6 Facts About Iceland

1. Elves

Polls taken over the years have shown that the majority of Icelanders believe that there is at least a possibility of elves, which have been a part of Iceland folklore for centuries. One type of these elves are known as the “Huldufólk, which roughly translates to “hidden folk”. It is believed that the largest elf colony is in Hellisgerdi Park in Hafnarfjordur.

Elves have caused mischief and commotion over the years. In the 1930s, it was believed to be elves behind the many malfunctions that caused construction on a road called Álfhólsvegur to halt. The road was supposed to go through Àlfhóll, which is the most famous home of the elves. Even after construction resumed, the construction crews continued to be faced with so many unforeseen difficulties that the road was rerouted to go around the hill.

2. Volcanic eruptions

On average, Iceland sees some sort of volcanic eruptions every 4 years. This high amount of volcanic activity is due to a combination of the island being located on the mid-Atlantic Ridge and over a hot spot. Thirteen of the island’s 30 active volcanic systems have erupted since the year 874.

Iceland’s most active volcano is Grímsvötn, located in South-East Iceland. It stands 1,725 meters (5,659 feet) high. Its most recent eruption was May 21, 2011, sending ash clouds as high as 20 km (12 mi) into the sky. Experts expect the volcano to erupt every 2 to 7 years.

Iceland’s overall most recent eruption was under the Bárdarbunga volcanic system, which started on August 17, 2014 and lasted until 2015.

3. Forests

Where are all the forests? They are difficult to find in Iceland. Forests cover only 1.3% of the land. It is estimated that the coverage was 25-40% when it was first settled by the Vikings in the year 874, consisting of only birch, rowan, and willow.
In order to attempt to conserve the small amount of forests remaining, the Icelandic Forest Service (IFS) was established in 1907. The IFS manages all of the country’s national forests and encourages reforestation through planting trees.

Iceland’s largest forest, Hallormsstadaskógur Forest, is located in East Iceland. Preserved since 1905, it was also Iceland’s first national forest. It includes beautiful hiking trails, a waterfall called Ljósárfoss, Atlavík Cove, and scenic camping areas.

4. No surnames

In place of surnames, Icelanders use patronymic or sometimes matronymic names. A patronymic name comes from a father’s name, while a matronymic name comes from a mother’s name. Depending on the individual’s gender, his or her last name will end with the suffix –son (meaning “son”) or –dóttir (meaning daughter). For example, if a man’s father’s name is Jon, his last name will likely be Jonsson. His sister’s last name will likely be Jonsdóttir.

Most Icelandic women do not take their husband’s last names when they marry. Due to Icelanders’ lack of surnames, phone books are alphabetized by the first name and they normally only call each other by their first names.

5. Reykjavík

As the northernmost capital city of the world, Reykjavík holds 60% of Iceland’s population. It has a population of around 120,000 people. The city was the first permanent settlement in 874. The word “Reykjavík” translates to “smoky bay”, and was likely given this name due to steam rising from hot springs that early settlers saw. Due to its geothermal activity, the city boasts being one of the greenest cities in the world. All pools and most buildings are powered through geothermal activity.

Close to the city is Blue Lagoon which is one of the most popular tourist attractions. The Blue Lagoon’s water temperature never falls below 37 degrees C (98.6 degrees F) and has a high mineral content, making it a warm, therapeutic spot for a swim.

Another popular attraction of the city is whale watching. Those who have the opportunity to go whale watching have the chance of seeing over 20 species of whales, ranging from humpback whales to white-beaked dolphins.

6. Icelandic Naming Committee

If you’d like to give your newborn an uncommon name in Iceland, it will have to be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee first. This committee maintains a list of approved names and makes decisions towards the introduction of new names. It was established in 1991 and is compromised of three appointees who are appointed by the Minister of Justice and serve for four years.

New names that are submitted for approval are considered for compatibility with Icelandic tradition and the likelihood that the name will cause embarrassment for the child. The names may only contain letters of the Icelandic alphabet and must match the sex of the child.

Would you be interesting in meetings Elves? Are Elves in your country? Please share with us in the comments.