Iceland Country Facts

Iceland
Capital city Reykjavik
Surface 103,001 km²
Population 351,000
Road network length 13,034 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway N/A
Motorway name Þjóðvegur
Traffic drives Right
License plate code IS

Iceland (Icelandic: Ísland) is an island nation in northwestern Europe, at the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. The country has 351,000 inhabitants and is more than twice the size of the Netherlands. The capital is Reykjavik.

Geography

Iceland is a large island in the northern Atlantic Ocean, 300 kilometers off the coast of Greenland, 800 kilometers northwest of Scotland and 1,000 kilometers west of Norway. The island measures a maximum of 500 kilometers from west to east and 300 kilometers from north to south. Iceland is located just south of the Arctic Circle. The coast of Iceland partly consists of fjords, the interior is mountainous with wide valleys and some mountain ranges. The higher parts of Iceland are glaciated, with Vatnajökull being the largest, covering an area of ​​8,100 km². The highest mountain in Iceland, Hvannadalshnúkur (2,110 meters) is also located here. Volcanoes lie under some ice caps, in an eruption the ice can melt very quickly, causing major flooding, a phenomenon called a jökulhlaup. Hardly any trees grow in Iceland.

Iceland has an oceanic subpolar climate, which is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, the island is warmer than almost all other areas at this latitude. The waters around Iceland almost always remain ice-free in winter. The south coast is somewhat warmer than the north coast and also processes more precipitation and wind. The average maximum temperature ranges from 2°C in January to 13°C in July.

Economy

Iceland is one of the richest countries in the world. The economy has traditionally been based on fishing, which still accounts for nearly half of exports. Aluminum is also an important export product. The country was hit hard by the recession of 2008-2011 but has since recovered, unemployment is low and incomes are high.

Demographics

Iceland has a small population, and the vast majority of residents live in and around the capital Reykjavík. Nearly two-thirds of residents live in the metropolitan region, which comprises just 1 percent of Iceland’s land area.  The largest town outside the capital region is Akureyri with 18,000 inhabitants on the north coast. There are only 9 places with more than 5,000 inhabitants.

Icelandic is spoken in Iceland, a language that descends from Old Norse and contains many elements that have fallen into disuse in Norway itself. English and Danish are spoken as second languages ​​by a large part of the population.

History

The island was inhabited by Norwegians from 874. The island was under Norwegian rule for centuries, until 1814, and then under Danish rule, until it became independent in 1918. Iceland’s culture is well preserved due to its isolated location. During World War II, Iceland was occupied, first from 1940 by the United Kingdom, and then by the United States. This was considered necessary because Iceland had no army and they wanted to prevent Nazi Germany from occupying it. In 1946, the Allies left the island, the country joined NATO shortly after in 1949. During the 20th century, American troops remained stationed in Iceland. The last American troops left the island in 2006. Iceland benefited greatly from the Marshall Plan after World War II, being the largest recipient per capita, almost twice as much as number two, the Netherlands. In 1994, the country became a member of the European Economic Area, but has not become a member of the European Union. At the end of 2008, all the major banks in Iceland went bankrupt, causing a deep crisis. Since 2011, the Icelandic economy has been recovering.

Road Network

Only 4,700 kilometers of Iceland’s roads are paved. There are 2×2 lane roads around Reykjavik with grade separations, but there are no official highways. Icelandic does have a word for the highway: Autobahn. The main thoroughfare is the Route 1 ring road around the island which was completed in 1974. The speed limit is 50 km/h within the area, 80 km/h on gravel roads and 90 km/h on paved roads. Route 1 is the ring road of the island and is 1,339 kilometers long. Part of this road is still unpaved. Some parts have less than 100 vehicles per day.

Major and City Highways in Iceland
Route 1Hafnarfjarðarvegur • Reykjanesbraut • Vesturlandsvegur

Road management

The Icelandic road authority is called Vegagerðin, also called the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (IRCA) in English. Virtually all roads outside built-up areas are managed by Vegagerdin, approximately 13,000 kilometers in total, approximately one third of which is paved. Road management is divided into four road districts. Originally, Vegagerðin was only responsible for road management, but in 2013 maritime transport was added to this with the merger with the agency Siglingastofnun.

Tunnels

Tunnel Opening Length
Vestfjarðargong 1996 9120 m
Norðfjarðargong 2017 7542 m
Vaðlaheiðargong 2018 7490 m
Heðinsfjarðargong 2010 6900 m
Fáskrúðsfjarðargong 2005 5850 m
Hvalfjarðargong 1998 5770 m
Dýrafjarðargong 2020 5601 m
Bolungarvikurgong 2010 5426 m

Signage

Icelandic signage consists of yellow signs with black letters, somewhat similar to Norway. Road numbers are indicated in white areas with a black frame and black numbers without a prefix. Signage with indirect numbers is also used, which is very common in Denmark, for example. Icelandic signage also features the non-standard letters of the Icelandic alphabet, such as á, ð, é, í, ó, ú, ý, þ, æ and ö.

There are also many service signs, which are in blue and white letters and provide a schematic overview of nearby destinations that are not a place, such as farms and tourist spots.

Road numbering

There are two types of roads; national roads and mountain roads, which fall within the same road numbering system. National roads do not have a prefix. The mountain roads (Fjallvegur) have the prefix F. The Route 1 is the ring road around the entire island. There are no further single digit road numbers in Iceland. The two digit numbers are zoned clockwise around Route 1. The series 2x is in the south, 4x around Reykjavik and 8x around Akureyri. When a road runs through mountainous areas, the number remains the same, but is prefixed with F.

Maximum speed

In Iceland, the speed limit is generally 50 km/h in built-up areas and 90 km/h outside built-up areas. In built-up areas, 30 km/h is often the case in residential areas and 60 km/h on main roads. Outside built-up areas, 90 km/h applies on paved roads and 80 km/h on unpaved roads. There are some highway-like roads around Reykjavík, at 80 km/h.

Toll

There is no general toll in Iceland, but there are (or have been) a number of tunnels for which tolls have to be paid. Hvalfjarðargöng became toll-free in 2018. The Vaðlaheiðargöng, opened in 2018, is a toll tunnel.

It is planned to introduce a kilometer charge.

 

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