10 Interesting Facts About Iceland

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8. Viking Heritage

Iceland was settled by Norse explorers traveling west from Norway and Denmark. While the climate wasn’t exactly forgiving, what with the volcanoes and whatnot, the vikings settled permanently. For a long time, Iceland wasn’t a very attractive prospect for people looking to emigrate from Europe, with the result that today, the Icelandic population is still very homogenous—and almost everyone on the island can trace their family history back to one of the original viking settlers. Since the population is also relatively small—just over 300,000 people—many Icelanders have personal ties that have been maintained over generations. You can even look up the phone numbers for the prime minister and the president in the phone book. Iceland’s viking heritage is evident in other ways too: many historic sites show evidence of Norse cultural practices and modern Icelandic is very closely related to Old Norse.

Iceland monument

7. Keep Warm with Icelandic Wool

One thing Iceland is known for is its wool industry. While cultivating crops on the island is difficult thanks to the harsh climate, there is plenty of grazing land for herbivores like the Icelandic sheep. Sheep were brought with the first settlers and have been bred for over a millennia now. The sheep has a dual coat: a long outer coat and a fine inner coat. When processed together, the 2 coats make lopi, a type of wool only produced from Icelandic sheep. Lopi is used to make lopapeysa, traditional Icelandic sweaters, which are renowned for being light and warm—even when wet. Lopapeysa are popular souvenirs for visitors—and they can be a great investment at the start of your trip if you plan to backpack around the country. Other products, such as mittens, hats, scarves, socks and even blankets can be made of lopi.

iclandic sheep

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