Top 11 Reasons Why Iceland Is the Safest Country in the World

A woman with a beanie standing in front of a waterfall in Iceland

Our Land of Fire and Ice, better known as Iceland, has been voted the safest country in the world 12 years in a row. The Global Peace Safety index looks at crime rates, the political landscape, natural disasters, and health risks.

The official categories are social safety and security, ongoing domestic and international conflicts, and the level of militarization.

Despite all its volcanoes and glaciers, Iceland is consistently at the top of the list, maintaining its place for years on end. There are many reasons why Iceland makes the cut and without getting into the nitty-gritty, we will cover a few in this blog!

Girl picking tomatoes

Iceland is a unique place with a strong yet sensible character. Its people are somewhat similar, a bit rugged yet very friendly. When you arrive in Iceland and drive along the Reykjanes peninsula, you will see this ruggedness and softness quite clearly. The tough, craggy lava fields are covered in a soft moss coat.

The perfect analogy for the Icelandic nation. One big family, tough and ready for the elements but friendly and peaceful.

Sunset over Reykjanes Peninsula

But, let’s stop here before I get too corny. Here is the list you came to see. The list that matters: the top 11 reasons why Iceland is the safest country in the world!

1. No harmful animals

Luckily, Iceland is not inhabited by mosquitoes, ticks, bears, snakes, poisonous spiders, or any kind of other hazardous animals. You can roam around the highlands in berry season. Picking up mouthfuls upon mouthfuls of delicious blueberries and crowberries without having to worry about bears.

You can camp in a forest (if you find one) or take a nap in a meadow with no risk of getting bitten by pests. The only possibly ‘harmful’ animal would be the Arctic fox. But the ones that don’t know humans stay away and those who do and might approach are more often just looking for food.

Arctic fox sitting on the snow

2. Low crime rate

The crime rate in Iceland is very low. Given the size of the population, odds are that if you steal a car you will be related to the person you just stole from, or maybe your mom went to school with his mom… you get what I mean. I have often wondered if this is the reason for the low crime rate. I can at least safely bet that the closeness is one of the factors. 

A happy family standing in front of the Geysir

In addition to a tight-knit family oriented community, the Icelandic educational system is outstanding. Even a college degree is less expensive than one month’s rent. Thus, the correlation between high education levels, high employment rates, and a robust social safety net means there are fewer reasons to commit crimes such as theft.

The murder rate in Iceland is 0 to 1.5 a year. With so few violent crimes, each incident deeply covered by the news and talked about for ages. Every life is equally important, which contributes to our class-free social structure. More on that in the next one.

3. Equality for everyone

The human race has always found a way to classify each other and Iceland is no exception. The difference, however, is that there are certain protections in Iceland in place to reduce inequalities.

It is now law that women can’t be paid less than men for the same work. Same-sex marriage is legal and so is same-sex adoption. Trans Iceland is a very active organization and has the backing of the locals.

Everyone is allowed to practice their religion and just recently Reykjavík provided plots to build a mosque and a pagan religious center. 

People walking toward Hallgrimskirkja church

Icelandic law clearly states that it is illegal to discriminate someone based on gender, ethnicity, age, religion, creed, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender characteristics, or gender expression. It’s all common sense, really! 

4. Everyone speaks English

Now this is the first thing to solely help those traveling to Iceland. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need help, the local English fluency will come in handy.

Icelandic children start learning English in school around the age of 12, but most are close to fluent by then. This is due to TV and/or YouTube and video games. The market in Iceland is obviously quite small so companies don’t see any gain in having their material translated to Icelandic, resulting in Icelanders having excellent English language skills.

There really are pros to being so small. It’s no wonder solo travelers keep choosing Iceland as their start-off location!

5. Exquisite air quality

Everyone who comes to Iceland will talk about the incredibly fresh air. Especially those who are visiting from big cities. It is almost like you can taste it.

Being an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, there are no pollution sources but our own. Together with almost solely green energy our air is just perfect. Enjoy every breath, take in the clean air, and rejuvenate with an oxygen bomb! 

Pollution and the health risks associated with it are nothing to worry about in Iceland.

Houses at Þingvellir National Park on a cloudy day

6. No one has a bodyguard, not even the president

This statement stresses how safe the country is: simply put, there is no reason for anyone to have a bodyguard or an entourage for safekeeping. Icelanders feel safe in their country, even if they are in a position of power. History has proven that they don’t need to be.

People sitting in the park and enjoying the sunshine in Reykjavik

The president himself rejected a modification of his vehicle to be bullet-proof, there was simply no risk to his personal safety and it comes at a huge cost!

7. Reykjavík Pride has never been protested

Icelanders are very proud of the fact that their Reykjavík Pride is the only one in the world where no one has ever protested. 

This might have to do with the size of the population. Again, everyone somehow links to everyone, closely even and prejudice usually comes from ignorance. So, if all of us know someone who is queer it makes it pretty hard not to be understanding. 

Take me for example, my aunt has been out and proud for several decades without reprisal. My best friend’s father came out as gay and two of my closest friends are gay. So like many Icelanders, that means that I’ve grown up knowing out, gay people from a very young age. Love is love!

8. Infants and toddlers take naps outside in their strollers

Having babies sleep in their strollers outside is quite an old tradition and Icelanders swear by it. We will always point out our strong immune systems and resilience in even the toughest of conditions.

But babies aren’t placed outside wearing just anything, they are decked out in woolen, insulated layers and then placed in a warm blanket or a sleeping bag, depending on the season, and into their baby carriage.

As modern parenting requires, a baby monitor is then placed in the carriage and this child usually is fast asleep within a minute. This is their lunchtime nap, which sometimes lasts up to 3 hours, which Icelanders say is due to the cool, fresh air.

Close up shot of baby feet

No one would ever worry about their baby carriage being snatched or their baby being taken simply because it has never happened. Yet another advantage to living on a remote island. Where would you take a stolen baby? You wouldn’t get very far!

9. That small-town feeling

To most, Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital, doesn’t really count as a city. It’s more of a town as its total population is only about 220,000 people. Still, this makes up two-thirds of the island’s population and therefore to us, it is most definitely a city. 

Aerial view over the city centre of Reykjavik

Each neighborhood within Reykjavík has its own sport’s team, school, swimming pool, and playground. Due to this, each suburb feels like an independent village. Icelanders take the responsibility of looking out for each other very seriously, especially within these neighborhoods, which lends itself to the feeling of safety.

The Search and Rescue team in Iceland is for example made up by Icelanders from all over the country. Each region with its own team looking out for their own. However, if someone goes missing or an accident occurs, the nearby teams will show up in a heartbeat to help. Cue ‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge.

10. The fastest you are ever allowed to drive is 90 km/h (56 mph)

The strict driving regulations in Iceland are yet another overlooked aspect contributing to the overall safety of its citizens and visitors alike. There are no highways in Iceland – the fastest you can possibly drive is 90 km/h (56 mph) and if you can travel at that speed, it means you are outside of town. Breaking Iceland’s strict speeding laws will result in shockingly high fines – so keep an eye on your speedometer!

The only thing you need to worry about when driving in Iceland is the changing weather. Make sure to check the weather forecast and before driving. This way you’ll know if conditions have resulted in a road closure or detour.

11. Icelanders don’t have an army and the police don’t carry guns

One way Icelanders keep the peace is by being peaceful to others. That being said Iceland has participated in a war, the Cod Wars, and we actually won! To give a little background, the UK was attempting to fish in our waters and Icelanders made underwater scissors and cut their nets resulting in them losing their catch. Sneaky!

Another contributing factor to peace in Iceland is its police do not carry guns, simply because there is no need. That being said, the Icelandic SWAT team possesses firearms and are called in, as needed. Though our regular police can handle most things through deescalation techniques. Therefore, most people in Iceland do not see the police as a threat, just approachable and there to help. The official police’s Instagram account might be helping that effort!


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About the author

Ragnheiður is a nature lover first and foremost, having studied anthropology and media at university. She also loves sharing her passion about her home country, Iceland, with everyone she meets. You’ll often find her traveling the Icelandic countryside, especially the Westfjords and south coast, although her hometown is Reykjavík. Her interests include Icelandic food and drink, plants and wildlife, and cultural traditions.

View more posts by Ragnheiður Harpa

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