The Republic of Iceland ( /ˈaɪslənd/ (help·info)) (Icelandic: Ísland or Lýðveldið Ísland (names of Iceland); IPA: [ˈistlant]), is an island country located in the North Atlantic Ocean. It has a population of about 320,000 and a total area of 103,000 km². Its capital and largest city is Reykjavík.
Located on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Iceland is volcanically and geologically active on a large scale; this defines the landscape. The interior mainly consists of a plateau characterized by sand fields, mountains and glaciers, while many big glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, Iceland has a temperate climate relative to its latitude and provides a habitable environment and nature.
According to tradition recorded in Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 when the Norwegian chieftain Ingólfur Arnarson became the first permanent Norwegian settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic origin settled in Iceland. Until the 20th century, the Icelandic population relied on fisheries and agriculture, and was from 1262 to 1918 a part of the Norwegian, and later the Danish monarchies. In the 20th century, Iceland's economy and welfare system developed quickly. In recent decades, Iceland has implemented free trade in the European Economic Areaservices, finance and various industries. and diversified from fishing to new economic fields in
Today, Iceland has some of the world's highest levels of economic and civil freedoms. In 2007, Iceland was ranked as the most developed country in the world by the United Nations' Human Development Index. It was also the fourth most productive country per capita, and one of the most egalitarian, as rated by the Gini coefficient. Icelanders have a rich culture and heritage, such as cuisine and poetry and the medieval Icelandic Sagas are internationally renowned. Iceland is a member of the UN, NATO, EFTA, EEA, UEFA, and OECD. Iceland is the sole partner of the Faroe Islands signatory to the Hoyvík Agreement.Iceland has been especially badly affected by the current world financial crisis. The nation's ongoing economic crisis has caused significant unrest and made Iceland the first western country to borrow from the International Monetary Fund since 1976. In February 2009 a minority government took office, headed by Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world's first openly gay head of government in modern times