Friday, 30 August 2019

Iceland Demographics, History and Population

The Gaelic and the Norwegians were the first inhabitants of Iceland. The history and demography of the Icelanders (as diverse as it is right now) are not complete without the mention of these two origins.

Iceland demographics have many blonde descendants of Vikings

This is obvious from scientific studies on the earliest inhabitants such as the genetic studies and blood types including historical evidence dating back to the pre-settlement era.

Iceland’s landscape is one of the few in the world that has remained the same for thousands of years with treacherous mountains and active volcanos dotting the whole land which has until today makes the country a sparsely populated one But it's also one of the richest and most developed modern worlds we have presently.

Icelandic Ancestry – Where do Icelanders come from? 

The record has it that, Icelanders have about 60% Norse origin while the rest is of the Irish Gaelic. In fact, there is a whole lot of evidence of the Irish influence in Iceland across the country especially in the naming of some places in Iceland. For example, a place like Vestmannaeyjar is translated to mean ‘the Westman Islands’. This is so because the Norse usually refers to the Irish as ‘Westmen’ prior to the settlement period because Ireland was believed to be positioned in the westernmost part of Europe.

History also has it that, when the Norse raiders were coming back from their Viking expedition, en route to Iceland, they normally stopped by at some Irish settlement. They attacked and plundered these settlements and took slaves of many Irish men and women. They brought them to Iceland and made the women slaves after ‘mixing’ with the Norse Vikings. They would later go on to become mothers of the first generation of what today are trueborn Icelanders.

This Norse and Irish ‘merge’ no doubt explains why the majority of Icelanders have blonde or slightly ginger hair and blue eyes.

The Settlement Era in Iceland 

During the period of 874 to 930 AD, there was evidence of an already thriving population of entirely Norwegian men and Irish women in Iceland who had formed their distinct families and clans. By 930 AD, there were approximately 39 district assemblies all scattered throughout Iceland and run by 39 clans.

This culminated in the Alþingi assembly – the Icelandic Commonwealth of clans to help ease tension, conflicts and unnecessary rivalry amongst the clans. It was the first Icelandic Commonwealth that was run for decades and which later became the world’s oldest active parliaments of free people. This marks the end of the settlement era and the beginning of a new world.

New World Era 

The demographics of Iceland continued to change; a once deserted island with just few people now had clans all over the country who were determined to keep their commonwealth. The New World witnessed new ideologies, politics, and religion – including the Christian missionaries largely from Norway who were bent on upturning the old ways and making the people abandon the old Norse faith.

As the years went by, the people of Iceland gradually started submitting to the influence of the Norwegian and the Danish governments’ political and religious supremacy. Also, they were influenced by technological advancement brought about by these two countries.

Impact of the Whaling Industry

One such advancement was the explosion of the whaling industry in Iceland. This happened during the middle of the second millennium where although the infertile land was a discouragement for some new people to settle in Iceland, however, the natural abundance found in their waters like fishes and whales drew many ships from far and near to the coasts of Iceland.

This new discovery found in Iceland also brought about a new demographic structure - the mixture of sailors with the Icelandic women. Although such incidents were mostly not recorded due to the shame and punishment attached to such merger, nevertheless, such mixture did happen.

The Laki Eruptions

Regardless of the many changes, the Icelandic demographics have witnessed over the years, there is none that has really changed the demographic nature like that which happened during the Laki volcanic eruption of 1783 to 1784. This volcanic eruption brought about the largest mass exodus the country ever witnessed. The volcanic lava, pollution, and subsequent famine eradicated over a quarter of the population and compel another quarter of the population to migrate to North America.

The Laki eruptions impacted Iceland's demographics and population

While this was a significant tragedy to the people of Iceland; subsequent years saw some that left to North America returned home with new families and new Icelanders.

The 20th Century

By 1940-1946, a new set of people comprising the British and Americans soldiers also came and added to the demographic picture of Iceland. These well-dressed and polite soldiers became a darling amongst the Icelandic women compared to their men whom they perceived as being conservative, unruly, and aggressive. This was even more so when the Americans completely replaced the British soldiers in 1941.

The Second World War saw Reykjavik became the center of every activity in Iceland and this was the place the American soldiers were stationed. For the Icelandic women there was a huge movement to the city as there were a great many opportunities of employment due to the American presence; especially for young Icelandic ladies who are not as conservative as their elders.

After the war, the country signed an agreement with the US, where visitors would have a permanent base in Iceland. During the post-war period when Iceland was fully independent of Denmark, we saw more of the American presence who had already had families with the Icelandic women.

Since 1944 after the independence of Iceland, it is safe to say that it hasn’t just been the Norwegian, the Danish, Germans, or the Americans that have helped shaped who the traditional Icelanders were. With the massive technological development (apart from fishing and agriculture) which culminated into Iceland’s industrial development leading to more research centers and universities, Iceland became short of people to fill in the gap in the work market.

The Impact of Immigration

Migrating to Iceland became much easier from Europe when the country joined the European Economic Association (EEA) in 1994 and also when they signed the Schengen agreement in 1995.

The opening of Icelandic borders to new immigrants saw the influx of newcomers from Lithuania, Poland, Britain, Denmark, and Germany taking up residence in Iceland. In fact, these newcomers were not only from Europe, but from the Philippines but also from Thailand as well as many from North America. Many from Asia were thronging into Iceland to partake in the economic growth of the country.

By 2006, when the US finally decided to close down its military base in Keflavík, Iceland, the country’s demography had changed from a homogeneous population into a diverse group of people with roots from almost every continent.

Iceland's Current Demographics

At present, in Iceland, 6% of the populations are foreign-born, while about 10% are believed to be from first or second-generation immigrants. And it is projected that by 2030, the first-generation immigrants in Iceland should account to about 15% of the population. Iceland has thus come a long way from its homogeneous bloodline into a more diversified multi-racial society from across the continent.

Therefore, if the question of ‘where do Icelanders come from’ arises again, the simple truth is that they come from everywhere. However, we must not forget that the founding fathers and the oldest generations are the Norse and the Gælic and just like what is happening all over the world, national and ethnic lines are gradually giving ways to a new and modern heterogeneous society in Iceland.

Area and Population Density in Iceland

In all, Iceland has a land area of 103,001 square kilometers (39,770 square miles) and comes in at 108th with the largest landmass in the world. However, it still remains one of the sparsely populated areas due to its harsh geographical landscape. Iceland population density is put at 3 people per kilometer making it the least populated in all of the European countries.

There are many factors that affected the population of Iceland – the early days saw the volcanic eruption, over 35 famines recorded from the period of 1500 to 1804. The outbreak of plague including the harsh winter were some drawbacks that affected the population growth.

The first census conducted in Iceland shows a population of more than 50,000 in 1703 and by 1783-1784 the Laki volcanic eruption declined the population to 40,000. By 1850 when the living condition improves once again saw an increase to 60,000 and by 2008 the population had hit 320,000 people.

Immigration and Re-migration in Iceland

Most of the increase that happened in Iceland came from people who are settling here. The first quarter saw a total of 970 children born and 600 people die. Thanks to foreign nationals, the net migration saw a positive movement of 1,740 people to Iceland, while the net migration of Icelandic citizenship changed by 20 people.

Iceland demographics are affected by immigration

During the first quarter also, a total of 560 Icelandic citizens immigrated to Nordic countries. 370 moved to Denmark, Sweden or Norway. Another 400 moved to other Nordic countries.

The first quarter also witnessed large migration from countries like Poland, accounting to 770, from the 2,530 foreign nationals who came to Iceland. Lithuania followed second with 320 nationals.

The median age in Iceland is put at 36.5 years of age with a life expectancy of 83.1 years making it a fairly young population for a developed country. The fertility rate in Iceland is quite rare compared to other European nations – here the fertility rate is above 2.1 children born per woman.

The Icelandic ethnic composition presently is 93%, while the largest ethnic minorities living in Iceland today are the Poles, accounting for about 3% of the total Icelandic population. This is about 8,000 Polish people residing in Iceland and having about 75% of the total workforce in Fjarðabyggð.

Also, Iceland has about 88,000 people of Icelandic descent living in Canada and 40,000 living in the United States.

Religion in Iceland

The church in Iceland is and has always been part of the people here even before the 20th century when most Icelanders were farmers and fishermen. The church religious customs of prayer and devotion were also part of their daily life.

The church in Iceland is and has always been part of the people here even before the 20th century when most Icelanders were farmers and fishermen, the church religious custom (prayer and devotion) was also part of their daily lifestyle.

The fact that is common and cannot be disputed was that the first sets of inhabitant on Icelandic soil were the Irish hermits who were Christians trying to find refuge in the remote shores of Iceland to practice their faith.

As Christianity begins to thrive in Iceland, missionary priests from England, Germany, and Eastern Europe where conspicuously noticed among the people Despite the unrest and persecution that marks the Christian era and its continuity in Iceland, Roman Catholicism still held sway for close to five centuries during the Iceland settlement era.

The Reformation

In 1540, the Lutheran Reformation was founded in Iceland and its doctrine was forcefully pushed on the Icelandic people by the Danish crown. The king of Denmark, in a move to fully establish its authority as the supreme head of the church, had the Roman Catholic monasteries dissolves and all its episcopal properties confiscated under his authority. In fact, in an effort to show his authority and make the people accept the Lutheran Reformation, the king went as far as to slay the Bishop and his sons who were by then the last clergy officials presiding over the affair of the Roman Catholic Church at Hólar in 1550.

Although the Icelandic constitution of 1874 guarantees religious freedom for all Icelandic people, the constitution also makes provision for the Evangelical Lutheran Church to become a national church and as such should be protected and supported by the State. This constitutional provision still remains unchanged even in the 1944 Republic of Iceland constitution.

Modern Day

The beginning of the 20th century also witnessed the emergence of two Lutheran free churches which were based on the same confession just like the national church but with different management that is structured to be more financially independent. Also, during the early decades of the 20th century, Seventh Day Adventist and Pentecostal missions were established and flourishing in Iceland.

Although Iceland is known to be a Christian country, since the 1970's the popularity of religious activities has greatly declined with a very few percentages of the country's population still attending church services except for ceremonial days like Christmas, a relative's funeral or weddings. Today the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland has about 70% of the population while 90% belongs to Christian churches.

Statistics show that nine out of every ten children in Iceland are baptized during their first 12 months, 85% of the populace get married in the church while funerals take about 99% church attendance. While special events organized by the churches and church festival still draws lots of large crowds, however, Sunday morning services have witnessed much lower turnout.

Most Populated Areas In Iceland


Reykjavík is the capital and the largest city in Iceland and is an official trading town and was believed to have been founded in 874 AD. Ingólfur Arnarson was the first to arrive in this town but it was not until the 19th century that the town started growing rapidly and subsequently turned into a town. Population: 130,345.

Iceland's demographics and population show Reykjavik as the largest city


This town is also located within the capital city (southwest region) and has an area landmass of 31 square miles with an estimated population of about 33,205 and was founded in 1948. The town is mostly residential with just a few commercial and industrial companies in operation.


Also located in the capital region (southwest coast) with an area of 55 square miles and an estimated population of 28,200 making it the third-largest town in Iceland. This town is home to many local industries.


This city is located in the Northeast territory with a land area of 53 square miles and a population of 18,191 people. Akureyri got its municipal charter as a seaport and a fishing center in 1786 and after the Second World War has witnessed mass rural to urban migration.


This is the fifth-largest municipality in Iceland and is located in the southern peninsula. It was the merger of three smaller towns that form Reykjanesbær they are Keflavik, Njarovik, and Hafnir. It has an area landmass of 56 square miles and a population of 15,379 people.

Other Cities In Iceland


This is also one city inside the capital and is also located in the southwest region. The town was first inhabited in the 9th century but got its municipal charter in 1878. It has a population of 14,453 and a land area of 29 square miles.


Also located in the southwest region and has a population of 9,075 with a land area of 71 square miles.


This is a town in Iceland and has an area landmass of 61 square miles and a population of 7,889.


This port town is located in the Northwest region of Iceland; it got its municipal charted in 1942 with an area of 3.5 square miles plus a population of 7,000 people.

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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Is a 4x4 Camper Rental Needed in Iceland?

An Iceland campervan rental is hands down one of the best ways to see our beautiful Nordic island. We are blessed with the natural beauty of mammoth glaciers, powerful waterfalls, bubbling hot springs, and more. And when deciding upon the best vehicle for your trip, an important question pops up. Do you need to have a 4x4 camper rental in Iceland? There are a few factors to consider when making this very important decision. It's one that will affect your trip, your itinerary, and even driving safety.

4x4 camper rental with Iceland's Northern Lights

4x4 Campers and Your Iceland Itinerary

At the end of the day, whether or not a 4x4 camper van rental in Iceland is right for you comes down to one thing. Your itinerary is going to dictate whether or not your camper rental needs a four-wheel drive, pure and simple. If you plan on visiting the Highlands at any time during your road trip, by law you have to have a special vehicle. This is because Iceland's wild interior has a special type of driving paths which are called F-Roads. These mountain roads are unique and that they're made entirely of gravel.

They can be a bit tricky to navigate, especially for first-timers. This is why you'll need to have either a 4-wheel drive SUV or an Iceland 4x4 rental camper. The small stones and pebbles that will be crunching beneath your vehicle make it easier to slip and slide. You're going to need as much traction as possible while traversing these roads.

You also want to be sure that you get Gravel Protection (GP) insurance to protect against any potential damage. Flying pieces of rock, either from yourself or other drivers, can easily dent or scratch your rental. And after all, you don't want to be punished just because Iceland's inland roads are rough.

Please note that the roads to access the Highlands only open during the summer months. They vary depending upon when they are deemed safe, but almost all are passable by July. If you’ve got the time, I highly recommend visiting this part of the country. With its untouched landscapes and unspoiled nature, the beauty of the zone will take your breath away.

But the Icelandic Highlands are not on everyone's itinerary. Unfortunately, we don't all have the time spend multiple days there. You might just prefer to drive around the island instead. If you plan to experience Iceland solely by driving around the Ring Road, then it's possible to rent a camper with only a two-wheel drive. Of course, this also has an exception which depends entirely upon personal preference.

Iceland 4x4 Camper Van Rental in the Winter 

The second scenario in which you might want to consider a 4x4 camper in Iceland is if you are traveling here in the winter. From November through March (and sometimes April), you'll find snow on the ground and can often get caught in inclement weather conditions. If you're not used to driving through icy, slushy, snowy roads, you might want to consider a vehicle that gives you more control.

4x4 camper rental Iceland winter road conditions

Having a four-wheel drive will not only help you to steer better, but also comes in handy in case of dangerous driving conditions. If you hit a patch of black ice and start to skid, you'll be able to get things under control much faster with a 4WD than with a 2WD.

Iceland Camper Rental Advantages

Saving money is probably one of the biggest benefits of Iceland camper rental. This is a small, expensive island, so it's no wonder that so many people opt for a home on four wheels. You save money with an Iceland camper no question.

With camper rental versus car rental and hotel, there's no comparison. Even though car rentals are more fuel-efficient, a camper van is cheaper overall. In a place where hotel rooms can start between $120 to $150 per night (107€ to 133€), just the savings on accommodation alone are enough to convince people to choose a camper in Iceland.

And it's even better with a 4x4 camper, because you can explore Iceland's inner territory. Accommodation like the famous Icelandic mountain huts is booked up months in advance. It's also not quite as comfortable as sleeping in your bed in the back of your camper. This is the perfect area to go on a Northern Lights excursion. You'll be so far away from civilization that there's no danger of light pollution obscuring your views of the Aurora Borealis.

Camper Van Rental in Iceland: 4x4 Models Available

Let's say you've decided to go for it and make your camper van rental in Iceland a 4x4. There are plenty of different options available for camper rentals. There are some models available here and Iceland that you can't rent in other countries or other continents.

The VW California 4x4 is a beloved model that embodies the free spirit of flower children of the 60s. It’s that same sense of adventure that attracts many travelers to Iceland.

You can also get a Mercedes camper van rental with a Mercedes Marco Polo 4x4. This model comes with an expandable roof tent which allows extra space for passengers. You'll feel like a kid going camping all over again.

Mercedes camper van 4x4 roof tent in Iceland

The VW Transporter 4x4 is another wonderful option that is suitable for F-roads. It's spacious and has the perfect camper for navigating Iceland's diverse and varied landscapes.

There are also larger models such as the VW Crafter 4x4, which seats and sleeps five. It's great for families and for large groups of friends that want to explore the Highlands and beyond.

The model that you choose depends entirely upon your travel preferences and the size of your party. That being said, the wide array of options means there truly is something for everyone. Whichever camper you choose, you are sure to have a great time and make lots of memories. And isn't that the whole point of an Iceland camping trip?

Is a 4x4 Camper Rental in Iceland Necessary?

Camper rental in Iceland is a fun, easy, inexpensive way to experience everything there is to see and do on our volcanic island. Getting an Iceland camper 4x4 rental will give you the freedom to roam and get off the beaten path. It also gives you peace of mind during hazardous winter driving conditions.

Remember that you will need to have a valid credit card both at pick up and drop off. This serves as a guarantee on your rental. Double-check with your rental company, but they usually do not block in a specific amount on your card. Rather, it's used as a backup in case there are any damages which are not covered by your camper rental insurance. Make sure you also go the speed limit, because any speeding tickets or fines that you rack up can also be charged to the card.

As long as you drive safely, stay smart, and obey the rules, you'll be fine. Also, be aware of pick-up and drop-off times and locations for your camper. Some companies are located just outside of Keflavik Airport, while others are in Reykjavik city center. The offices are not necessarily open 24 hours, so make sure you have enough time within their window for all of the things you need to do.

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Thursday, 1 August 2019

Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland

Is it really true that you can pay for everything with credit cards in Iceland? And that you absolutely have to have one to hire an automobile? Or is car rental in Iceland without a credit card possible? Many travelers have a lot of questions surrounding this common topic. Whether you're debating cash or credit card in Iceland or simply want to know whether or not you can use your debit card for car rentals, read on. Consider this your comprehensive guide to debit and credit cards in Iceland.

Iceland credit card chip and PIN

Does Iceland Accept Credit Cards Everywhere?

One of the big questions we frequently get asked is exactly where they accept credit cards. I've got some great news for you. In Iceland, credit cards are accepted almost universally as a means of payment. They even take them at the famous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik. So feel free to go ahead and put down plastic to pay for your “ein með öllu” (one with everything).

You can also use your card in Iceland at gas stations, souvenir shops, with tour operators, and more. While you will occasionally run into one or two vendors who only take cash, you'll generally find the cards are widely accepted everywhere. Icelanders use credit cards to pay for everything, and you can too. They are as ubiquitous here as debit cards are in some other countries.

Best Credit Card to Use in Iceland

When traveling abroad, some credit card companies and banks charge for their services or cash withdrawals. It's important to check this before you leave so that you don't come home to a nasty surprise on your monthly statement. For this reason, the best credit card to use in Iceland is one with no foreign transaction fees. You don't want to get charged a few bucks every time you make a purchase.

Whether you're using signature cards, or chip cards, as long as you have one of the main card providers, you'll be fine. American Express, Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly used and accepted cards around the island.

Iceland Credit Card and PIN Numbers

If you've used credit cards and debit cards elsewhere, you've probably used to a chip and signature card or a chip and pin card. It's easy to assume that things here work the same way as they do wherever you're from. Don't make that rookie travel mistake. While it's true that you can use your credit card in Iceland just about anywhere, there is something to be aware of.

Iceland credit card PIN

Your Iceland credit card PIN is extremely important and you shouldn't leave home without it. You can't just swipe and sign like you do in some places. Many people are not aware of their credit card PIN or that they even have one. That's because credit card companies send them separately from your physical card. You may have tucked that little piece of paper away somewhere and completely forgotten about it. Unless you’ve needed to get a cash advance from your credit card, it's likely that you don't know your PIN.

In Iceland, you need a credit card pin number pure and simple. So if you don't know yours, contact your credit card company in advance of your trip. They have to send it to you through regular mail, so allow a few weeks for it to arrive. And of course, your debit card already has a PIN that you know and use.

Car Rental in Iceland Without a Credit Card

When booking a car or camper van, the customer service agent will tell you to bring a credit card as a guarantee for your rental. They don't put a block on your card, but rather keep it on file just in case. When your rental ends, there may be some unforeseen costs like speeding tickets, parking fines, or damage to the vehicle not covered by rental insurance. In any of these scenarios, your card can be charged.

But what if you're like many people, and don't have a credit card? Is car hire in Iceland with no credit card still possible? If you don't possess a card, the companies are willing to accept the credit card of someone traveling with your party. They just have to be present for pick up and for the drop off inspection.

But what if neither you or any of your travel companions have a card? Can you still do car rental in Iceland without a credit card? Don’t worry; where there's a will, there's always a way. You can rent a car in Iceland without a credit card, it just takes a little bit of flexibility. Most rental companies are willing to work with you to find a solution.

Car rental in Iceland with no credit card is possible

There are usually two options presented, and both of them involve spending a bit more money. You can pay for your rental using your debit card, and you can also use your debit card to pay for one of the two options. The first is to choose full insurance coverage on your rental. This is usually in the form of a platinum package or other comprehensive insurance. If you get into an accident and have some or have some sort of damage to your vehicle, you are covered.

The second option is to leave a deposit, usually around the same price as full insurance coverage.

Cash or Credit and Debit Cards

Of course, there are those who don't feel comfortable using credit and debit cards as a sole means of payment on road trips. If this is your case, then, of course, get some Iceland money to have some Icelandic krona in your pocket. My best advice is to either do this in advance at your bank or take the money out of an ATM once you've landed. If you plan to go through your bank, give them ample time (at least a few weeks) to receive the foreign currency. Please note that you may be charged by either your bank, the dispensing bank, or both when taking money out.

What I don't recommend is using the currency exchange at the airport or in town. They offer really poor exchange rates and usually charge a commission on top for their service.

Guide to Using Debit and Credit Cards in Iceland 

Using your credit card in Iceland (or your debit card) might be the best way to save money on fees or commissions for exchange services. Talk to your card provider beforehand to see what they have to say on the matter. You'll also want to alert them that you are traveling abroad so that they don't block your card for suspicious activity.

Credit cards and debit cards in Iceland are an easy and hassle-free way to pay for expenses that come up during your trip. As long as you know the policies of your particular company, you should have a pretty smooth experience. And if you're still a little worried, bring a backup card or another means of payment like traveler’s checks.

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