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9 Amazing Maps That Describe Iceland

June 17, 2019 5 min read

9 Amazing Maps That Describe Iceland

Iceland, as the name suggests this Nordica island nation does indeed have its fair share of ice. However, it is also very active geologically, volcanically speaking and is also home to lava fields and thermal springs, landscape features that you might not necessarily associate with ice and glaciers. Although Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream the summers are still cold, which is expected given that Iceland lays just outside the arctic circle. Iceland is actually the 18th largest and the second largest island in Europe after Great Britain. That said it is important to remember that Iceland is in fact made up of an archipelago which includes the main island and 30 smaller islands. 

Map all the buildings in Iceland

 Buildings in Iceland
The first thing that you notice when you look at a map of every building in Iceland is that they are spread out along the coast. This probably a throwback to the early Viking settlers that established villages along the coast in order to be close to there fishing grounds, food supply, and transportation routes. It is not unthinkable that some of these reasons for wanting to live near the coast are still valid today. That said, I think the reason for wanting to be near the coast has two parts. A push and a pull. Firstly we have the aforementioned reasons why someone might what to spend time and energy building near the coast. However, there is also the push factor, and by this, I mean the reasons why people don't see the interior as an optimal place to build and live. The interior of Iceland is also the coldest part of the Island most of which is covered by tundra. The only native mammal to Iceland was is the arctic fox the original settlers of Iceland were not incentivized to establish villages in the interior of the country in order to hunt. 

map of all the bike paths and cycle ways in Iceland



 Cycle Ways in Iceland
Well, this map kind of says it all. There are very few cycle paths in Iceland. The highest density is in Reykjavik, but otherwise, they are few and far between. However, cyclists do still travel to Iceland to cycle the Ring Road, or highway number 1, that circumnavigates the main island or choose the more difficult paths through the center of the highlands. Maybe the lack of cycleways can simply be attributed to the unpredictable weather and the long distances between destinations.

map of all the glaciers in Iceland

Glaciers In Iceland
Glaciers cover about 11% of the land area of Iceland. Like in almost every other part of the world the effect of global warming can be seen here and the percentage of land covered by ice will undoubtedly continue to decrease over time. Another factor which also effects coverage of glacial ice is the fact that many glaciers on the main island lie directly over active volcanic regions. When volcanic activity occurs, larges areas of the glaciers are simply melted resulting in flash flooding. These are flash floods can also be triggered by more general geothermal activity and are not always associated with an eruption.

Glacier or Ice Cap Area
1 Vatnajökull 8,300 3,100[3] 2,109.6 64°24′N 16°48′W
2 Langjökull 953 195[3] 1,360 64°45′N 19°59′W
3 Hofsjökull 925 208[4] 1,765 64°49′N 18°49′W
4 Mýrdalsjökull 596 140[5] 1,493 63°40′N 19°06′W
5 Drangajökull 160   925 66°09′N 22°15′W
6 Eyjafjallajökull 78   1,666 63°38′N 19°36′W
7 Tungnafellsjökull 48   1,535 64°45′N 17°55′W
8 Þórisjökull 32   1,350 64°32′31″N20°42′56″W
9 Eiríksjökull 22   1,672 64°46′24″N20°24′34″W
10 Þrándarjökull 22   1,236 64°42′08″N14°54′09″W
11 Tindfjallajökull 19   1,462 63°48′N 19°35′W
12 Torfajökull 15   1,190 63°53′39″N19°07′37″W
13 Snæfellsjökull 11   1,446 64°48′32″N23°46′16″W

map of all the paths and tracks in Iceland

Paths and Tracks
This map shows the country of Iceland it crisscrossed with paths and tracks. While some of these could be considered roads depending on your definition, the takeaway message here is that you are not just limited to traveling around the edge of the country and that there is plenty of opportunities to get away for the bigger centers and explore the interior of Iceland. This might also explain Iceland's thriving tourist activity,four-wheel-driving. While there are lots of tracks, paths, and roads to choose the rules are simple if it is not clearly marked as a road don't drive there. People caught breaking this rule face a fine of up to 2000 USD. Given the remoteness of the interior of Iceland, this is probably an effort to protect people from getting lost or stuck somewhere a long way form helps and at the same time a way of protecting fragile arctic environments.

map of every railway in Iceland, rail network of Iceland


 Railways in Iceland
As you can see from this map, Iceland has no railway. The first railway projects were proposed in 1900, and three built but they never became part of the public transportation system. In the end, a relatively small population, competition from cars and the harsh environment meant that there is no active railway network in Iceland today. 

Road map of Iceland, Iceland's road network every road in Iceland

 Roads in Iceland
As you might expect the major centers are serviced by a denser network of roads. However, what you can't see is that a major part of this roading network consists of fo gravel or dirt roads. The main high that follows the coast is 1332 kilometers long, and 33 kilometers of that is a dirt road. Because of some of the challenging condition faced by people driving in Iceland, webcams have been set up on most of the major road, particularly in the high country, to act as helpful indicators of road conditions.


Map of all the waterways, rivers and streams in Iceland

Waterways in Iceland
Here we can see the effect of the highlands of the interior and the icecaps.
Sea level is obviously the lowest point, so we see the water draining down towards the sea from the interior of Iceland. We can also see large areas of land that are not drained by waterways. This, could, of course, be due to inaccuracies in the data ( this data come from OpenStreetMap) or it might just show the areas that are covered by glaciers. Iceland's longest river (Pjorsa), or the river of bulls, which is located in the south and has its headwaters at the end of the Hofsjokull glacier.

Elevation map of Iceland showing bathymetry and land elevation

Last but not least a map a topographic map of Iceland. This map shows elevation above and below sea level, depicted as contour lines. On the land, the darker colors represent lower elevations and lighter shades show the higher elevations. The bathymetry of the seafloor surrounding Iceland is also visible. As with the land, the darker colors show lower elevations or deeper parts of the surrounding ocean and lighter shades represent shallower water. Apart from being beautiful to look at, the elevations maps give a great overview of the landscape and, in this case, the surrounding bathymetry of Iceland.


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