Capital Reykjavik; 123,000 + 93,000 in nearby towns = 216,000
Area 103,000 square kilometers - (39,769 square miles)
Language Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German
Religion Evangelical Lutheran
Currency Icelandic krona (ISK)
Life Expectancy 81,52 years
GDP per Capita U.S. $42,704
Literacy Percent 100%
Iceland is unique in many ways and different from most other countries. It is mountainous and situated between Greenland and Norway. Covering 102.000 square kilometers it is the second largest island of Europe. About 20% of its area is populated. The central highlands and parts of the northwest are uninhabited. People have to be prepared for the rapid weather changes and bring clothes accordingly.
It is a good idea to be familiar with the Icelandic road system, both in the inhabited areas and the tracks in the central highlands, if you are planning a trip to the interior of the island. Rules and regulations concerning off road driving, the sensitive vegetation in this latitude and lava formations have to be taken into account as well. Nature in this country is raw, and there are more dangers to be taken into account than the weather, such as unbridged rivers, crevassed glaciers and merciless seas. Please view the following link for information on road conditions: www.road.is
Climate - Temperature
Without the Gulf Stream, the whole country would be covered with a shield of ice. July is the warmest month of the year with an average temperature of about 12°C (54°F) and of the coldest month is January with a mean temperature of 0°C (32°F). Usually it is considerably colder in the mountains. Warm, wind and waterproof clothes are highly recommended and lighter clothes for nice weather as well. The country is situated just south of the Arctic circle between Greenland and Norway, in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean. The international airport in Keflavik is situated in the south-western part of the country, only a 45 minutes drive from the capital Reykjavik.
Office hours are generally 09:00–17:00. Shopping hours are Mon–Fri 09:00–18:00, Sat from 10:00 to 13:00/14:00/15:00 or 16:00. Some supermarkets are open to 23:00 seven days a week or even 24 hours in the largest towns. Banking hours are Mon–Fri 09:15–16:00.
The Icelandic monetary unit is the króna. Coins are in denominations of 100 kr., 50 kr., 10 kr., 5 kr. and 1 kr. Banknotes are in denominations of 10000 kr., 5000 kr., 2000 kr., 1000 kr., and 500 kr. All Icelandic banks provide foreign exchange and are generally open on weekdays from 09:15 to 16:00. TRAVELLERS’ CHEQUES, DEBIT and CREDIT CARDS: Are widely accepted in Iceland. The major cards in Iceland are VISA and MASTERCARD. The shops in Iceland are of international standard and carry a wide variety of merchandise. Local specialties are woolen knitwear (for example sweaters, cardigans, hats and mittens), high tech quality outdoor wear, handmade ceramics, glassware and silver jewelry. Also available is a great variety of high quality seafood.
The possibility of Value-Added Tax (VAT) refund is available to all visitors in Iceland. Up to 15% of the retail price can be refunded, provided departure from Iceland is within 3 months of the date of purchase. The purchase amount must be no less than ISK 4,000 (VAT included) per store. All goods (except woolens) need to be shown at customs before check-in. At Keflavík airport this applies only to tax-free forms whose refund value exceeds ISK 5,000. All other forms can be refunded directly in cash at Landsbanki in the departure hall.
There are post offices located in all major communities in Iceland. General opening hours are: Mon–Fri 09:00–16:30. Many post offices in Reykjavik are also open during the weekends. Information on locations and opening hours can be found on the following link: www.postur.is
Domestic - International Phonecalls
Direct calls can be made to all parts of Iceland. The 3 digit country calling code to Iceland is +354-(123-4567) followed by a 7 digit telephone number. Direct long-distance calls can be made to Europe and the United States of America by dialling zero zero, followed by a country code & telephone number. 00-(CountryCode)-(TelePhoneNumber).
Mobile Phones – GSM
There are four GSM service providers in Iceland: Siminn, Vodafone, TAL and Nova. Together they cover most of Iceland including all towns and villages with over 200 inhabitants. These telephone companies all sell pre-paid GSM phone cards and offer GSM/GPRS services. Pre-paid cards are available at petrol stations around the country.
Weather - Clothing
Due to the warming effect of the Gulf Stream, Iceland enjoys a cool temperate maritime climate: cool in summer and fairly mild in winter. However, the weather conditions change rapidly and can be more extreme than what tourist are used to. Tourists should always be prepared for the unexpected. For weather information in English, ph.: (+354) 902-0600, extension 1, E-mail: [email protected], or visit http://en.vedur.is/. When travelling in Iceland you should bring along lightweight woolens, a sweater or cardigan, a rainproof (weatherproof) coat and sturdy walking shoes. Travelers who are camping or heading into the interior will need warm underwear and socks, rubber boots and a warm sleeping bag.
During summer the nights are bright all over Iceland. In the month of June the sun never fully sets in the north. There are even special excursions to the island of Grímsey on the Arctic Circle where you can experience the midnight sun. Bear in mind, however, that the sun at midnight is not as warm as at midday, so bring along a sweater.
The electric current in Iceland is 220 volts, 50 Hz AC.
ACTIVITIES AND RECREATION
Some places in Iceland are a paradise for birdwatchers. Látrabjarg in the West Fjords is the largest bird cliff known in the world. A great variety of cliff-nesting species can be found there, including the largest razorbill colony in the world. The Westman Islands (Vestmannaeyjar) are known for many kinds of seabirds, and are home to Iceland’s largest puffin population. Lake Mývatn in the north has more species of breeding ducks than any other site in Europe. The great skua colony on the sands of south Iceland is the largest in the world. Seabirds such as puffins can be seen in many places, as well as eiders, Arctic terns, waders and passerine birds. Some tour operators organize tours for birdwatchers in early summer.
Iceland is the hiking enthusiast’s Mecca. A number of the most popular routes are easily accessible and hiking maps have been published for various regions within the country. Well marked hiking paths can be found in the national parks and protected areas, where as more adventurous routes in the island’s interior require experience and preparation. Always bring a compass and preferably a GPS and the weather can change into zero visibility in minutes.Monitor the weather and plan accordingly plus remember to cheack in with www.safetravel.is. Hiking is a favorite pastime for Icelanders and tourists alike, but travelers should take care not to disturb the extremely sensitive vegetation and natural environment that is characteristic of the island. Information on hiking trails can be obtained from tourist information centers, park authorities etc. Many travel agencies also organize hiking tours during both winter and summer. See www.glacierguides.is or www.extremeiceland.is for information. Icelands emergency contact number is 112.
Iceland is heavily populated with golf courses and all the major golf courses in Iceland are open to visitors. Green fees are moderate, but usually requires booking in advance. The Arctic Open- Midnight golf tournament at Akureyri Golf Club in the north can be played with the sun shining at midnight. At the end of June a 36-hole open international match is held. Tee-off is just before midnight and playing continues until the early hours of the morning.
Swimming - Spas
Swimming is a very popular activity all year round in Iceland. Most towns and villages have outdoor or indoor swimming pools filled with water from natural hot springs. The mean temperature of the water in the pools is approximately 29°C. Many pool areas additionally have saunas, steam baths, jacuzzis, solariums and hot pots with temperatures ranging from 36 to 44°C. If you plan on swimming you can have a look at those links for some information on pool locations: www.hotpoticeland.com & www.swimminginiceland.com
Fishing - Hunting
Iceland is famous for its salmon and trout fishing. The main season for salmon fishing is from around June 20 to mid-September. Trout fishing varies from one river/lake to the next, but the normal season is from April/May until late September/October. During winter, ice-fishing is quite popular. For salmon fishing, permits must be reserved well in advance, but trout-fishing permits can be obtained at short notice, often the same day.
Winter skiing is available in many parts of the country. Ski resorts with both cross-country and downhill skiing are found throughout Iceland. The main resorts would be Bláfjöll (Blue Mountains) in the Reykjavik area, visit: www.blafjoll.is and Hlíðarfjall (The Slopes Mountain) at Akureyri, Icelands second largest city , visit: http://www.hlidarfjall.is/en
It is possible to ski on some glaciers during the summer time, but be aware of glacier crevasses and always ask the locals before attempting such activity.
Bikes/bicycles can be rented in Reykjavík and in various places around Iceland. It is a good way to explore the capital and Reykjavik offers an extensive grid of paths.
Numerous farms and tour operators throughout Iceland offer horse-riding tours from 1 hour up to 10 days. Please note that all equestrian equipment must be disinfected before arrival.
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