Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some Facts about Iceland

I have had quite a few people asking me about Iceland.  What it's like, are the people friendly, etc.  So I thought I would put a few facts down on the blog (along with some photos of course) that I learned about Iceland during my short time there.

First impression?  Wow it looks like the settlements up on the tundra like Iqaluit...but wait a minute - it's got colourful houses like St. John's, Newfoundland but wait another minute, it's' kind of like Scandanavia as well.

This what you see when you first arrive...


Lava fields!!

Anyway here are some facts about Iceland that I noted down during one of my day tours....

  • The average winter temperature is -3C which isn't bad at all - but they frequently have high winds which makes it much much worse.
  •  Iceland is almost the same latitude as the North Pole but they get the Gulf Steam which saves them from the extreme temperatures in the Arctic.
  • 70 % of their vegetable are grown in greenhouses powered by steam from the hot water below the earth.  
  • Iceland has approximately 320,000 residents - 200,000 of those live in the capital city of Reyjkavik.
  • There are more sheep than people - the only other country that can boast about that is New Zealand.
  • Icelanders love their horses - there are around 90,000 horses which mostly consists of the famous Icelandic horse of course which was bred in Iceland.  Quarantine on horses is very strict - if a horse is taken out of Iceland for whatever reason it cannot come back.  There are riding paths all over the country and horseback riding is very popular. 
  • There are no billboards in Iceland - it is considered visual pollution.
  •  Icelanders pay 40% taxes however this pays for health care and university tuition.  Their social welfare structure is modelled on the socialist Scandanavian countries.
  • As a result of university being free a great percentage of Icelanders are well educated.  Books are revered here (my kind of place!) and one of the great excitements before the holiday season is discussing new books that will come out shortly.  There are even programs on television addressing this subject.
  •  Iceland has on the average one murder a year.
  •  Iceland belonged to Denmark (in recent history) until 1944 when it became independent.  
  •  There is no railway system in Iceland due to the low population - there is however an excellent network of bus transportation throughout the country.
  • Iceland has no military and has stayed neutral in all wars.
  •  As we all know Iceland is a hot spot of volcanoes and geothermal activity. 

There is no doubt that Iceland is expensive...I stayed with a local airbnb host which cut down my costs and was a unique way of seeing how the Icelandic people live.  Much better than a hotel! 

Iceland is a great stopover on the way to Europe.  Icelandair allows you to stop off for up to a week on the way to or from Europe/UK.  I changed planes in Reyjkavik on the way to Scotland and on the way back from England I stopped off there for four nights.  I wish it had been longer.  Oh well there will definitely be a "next time". 

I will be posting soon about my two day tours around the Golden Circle and to the South Shore of Iceland. 

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