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10 Cool Facts About Iceland

When most people think of Iceland, the first thing that comes to mind is probably ice
lots and lots of ice. However, strangely enough this actually isnt the case. Iceland
is hardly icy at all; on the other hand, Greenland has plenty of ice and isnt very green.
And while Iceland may not have much ice, it does have many unique things to offer
the world. Here we delve into one of the happiest countries in the world.

10 Public Nudity

In Iceland there are multitudes of refreshing hot springs. If you visit the country it is
very likely that you will pay at least one of them a visit. Like a public pool in the
United States, you are expected to shower first before you enter the water, however, if
you are shy about your body you might find things slightly difficult on your vacation.
In Iceland, people are expected to use similar shower facilities, but you are required to
shower without your swimsuit on, and unfortunately, many of these showers dont
have a door to hide you from the outside world.

While some cultures may find this shocking, in Iceland it is a simple matter of
hygiene. After all, it isnt exactly easy to get fully clean while wearing all of your
clothes. Of course, generalized public nudity is just as illegal in Iceland as it is
anywhere else, so you cant just strip and take a leisurely walk down the street.

9 Elves

Weve mentioned them briefly before, but they bear mentioning again. Polls taken
over a period of time have shown that the majority of Icelanders believe in elves.
These elves usually live in rocky areas, have magical powers, and cause trouble if
someone tries to disturb their home. In some cases, bulldozers have been reported to
malfunction when trying to work on a supposed elf site. And in Iceland this belief is
so important that some people are actually called in to arbitrate with the elves in the
hopes of getting them to leave.

Icelandic pop star Bjork has mentioned that record companies prefer to sign Icelandic
musicians who admit to believing in elvesperhaps they think it means they have
more personality. In any case, despite how strange the belief might be, it persists
among many and doesnt seem likely to go away anytime soon.

8 Midnight Golf

During the months of June and July, Iceland has days with a full 24 hours of precious,
beautiful sunlight. While you might think of a variety of things you could do with 24
hours of light in a day, a lot of people in Iceland look at it as a splendid time to catch
up on their golf. While the weather can get somewhat cold and rainy on occasion, that
doesnt deter the most spirited golfers, who stick it out regardless. Some who have
played golf in Iceland during the midnight sun have described the experience as both
surreal and sublime. And while golfers may not see much in the way of trees on a
typical Icelandic golf course, they may have to deal with unique challengessuch as
lava beds and the fury of angry birds that have had their nests disturbed.

7 Anti-Pornography Laws

Iceland is fairly well known for being liberal when it comes to sexual issues, so it may
come as a surprise to outsiders that their government voted to ban strip clubs.
However, the government has not limited their sights just to the physical world of
stripping. Recently, they have also been considering placing a ban on online
pornography. Some may think that this is a backward way of looking at sex, but from
their perspective it is actually quite progressive.
You see, Icelanders are not doing this out of any puritanical attitude toward sex, but
for feminist reasons. Icelands government is close to half female at this point, and it
is probably one of the most feminist-friendly countries in the world. The reasoning for
the ban is that stripping objectifies women, while some hardcore online porn can be
quite violentall in all, it just gives the wrong message to children.

6 Handball

Photo credit: Steindy

In Iceland, handball is basically the national sport. When the president of Iceland
spoke to the media after a recent Olympic win, he explained how important the sport
is to their country. Everyone in the country knows the names of the national teams
players and the overall success of the team is considered very important. Handball is
not particularly popular in the United States, or in many parts of Europe, but it enjoys
popularity in some parts of the world, including certain Scandinavian countries.
Handball has been described as being sort of like soccer, except you actually use your
hands. It is actually an incredibly fast-paced and brutal game; scores generally run
much higher than soccer and violent play is often perfectly within the rules.

5 Skyr

Eaten regularly as a snack or with meals, the dairy product Skyr is one of the most
popular foods in Iceland. However, despite its popularity within the country, it isnt
well known outside of Iceland. That may change soon however, as Russell
Crowe recently returned from a trip to Iceland with a love for the stuff and now it will
be coming to Fresh Markets throughout the United States.
Skyr is considered by many to be much like yogurt, but it is actually a form of soft
cheese and is prized for having a high amount of protein and virtually no fat.
Unfortunately, unless you live in Iceland or have a Fresh Market near you, it will
probably be difficult to get any of this delicious dairy treat. While there are recipes for
it, due to the way it is made with a bacterial culture you need Skyr to make more Skyr.
There are substitutes that can be used but the end result wont be quite the same.

4 The Yule Lads

As youre probably aware, most countries celebrate something similar to Christmas,

but every place usually does it a little differently. Iceland is no exception to this rule.
Instead of Santa Claus, Iceland has something called the Yule Lads. These strange lads
have an interesting history because they didnt start out as bringers of Yuletide joy;
they were actually descended from trolls and were used the way parents today use the
threat of taking away a video game consoleto scare small children.
However, in the 1700s a decree was issued that actually made it illegal for parents to
do this, and eventually the Yule Lads became a Christmas tradition. The Yule Lads
who have heartwarming names like Skyr Gobbler, Window Peeper, and Bowl
Lickereach have their own colorful personality. They now visit every year, each
one stopping by a day after the other.

3 The Cod Wars

Since the 1950s, Iceland has often clashed with the British over the use of Icelandic
waters for fishing. In Iceland, the fishing industry is pretty important and basically
serves as the main source of food. So perhaps it is unsurprising that the cod wars
started back in 1958 when Iceland decided they needed to increase the exclusion
zone around their territorythis is the section of water that other countries are not
allowed to fish in.
Of course, the British government retaliated by sending their own navy to protect
fishermen they had in the area, and considering how these things escalate, it wasnt
long before people were firing shots and ramming boats. Eventually, a diplomatic
solution was decided upon and the British backed off. This same scenario ended up
playing out twice more over the years, with Iceland eventually increasing the range of
their exclusion zone from an original 6.5 kilometers (4 mi) to 320 kilometers (200

2 Volcanic Energy

Iceland has a ton of volcanic activity. While some countries might be scared to live in
the center of a fiery ring of volcanoes, Iceland grabbed nature by its slippery throat
and figured out how to use it to their advantage. Roughly 85 percent of Icelands
energy is from renewable resources, and well over half of that is geothermal alone.
Of course, it didnt start out as a means of power for most of the countrybefore
geothermal energy became more prevalent, it was mainly just used for basic water
heating purposes. However, over time it eventually became used for general electricity
needs. On top of everything else though, the most important use for it is
heating swimming pools. Iceland has well over 150 public swimming pools, and most
of those are kept heated thanks to all-natural volcanic heat.

1 Raw Puffin Heart

Puffins are small birds with black and white feathers; they have cartoonishly oversize
beaks and are absolutely adorable. Gordon Ramsay, being no stranger to controversy,
recently came under fire for eating the raw heart from a dead puffin he had killed
during an episode of his television series The F Word. Animal rights groups were of
course up in arms, and many people objected to the cruelty of the act.
However, the people of Iceland would not have batted an eye at his actions. The
reason for this is that, in Iceland, raw puffin heart is actually considered a delicacy,
and puffins are eaten for food all the time. Ramsay actually had all the proper permits
and was cleared of any wrongdoing by the media authorities.

Key points

Iceland is a geologically young landscape due to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between
the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The island is therefore highly volcanically and
geologically active.

Iceland has some unique natural features such as ice cap mountains, volcanoes, hot springs,
waterfalls, glaciers, geysers and ancient cooled lava flows.

Around 11% of Iceland is covered in glacial ice.

Iceland is home to around 200 volcanoes and it has a third of all lava flows found on Earth. 10%
of the total land is covered by either cooled lava beds or glaciers.

The official language of Iceland is Icelandic which has changed little over the centuries. It is a
North Germanic language derived from Old Norse.

Iceland has a population of 315,281 as of July 2013.

The first people to live on Iceland are thought to have been Irish monks around the year AD 800.
In the 9th century, Norsemen arrived in Iceland.

The capital city of Iceland is Reykjavk which is the most northern capital city in the world. The
city was founded by a Norse chieftain, Inglfur Arnarson in AD874.

Iceland became part of Norway in 1262. 400 years later it was a part of Denmark before
becoming independent in 1918 and a full republic in 1944.

In 1980, Iceland became the first country to elect a women president. Vigds Finnbogadttir was
president until 1996.

The currency of Iceland is the Icelandic krna.

Around 85% of Iceland's electricity and heating comes from hydroelectric power
and geothermal water.

The Arctic fox is the only mammal that is indigenous in Iceland.

Per capita Iceland has the highest number of book and magazine publications and 10% of the
country's population will publish a book in their lifetimes.

Some Icelandic people still believe in elves, trolls, and other mythical characters.

A traditional sport in Iceland is Glma, which is a type of wrestling.

Handball is the main traditional sport of Iceland. Other popular sports include football (soccer),
basketball, swimming and horseback riding.

The three colors of Iceland's flag represent elements that make up the island. Red represents the
island's volcanic fires. White is for the snow and ice fields and blue the ocean.

For more information, check out maps of Iceland or take a closer look at theIcelandic flag.

Iceland Is Pushing Geothermal Boundaries

With Magma-Generated Power

Bathers at Iceland's Blue Lagoon hot springs swim in hot mineral waters amid a chilly
wind as a thermal electricity plant looms in the background, Sept. 13,
1998. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
Molten rock that bursts out of volcanoes may increasingly provide energy to power
homes and businesses in Iceland and beyond, a recent report in the journal
Geothermics suggests.
The Icelandic Deep Drilling Project had been drilling shafts into volcanic bedrock up
to 5 km (3.1 miles) deep and capturing the intense heat when, in 2009, a team struck
an underground pool of magma. The borehole, IDDP-1, became the first of many
wells drilled in Iceland to explore geothermal sources of energy for a power plant
called Krafla, operated by IDDP and Icelands National Power Company.
The new method of using magma to generate high-pressure steam over 450 degrees
Celsius (842 degrees Fahrenheit) set a world record for highest geothermal heat and
was the first time heat from molten magma (vs. solid rock) was used to produce

This could lead to a revolution in the energy efficiency of high-temperature

geothermal projects in the future, Wilfred Elders, one of the reports three authors
and professor emeritus of geology at the University of California, Riverside, told The
Normal geothermal energy is harnessed by pumping water into hot, dry rocks where it
boils and rises as steam that can be used to generate electricity. But normal geothermal
heat doesnt reach the temperatures magma can. Geothermal resources in the U.K.
hover at around 60 to 80 degrees Celsius.
The IDDP-1 well generated about 36 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about
36,000 homes. Thats not much compared to coal-based power plants average 660
megawatts, but it's more than the average wind turbine, which generate about 1 to 3
megawatts each.
According to the Geothermal Energy Association, geothermal power plants emit 5
percent of the carbon dioxide, 1 percent of the sulfur dioxide and less than 1 percent
of the nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired plants of the same size. GEA estimated last
year the global geothermal market produced more than the 12,000 megawatts
originally projected for 2013.
In the U.S., geothermal accounted for about 3,200 megawatts in 2012. In late January,
the U.S. Department of Energy earmarked $3 million for geothermal development. In
Iceland, geothermal already accounts for two-thirds of energy usage and heats about
90 percent of households.
The IDDP's experiment stretched the known capability of geothermal, showing that
magma-heated steam can be an energy source.
Essentially, IDDP-1 is the worlds first magma-enhanced geothermal system, the first
to supply heat directly from molten magma, Elders said. Drilling into magma is a
very rare occurrence, and this is only the second known instance anywhere in the
A second borehole, IDDP-2, will be drilled in southwest Iceland at Reykjanes
sometime later this year or next.