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Introduction to Iceland

Day trip to Snæfellsnes peninsula in natural, historical and spiritual perspective

The peninsula of Snæfellsnes is characterised by rugged mountains rising between a wide coastal plain on the southern side and narrow coast northen side. It is about 100 km long, covers an area of about 680 square kilometers and is sometimes referred to as "Iceland in a nutshell". The 1446 m high dormant volcano Snæfellsjökull glacier lies majesticially at the end of the penisula. Snæfellsnes is mainly inhabited on the sheltered north coast, in the towns of Hellissandur-Rif, Ólafsvík, Grundarfjörður and Stykkishólmur.

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About Iceland

Iceland is an island with an area of 103,000 km2 (39,756 sq. miles) in North Europe, the second largest island in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its highest peak, Hvannadalshnjúkur, rises to 2,109 m above sea level, and over 11 percent of the country is covered by glaciers, including Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.

Situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is a hot spot of volcanic and geothermal activity; 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries. Natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating, and rivers are harnessed to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power.

Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe, with an average of about three inhabitants per square kilometre. Almost four-fifths of the country is uninhabited, the population being limited to the coast and the lowlands plains.

Iceland, even though its name suggests otherwise, has a relatively mild coastal climate. The average summer temperature in Reykjavik is 12 degrees celcius in July. The average winter temperature in Reykjavik is about 1 degree.

The first permanent settlers in Iceland were Norsemen from Scandinavia, arriving in the late 9th Century, and Celts from the British Isles. The language was Old Norse from the outset, but there are traces of Celtic influence in some of the Eddaic poems, in peoples' names and place names, and even in the appearance of present-day Icelanders. Althingi, the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, was established in the year 930 AD.
 
In the index on the left, you will find general information on things to do before arriving and the first things to do upon arrival.