Iceland facts and figures


Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants
during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world’s
oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930.
Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway
and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic
economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20%
of the island’s population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited
home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained
in 1944. Literacy, longevity, income, and social cohesion are first-rate
by world standards.


Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic
Ocean, northwest of the UK


total: 103,000 sq km

land: 100,250 sq km

water: 2,750 sq km

Land boundaries:

0 km


temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp,
cool summers.


mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply
indented by bays and fiords

Land use:

arable land: 1%

other: 70% (2001 est.)

forest and woodlands: 1%

permanent crops: 0%

permanent pastures: 28%


280,798 (July 2003 est.)


noun: Icelander(s)

adjective: Icelandic


Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken.