Located in the North Atlantic Ocean, the island country of Iceland is home to a population of around 358,780. The country has a total area of 103,000 square km. The entire extent of the main island of Iceland is located south of the Arctic Circle and has an area of 101,826A square km. It is the world’s 18th biggest island. Iceland also has about 30 minor islands including the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Heimaey is the most populous island of Iceland other than the main island.
The Most Populous Islands of Iceland
Aside from the main island of Iceland, Heimaey is Iceland’s most extensive and most populous island. It occupies an area of 13.4 square km and hosts a population of around 4,500 individuals. The island is part of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago and is the only populated island there. Fishing is the island's main enterprise. Heimaey is served by the Vestmannaeyjar Airport and a harbor. The Heimaey was the site of a major volcanic eruption in 1973. The Eldfell volcano erupted and its lava flows destroyed nearly half the town on the island. The island is home to about eight million puffins every summer and many other millions of seabirds.
Hrísey is Iceland’s second largest island both in terms of area and population. It has an area of 8 square km and is home to around 165 individuals. The island is part of the Akureyri municipality. Ferry services connect Hrísey to the main island of Iceland. Historically, the island was developed as a fishing base but overfishing in the area drastically decimated the fish populations. Hence, the fishing industry in Hrísey was shut down. In recent times, the island has attracted birdwatchers in large numbers. Due to the absence of predators, birdlife on this island has flourished. Many species of seabirds can be spotted here.
Iceland’s third most populous island and fourth most extensive one, the Grímsey Island is located 40 km off the northern coast of the country's main island. It hosts a population of 76 individuals in an area of 5.3 square km. It is the northernmost inhabited territory of the country. The fact that the Arctic Circle runs through the island makes Grímsey an attractive tourist spot. However, it is estimated that by the middle of the 21st century, the Arctic Circle will no longer pass through it due to the latitudinal shift caused by long-term oscillation of the axis of the Earth. Grímsey’s vegetation consists of marshes, grasses, and moss. It is also rich in birdlife. Commercial fishing is the biggest source of income for the residents of the island. Seabird egg collection and agriculture are also practiced.
The Northernmost Icelandic Island
The Kolbeinsey island located about 105 km off the main island’s northern coast, has Iceland’s northernmost point. The island is rapidly eroding due to wave action and is expected to disappear completely by 2020.
Southernmost Icelandic Island
The island of Surtsey was formed by volcanic eruptions that took place between 1963 and 1967. Part of the Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, Surtsey is located south of Iceland and is the southernmost Icelandic island. The 141-hectare island was studied intensely by volcanologists during its formation and by botanists and biologists afterward. To the delight of scientists, the formerly barren island quickly became home to hundreds of species of plants and animals and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.