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The Republic of Iceland, is an island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík.

Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.

According to tradition recorded in Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic origin settled in Iceland. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1918 a part of the Norwegian, and later the Danish monarchies. In the 20th century, Iceland's economy and welfare system developed quickly. In recent decades, Iceland has implemented free trade in the European Economic Area and diversified from fishing to new economic fields in services, finance and various industries.

Today, Iceland has some of the world's highest levels of economic and civil freedoms. In 2007, Iceland was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index. It was also the fourth most productive country per capita, and one of the most egalitarian, as rated by the Gini coefficient. Icelanders have a rich culture and heritage, such as cuisine and poetry and the medieval Icelandic Sagas are internationally renowned. Iceland is a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA, EEA, UEFA, and OECD. Iceland is the sole partner of the Faroe Islands signatory to the Hoyvík Agreement.

Iceland has been especially badly affected by the current world financial crisis. The nation's ongoing economic crisis has caused significant unrest and made Iceland the first western country to borrow from the International Monetary Fund since 1976. In February 2009 a minority government took office, headed by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world's first openly gay head of government in modern times.

Topography of Iceland, Geography of Iceland, Iceland Geological Activity, Iceland Climate, Flora & Fauna of Iceland, Demographics of Iceland

Iceland History: Settlement & The Establishment of the Commonwealth, Middle Ages to the Early Modern Era of Iceland, Independence & Recent History

Government of Iceland, Iceland Subdivisions, Politics of Iceland, Iceland Foreign Relations, Most Populous Towns in Iceland, Languages in Iceland, Religion in Iceland, , Economy & Infrastructure, 2008-2009 economic crisis, Transport of Iceland, Energy of Iceland, Education & Science of Iceland, , Culture of Iceland, Iceland Literature & The Arts, Music of Iceland, Media & Cinema of Iceland, Cuisine of Iceland, Sports in Iceland

Iceland Attractions

Reykjavik (Reykjavik Hotels & Reykjavik Resort Reservation Service)

Iceland's capital is unlike any other European city. Not only is Reykjavík ('Smoky Bay') the world's northernmost capital, it's also one of the newest, having established itself only in the late 19th century. Despite its name, it is now known as the 'smokeless city' thanks to its incessant winds and reliance on geothermal heat. Reykjavík boasts all the trappings of a modern European city as well as an interesting old town, white-washed wooden buildings, and rows of brightly painted concrete houses. Nearly everything of interest is within walking distance of the old settlement.

The Old Town, the city's hub, is a rustic area of grassy parks, lakes, markets and museums. Anyone remotely interested in Norse and Icelandic culture should head for the National Museum, which houses exhibits of religious and folk relics, and tools dating from the period of Settlement. The most renowned is a church door, carved around 1200, which depicts a Norse battle scene, while residing in the basement are nautical and agricultural tools and models of early fishing boats and ingenious farm implements. Immediately behind the museum is the Árni Magnússon Institute, a must-see for Saga buffs. The building contains a famous collection of works, including the Landnámabók and Njáls Saga, which were returned from Denmark to independent Iceland.

Modern Reykjavík sprawls eastward from the Old Town, and features several worthwhile attractions such as Hallgrímskirkja, an imposing church designed to resemble a mountain of lava. Although the word 'tacky' may spring to mind, it's easily the city's most memorable structure. Begun in the late 1940s and completed in 1974, the church is named after Iceland's best-known poet, Hallgrímur Pétursson. You can wander its stark, light-filled interior, then take a lift to the top of a 75m-high (246ft) tower which offers superb views of the city. On the lawn is a statue of Leif Eriksson, triumphantly identified as the 'Son of Iceland, Discoverer of Vinland'.

Another place with an outwardly tacky appearance is the Volcano Show. Again, don't be put off by the design; this theatre offers invaluable insights into the volcanic spectre under which Icelanders live. Here you can see dramatic film of some of the country's greatest volcanic eruptions, including one award-winning film of the birth of Surtsey, which belched and spewed its way - Exorcist-like - out of the sea in 1963. Other sights include a pleasant botanic garden, a popular recreational park and a number of museums dedicated to the works of Iceland's leading artists.

Budget accommodation, cheap eats and bargain shopping are found in or just east of the Old Town. For entertainment, there's cinema, cultural performances and light shows. Runtur is a bit of a Reykjavík institution, which involves trawling through the city's hip bars, live music venues and discos to make sure no-one's missing the best action.

Myvatn (Myvatn Hotels & Myvatn Resort Reservation Service)

Mývatn, in northeast Iceland, is considered one of the natural wonders of the world. Although most of the interesting sights are volcanic or geothermal topographical features, the reserve's centrepiece is a lovely blue lake teeming with birdlife. What's more, thanks to its location in the rain shadow of an enormous icecap, the reserve experiences some of the finest weather in Iceland. Travellers can relax and settle in, spend a week camping, or set out on excursions to the Kverkfjöll ice caves; Námaskaro; or the Hverfell crater.

Iceland Hotels
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