Iceland has been called “the land of frost and fire”. Steaming hot springs and rugged lavafields indicate that it is an active volcanic country, which also is home to the most majestic glaciers in Europe. Lying in the path of the warm Gulf Stream, the country has generally cool summers with spells of fine pleasant weather and long, mild winters.
The natural beauty of the country lies in its spectacular contrasts: impressive river canyons, sandy wastelands, glaciers, rugged mountains and varied vegetation. The population of around 300.000 people mainly lives in the coastal areas with the largest concentration in and around the southwest. Icelandic culture and history is close at hand wherever you go, reaching centuries back in time to the first settlers which arrived some 1200 years ago.
The first settlers came to Iceland from Norway and Ireland in the 9th century. The Althingi, the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, was established in the year 930 AD.
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city. It is world's most northern national capital, located in southwestern Iceland. With a population of 120,000, it is the heart of Iceland's economic and governmental activity.
With widespread availability of geothermal power and because many rivers and waterfalls are harnessed for hydroelectricity, most Icelanders enjoy inexpensive hot water and home heat. The island itself is composed primarily of basalt, a low-silica lava associated with effusive volcanism like Hawaii.
There are numerous geysers in Iceland, including the renowned Geysir, from which the English word is derived. After a phase of inactivity, Geysir started erupting again after a series of earthquakes in the year 2000.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland. The steamy waters are part of a lava formation. The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulfur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis. The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 40 °C (104 °F).
What makes Iceland stand out as a venue is its unique natural beauty and absence of pollution. Dramatic volcano and glacier scenery-and conversely, action packed incentives are there waiting to be enjoyed by visitors. Iceland is only about a 3-hour flight from most European cities and 5 hours from the North American Eastern seaboard. From Reykjavík you can fly to many towns and tourist attractions around the country, such as Akureyri, the capital of the north, with its beautiful surrounding scenery, or the Westman Islands.