Iceland 101: All the Basic Facts You Need to Know

Akureyri sign post.

Planning a trip to Iceland? Here are some interesting facts and essential information to read before you arrive.

How big is Iceland, and who lives there?

The surface area of Iceland is 103,001 square kilometres [39,769 square miles], and the total population is just under 400,000, with most people living in and around Reykjavík. For the longest time, most people living in Iceland were natives, but in the past two decades, the foreign-born population has grown immensely and is now about 18% of the total. The language spoken is Icelandic, but most people speak English relatively well. 

The Icelandic climate

The climate in Iceland is temperate, meaning that, for the most part, swings in temperature are not huge. In fact, the most reliable thing about the weather here is the cool temperatures. The lowest temperature in Reykjavík during winter is usually -10°C [14°F], and only on rare occasions does it go higher than 20°C [68°F] during summer. For other parts of the country, the average temperature is slightly lower.

In terms of other weather factors, Iceland has it all. If you’re lucky, you might even get the whole spectrum in the span of 24 hours. The weather patterns can be unpredictable, but you can expect to encounter strong winds and storms in fall and winter, along with any form of precipitation. From April and throughout August, storms are considerably less likely to occur, but rain is common. That’s not to say the sun never comes out or the wind never stops, but be prepared by bringing the right clothes!

The power of Icelandic water

Iceland is known for its exceptional quality of water, which you can drink from the tap everywhere you go. In most places, it’s even safe to drink straight from the country’s many springs and rivers. Bring your refillable bottle to avoid spending money on overly expensive bottled water. 

The vast amount of running water has also enabled us to generate significant amounts of electricity, powering the country with green energy all year round. There’s plenty of hot water going around as well, so much so that 90% of Icelandic houses are heated with geothermal energy. The energy is both cheap and renewable, which is why most Icelanders have their radiators on full blast when it’s cold.

The Icelandic currency

Iceland is one of the world’s smallest countries with its own currency: The Icelandic Króna, ISK. Businesses do not accept cash from other countries, but most accept card payments if you don’t want to carry cash. You could almost call that the Icelandic way, as many Icelanders pay solely with their cards, phones or smartwatches. 

Weather warnings and road conditions 

One of the most incredible things about Iceland is its marvellous nature, and we highly recommend exploring it. Whether it’s a trip to the Highland, a short hike, or a tour of one of our glaciers, be sure to bring all the essentials, such as good walking shoes, food, and fluids, as well as warm layers of clothing that you can take off or put on according to the situation. Circumstances, especially the weather, might not be what you’re used to. If travelling outside the capital area, check for weather warnings at the Icelandic Met Office, and the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration (vegagerðin) for road conditions.

Medical assistance for tourists in Iceland

You can seek medical attention at the nearest health care centre (heilsugæsla). You can also call 1700, a 24/7 medical advice line, or use the Heilsuvera online chat, open 8am-10pm. In case of emergencies, the number to call is 112. Those with the European Health Insurance Card will be charged the same fee as persons insured in Iceland, but necessary documents must be presented. Others will be charged in full. 

Reykjavík To Host League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational E-sport Event in May

E-sport tournaments the League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational and the Valorant Champions Tour Masters will take place in the Laugardalshöll indoor sporting arena in May. Visit Iceland helped facilitate the event’s organisation and hopes that it will be good for local tourism.  Athletes are unhappy with the arena closing for practice for several weeks.

This will Riot Games’ second in-person competitive event since the pandemic began as last year, the League of Legends Mid-season Invitational was cancelled due to the pandemic. In an interview with the Washington Post, Riot Games representatives state that Iceland’s methods of dealing with the global pandemic were a significant factor in choosing Iceland as the location. Around 400 people will come to Iceland for the tournaments, Visit Iceland states. Contestants and staff will follow infection prevention regulations to the letter and quarantine before the start of the tournament. Contestants will also be tested regularly during the event and there won’t be an in-person audience.

The LOL Mid-season Invitational starts on May 6 and the final is May 23. The following day marks the beginning of the Valorant Champions Tour, ending on May 30th.  Visit Iceland and The Icelandic E-Sports Association are happy with the event, hoping that it will bring revenue as well as marketing opportunities for Iceland’s tourism and even be the first of many international e-sports events. Visit Iceland assisted Riot Games in communicating with the city of Reykjavík and other domestic service providers. “it’s clear that this is an immense opportunity to introduce Reykjavík as a destination for foreign tourists.”Not as thrilled are Icelandic athletes working towards the Olympics. In a Facebook post, Olympian javelin thrower Ásdís Hjálmsdóttir Annerud called closing the arena for practices for the duration of the tournament a sign of grave disrespect towards track-and-field athletes.

League of Legends is one of the world’s most popular video game and tournaments attract large audiences. Visit Iceland representative Karl Guðmundsson stated that Reykjavík was one of the 15 cities vying for the opportunity of hosting the event. Visit Iceland also states that this is the foundation for attracting more e-sport events in the future and a unique opportunity for Iceland to create connections with leading individuals within the industry.