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Iceland

The landscape is wild, rugged and colourful, with black lava, red sulphur, hot blue geysers, rivers, waterfalls and green valleys. Its coastline is richly indented with bays and fjords. Iceland is one of the most volcanically active countries in the world. Hekla, in the south of Iceland, has erupted no fewer than 16 times, and was once described by clergymen as the gateway to Hell. Certainly, Iceland’s seething mountains contribute towards this sense of otherworldliness. Yet around the coastal regions, Iceland is a bustle of activity, particularly in the capital city, Reykjavík, where more than half of Iceland’s population lives.

Practical Information

Area: 103 000 km² (39 769 miles²)

Capital: Reykjavík. Population: 184 000

Population: 300,000

Currency: Icelandic krona (ISK symbol kr) = 100 aurar

Government: Republic. Gained full independence from Denmark in 1944.

Tipping: Service charges are included in most bills and extra tips are not expected.

Legal drinking age: 20

Time zone: GMT

Languages: Icelandic

Additional descriptions

Iceland: Social customs

Visitors will find Iceland is a classless society with a strong literary tradition. Handshaking is the normal form of greeting. An Icelander is called by his first name because his surname is made up ofRead more his father’s Christian name plus ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ (eg John, the son of Magnus, would be called John Magnusson, while John’s sister, Mary, would be known as Mary Magnusdóttir). People are addressed as Fru (Mrs) and Herra (Mr). Visitors will often be invited to homes, especially if on business, and normal courtesies should be observed. Icelanders pay careful attention to their appearance and, as for most Western countries, casual wear is widely acceptable although unsuitable for smart and social functions.

Iceland: Food and local specialties

Icelandic food in general is based on fish and lamb, as well as owing much to Scandinavian and European influences. Fishing is Iceland’s most important export, accounting for some 70% of the country’s export earnings. There is also a heavy emphasis on vegetables grown in greenhouses heated by the natural steam from geysers. Bars have table and/or counter service, and will serve coffee as well as alcohol. Alcohol is generally expensive. In coffee shops, pay for the first cup then subsequent cups are free. There is a wide selection of European spirits and wines. The salmon of Iceland is a great delicacy, served in many forms, one of the most popular being gravlax, a form of marinating. Hangikjot (smoked lamb). Harðfiskur (dried fish). Icelandic sild (herring marinated in various flavours). A delicacy not for the squeamish is rotten shark, cured by burying and washed down with a shot of Black Death Schnapps. Brennivin (a potent variation of aquavit made from potatoes). Read more export earnings. There is also a heavy emphasis on vegetables grown in greenhouses heated by the natural steam from geysers. Bars have table and/or counter service, and will serve coffee as well as alcohol. Alcohol is generally expensive. In coffee shops, pay for the first cup then subsequent cups are free. There is a wide selection of European spirits and wines. The salmon of Iceland is a great delicacy, served in many forms, one of the most popular being gravlax, a form of marinating. Hangikjot (smoked lamb). Harðfiskur (dried fish). Icelandic sild (herring marinated in various flavours). A delicacy not for the squeamish is rotten shark, cured by burying and washed down with a shot of Black Death Schnapps. Brennivin (a potent variation of aquavit made from potatoes).

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