ICELANDIC NATURE AND LANDSCAPE
Icelandic nature offers an incredible variety of different landscapes and natural phenomena in a relatively small country. Geologically, Iceland is very young and in a very real sense it can be said to be still in the making. Iceland is the world's 18th largest island, and Europe's second largest island following Great Britain. The island is 103,000 km² (39,768 square miles).
A geologically young land, Iceland is located on both the Iceland hotspot and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs right through it. This location means that the island is highly geologically active with many volcanoes.
Icelandic Volcanoes and Geothermal areas are an important feature of the Icelandic landscape. At least 30 Icelandic volcanoes are active and more than 160 eruptions have taken place since the first days of the settlement. In the last 10 years there have been eruptions under the Vatnajökull ice-cap and in the Icelandic volcano Hekla; Iceland´s most recent volcanic event was the famous eruption under the Eyjafjallajökull in March/April 2010, which caused major disruption of international flight traffic, but no casualties in Iceland.
Geothermal Activity can be found in nearly all parts of the Icelandic nature, in the form of mud pools, steam vents, sulphur pits and hot springs and the best known of all: Geysir. Geothermal energy is also used to generate power and many hot springs are tapped for domestic and industrial use.
Icelandic glaciers and Lakes cover 14.3% of the country; only 23% is vegetated. The uninhabited interior is a mountainous plateau with ice caps, bordered on the south by vast glacial outwash plains. In Iceland you can find the largest glaciers outside Greenland and Antarctica. The largest Icelandic glacier is Vatnajökull, which is 8,200 km² and up to 1,000 m thick in places.
Rivers, Fjords and Waterfalls bear witness to the landscape left by the last Ice Age. Powerful glacial torrents continue to shape the land, carving spectacular gorges into the lava landscape. Calmer freshwater rivers and lakes are plentiful with an abundance of salmon, trout and char, and the northern and eastern fjords are suited to deep-water fishing.
The main farming areas are around the coast, particularly in the south and west.
ICELANDIC NATURE AND NATIONAL PARKS:
All land mammals, except the Arctic fox, have been brought by men into the country since the settlement. These include (besides domestic animals) reindeer, mink, mice and rats.
70 species of bird nest regularly in Iceland, including some that do not breed elsewhere in Europe. Huge numbers of sea birds can be found in the bird cliffs along the coast, and waders and wildfowl attract bird watchers from all over the world.
There are no reptiles in Iceland, and biting insects are rare.
Rich coastal waters attract plentiful marine life such as whales, dolphins and seals.
Only 25% of Iceland is continuously covered with vegetation, and only 1% with woodland. Nevertheless, the landscape is never dull. Colourful arctic and alpine flora thrive even in the deserts of the interior highlands and at high altitude, including many types of moss and lichens.