Republic of Iceland

By | October 26, 2020

Fire and ice shape the island. In addition to geysers, diverse volcanic phenomena can be observed. Large glaciers cover more than a tenth of the country. Households in the capital Reykjavík are heated with geothermal energy. By far the most important sources of income are fishing and fish processing, aluminum production and tourism also play a role. The population refused to join the EU because of feared restrictions on fishing.

Abbreviated as IS by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, the state of Iceland (Iceland: “Eisland”) is an island in the European Arctic Ocean. In addition to the main island, it includes some small offshore islands such as the Westman Islands, Surtsey and Grímsey (Fig. 1).

Republic of Iceland

Apart from the island of Grímsey, Iceland is still south of the Arctic Circle on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 330 km from Greenland and 800 km from Scandinavia.

Natural space

The islands of Iceland are of volcanic origin and essentially made up of basalt blankets.

They are located on a so-called “ hot spot ”, i.e. a fixed melting zone in the earth’s crust in the area of ​​the mid-Atlantic ridge. The earth’s crust is therefore still active in the area of ​​the islands today.

In addition to numerous post-volcanic phenomena – z. B. solfataras, hot springs and geysers – there are frequent volcanic eruptions in Iceland , which are often accompanied by earthquakes. Particularly active volcanoes are the Surtsey off the south coast, which gave rise to a new island, the Askja and the 1747 m high volcano Hekla.

One of the most spectacular eruptions occurred in October 1996 when the Bárdarbunga volcano erupted under the Vatnajökull glacier. Ash and fountains of water vapor rose to a height of ten kilometers. The melted glacier water triggered a gigantic tidal wave that destroyed a road as well as telephone and electricity poles in a fortunately deserted area.


The geysers are also impressive volcanic phenomena in Iceland for tourists.

Geysers are hot springs that often let water or steam rise at regular intervals, like in a fountain. The water mostly comes from the groundwater, which is heated deeply by volcanic heat, but cannot boil at 100 ºC due to the pressure of the water column above. However, if vapor bubbles rise, the pressure is released. As a result of the associated lowering of the boiling point, the stored water then suddenly evaporates and explosively hurls the water column above it. After the eruption, cooler water flows in again and the process can repeat itself. One of the most famous and reliable geysers in Iceland is the Strokkur.

Surface shape

In the south of Iceland, the landscape close to the coast is shaped by broad plains created by meltwater. They rise inland in several stages to an uninhabited, 300 to 800 m high hilly plateau. The mostly short rivers of Iceland plunge over the steps in impressive waterfalls. Mountain ranges and individual mountains rise up to over 2000 m above the plateau. On the highest there are numerous ice caps and glaciers, which at around 12300 km² take up more than a tenth of the total area of ​​the country. They are the remains of the Ice Age inland ice that once completely covered Iceland. Vatnajökull is the largest glacier in Europe with an area of ​​8410 km².

There are fjords on the coasts in the west, north and east of the island far into the country.

Climate / vegetation

The maritime climate is determined by the foothills of the Gulf Stream. The winters in the south are thus mitigated with a January mean of 0 °C. Summers are moderately warm with a July mean of 11 °C (Fig. 5). Typical weather phenomena in Iceland are storms, thick fog and continuous rain. The annual rainfall is very high at around 2000 mm.

In Iceland there is no closed vegetation cover and the country is almost forestless. In particular, the highlands in the interior are only partially occupied by tundra and moors.


Important data about the country

Surface: 103,000 km²
Residents: 292,000
Population density: 3 residents / km²
Growth of population: 1.7% / year
Life expectancy:
(men / women)
76/82 years
Form of government: parliamentary-democratic republic
Capital: Reykjavík
Language: Icelandic
Religion: Evangelical Lutheran (92%)
Climate: Cool temperate maritime climate, average temperatures in Reykjavík in January –0.3 °C, in July 11.4 °C
Land use: Arable land 1.3%, pastures 18%, forest 0.1%
Economic sectors:
(share of employees)
Agriculture 7.3%, industry 23%, services 69.7%
Export goods: Fish and fishery products, aluminum
Gross domestic product: US $ 10,513 million (2003)
Gross National Product: US $ 30,910 / residents (2003)


The main economic basis is fishing, especially for cod, cod, redfish and haddock, and fish processing. Iceland has one of the most modern fishing fleets in the world. The catches are processed in more than 100 fish factories into frozen, salted or stockfish, canned fish as well as fish meal or fish oil. Fishery products account for almost four fifths of the export value.

The ports that are ice-cold all year round by the Gulf Stream are also an advantage.

To secure the income from fishing, the government of the country extended the fishing limit several times, most recently in 1975, to 200 nautical miles. In the past, this has often led to conflicts with other fishing nations such as Great Britain.

The agriculture can only use about 22% of the total, mostly for grazing. Iceland is still self-sufficient in terms of meat, milk, poultry and eggs. In huge greenhouses heated with the water from hot springs, vegetables, grapes, tropical fruits and flowers are grown.

The use of hydropower and geothermal energy is of great importance for the country’s energy generation.

District heating from hot springs supplies almost 90% of all Icelandic households and enables 80 public swimming pools to be operated. The treated hot water is stored in large tanks near Reykjavík.

The industrial Islands predominantly uses geothermal energy as an energy source.

The aluminum producing industry and metal processing as well as the food, leather, textile, furniture and wool industries are represented.

Tourism is also of great importance as a source of foreign currency.

The main trading partners are Great Britain, the USA, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, Russia and other CIS countries.

Iceland does not have a railroad. In addition to the extensive coastal shipping and road traffic, domestic air traffic plays a major role. International airports have Keflavík and Reykjavík, which also has the main seaport.


The parliament, called Althing, has consisted of a chamber with 63 members elected for four years since 1991. However, its roots go much further into the past:
The people of Norwegian Vikings descended on the Althing for the first time in 930 as an instrument of justice and legislation.

1380: Iceland, which had previously belonged to Norway, became part of Denmark along with it.

In the 18th century, disease and natural disasters caused Iceland to decline.

1918: The country became independent and in 1944, shortly before the end of World War II, it became an independent state.

Iceland has been part of EFTA since 1970. The population rejects accession to the EU, especially because of feared restrictions on fishing rights.