Gray Line Iceland - A Brief History Lesson About Iceland

Posted by on 30 Jan 2017

The Fascinating History of Iceland: From Volcanoes to Independence



Iceland, a land of breathtaking natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, has a history as unique and captivating as the country itself. From its volcanic origins to the struggles for independence, Iceland's past is filled with fascinating stories that have shaped the nation into what it is today. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the captivating history of Iceland.

Iceland's Volcanic Birth

Iceland's geological formation is a testament to the power of nature. Approximately 24 million years ago, a series of volcanic eruptions on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge gave birth to this remarkable island. The continuous activity of underwater volcanoes shaped the land, creating a landscape that is both rugged and breathtakingly beautiful.

The volcanic activity is still evident today, with over 200 volcanoes, geysers, and volcanic fissures scattered across the country. One of the most famous eruptions in recent history was the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010, which caused widespread disruption to air travel and put Iceland in the global spotlight.

The Early Inhabitants: Irish Hermits and Norse Explorers

Iceland was one of the last islands in the world to be inhabited. According to the 'Book of Settlements' or 'Landnamabok,' the first recorded people to visit Iceland were Irish hermits or monks. They arrived in the eighth century and are said to have lived in Iceland during the summer months. However, it wasn't until the arrival of the Norse explorers that Iceland's permanent settlement began.

Hrafna-Floki Vilgerðarson, a Scandinavian sailor, was the first Norseman to deliberately sail to Iceland. He named the island "Iceland" after seeing the vast amount of packed ice during the first winter he experienced there. His story is documented in the 'Book of Settlements,' which marks the beginning of Iceland's age of settlement.

The Age of Settlement and the Vikings

The age of settlement in Iceland began with Ingolfur Arnarson, a Scandinavian explorer who is recognized as the first permanent Norse settler. In 874, Ingolfur and his wife founded Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. Over the next 60 years, many Vikings followed Ingolfur's lead and settled in Iceland, escaping the rule of Norwegian King Harald the Fair-haired.

The Vikings who arrived in Iceland were seeking freedom and independence. They established a unique society based on their own laws and customs, which later became known as the Althing, one of the oldest national parliaments in the world. The Althing, founded in 930 AD at Thingvellir, served as a gathering place where representatives appointed juries, made laws, and settled disputes.

The Challenges of Danish Rule and the Road to Independence

Iceland's history took a turn when it came under the rule of Norway and later Denmark. The Danish monarchy gained control over Iceland, and the island became part of the Kalmar Union in 1380, along with Norway and Sweden. Danish rule presented challenges for Iceland, but the desire for independence remained strong.

In the 18th century, Iceland faced natural and climatic challenges that caused great hardship for its population. The eruption of the Laki volcano in 1783 led to the death of thousands of people and the loss of livestock. This event, known as the Mist Hardship, resulted in widespread starvation and further population decline.

Despite these challenges, the people of Iceland held onto their dreams of independence. In the 19th century, an independence movement gained momentum, leading to the establishment of a new Althing in 1843. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland its constitution, and in 1904, Denmark recognized Iceland as a sovereign state. Finally, in 1944, Iceland held a referendum for independence, and the majority voted to become an independent republic.

Exploring Iceland's Rich History

Thingvellir National Park

Today, visitors to Iceland can explore the country's rich history through its numerous historical sites and landmarks. One such site is Thingvellir National Park, the original location of the Althing. This UNESCO World Heritage Site allows visitors to walk in the footsteps of the Vikings and witness the birthplace of Icelandic democracy.

Gray Line Iceland offers a variety of tours that allow you to delve into Iceland's history and experience its most historic sites. The Golden Circle Classic Tour is an excellent choice for those looking to gain a comprehensive understanding of Iceland's past. This tour takes you to Thingvellir National Park, where you can stand in the very spot where the Althing once convened. You'll also visit the majestic Gullfoss waterfall and witness the erupting geysers at Geysir.

Join us on a journey through Iceland's history and discover the stories of resilience, independence, and natural wonders that have shaped this remarkable country. Book your tour with Gray Line Iceland and let our knowledgeable guides take you on an unforgettable adventure through time.

Conclusion: Iceland's Ever-Evolving Story

Iceland's history is a captivating tale of resilience, natural wonders, and a quest for independence. From its volcanic birth to its struggles under Danish rule, Iceland has overcome numerous challenges to become the vibrant and independent nation it is today. Exploring Iceland's historical sites and landmarks allows us to connect with the past and gain a deeper appreciation for the country's unique heritage.

As you embark on your journey through Iceland, let Gray Line Iceland be your trusted guide. Our tours provide an immersive experience, allowing you to witness the beauty of Iceland's landscapes while learning about its rich history. Join us and discover the fascinating story of Iceland, a land shaped by fire, ice, and the indomitable spirit of its people.

Book your tour with Gray Line Iceland and embark on a voyage through Iceland's remarkable history.

Additional Information

If you're interested in exploring more of Iceland's natural wonders, check out our blog post on The Golden Circle: Iceland's Ultimate Day Trip. This comprehensive guide will take you on a virtual journey through the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route that encompasses Thingvellir National Park, Geysir, and Gullfoss waterfall.

At Gray Line Iceland, we are committed to providing exceptional tours and experiences that showcase the best of Iceland's history and natural beauty. Join us on an adventure of a lifetime and discover the wonders of this extraordinary country.

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