Iceland (Icelandic: "Ísland") is a country in Europe. It is in the north of the Atlantic Ocean. Iceland is 300 kilometers east of Greenland and 1000 kilometers west of Norway. Iceland has an area of 39,769 square miles.
The first people who lived on Iceland were Irish monks. They came to Iceland around the year 800.
In the 9th century, the Vikings went to live on Iceland. The first Viking who lived on Iceland was Flóki Vilgerðarson. He was also the one who gave Iceland its name. Ingólfur Arnarson, a chieftain from Norway went to live in South West Iceland. He founded the city of Reykjavík.
In 930, the Icelandic rulers wrote a constitution. They created the Althing, a kind of parliament in the town Þingvellir. Therefore Iceland is the oldest existing democracy.
In 985, Erik the Red was sent away from the island because he had killed someone. He sailed to the west and discovered Greenland. Eric's son Leif Ericson discovered America in the year 1000. He called it Vinland. The voyages of Eric, Leif and others were written down in the sagas (long stories).
In 1262, Iceland became part of Norway. In 1662 it became part of Denmark. In the 19th century, many Icelanders wanted to be independent from Denmark. In 1918, Iceland got many powers of its own, but the king of Denmark was still king of Iceland.
When Germany took over Denmark on April 9 1940, the Althing decided that Icelanders should rule the country themselves, but they didn't declare independence yet. British and later American soldiers occupied Iceland to prevent it from being attacked by the Germans. In 1944 Iceland finally became fully independent.
After World War II, Iceland became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), but not of the European Union. Between 1958 and 1976 there were three debates between Iceland and the United Kingdom about the rights to catch codfish. They were called the Cod Wars.
In 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected president of Iceland. She was the first woman ever to be elected president of a country.
The people in Iceland are mostly of Scandinavian origin. The language they speak is Icelandic. The language has not changed much in 1,000 years, so Icelanders are still able to read the sagas about the Vikings without many problems.
Most people in Iceland are Christian. Most of them are Lutheran.
There are no real surnames on Iceland. Children get the first name of their father (sometimes mother) with -son if it's a boy, and -dóttir if it's a daughter.
For example, a man named Jón Stefánsson has a son named Fjalar. Fjalar's last name will not be Stefánsson like his father's, it will become Fjalar Jónsson.
The same goes for women. Jón Stefánsson's daughter Kata would not have the last name Stefánsson, she would have the name Jónsdóttir.
In most countries people use to call other people by their surname, but in Iceland people call other people by their first name. So when people talk about Halldór Ásgrímsson they do not call him Ásgrímsson, but Halldór.
Towns and cities.
Reykjavík is the capital city of Iceland. Reykjavík is also the most important port in Iceland. Other important towns in Iceland are Akureyri, Kópavogur, Hafnarfjördhur, Keflavík, and Vestmannaeyjar.
Iceland is very geologically active and combined with large amounts of rain and snow caused by the warm waters of the gulf stream current which flow toward it, many interesting and unusual geographic features have developed which make it different from any other island so close to the Arctic Circle.
Some of these features are Iceland's numerous mountains, volcanoes, hot springs, rivers, small lakes, waterfalls, glaciers, and geysers. The word geyser is, in fact, derived from Geysir, the name of a particularly famous geyser on the southern side of the island. Glaciers cover approximately 11% of the island and the largest, Vatnajökull, is up to 1 km thick and, by far, the largest glacier in Europe.
Iceland, though considered to be a European country, sits partly in North America since it straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. The ridge runs directly through the populated Reykjavik and Thingvellir historic areas, and the tectonic activity of these plates separating is the source of the abundant geothermal energy in the region.

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