Guide to Iceland's Population

Guide to Iceland's Population

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Icelandic puffins outnumber the people in Iceland

People often laugh at how small the Icelandic population is - but the Icelandic population is rapidly growing.

How Many People Live in Iceland?

At the time of writing (at 3pm on the 31st of December 2016) the human population of Iceland is only a mere 332,992 people. Just under 333,000 people. That doesn't sound like a lot. In fact, Guide to Iceland's facebook page has just outnumbered the Icelandic population in facebook likes, with 333,117 likes as of now - not a bad way to end the year! :)

But although 332,992 people doesn't sound like much in population terms, Iceland's population is on a steady rise, both due to birth rates as well as immigration.

Puffin immigrants in Iceland

Actually, most immigrants are puffins, 8-10 million puffins immigrate to Iceland each year, and then emigrate again in winter. Most human immigrants come from Poland, and immigrants make up about 10% of the human population in Iceland.

Fast Growth of People in Iceland

Reykjavík city during New Year's Eve

I remember growing up and telling people that about 280 thousand people lived in Iceland in my teens. Fast-forward 15 years and it's grown by more than 50 thousand people. The population in Iceland in the year 2000 was 281,205 people, thereof 109 thousand people living in Reykjavík. The population in Reykjavík has actually only risen to about 120 thousand at the same time, so the Icelandic countryside is rising more in population than the capital city. However, the capital region with all its neighbouring towns and suburbs has more than 200 thousand people.

When I was born, in 1984, the Icelandic population was around 239 thousand people - so in my lifetime (at the young age of 32 years) its risen by almost 100 thousand people - or more than a third of the entire population back in 1984.

Most Populated Towns in Iceland

After Reykjavík, the 10 most densely populated towns are:

Kópavogur (vicinity of Reykjavík)

Hafnarfjörður (also Reykjavík's vicinity)

Akureyri (north Iceland)

Garðabær (Reykjavík suburb)

Mosfellsbær (on Reykjavík's outskirts)

Selfoss (south Iceland) 

Akranes (west Iceland)

Sauðárkrókur (north Iceland)

Ísafjörður (capital of the Westfjords)

Borgarnes (west Iceland).

Reykjavík city itself was only founded in 1786 as an official trading town, although it was believed to be the location of the first permanent settlement in Iceland, when Ingólfur Arnarson arrived to Iceland in 874. However, there was no urban settlement in Reykjavík until the 19th century, when the town started growing rapidly and blossomed into the city it is today. Reykjavík is constantly growing and spreading out further.

So it will be interesting to see what the next few years have in store for Iceland and its population, I predict that Iceland's population will rise to half a million in less than 20 years.

Icelandic sheep outnumber Iceland's population

Guide to Iceland's Facebook Followers Outnumber Iceland's Population

However, Guide to Iceland aren't the only ones to outnumber the Icelandic population. Icelandic animals also greatly outnumber the human population as there are close to a million sheep in Iceland - and as mentioned before there are about 10 million puffins living in Iceland each summer. On the other hand there are only about 80 thousand horses living in Iceland (but additional 100 thousand Icelandic horses abroad).

Iceland is 103,000 km2, so each square km is shared by 3 people, 8 sheep, a 100 puffins - but zero ants! So with the increased tourism (more than a million visitors each year now) there are still more sheep in the country at any given time than people. And a lot more puffins (in summertime, the puffins go out to sea during winter).

In 2017, it's predicted that up to 2 million tourists will visit Iceland, so although the resident population is small, you'll feel like it's a lot larger with all those extra people!

So I suppose the next goal for Guide to Iceland is to outnumber the Icelandic sheep when it comes to 'likes' on social media... we won't even try to compete with the puffins!

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