Iceland Travel Guide
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Settlement & The Establishment of the Commonwealth
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Trip Holidays Iceland offers travel tips and information for top travel places and best destinations. We feature links, resources and large selection of budget airlines, chartered planes, sea cruises, ferries, travel agencies, land transports and attractions including beaches, medical tourism, retirement homes, historical and pilgrimage tours.
The original population of Iceland was of Nordic and Celtic origin. This is evident from literary evidence dating from the settlement period as well as from later scientific studies such as blood type and genetic analyses. One such genetics study has indicated that the majority of the male settlers were of Nordic origin while the majority of the women were of Celtic origin.
Iceland has extensive genealogical records dating back to the late 1600s and fragmentary records extending back to the Age of Settlement. The biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics has funded the creation of a genealogy database which attempts to cover all of Iceland's known inhabitants. It sees the database, called Íslendingabók, as a valuable tool for conducting research on genetic diseases, given the relative isolation of Iceland's population.
The population of the island is believed to have varied from 40,000 to 60,000 in the period from initial settlement until the mid-19th century. During that time, cold winters, ashfall from volcanic eruptions, and bubonic plagues adversely affected the population several times. The first census was carried out in 1703 and revealed that the population was then 50,358. After the destructive volcanic eruptions of the Laki volcano during 1783-1784 the population reached a low of about 40,000. Improving living conditions have triggered a rapid increase in population since the mid-19th century--from about 60,000 in 1850 to 320,000 in 2008.
In December 2007, 33,678 people (13.5% of the total population) who were living in Iceland had been born abroad, including children of Icelandic parents living abroad. 19,000 people (6% of the population) held foreign citizenship. Poles make up the far largest minority nationality, and still form the bulk of the foreign workforce. About 8,000 Poles now live in Iceland, 1,500 of them in Reyðarfjörður where they make up 75 percent of the workforce who are building the Fjarðarál aluminium plant. The recent surge in immigration has been credited to a labour shortage because of the booming economy at the time, while restrictions on the movement of people from the Eastern European countries that joined the EU/EEA in 2004 have been lifted. Large-scale construction projects in the east of Iceland have also brought in many people whose stay is expected to be temporary.
The Icelandic financial crisis threatens to push many immigrants — mostly those from Poland — back home. The southwest corner of Iceland is the most densely populated region. It is also the location of the capital Reykjavík, the northernmost capital in the world. The largest towns outside the greater Reykjavík area are Akureyri and Reykjanesbær, although the latter is relatively close to the capital.
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