Iceland is often referred to as "the land of fire and ice" because the glaciers and icecaps lie next to steaming hot springs, geysers and volcanoes.
Size & Population:
At 103,000 sq km, Iceland is similar in size to England but with a population of only 300,000, and 60% of those live in the immediate area around the capital city, Reykjavik.
The currency of Iceland is the Icelandic Kronur, with the exchange rate around 185 ISK to the pound.
Iceland is on GMT all year with no daylight saving. In winter Iceland is the same time as the UK, but in summer they are 1 hour behind the UK. Iceland's more northerly latitude (66 degrees north) means that in mid-summer it is light almost 24 hours a day, and truly the land of the midnight sun. However during mid-winter it is dark for most of the day, the hours of daylight being very short in December.
Weather and Climate:
The Icelandic climate is surprisingly mild for its location just south of the Arctic Circle. Like the UK, Iceland benefits the gulf stream, the flow of warm water in the Atlantic Ocean all the way from the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico. However the weather is very changeable with plenty of wind and rain but also good spells of sunshine, so keep the raincoat and sun-glasses to hand! The prevailing westerly winds mean that the south and west of the island are typically the wettest, whilst further north is generally drier. The average daytime maximum temperature in Reykjavik is 14C in summer and 2C in winter.
The official language is Icelandic but most people speak a couple of languages including English, Danish, German and Swedish.
Natural hot water is pumped from underground springs directly into homes and hotels, and is used for heating and drinking. The water may have an unusual smell, this is due to sulphur in the water and is harmless.