Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althingi, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Denmark granted limited home rule in 1874 and complete independence in 1944. The second half of the 20th century saw substantial economic growth driven primarily by the fishing industry. The economy diversified greatly after the country joined the European Economic Area in 1994, but Iceland was especially hard hit by the global financial crisis in the years following 2008. The economy is now on an upward trajectory, fueled primarily by a tourism and construction boom. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first rate by world standards.



65.0° N, 18. 0° W
Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the United Kingdom


103,000 sq km
100,250 sq km
2,750 sq km

land boundaries

0 km


4,970 km


temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers


mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords


557 m
lowest point
Atlantic Ocean
0 m
highest point
Hvannadalshnukur (at Vatnajokull Glacier)
2,110 m

natural resources

  • fish
  • hydropower
  • geothermal power
  • diatomite

land use

arable land
1.2 %
permanent crops
0 %
permanent pasture
17.5 %
0.3 %
81 %

population distribution

Iceland is almost entirely urban with half of the population located in and around the capital of Reykjavik; smaller clusters are primarily found along the coast in the north and west



  • 350,734
  • 178
    global rank


  • Icelander(s)
  • Icelandic

ethnic groups

homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts
81 %
population with foreign background
19 %


  • Icelandic
  • English
  • Nordic languages
  • German


Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland
67.2 %
Roman Catholic
3.9 %
Reykjavik Free Church
2.8 %
Hafnarfjordur Free Church
2 %
Asatru Association
1.2 %
The Independent Congregation .9%
other religions
4 %
6.7 %
other or unspecified
11.3 %

birth rate

  • 13.3
    per 1,000 population
  • 141
    global rank

death rate

  • 6.6
    per 1,000 population
  • 139
    global rank

urban population

93.9 %

major urban areas

  • Reykjavik
    pop. 216,000

life expectancy

  • 83.3
    total population
  • 7
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 21.9%
    percent of adults
  • 83
    global rank


country name


  • Republic of Iceland
    long form
  • Iceland
    short form


  • Lydveldid Island
    long form
  • Island
    short form

government type

unitary parliamentary republic


64.9 N, 21.57 W


national holidays

  • Independence Day
    17 June

legal system

civil law system influenced by the Danish model

age of suffrage


flag description

blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the colors represent three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the island's volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and ice fields of the island, and blue is for the surrounding ocean

national colors

  • blue
  • white
  • red

national anthem

"Lofsongur" (Song of Praise)



Iceland's economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system. Except for a brief period during the 2008 crisis, Iceland has in recent years achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a remarkably even distribution of income. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, particularly within the fields of tourism, software production, and biotechnology. Abundant geothermal and hydropower sources have attracted substantial foreign investment in the aluminum sector, boosted economic growth, and sparked some interest from high-tech firms looking to establish data centers using cheap green energy. Tourism, aluminum smelting, and fishing are the pillars of the economy. For decades the Icelandic economy depended heavily on fisheries, but tourism has now surpassed fishing and aluminum as Iceland’s main export industry. Tourism accounted for 8.6% of Iceland’s GDP in 2016, and 39% of total exports of merchandise and services. From 2010 to 2017, the number of tourists visiting Iceland increased by nearly 400%. Since 2010, tourism has become a main driver of Icelandic economic growth, with the number of tourists reaching 4.5 times the Icelandic population in 2016. Iceland remains sensitive to fluctuations in world prices for its main exports, and to fluctuations in the exchange rate of the Icelandic Krona. Following the privatization of the banking sector in the early 2000s, domestic banks expanded aggressively in foreign markets, and consumers and businesses borrowed heavily in foreign currencies. Worsening global financial conditions throughout 2008 resulted in a sharp depreciation of the krona vis-a-vis other major currencies. The foreign exposure of Icelandic banks, whose loans and other assets totaled nearly nine times the country's GDP, became unsustainable. Iceland's three largest banks collapsed in late 2008. GDP fell 6.8% in 2009, and unemployment peaked at 9.4% in February 2009. Three new banks were established to take over the domestic assets of the collapsed banks. Two of them have majority ownership by the state, which intends to re-privatize them. Since the collapse of Iceland's financial sector, government economic priorities have included stabilizing the krona, implementing capital controls, reducing Iceland's high budget deficit, containing inflation, addressing high household debt, restructuring the financial sector, and diversifying the economy. Capital controls were lifted in March 2017, but some financial protections, such as reserve requirements for specified investments connected to new inflows of foreign currency, remain in place.


18,180,000,000 USD

agriculture products

  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • green vegetables
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • mutton
  • chicken
  • pork
  • beef
  • dairy products
  • fish


  • 10,390,000,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 10,020,000,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 136,713
    total subscriptions
  • 132
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 424,720
    total subscriptions
  • 175
    global rank

broadcast media

state-owned public TV broadcaster (RUV) operates 21 TV channels nationally (RUV and RUV 2, though RUV 2 is used less frequently);  RUV broadcasts nationally, every household in Iceland is required to have RUV as it doubles as the emergency broadcast network; RUV also operates stringer offices in the north (Akureyri) and the east (Egilsstadir) but operations are all run out of RUV headquarters in Reykjavik;  there are 3 privately owned TV stations;  Stod 2 (Channel 2) is owned by Syn, following 365 Media and Vodafone merger, and is headquartered in Reykjavik;  Syn also operates 4 sports channels under Stod 2;  N4 is the only television station headquartered outside of Reykjavik, in Akureyri, with local programming for the north, south, and east of Iceland;  Hringbraut is the newest station and is headquartered in Reykjavik;  all of these television stations have nationwide penetration as 100% of households have multi-channel services though digital and/or fiber-optic connections RUV operates 3 radio stations (RAS 1, RAS2, and Rondo) as well as 4 regional stations (but they mostly act as range extenders for RUV radio broadcasts nationwide);  there is 1 privately owned radio conglomerate, Syn (4 stations), that broadcasts nationwide, and 3 other radio stations that broadcast to the most densely populated regions of the country.  In addition there are upwards of 20 radio stations that operate regionally (2019)


country code


  • 340,117
  • 99.01
    % of population
  • 163
    global rank


electricity access



air transport

    national system

  • 5
    registered air carriers
  • 3,413,950
    annual passenger traffic


  • 96
  • 7


12,898 km
total length



expenditures here