the first permanent settler on the island. This a chieftain from Norway went to live in South West Iceland. He founded the city of Reykjavík.

In 930, the Icelandic rulers wrote a constitution. They created the Althing, a kind of parliament in a place called Þingvellir. Therefore, Iceland is the oldest existing republic.

In 985, Erik the Red was sent away from the island because he had killed someone. He sailed to the west and discovered Greenland. Eric's son Leif Ericson discovered America in the year 1000. He called it Vinland. The voyages of Eric, Leif and others were written down in the sagas (long stories).

Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, sive, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (24696368309)
A map of Iceland published in the early 17th century

In 1262, Iceland became part of Norway. This lasted for 400 years. In 1662, it became part of Denmark. In the 19th century, many Icelanders wanted to be independent from Denmark. In 1918, Iceland got many powers of its own, but the king of Denmark was still king of Iceland.

When Germany took over Denmark on April 9 1940, the Althing decided that Icelanders should rule the country themselves, but they did not declare independence yet. British and later American soldiers occupied Iceland to prevent it from being attacked by the Germans. In 1944, Iceland finally became fully independent.

After World War II, Iceland became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), but not of the European Union. Between 1958 and 1976, there were three debates between Iceland and the United Kingdom about the rights to catch codfish. They were called the Cod Wars.

In 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected president of Iceland. She was the first woman ever to be elected president of a country.


Iceland has a multi-party system. Since the 2013 election, the centre-right Independence Party and Progressive Party are the biggest political parties in Iceland. Other powerful parties in Iceland include the centre-left Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement. See also: List of political parties in Iceland.

Iceland is a representative democracy and a parliamentary republic. Iceland has a president (Guðni Th. Jóhannesson) and a prime minister (Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson). The parliament, Althing, has 63 members and each member can only be in there for four years. The president is elected by Icelanders, and is in government for four years. The president can be elected an unlimited amount of times.

Iceland has no standing army. The United States Air Force had a base near Reykjanesbær, but they left in 2006. Since 2008, NATO nations have occasionally had their air force patrol Iceland. This was requested by the Icelandic government.


Iceland is divided into 8 regions, 6 constituencies and 74 municipalities (since 2013). The regions are mainly used for statistics. The constituencies are used for selecting politicians who will represent them in parliament. Lastly, the municipalities give services to the people that live there. These services include education, waste management, public transportation, and so on.

Before 2003, the constituencies were the same as regions, but this was changed because it meant that a vote in Reykjavik meant less than one in a rural area. Even though this was addressed, the problem still exists.


Fishing and fish processing is the main economic activity in Iceland. Despite effort to diversify, particularly into the travel industry, seafood exports continue to account for nearly three-quarters of merchandise exports and approximately half of all foreign exchange earnings.

Geothermal Energy produces the vast majority of Electrical Power consumed on Iceland, due chiefly to the island's position atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and exhibits plentiful hot water reservoirs and geysers. This has the effect of drastically reducing the price of electricity in Iceland, and has attracted several energy-intensive industries.

Aluminum Smelting (The reduction of Aluminum ores to Aluminum metal) is the largest energy-intensive manufacturing sector in Iceland, and the country produced over 800,000 Metric Tonnes per Year in 2013, making it the 10th largest producer of Aluminum metal worldwide.


Icelandic landscapes
Three types of landscapes in Iceland.

Iceland is very geologically active and combined with large amounts of rain and snow caused by the warm waters of the gulf stream current which flow toward it, many interesting and unusual geographic features have developed which make it different from any other island so close to the Arctic Circle.

Some of these features are Iceland's numerous mountains, volcanoes, hot springs, rivers, small lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers. The word geyser is, in fact, derived from Geysir, the name of a particularly famous geyser on the southern side of the island. Glaciers cover approximately 11% of the island and the largest, Vatnajökull, is up to 1 km thick and, by far, the largest glacier in Europe.

Iceland, though considered to be a European country, sits partly in North America since it straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The ridge runs directly through the populated Reykjavik and Thingvellir historic areas, and the tectonic activity of these plates separating is the source of the abundant geothermal energy in the region.

Towns and cities


Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland. Reykjavík is also the most important port in Iceland. Other important towns in Iceland are Akureyri, Kópavogur, Hafnarfjörður, Keflavík, Seyðisfjörður and Vestmannaeyjar.


The people in Iceland are mostly of Scandinavian origin. The language they speak is Icelandic. The language has not changed much in 1,000 years, so Icelanders are still able to read the sagas about the Vikings without many problems. Most people in Iceland are Christian. Most of them are Lutheran.

Icelandic people are considered to be the happiest people on Earth. Iceland has the highest birth rate in Europe and the highest percentage of women working outside their home.

Images for kids

Iceland Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.