Travel Guide

Why is Iceland green and Greenland icy?

Glacier tongue Svinafellsjökull.jpgHere’s why Iceland is called Iceland – a long time ago, a Scandinavian Viking named Flóki Vilgerðarson sailed over to the country to settle for the winters. He settled on the coast, where the view of fjords (inlets from the sea with steep sides and water flowing in) was clear.  The Landnámabók makes it clear that Flóki chose the uninviting name ísland ("ice land") for the view of a distant fjord full of sea-ice that he glimpsed from a tall mountain. But aside from the fact that the view of ice is beautiful, and the fact that mountains in Iceland have heavy snowfall, Iceland's glaciers cover only about 11 % of the country. 

Now lets see why Greenland is called Greenland – even though 85% of the land is covered in ice! Here's the legendary story – Once upon a time lived Norwegian-born Erik the Red. After being exiled from Iceland for murder, he sailed to sea to find the land that was rumored to be to the northwest. (Of course they didn't have Google Earth back then). He reached the south coast, which was green and not covered by the glacier which occupies the rest of the country. Erik named the new found land as Greenland. Perhaps the Medieval ages were much warmer, and the southern part much more greener, hence the name stuck and is recognized on the globe.

Do you want to learn more about Iceland and Greenland? Check out our Travel Guide