Lýðveldið Ísland in Icelandic, is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean.
It has a population of 332,529 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country are home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence still keeps summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.
And so the story goes...
According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in the year AD 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent settler on the island. In the following centuries, mainly Norwegians and to a smaller extent other Scandinavians settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1814, Iceland was ruled by Norway and afterwards by Denmark. Until the 20th century, the country relied largely on fishing and agriculture. Iceland became independent in 1918 and a republic in 1944. Industrialisation of the fisheries and Marshall Plan aid following World War II brought prosperity and Iceland became one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the world. In 1994, it became a part of the European Economic Area, which supported diversification into economic and financial services.
Iceland has a market economy with relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks high in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013, it was ranked as the 13th most-developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index. Iceland runs almost completely on renewable energy. Affected by the ongoing worldwide financial crisis, the nation's entire banking system systemically failed in October 2008, leading to a severe depression, substantial political unrest, the Icesave dispute, and the institution of capital controls. Many bankers were jailed, and the economy has made a significant recovery, in large part due to a surge in tourism.
Iceland is at the juncture of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The main island is entirely south of the Arctic Circle, which passes through the small Icelandic island of Grímsey off the main island's northern coast.
The country lies between latitudes 63° and 68° N, and longitudes 25° and 13° W.
Iceland is closer to continental Europe than to mainland North America; thus, the island is generally included in Europe for historical, political, cultural, and practical reasons.
Geologically the island includes parts of both continental plates.
The population of the island is believed to have varied from 40,000 to 60,000 in the period ranging from initial settlement until the mid-19th century.
During that time, cold winters, ash fall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plagues adversely affected the population several times. There were 37 famine years in Iceland between 1500 and 1804.