why is iceland called iceland

Unraveling the Mystery: Why is Iceland Called Iceland?

Have you ever wondered why Iceland is called Iceland? The name itself seems to suggest a land covered in ice and snow, but the reality is quite different. Join me as we dive into the history and origins of Iceland’s name to uncover the fascinating story behind it.

It all started with early explorers, who left their mark on the country’s name. In the 9th century, a Norwegian adventurer named Naddodd named it “Snæland” or “snow land” due to the icy landscape he encountered during his journey. Later, in the 10th century, the Viking explorer Hrafna-Flóki named it “Ísland” or “ice land” to reflect the presence of glaciers and frozen terrain.

Over time, the name “Ísland” gradually transformed into the familiar name Iceland that we know today. Linguistic changes and the influence of other cultures played a role in this evolution. Despite its name, Iceland has a temperate climate and lush green vegetation, making it a truly unique and enchanting destination.

Key Takeaways:

  • The name Iceland originated from early explorers who encountered the icy landscapes during their journeys.
  • Norwegian adventurer Naddodd named it “Snæland” (snow land) in the 9th century.
  • Viking explorer Hrafna-Flóki named it “Ísland” (ice land) in the 10th century.
  • Over time, the name “Ísland” evolved into Iceland.
  • Contrary to its name, Iceland has a temperate climate and lush green vegetation.

The Early Explorers: Naddodd and Hrafna-Flóki

When it comes to the naming of Iceland, two prominent figures in Norse history played a significant role – Naddodd and Hrafna-Flóki. These early explorers left their mark on the country’s name, capturing the essence of its unique geography.

Naddodd, a Norwegian adventurer, set foot on Iceland in the 9th century and named it “Snæland,” meaning “snow land.” This name was inspired by the snowy landscape he encountered during his exploration. It paints a vivid picture of the icy terrain that characterizes parts of the island even today. But Naddodd’s choice of name alone was not enough to define the country’s identity.

In the 10th century, Viking explorer Hrafna-Flóki arrived in Iceland and named it “Ísland,” meaning “ice land.” He named it so not only because of the presence of glaciers but also to reflect the icy and challenging conditions faced by the early settlers. This name resonated with the harsh yet awe-inspiring nature of the land. Over time, “Ísland” evolved into the name we know today – Iceland.

Comparing the Naming Choices:

Naddodd Hrafna-Flóki
Snæland (snow land) Ísland (ice land)
Reflects the snowy landscape Emphasizes the presence of ice and glaciers
Highlights the cold and harsh conditions Captures the uniqueness and beauty of Iceland’s geography

The naming choices of Naddodd and Hrafna-Flóki shaped the identity of Iceland, serving as a testament to the country’s distinct character. They captured the contrasting elements of the land, from the snowy landscapes to the icy terrains, symbolizing the challenges and beauty that define this Nordic nation.

The Evolution of “Ísland” to Iceland

Over the centuries, the name “Ísland” gradually transformed into the familiar name Iceland that we know today. This evolution was driven by linguistic changes and the influence of other cultures. The name change likely occurred for practical reasons, as it was easier for foreigners to pronounce and communicate. Despite its name, Iceland does not solely consist of ice and snow. It has a temperate climate, with lush green landscapes, making the name Iceland somewhat misleading. However, the name has become synonymous with the country’s unique character and history, attracting visitors from around the world.

The transformation from “Ísland” to Iceland reveals the adaptability and fluidity of language. As the island became known to people from different regions, the pronunciation of the name naturally evolved to accommodate different speech patterns. This linguistic shift also reflects the cultural exchanges that have taken place over the centuries. Iceland’s history is intertwined with the influence of various cultures, from the Norse settlers to the later European explorers. The transformation of the name reflects the island’s ability to embrace diversity and adapt to changing times.

“The evolution of Iceland’s name demonstrates the island’s ability to transcend its initial labels. While the name may have been descriptive at one point, it has evolved to represent much more. It has become a symbol of Iceland’s allure, capturing the imagination of travelers who are drawn to its unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture.”

In conclusion, the transformation of “Ísland” to Iceland highlights the dynamic nature of language and culture. The name has come to symbolize the country’s striking contrasts and its ability to defy expectations. Iceland’s diverse landscapes, from glaciers to green valleys, offer a captivating experience to visitors from around the world. The evolution of the name showcases the island’s ability to adapt and transform, embracing its distinct identity and captivating the hearts of all who venture to its shores.

Debunking the Myth: Iceland’s True Nature

There has been a long-standing myth surrounding the name Iceland, suggesting that it was intentionally given to discourage settlement. However, this theory lacks evidence and fails to capture the true nature of this remarkable country.

Contrary to its name, Iceland is not entirely covered in ice and snow. In fact, it boasts a temperate climate with mild summers and relatively mild winters. The country’s landscape is a stunning mix of ice and greenery, with majestic glaciers juxtaposed against lush green valleys. This unique blend creates a harmonious and breathtaking environment that attracts visitors from around the world.

“Iceland’s name may have originated from the icy landscape, but its true nature is far more diverse and captivating than the name suggests.”

Exploring Iceland, you’ll discover the hidden treasures that lie beneath the surface. From the mesmerizing beauty of the Blue Lagoon to the untouched hot springs scattered throughout the country, Iceland offers a wealth of natural wonders to explore. These hidden gems allow you to immerse yourself in the raw beauty of Iceland, far away from the crowds.

So, while the origins of Iceland’s name may be rooted in the icy landscapes encountered by early explorers, it’s essential to look beyond the surface and embrace the true nature of this remarkable country. Iceland’s name may be misleading, but its captivating beauty and diverse landscapes make it a must-visit destination for any traveler seeking adventure and awe-inspiring experiences.

true nature of iceland

The Naming of Greenland by Erik the Red

When Erik the Red named Greenland, he understood the power of a compelling name. By choosing a name that suggested fertility and abundance, he aimed to attract settlers to an otherwise inhospitable land. This strategy demonstrates Erik’s ingenuity and his determination to establish successful Viking settlements in Greenland.

Key Points Details
Name origin Erik the Red named it Greenland to attract settlers
Reason behind the name To highlight the fertile lands and resources in the southern part
Impact of the name Greenland’s name endured, representing the pioneering spirit of the Norse explorers

The Settlement and Description of Iceland

When early explorers first encountered the icy landscape of Iceland, it was Norwegian adventurer Naddodd who named it “Snæland” or “snow land” in the 9th century. However, it was the Viking explorer Hrafna-Flóki who truly shaped the country’s name by calling it “Ísland” or “ice land” in the 10th century. Despite its name, Iceland is not entirely icy and cold. In fact, its temperate climate and lush green vegetation make it a land of surprising beauty and diversity.

Contrary to popular belief, Iceland’s name did not deter settlers. In fact, when Flóki’s crew member described the land as a rich place where grass dripped with butter, it sparked the interest of potential settlers. This positive depiction of Iceland played a significant role in attracting people and establishing communities on this rugged island. The settlement of Iceland was driven by the allure of its unique landscapes, abundant natural resources, and the opportunities it offered.

Iceland’s distinctive character is also reflected in its rich history and vibrant culture. Icelandic sagas and stories, passed down through generations, have contributed to the country’s name and reputation. Today, Iceland is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, which combine icy glaciers with vibrant green valleys. Visitors to the country can witness the harmonious coexistence of ice and greenery, truly immersing themselves in the wonders of this extraordinary land.

Settlement Statistics and Key Facts

Year Number of Settlers Main Regions Settled
874 Ingólfur Arnarson and his followers Reykjavík, Southwest Iceland
c. 874-930 Various settlers from Scandinavia, Ireland, and the British Isles Various regions across Iceland
930 Alþingi established, marking the beginning of Iceland’s Commonwealth era Þingvellir National Park

In the year 874, Ingólfur Arnarson and his followers established the first permanent settlement in Iceland, in what is now Reykjavík, the capital city. Over the next few centuries, waves of settlers from Scandinavia, Ireland, and the British Isles came to Iceland, establishing communities in various regions across the island. The establishment of the Alþingi in 930 marked an important milestone in Icelandic history, as it signaled the beginning of the Commonwealth era and the adoption of a legal and administrative framework.

Today, Iceland’s settlements are concentrated mainly along the coastal areas, with Reykjavík being the largest and most populous city. The country’s unique landscapes, including stunning waterfalls, volcanoes, and geothermal hot springs, continue to attract visitors from around the world. Iceland’s beauty and allure are not solely derived from its name, but rather from the captivating experiences and breathtaking sights that await those who venture to this remarkable land.

Viking Settlement in Greenland: Challenges Faced by Viking Settlers

The Viking settlement in Greenland, spearheaded by Erik the Red, faced numerous challenges during its existence. Erik the Red, an infamous Norse explorer banished from Iceland, discovered Greenland and named it to attract settlers. Despite its predominantly icy terrain, the southern part of Greenland had a milder climate during that time, making it suitable for farming and hunting walrus for ivory. However, the Viking settlements in Greenland were not without obstacles.

The first challenge faced by the Viking settlers was climate change. As the centuries progressed, Greenland experienced a shift towards colder temperatures and harsher conditions. This change made farming increasingly difficult and forced the settlers to rely on hunting and gathering for survival. Additionally, the settlements faced outbreaks of diseases such as the black death, further impacting their ability to thrive.

Another challenge that the Viking settlers encountered was the changing trade routes. As Europe’s trade networks evolved, Greenland found itself isolated and disconnected from the major trade routes of the time. This isolation made it challenging for the settlers to maintain regular contact with their homeland and obtain essential supplies and resources.

Despite their tenacity and resourcefulness, the Viking settlements in Greenland eventually succumbed to these challenges and disappeared. However, their existence serves as a testament to the adventurous spirit of the Vikings and their willingness to explore and settle in unknown lands.

Hidden Hot Springs of Iceland

Iceland is known for its natural beauty, and one of its most captivating features is its abundance of hot springs. These geothermal wonders are scattered throughout the country and offer a truly unique and rejuvenating experience. While some hot springs are well-known tourist attractions, Iceland is also home to many hidden gems that are off the beaten path and provide a more secluded and intimate experience.

Exploring these hidden hot springs allows you to immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of geothermal bathing. These natural pools are fed by hot mineral-rich water that is heated by underground volcanic activity. The warm waters soothe the body and provide a sense of tranquility, making them the perfect place to unwind and relax.

From secluded hot springs nestled in the heart of untouched wilderness to hidden pools with stunning panoramic views, each hidden hot spring offers a unique and unforgettable experience. These hidden gems allow you to escape the crowds and connect with nature in a truly magical way. So, if you’re looking to experience the natural beauty of Iceland in a more intimate and secluded setting, be sure to seek out these hidden hot springs during your visit.

Table: Hidden Hot Springs of Iceland

Name Location Features
Gudrunarlaug West Iceland Remote location, stunning mountain views
Laugarvellir North Iceland Off the beaten path, peaceful and tranquil
Hrunalaug South Iceland Hot spring by a river, beautiful natural surroundings
Krosslaug Westfjords Hidden in a remote valley, unique cross-shaped pool

“Discovering the hidden hot springs of Iceland was like uncovering a secret paradise. The serenity and beauty of these natural pools exceeded my expectations. It was a truly magical experience.” – Traveler testimonial


After delving into the history and significance of Iceland’s name, it becomes clear that its origins lie with the early explorers who encountered its icy landscape. The name “Iceland” has evolved over time but continues to represent the country’s distinct character and rich history. Despite its name, Iceland boasts a temperate climate and lush green vegetation, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe.

On the other hand, Greenland’s name was chosen by Erik the Red to entice settlers to this predominantly icy land. Although the Viking settlements in Greenland ultimately faced challenges and did not thrive, the name itself endures to this day, showcasing the resourcefulness and tenacity of those early explorers.

These Icelandic and Greenlandic place names hold great significance, symbolizing the unique landscapes of these countries. They remind us of the mix of ice and greenery that defines these regions, and they continue to capture the imagination of travelers seeking adventure and natural beauty. Whether you’re exploring the hidden hot springs of Iceland or marveling at the untouched landscapes of Greenland, these names will always evoke a sense of wonder and a connection to their extraordinary past.


Why is Iceland called Iceland?

Iceland got its name from early explorers. Norwegian adventurer Naddodd named it “Snæland” (snow land) in the 9th century, while Viking explorer Hrafna-Flóki named it “Ísland” (ice land) in the 10th century, which eventually evolved into Iceland.

Who were the early explorers who named Iceland?

The early explorers who named Iceland were Norwegian adventurer Naddodd and Viking explorer Hrafna-Flóki.

How did the name “Ísland” evolve into Iceland?

The name “Ísland” gradually transformed into Iceland over time, influenced by linguistic changes and the influence of other cultures.

Is Iceland really covered in ice and snow?

Contrary to its name, Iceland has a temperate climate and lush green vegetation. It has a diverse landscape, including valleys, waterfalls, and hot springs.

Why was Greenland named Greenland?

Greenland was named by Viking explorer Erik the Red, who wanted to attract settlers to the land. Despite its predominantly icy landscape, he named it Greenland to make it sound more appealing and fertile.

What challenges did the Viking settlements in Greenland face?

The Viking settlements in Greenland faced challenges such as climate change, the black death, and changing trade routes, which led to their eventual failure.

How many hot springs are there in Iceland?

There are approximately 170 different hot springs and geothermal baths in Iceland.

Are there hidden hot springs in Iceland?

Yes, there are hidden hot springs in Iceland that are located in exotic and untouched locations, offering a chance to experience the raw, natural beauty of the country without the crowds.

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