Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althingi, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Denmark granted limited home rule in 1874 and complete independence in 1944. The second half of the 20th century saw substantial economic growth driven primarily by the fishing industry. The economy diversified greatly after the country joined the European Economic Area in 1994, but Iceland was especially hard hit by the global financial crisis in the years following 2008. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first rate by world standards.



Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the United Kingdom

Geographic coordinates

65 00 N, 18 00 W

Map references

Arctic Region


total: 103,000 sq km
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania; about the same size as Kentucky

Land boundaries

0 km


4,970 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin


temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers


mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords


mean elevation: 557 m
elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull Glacier)

Natural resources

fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite

Land use

agricultural land: 18.7%
arable land 1.2%; permanent crops 0%; permanent pasture 17.5%
forest: 0.3%
other: 81% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land


Natural hazards

earthquakes and volcanic activity
volcanism: Iceland, situated on top of a hotspot, experiences severe volcanic activity; Eyjafjallajokull (elev. 1,666 m) erupted in 2010, sending ash high into the atmosphere and seriously disrupting European air traffic; scientists continue to monitor nearby Katla (elev. 1,512 m), which has a high probability of eruption in the very near future, potentially disrupting air traffic; Grimsvoetn and Hekla are Iceland's most active volcanoes; other historically active volcanoes include Askja, Bardarbunga, Brennisteinsfjoll, Esjufjoll, Hengill, Krafla, Krisuvik, Kverkfjoll, Oraefajokull, Reykjanes, Torfajokull, and Vestmannaeyjar

Environment - current issues

water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note

strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

People and Society


335,878 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic

Ethnic groups

homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%


Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken


Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland (official) 73.8%, Roman Catholic 3.6%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.9%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 2%, The Independent Congregation 1%, other religions 3.9% (includes Pentecostal and Asatru Association), none 5.6%, other or unspecified 7.2% (2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 20.4% (male 35,009/female 33,495)
15-24 years: 13.77% (male 23,452/female 22,789)
25-54 years: 39.99% (male 67,878/female 66,428)
55-64 years: 11.75% (male 19,848/female 19,622)
65 years and over: 14.1% (male 22,130/female 25,227) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 51.6%
youth dependency ratio: 30.8%
elderly dependency ratio: 20.8%
potential support ratio: 4.8% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 36.3 years
male: 35.7 years
female: 36.9 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

1.17% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

13.8 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

6.3 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

4.2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Population distribution

Iceland is almost entirely urban with half of the population located in and around the capital of Reykjavik; smaller agglomerations are primarily found along the coast in the north and west


urban population: 94.1% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 1.25% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

REYKJAVIK (capital) 184,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.88 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

3 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 2.1 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 2.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 1.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 83 years
male: 80.9 years
female: 85.3 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.01 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Health expenditures

8.9% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density

3.48 physicians/1,000 population (2012)

Hospital bed density

3.2 beds/1,000 population (2012)

Drinking water source

urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 98.7% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 98.8% of population
urban: 1.3% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 1.2% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate


HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS


HIV/AIDS - deaths


Obesity - adult prevalence rate

23.9% (2014)

Education expenditures

7.8% of GDP (2013)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 19 years
male: 18 years
female: 20 years (2012)

Mother's mean age at first birth

27 (2011 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 9.8%
male: 12.9%
female: 6.6% (2014 est.)


Government type

parliamentary republic

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local long form: Lydveldid Island
local short form: Island
etymology: Floki VILGERDARSON, an early explorer of the island (9th century), applied the name "land of ice" after spotting a fjord full of drift ice to the north and spending a bitter winter on the island; he eventually settled on the island, however, after he saw how it greened up in the summer and that it was in fact habitable


name: Reykjavik
geographic coordinates: 64 09 N, 21 57 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

8 regions; Austurland, Hofudhborgarsvaedhi, Nordhurland Eystra, Nordhurland Vestra, Sudhurland, Sudhurnes, Vestfirdhir, Vesturland


1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark; birthday of Jon SIGURDSSON leader of Iceland's 19th Century independence movement)

National holiday

Independence Day, 17 June (1944)


history: several previous; latest ratified 16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944 (at independence)
amendments: proposed by the Althingi; passage requires approval by the Althingi and by the next elected Althingi, and confirmation by the president of the republic; proposed amendments to Article 62 of the constitution – that the Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the state church of Iceland – also require passage by referendum; amended many times, last in 2013 (2016)

Legal system

civil law system influenced by the Danish model

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Iceland
dual citizenship recognized: yes
residency requirement for naturalization: 3 to 7 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Gudni Thorlacius JOHANNESSON (since 1 August 2016)
head of government: Prime Minister Sigurdur Ingi JOHANNSSON (since 7 April 2016)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 4-year term (no term limits); election last held on 25 June 2016 (next to be held in June 2020); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition becomes prime minister
election results: Gudni Thorlacius JOHANNESSON elected president; percent of vote - Gudni Thorlacius JOHANNESSON (IP) 39.1%, Halla TOMASDOTTIR (independent) 27.9%, Andri Snaer MAGNASON (independent) 14.3%, Davio ODDSSON (IP) 13.7%, Sturla JONSSON (Sturla JONSSON Party) 3.5%, invalid 1.5%

Political parties and leaders

Bright Future (Bjort framtid) or BF [Ottarr PROPPE]
Independence Party (Sjalfstaedisflokkurinn) or IP [Bjarni BENEDIKTSSON]
Left-Green Movement (Vinstrihreyfingin-graent frambod) or LGM [Katrin JAKOBSDOTTIR]
Pirate Party (Piratar) or PIP [Birgitta JONSDOTTIR]
Progressive Party (Framsoknarflokkurinn) or PP [Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON]
Social Democratic Alliance (Samfylkingin) or SDA [Arni Pall ARNASON]

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Althingi or Parliament (63 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 4-year terms)
elections: last held on 29 October 2016 (next to be held in 2020)
election results: percent of vote by party - IP 29%, LGM 15.9%, Pirate Party 14.5%, PP 11.5%, Vioreisn 10.5%, BF 7.2%, SDA 5.7%, other 2.3%; seats by party - IP 21, LGM 10, Pirate Party 10, PP 8, Vioreisn 7, BF 4, SDA 3

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Supreme Court or Haestirettur (consists of 9 judges)
judge selection and term of office: judges proposed by Ministry of Interior selection committee and appointed by the president; judges appointed for an indefinite period
subordinate courts: 8 district courts; Labor Court

International organization participation

Arctic Council, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CD, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, FAO, FATF, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Geir Hilmar HAARDE (since 23 February 2015)
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
consulate(s) general: New York
chancery: House of Sweden, 2900 K Street NW

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Robert C. BARBER (since 23 January 2015)
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Department of State, 5640 Reykjavik Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-5640
telephone: [354] 595-22-00
FAX: [354] 562-9118

Flag description

blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the colors represent three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the island's volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and ice fields of the island, and blue is for the surrounding ocean

National symbol(s)

gyrfalcon; national colors: blue, white, red

National anthem

name: "Lofsongur" (Song of Praise)
lyrics/music: Matthias JOCHUMSSON/Sveinbjorn SVEINBJORNSSON
note: adopted 1944; also known as "O, Gud vors lands" (O, God of Our Land), the anthem was originally written and performed in 1874


Economy - overview

Iceland's Scandinavian-type social-market economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system. Except for a brief period during the 2008 crisis, Iceland has achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a rema

Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, particularly within the fields of tourism, software production, and biotechnology. In fall 2013, the Icelandic Government approved a joint application by

Following the privatization of the banking sector in the early 2000s, domestic banks expanded aggressively in foreign markets, and consumers and businesses borrowed heavily in foreign currencies. Worsening global financial conditions throughout 2008 resul

Since the collapse of Iceland's financial sector, government economic priorities have included stabilizing the krona, implementing capital controls, reducing Iceland's high budget deficit, containing inflation, addressing high household debt, restructurin

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$16.15 billion (2016 est.)
$15.38 billion (2015 est.)
$14.8 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$19.44 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

4.9% (2016 est.)
4% (2015 est.)
2% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$48,100 (2016 est.)
$46,200 (2015 est.)
$45,000 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

23.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
23.5% of GDP (2015 est.)
21% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 49.3%
government consumption: 22.5%
investment in fixed capital: 19.8%
investment in inventories: -0.1%
exports of goods and services: 52.4%
imports of goods and services: -43.9% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 5.9%
industry: 20.4%
services: 73.7% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

potatoes, carrots, green vegetables; mutton, chicken, pork, beef, dairy products; fish


tourism, fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, hydropower, tourism

Industrial production growth rate

1.4% (2016 est.)

Labor force

195,000 (2016 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 4.8%
industry: 22.2%
services: 73% (2008)

Unemployment rate

2.7% (2016 est.)
4% (2015 est.)

Population below poverty line

note: 332,100 families (2011 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%

Distribution of family income - Gini index

28 (2006)
25 (2005)


revenues: $10.35 billion
expenditures: $7.911 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

53.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

12.5% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

56.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
67.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year

calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.9% (2016 est.)
1.6% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

5.4% (31 January 2012)
5.75% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

7.6% (31 December 2016 est.)
7.61% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$3.327 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$3.314 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$8.368 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$8.12 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$18.93 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$18.25 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$2.825 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
$2.021 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$1.996 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance

$567 million (2016 est.)
$710 million (2015 est.)


$4.6 billion (2016 est.)
$4.653 billion (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

fish and fish products 40%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite (2010 est.)

Exports - partners

Netherlands 26.1%, UK 11.6%, Spain 11.5%, Germany 7.4%, France 5.7%, US 5.7%, Norway 4.7% (2015)


$5.024 billion (2016 est.)
$4.924 billion (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles

Imports - partners

Norway 10.1%, Germany 8.6%, US 7.9%, China 7.9%, Denmark 7.1%, Netherlands 5.9%, Brazil 5.8%, UK 5% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$4.412 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$5.041 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$27.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$31.04 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

$17.19 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$16.72 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad

$15.44 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$15.59 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

Icelandic kronur (ISK) per US dollar -
129.3 (2016 est.)
131.92 (2015 est.)
131.92 (2014 est.)
116.77 (2013 est.)
125.08 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

electrification - total population: 100% (2016)

Electricity - production

18 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

17 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

2.8 million kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

4.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

70.6% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

25.1% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

16,250 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

2,866 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

17,550 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2014 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

3.3 million Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 168,149
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 51 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 384,000
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 116 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: telecommunications infrastructure is modern and fully digitized, with satellite-earth stations, fiber-optic cables, and an extensive broadband network
domestic: liberalization of the telecommunications sector beginning in the late 1990s has led to increased competition especially in the mobile services segment of the market
international: country code - 354; the CANTAT-3 and FARICE-1 submarine cable systems provide connectivity to Canada, the Faroe Islands, UK, Denmark, and Germany; a planned new section of the Hibernia-Atlantic submarine cable will provide additional connectivity to Canad (2015)

Broadcast media

state-owned public TV broadcaster operates 1 TV channel nationally; several privately owned TV stations broadcast nationally and roughly another half-dozen operate locally; about one-half the households utilize multi-channel cable or satellite TV services (2007)

Internet country code


Internet users

total: 326,000
percent of population: 98.2% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 5
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 43
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 3,413,950
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 102,356,809 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

TF (2016)


96 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 7
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 89
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 26
under 914 m: 60 (2013)


total: 12,890 km
paved/oiled gravel: 4,782 km (excludes urban roads)
unpaved: 8,108 km (2012)

Merchant marine

total: 2
by type: passenger/cargo 2
registered in other countries: 19 (Antigua and Barbuda 10, Belize 1, Faroe Islands 4, Finland 1, Gibraltar 1, Norway 2) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik


Military branches

no regular military forces; Icelandic National Police; Icelandic Coast Guard (2013)

Military expenditures

0.13% of GDP (2012)
0.14% of GDP (2011)
0.13% of GDP (2010)

Military - note

Iceland is the only NATO member that has no standing military force; all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; defense of Iceland remains a NATO commitment and NATO maintains an air policing presence in Icelandic airspace; Iceland participates in international peacekeeping missions with the civilian-manned Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm; the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority filed a suit against Iceland, claiming the country violated the Agreement on the European Economic Area in failing to pay minimum compensation to Icesave depositors

Refugees and internally displaced persons

stateless persons: 131 (2015)