Icelandic Culture
25 November 2019

History of Iceland in a timeline

The history of Iceland spans over 1000 years, and a lot has happened. We took together a few important dates for you which are useful to know. A good idea is to visit some of the places we mention during your travel in Iceland.


Norwegian Vikings dissatisfied with the way the king, Harald I, was ruling the country go to sea and sail to Iceland. Ingólfur Arnarson is said to be the founder, and he set up shop in Reykjavík in 874. 


The new nation of Iceland establishes the first parliament in the world, Alþingi, in Þingvellir to regulate the Icelandic Commonwealth.
turf church in Iceland


Icelanders vote to become Christian. Icelanders practice Norse Ásatrú for some years longer though. 


After decades of civil war between chieftains who had arrogated Iceland and their followers, Icelanders hold a meeting in Þingvellir and decide to make a deal with the Norwegian king to bring Iceland under the Norwegian crown. The East-Fjords don’t agree until two years later.


Iceland became a Danish colony when Norway, Sweden and Denmark became a union with the Kalmar Union. Icelanders were not happy about that at all. 


The last Catholic bishop of Iceland was beheaded at Skálholt during the Protestant Reformation.
Laki craters in Icceland


The volcano Laki erupts in South-East Iceland. 25km long fissure with 130 crates opened up. The eruption lasted 8 months and the sulfuric aerosols that accompanied it has made the eruption one of the most important events of the last thousand years. 20-25% of the Icelandic population perished, as did 80% of sheep, 50% of cattle and 50% of horses. 


Icelanders got their very first constitution from the Danish king.


Icelanders got home rule.


Iceland became a sovereign and independent state in a union with Denmark.


Britain invades Iceland. Icelanders were very relieved that it was the British army and not the German, who had already invaded Denmark and Norway at that point.


Iceland declares independence from Denmark.  


Iceland becomes one of the founding members of NATO. Icelanders were not happy.


Icelanders become the first nation to elect a female president, Vígdís Finnbogadóttir.


The Financial Crash. Icelanders love being the best; the Financial Crash in Iceland was the biggest financial crash per capita in history.