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Rainbow valley in Nordhurland Eystra

Europe

 
Iceland
Iceland, officially the Republic of Iceland is an island nation, a volcanic island in the northern Atlantic Ocean between Greenland, Norway, Ireland, Scotland and the Faroe Islands.
Background Information
Iceland was one of the last large islands uninhabited by humans until it was discovered and settled by immigrants from Scandinavia, Gaels from Ireland and Scotland, and Picts during the 9th and 10th centuries. Íslendingabók (Libellus Islandorum or The Book of Icelanders in English), written in 1122-1133 claims that the Norwegian Ingólfur Arnarson was the first man to settle in Iceland (Reykjavík) in 870. The families were accompanied by servants and slaves, some of whom were Celts or Picts from Scotland and Ireland (known as Westmen to the Norse). Some literary evidence suggests that Irish monks may have been living in Iceland before the arrival of Norse settlers, but no archaeological evidence has been found for these claims.

Erik the Red, or Eiríkur Porvaldsson, was exiled from Iceland for manslaughter in 980, and set sail to explore the lands to the west. He established the first settlements in Greenland around this time, naming the land, according to legend, to attract settlers. Eirikur's son, Leifur Eiríksson, finally set foot in the Americas around the year 1000. While some say he was blown off course, it is most likely that he was deliberately seeking the land spotted by Bjarni Herjólfsson several years earlier. He is believed to have established a colony at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, which lasted only a year. Two further attempts at colonization by his brother ended in failure.

The Alpingi (general assembly) was founded in 930, marking the beginning of the Icelandic Commonwealth. It was the predecessor to the modern Icelandic legislature. The Althing is the oldest, still-standing, parliament in the world that has written documents to prove its age.

Iceland was a free state, without a king, until the end of the Sturlungaöld civil war in 1262, when it joined the Norwegian kingdom as a Norwegian colony. From 1387 Iceland was in practice ruled by Denmark, following the union of the two kingdoms. When that union was dissolved in 1814, through the Treaty of Kiel, which saw Norway entering a union with Sweden, Iceland became a Danish colony. Home rule was granted by the Danish government in 1904, and independence followed in 1918. From 1918 Iceland was in a personal union with Denmark, with foreign relations being carried out by the Danes, as instructed by the Icelandic government until the World War II military occupation of Denmark by Germany in 1940. Subsequently, Iceland was occupied by the Allies. The Danish king remained the de jure sovereign of the nation until 1944, when the current republic was founded after the 1918 treaty had lapsed.

The new republic became a charter member of NATO in 1949 and signed a treaty with the United States in 1951 to take responsibility for the defense of Iceland. Today the US is significantly reducing its military forces on the base in Keflavík, while Iceland is trying to find replacement tenants, foreign or indigenous. The economy of Iceland remained dependent on fisheries in the post-war decades and the country has had several clashes with its neighbours over this vital resource, most notably the Cod Wars with the British. The economy has become more diverse recently owing to large investments in heavy industry such as aluminium smelting and deregulation and privatization in the financial sector. Iceland is a member of the Common market of the European Union through the EEA agreement but has never applied for membership of the EU itself.
Climate
Iceland enjoys a much milder climate than its name and location adjacent to the Arctic circle would imply. A branch of the Gulf Stream flows along the southern and the western coast greatly moderating the climate. However, this brings mild Atlantic air in contact with colder Arctic air resulting in a climate that is marked by frequent changes in weather and storminess. Furthermore this leads to more rainfall in the southern and western part than in the northern part of the island.

The summer tourist season is from late May to early September. During the first half of this period the sun stays above the horizon for almost 24 hours and the interplay of light and shadows on mountains, lava fields and glaciers yield an ever changing landscape. However, even during the middle of summer the sky is frequently cloudy or overcast and the sunshine does not warm the air much. Hence, during daytime, the air is usually cool ("refreshing" is the local euphemism) and cold during nighttime.

The winter season is the abode of long nights, and severe winter storms. However, the silence of the frozen expanse and the dance of the Aurora Borealis on a clear night sky draws an increasing number of tourists.

During summertime tourists should bring a windbreaker, rainwear, a thick pullover (wool or fleece) and sturdy walking shoes. Travelers who are camping or heading into the interior will need warm underwear and socks, rubber boots and a warm sleeping bag. During wintertime tourist should bring warm clothing, warm coat, mittens etc. Iceland has many swimming pools, usually with geothermally heated water. Hence, in either season a visitor should bring a swim suit.
The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa
Rainbow valley in Nordhurland Eystra
Map of Iceland