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Summary: Located in northern Europe, Iceland is an island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the UK, that is mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks and icefields, its coast deeply indented by bays and fjords. Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930.

Capital: Reykjavik
Time Zone: Standard Time +0000 UTC
Population: 293,966
Languages: Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German
Power: 220 V, 50 Hz
Currency: Icelandic Krona - Currently 1 ISK = 0.0162 USD $
Climate: Iceland is surprisingly temperate, moderated by the North Atlantic Current, giving mild, windy winters and damp, cool summers.

Reykjavik: Rumored to be founded in the 9th century by Vikings who tossed a chair off their boat and settled where it landed, Reykjavik has the attractions of a small modern town, including a large number of art galleries, museums, theater companies and discos. Among the sights are the Old Town quarter near the harbor district with a nice square and park, the peaceful Tj?n with trails and groups of people and birds watching each other, and the Viking artifacts in the National Museum.

Thingvellir: Not too far from the capital to the east, you can find Thingvellir, which is a rift that separates the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates and Iceland's most historic areas. Thingvellir, which translates as Parliament Plains, provided a natural podium for the Althing, the world's first parliament, surrounded by a National Park and home to the country's largest lake, Lake Thingvallavatn, and a range of historic sites like the Money Chasm, and Drowning Pool.

Geography: The saying that Iceland is green and Greenland is ice is a helpful rule of thumb. Iceland may not be humid and lush, but its valleys provide excellent grazing land.

Hotsprings: Most of the country is heated entirely by harnessed geothermal springs.

More Hotsprings: Remember that Mother Earth sometimes overheats these natural hot tubs, and that Iceland's topography changes faster than anywhere else on earth.

Local Courtesies: Locals are friendly and hospitable, to the point that even on first greeting, first names are usually used. Crime is very rare throughout the country, and few places are as safe.

When To Visit: Iceland's Independence Day on June 17 and the Light Nights shows, from late June through August, are a good time to visit and enjoy the excitement.

Food: The Iceland menu can include gravlax, a marinated local salmon, and hangikjot, a smoked lamb meal. Icelanders have their own smoking techniques, often infusing their fish and meats with smoke to enhance its flavor.

Tipping: A service charge is normally added to the bill in restaurants. As a result, additional tips are appreciated but never necessary.


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