Iceland is a Nordic island country marking the juncture between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The country has a population of 321,857 and a total area of 103,000 km², which makes it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with the surrounding areas in the southwestern region of the country being home to two-thirds of the country's population. Reykjavík is the most northern capital in the world. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists mainly of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains and glaciers, while many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle.
According to Landnámabók, the settlement of Iceland began in AD 874 when the chieftain Ingólfr Arnarson became the first permanent Norse settler on the island. Others had visited the island earlier and stayed over winter. During the following centuries, Norsemen settled Iceland, bringing with them thralls of Gaelic origin. From 1262 to 1918, Iceland was part of the Norwegian and later the Danish monarchies. The country became independent in 1918 and a republic was declared in 1944.