Iceland, officially known as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic island nation, situated between the Greenland sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with its boundaries falling on both the Eurasian and North American plates. It is a constitutional republic, and as of January 2018, it had an estimated population of 336,506. Reykjavik, the largest city, is the capital, as well as the main center of its tourist attractions. The official language is Icelandic, but English, Nordic languages and German are also common. Iceland became an independent republic in 1944, after being ruled by Germany for more than 600 years. The Althing, which is the world’s oldest continuing parliament, was founded in 930 A.D.
The early history of Iceland is recorded in literary sources written in circa 1130. According to them, Irish monks came to be the island’s first inhabitants. However, the permanent settlers later happened to be Norsemen from Scandinavia and Celts from the British Isles, during the Viking Age of exploration.
With an area of 39,769 square miles, Iceland is home to a large number of mountains, glaciers, geysers, hot springs, volcanoes and waterfalls. Hekla is one of the country’s most famous and active volcanoes, and the Hekla Center is really popular among tourists. The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa filled with seawater, is believed to have natural healing powers. Built in 1923, Seljavallalaug is one of the oldest outdoor swimming pools in the country. Built at the roots of a lonely mountain, channeling the hot spring water coming down from Eyjafjallajokull, one of the smaller ice caps in Iceland, Seljavallalaug is an architectural marvel and one of the country’s best-kept secrets.
In northeast Iceland, the horseshoe-shaped canyon, Asbyrgi, provides travelers a spiritually fulfilling experience through its natural splendor. Thingvellir, a national park and historical site in southwest Iceland, is part of the Golden Circle. Full of cultural, historical and geological significance, it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, as it is both the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and home to Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland, and the Silfra diving spot, located exactly on top of the cleft that separates America and Europe.
The Northern Lights are one of the most spectacular shows on earth, and tourists form all the over the world flock to Iceland from September to March to experience this amazing sight.
The culture of Iceland is rich and diverse, and its heritage dates back to the 12th century. Icelandic traditional arts include woodcarving, weaving and silversmithing. Reykjavík has several professional theatres, a symphony orchestra, an opera, in addition to a large number of art galleries, bookstores, cinemas, and museums. There are also four active folk dance ensembles in Iceland.
Several festivals, events, parties and celebration take place across the country all throughout the year. They range from small country fairs to large-scale music festivals with international headliners. This includes the Reykjavík Fashion Festival, Iceland Improv Festival, Tango on Ice Festival, Reykjavík Fringe Festival, Reykjavík’s Art Festival and Culture Night.