Explore Iceland’s Geography

Iceland is a small island country about the size of Kentucky that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean just below the Arctic Circle. Its size, location, and beautiful landscape make Iceland a popular choice for travelers interested in an adventure cruise. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge splits the country roughly down the middle, separating the North American plate from the Eurasian plate and making Iceland a country of active volcanoes, geysers, and geothermal hot springs. Most of the island is a plateau, with the remaining landscape offering its visitors a stately view of beautiful mountains, magnificent glaciers—including Europe’s largest, the Vatna Glacier—and an intricate coastline of rugged fjords, which provide the country with many natural harbors. Because Iceland is so young, geologically speaking, the glaciated landscape is still full of rivers and lakes. Most of the lakes are dammed by lava or glacial ice, while the rivers are either full of glacial debris or clear-running, fed by rainfall and underground springs.

Iceland is a land of fire and ice: ten percent of the landscape is covered by cooled lava, while another ten percent is covered by glacial ice. The 3,000 square miles covered by the Vatna Glacier are equal to the total land area covered by glaciers in continental Europe. The Vatna is also the location Hvannadals Peak, which at 6,952 feet above sea level is Iceland’s highest point of land. Other striking points to explore while on a tour of the island include Iceland’s 200 volcanoes, which have been the source of one-third of Earth’s total lava flows in the past 500 years. Iceland not only has a vast amount of lava, it is also home to the largest number of hot springs and solfataras to be found in any country. This geothermal energy heats all of Reykjavik, the capital, and several other communities, as well as heating commercial greenhouses and providing steam for industry.

Iceland’s nearly 300,000 people live almost exclusively along the coasts. Reykyavik, the northernmost capital in the world is a desirable stop for travelers on their Iceland adventure cruise. Reykyavik is located in the southwestern portion of the country, which has numerous natural harbors and good fishing. Along the western coast the fishing industry is balanced with agriculture, while northern Iceland focuses even more on farming. The east has more fjords, while the rugged, pristine southeast is home to mountains and glaciers, and the lowlands of the south comprise Iceland’s primary agricultural region.