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Tuesday 21st October
Iceland Information - Page 1
Geography
The Republic of Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean in Northern Europe.

Reykjavik is the capital city and a major North Atlantic port. Other ports and harbours are Akureyri, Hornafjordur, Isafjordhur, Keflavik, Raufarhofn, Reykjavik, Seydhisfjordhur, Straumsvik and Vestmannaeyjar.

Iceland consists of high plateau and volcanic mountains. Its coastal plain is indented with fjords. Rivers include Thjorsa and Jokulsa a Fjollum.

Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a mild coastal climate.

From the beginning of June until the middle of July the northern area of Iceland benefits from the Midnight Sun when the sky remains light at night. The phenomenon of the Northern Lights can be seen during mid-winter when the weather is clear.

Environment
Iceland is on a geological fault line. There are active volcanoes and the island experiences earthquakes. Iceland is known for lava fields, hot springs and geysers. Icefields and glaciers cover some of the highest areas.

Only a very small percentage of the land supports forest and woodlands. Vegetation and farming areas are along the coastal lowlands.

Protected areas include Jokulsargljufur National Park, Skaftafell National Park, Snaefellsjokull National Park and Thingvellir National Park.

Thingvellir was the location of the Althing, an open-air parliament, founded in 930. The park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004.

Artic foxes and seals are found in Iceland. Whales can be seen along the coast. The island is also the home to large colonies of nesting sea birds and colonies of puffins.

Architecture
The Department of Historic Buildings maintains buildings which are designated of cultural and historic value.

Historic buildings include Iceland's oldest house, built in the twelfth century in Keldur, a traditional Icelandic turf farmhouse at the folk museum in Skogar, and a typical fishing village in the town of Siglufjordur.

During the last century, the use of geothermal water was introduced to heat buildings. A school in Reykjavik was the first building to be heated in this way (1930).

Modern architecture in Reykjavik includes the Pearl or Perlan, a dome structure, built on huge tanks which store natural hot water for heating the city. The Pearl houses an exhibition hall, restaurant and museum.

Population
Iceland's population was estimated at 311,058 in 2011.

Languages
Icelandic is the official language.

Religion
Over eighty-five percent of the people belong to the Lutheran Church of Iceland.

Food
Fish is Iceland's most important resource, so it is not surprising that fish, such as cod, herring, plaice and salmon, features prominently in Icelandic cuisine.

Fish is prepared in a variety of ways: it is baked, stewed, dried, salted, pickled and made into paté. Lamb, beef and pork are prepared using similar methods.

Vegetables grown in Iceland include carrots, cabbages, potatoes and turnips. Some vegetables and fruit, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and even bananas, are cultivated in heated glass houses.

Dairy products are important in the Icelandic diet and over eighty varieties of cheese are produced. A milk curd called "skyr" is eaten as a dessert and also made into a drink similar to yoghurt.

Locally grown fruits are bilberries, crowberries and rhubarb. These are used in stewed fruit and jam, as well as eaten with other desserts.

Brennivin, a very strong spirit, is the traditional Icelandic drink.

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