Iceland is a country that many people have little to no knowledge of. Sure, if you mention Björk they’ve definitely heard of her. And if you talk about Game of Thrones filming locations, they can probably imagine that scenes north of The Wall were captured here. But what else do we know about this small Nordic island? What is the capital of Iceland? And what language is spoken in Iceland? What are some fun facts and Iceland trivia? If you’re planning to visit Iceland, it helps to know a little bit about the country. Let’s look at some Icelandic history as well as answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the country. Maybe you’ll even learn something new before your trip to Iceland.

Map of Iceland with capital Reykjavik pointed out with pin

Iceland Questions: Where does the country get its name from?

Back in the days before Google Maps and satellite imaging, the only tool we had the discover far off places was word of mouth. The Vikings who first settled Iceland (see below) sent word back to other would-be conquerors that they lived on a tiny Island covered in ice. The ice-land story was the perfect cover for an island that was actually quite covered in green. To throw plunderers even more off the scent, the first Icelanders also spoke of a large green-land further afield. What’s known today as Greenland was and is mostly covered with ice. It must have been quite the surprise for their enemies.

Iceland Questions: Who founded Iceland? 

Iceland’s history is unique and quite distinct from that of other European countries. For a long time, the tiny island nation was uninhabited. The people currently living there are relatively recent arrivals when compared to their indigenous brothers and sisters on mainland Europe. It’s believed that the first settlers in Iceland were Irish monks. Iceland’s recorded history began with the settlements of Viking explorers from Norway and the British Isles. After multiple visits from Swedish and Norwegian Vikings, Ingólfur Arnarson settled in Reykjavik in 874. This marks the beginning of the long-term settlement of Iceland and later, the beginning of its Viking Age.

Vikings sailing on a ship towards Iceland

Iceland Questions: What makes Iceland so special?

There are actually several things that make this tiny island nation of interest to many. One of the first things people talk about in conversations about Iceland is the country’s natural beauty. Iceland possesses some of the most dramatic, varied and stunning landscapes in the world. From ice caves to lava fields, black sand beaches to glacier lagoons, fjords, volcanoes, and even geothermal baths, Iceland has a plethora of natural attractions not found in too many other places on earth. The unusual mix of volcanic activity, tectonic plates and proximity to the Arctic Circle have combined to form a unique geological spot on the planet.

Kirkjufell mountain with waterfall make Iceland a special and beautiful place

Iceland Trivia: Iceland has the world’s oldest Parliament

The people of Iceland established a government in the year 930 AD. This legislative and judicial body consisted of the most powerful leaders at the time. Iceland’s Althing (Parliament) passed down its laws orally for almost two hundred years. Iceland was not only ahead of the curve when it came to establishing a parliament. The country also produced the world’s first elected female president in a democratic election, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, in 1980.

Judge's gavel at iceland's Althing

This is just the tip of the iceberg and there’s much more to learn about Iceland. Why not come visit and learn for yourself? And in case you were still wondering, the capital of Iceland is Reykjavik and the locals speak Icelandic, a Scandinavian language descending from Protonordic. It was brought over by the Vikings and is part of the same language family as Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish.

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