The fire, frost and water symbolized by the red, white and blue of Iceland's flag are manifested by the ice and snow of its glaciers, the hot mud pools, geysers and glowing lava flows in the country's volcanic regions.
The island's settlement dates back to 874 when a Norwegian named Ingolf Arnarson arrived at present-day Reykjavik. In 930, the settlers formed a legislature, the Alting, which was the beginning of the Commonwealth of Iceland. From the 10th to the 14th centuries, Iceland developed a literary form, the Icelandic Saga, which spread throughout the Nordic culture and into the English and German languages. It was used to spin stories of the gods, record historic events and glorify heroes.
As Iceland's capital and main center of the country's population, the city of Reykjavik is a fascinating blend of the traditional and modernism. Just as Iceland is a unique country ' rugged and remote, yet technically advanced and enjoying Nordic standards of affluence ' Reykjavik is a highly unusual capital city. It dominates the life of Iceland in almost every way. More than half of the country's total population of 270,000 is living in and around the capital, and the economy of the entire nation depends on Reykjavik. Nearly 60 percent of Iceland's imports are received and distributed, and 40 percent of the country's exports are loaded for shipment via the port of Reykjavik. It is also the headquarters of what is probably the world's most advanced seafood industry, which counts for Iceland's number one export.
Reykjavik is the seat of the national government, as well as home to head offices of banks, insurance companies, oil concerns and other important trading establishments. Despite its importance as a national and commercial center, Reykjavik has managed to retain a certain old-world charm. Its skyline is dominated by the tall gray tower of Hallgrim's Church and a pastiche of red-blue and green-roofed houses. In the Old Town wooden buildings stand side by side with modern concrete structures. Few chimneys are seen as heat is almost exclusively supplied by steam that is piped from the nearby hot springs. There are fine museums, art galleries and historic pubs. The main highlights, however, are found in the unusual and beautiful countryside, including such natural wonders as geysers, hot pools, glaciers and spectacular waterfalls.
Please Note: Despite the generally mild temperatures credited to the Gulf Stream, the weather is often unpredictable and dressing in layers is the best option.