Iceland! What To Know Before You Go

Iceland’s culture, traditions and more!


Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Overlooking Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Before travelling anywhere it is important to know a little bit about you destination. Iceland has many customs, traditions, and lots of rich history that would be beneficial to hear before getting on a plane to the beautiful island.

Iceland is a Nordic country with a population of 356,991. Its capital and biggest city is Reykjavík, located on the southwest coast of the country. Iceland uses the Icelandic krona as currency and it’s official language is Icelandic. However, English is almost universally spoken in Iceland, making it easy to visit and converse with locals.

Iceland has beautiful landscapes everywhere you look. (Michal Klajban)

In Iceland, there is a rich culture that dates back all the way to its beginning. Tradition in Iceland is taken seriously and people take care to preserve their traditions. Some of the traditional arts consist of weaving, silversmithing, and wood carving. Many people in Iceland believe in elves and trolls, which shows you just how much they car about customs and traditions. People in Iceland take a lot of pride in the Viking heritage, and this pride is reflected in their lifestyle and dedication to traditions. As for their cuisine, it is also traditional and revolves a lot around their fishing industry. In fact, their national dish is Hakarl, which is fermented shark! They also eat a lot of lobster, fish, lamb and potatoes.

Iceland is well-known for its many beautiful waterfalls. This waterfall is called Skógafoss. (Martin Falbisoner )

Iceland is well-known for being a generally happy country and they were the 4th happiest country in the world in 2006! The explanation for this abundance of happiness can be seen in the society and way of life. They have a traditional liberal Nordic outlook on life and place a high importance on independence and self-sufficiency. The literacy rate of Iceland is one of the highest in the world and there is a shared love for literature, art, chess and other intellectual pursuits all throughout the country. Iceland strives to reach a high degree of gender equality, exhibited in their many women in leadership positions in government and business. They also have progressive gay rights legislation. In February 2009, Iceland had the world’s first openly gay head of government in modern times, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.

The Northern Lights are visible in Iceland in the winter. A true treat for tourists and locals! (Giuseppe Milo)

In Iceland, the winter days are short and cold while the summer days are long with great weather and an average of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, there are only about 4-5 hours of daylight (December-January). In the summer, it can be light outside for 24 hours (May-July)! Icelanders take advantage of all of this daylight to accommodate to their active lifestyles after being stuck in the dark for the winter. They participate in sports like soccer, handball, basketball, tennis, swimming, kayaking and horseback riding. They also enjoy ice climbing, rock climbing and mountain climbing. While the winter time is dark and cold, it does have its spectacular aspects as well. From September through March, you are able to see the Aurora Borealis, also known as the northern lights, on especially clear nights. This is just another reason Iceland is such a popular destination for tourists.

A trip to Iceland is a truly one-of-a-kind experience with something to accommodate everyone!