13 amazing facts about Iceland

If we asked you to think of Iceland, what image springs to mind? Is it that of a gargantuan glacier falling away to turquoise waters? Is it a dark sky, studded with strikingly-beautiful strips of neon? Is it a vast expanse of endless, mountainous land, once ruled by Vikings?

Iceland is famed for its geological wonders, but there’s so much more to this fascinating island country than meets the eye. Here are 13 amazing facts we think will fire up your wanderlust and inspire you to book your next holiday here...

1. The water is so pure you can drink from the river

1. The water is so pure you can drink from the river

When in Iceland, you can forget spending money on bottled water. Some of the purest and most refreshing water comes straight from its streams, rivers and lakes. Dip your bottle in, take a sip or two, and feel well and truly refreshed and rejuvenated.

2. Iceland produces more writers than anywhere in the world (per capita)

2. Iceland produces more writers than anywhere in the world (per capita)

Iceland has a rich literary history, with the region famed for a style known as ‘Sagas of Icelanders’ – tales mainly based on historical events in the country during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. It is estimated that 99% of Icelanders are literate, and that one in ten will publish a book at some point during their lives.

3. 100% of electricity comes from renewable sources

3. 100% of electricity comes from renewable sources

Setting a great example for the rest of the world, Iceland is the only country which sources 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. Around 73% comes from hydropower, and the remaining from geothermal power.

4. It has the highest swimming pool-to-human ratio in the world

4. It has the highest swimming pool-to-human ratio in the world

In Iceland, you needn’t worry about being splashed by unruly swimmers. In fact, you’re more likely to find yourself taking a dip completely alone, because Iceland has the highest swimming pool-to-human ratio in the world.

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5. Iceland was governed by the first democratically-elected female president

Serving from 1980 to 1996, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the fourth president of Iceland and the world’s first democratically-elected female president. And here’s another accolade: with a presidency lasting 16 years, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir remains the world’s longest-serving elected female head of state.

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6. … as well as the first lesbian prime minister

From one female statesperson to another, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was Iceland’s first prime minister, elected in 2009, as well as the world’s first, openly lesbian head of government. Same-sex marriage was legalised during her term, which meant that she could marry her partner, author and playwright Jónína Leósdóttir.

7. Reykjavik was once dog-less

7. Reykjavik was once dog-less

In the capital city of Reykjavik, home to a handful of our hotels, dogs were banned from 1924 to 1984. It was thought the city was no place for a pooch and cats ruled the streets. They still do to this day, in fact, with figures predicting that there is one puss for every ten people.

8. Golfers play sports in the midnight sun

8. Golfers play sports in the midnight sun

Adding to Iceland’s magic is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the summer, known as the ‘midnight sun.’ For a few days, the sun can be seen all day long, and this invites many golfers to grab their clubs and make for the course. It’s not just Icelandic golfers, either; players from all over the world travel to the country for the experience.

9. You won’t find a McDonald’s in Iceland

9. You won’t find a McDonald’s in Iceland

In 2009, Iceland bid farewell to the Big Mac when fast food chain McDonald’s exited the country. To mark the event, the last-ever burger and chips ordered from the restaurant was put on display in a national museum, before moving to its new home in a Reykjavik hostel.

10. …and you won’t find mosquitoes there either

10. …and you won’t find mosquitoes there either

If you’re someone who’s always suffering insect bites whilst abroad, you’ll be pleased to hear that Iceland is mosquito-free. This is actually quite surprising, given the fact that it has a similar climate to Antarctica and Greenland, where you’ll find the beastly bug.

11. It’s illegal to own a pet snake, turtle or lizard

11. It’s illegal to own a pet snake, turtle or lizard

Icelanders can own a cat or dog, but reptiles including snakes, turtles and lizards are a no-no.They were banned in the early nineties after a turtle was found to have infected its owner with a strain of salmonella.

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12. Iceland is the smallest nation to quality for the World Cup

Here’s a more recent fact you may already know: Iceland is the smallest nation ever to quality for the World Cup. Many of the team had regular day jobs, including a dentist and video-maker!

13. Iceland is the world’s third happiest country

13. Iceland is the world’s third happiest country

A final fact to put a smile on your face… Iceland was this year voted the third happiest country in the world, with Norway second and Finland top. It’s true: we’re a proud and positive nation – but when you live in a country like Iceland, it’s impossible not to be!