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Location & Culture

Iceland is one of the Nordic Countries located in the North Atlantic Ocean on the south side of the Arctic Circle. Though the island of Iceland is nearer to North America than mainland Europe, it is generally included in Europe for cultural reasons. Geologically Iceland is part of both continental plates. The closest bodies of land are Greenland (287 kilometers / 178 miles) and the Faroe Islands of Denmark (420 kilometers / 261 miles). Norway is the closest land in continental Europe at a distance of 970 kilometers / 603 miles from Iceland. With land area of 103000 square kilometers / 39,769 square miles, Iceland is the world's eighteenth (18th) largest island, and Europe's second largest following the United Kingdom.

Iceland is geologically one of the most interesting islands in the world. It is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs through it. The oceanic crust spreads and forms new oceanic crust along it. In addition, this part of the ridge is located atop a mantle plume causing Iceland to be subaerial.

Iceland is volcanically active and therefore has the most varied and scenic landscape in the northern hemisphere with glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, fjords, rough-country, green rolling hills and mountains reaching up to 2,119 meters / 6,952 feet above sea level and lakes as deep as 248 meters / 813 feet.

Only 23% of Iceland’s land area is vegetated. The rough and remote terrain has 63% of tundra and 14% which is covered by glaciers and lakes. Many fjords punctuate its 4,970 kilometer long coastline. It is on the Fjords where most settlements are situated. The island's interior, the Highlands of Iceland, is a cold and uninhabitable combination of sand and mountains.

Iceland has widespread access to geothermal power giving most residents inexpensive hot water and home heat. Iceland has many geysers, including the famous Strokkur, which erupts every 5–10 minutes.

Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and therefore, despite its arctic location, enjoys a temperate climate. The temperature ranges usually from -5°C / 23°F in winter to 12°C / 54°F in summer time. Due to its close proximity to the North Pole, the amount of hours of daylight changes dramatically over the year. In winter there are very few hours of light whereas in midsummer the sun stays above the horizon for close to 24 hours.

The Northern Lights, also called as Aurora Borealis, are a natural display of lights in arctic regions. They can be seen from September through to April on clear nights.

The population of Iceland is about 320,000. Approximately 66% of it is concentrated in the capital city of Reykjavik and on the surrounding areas in the southwestern region.

Most Icelanders are descendants of Norse (primarily from Western Norway) and Gaelic settlers. Icelandic is the common language spoken which is a North Germanic language, closely related to Faroese (the language of the Faroe Islands). Some West Norwegian dialects are also spoken.

The country's cultural heritage has developed since the first settlement to the island began in AD 874. It includes poetry and the medieval Icelanders' sagas that are stories about history that were passed from father to son for generations, contemporary arts and vibrant Nordic music. Icelandic cuisine is based on lamb, dairy and fish that are all local produces and can nowadays be enjoyed in the local households as well as the best modern restaurants in Reykjavik.