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The Icelandic Flag

A Complete Guide to The Flag of Iceland

|November 5, 2020
Sofie is a nomadic journalist who loves to write about people, places, and food. In her free time, she can be found twirling around in her dancing shoes.

Flags can represent history, culture, and national pride. For Iceland, the red, white, and blue flag symbolizes the natural beauty of the land of “fire and ice,” and tells the story of its journey toward independence. Discover why Icelanders are so proud to fly their red, white, and blue banners.

Iceland might boast one of the oldest parliaments in the world, but the country wasn’t declared a republic until 1944. Throughout the island's journey, the national flag would be created and go through an evolution of its own.   

Happy Friends Icelandic Flag Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

The modern Icelandic flag, or íslenski fáninn, in Icelandic, is a blue flag designed with what's called a "Nordic cross." The shape represents Christianity and can be seen on other Scandanavian flags, such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The cross dates back to the 8th century when Christianity spread across Scandanavia. Each country has its own variation of the cross with their own unique colors. Iceland’s flag is white, blue, and red. The colors are meant to signify the Atlantic Ocean, white glaciers and snow, and the red magma of volcanoes.  

The History of the Flag

The earliest records of settlers in Iceland date back to 874 CE, but there is no evidence of a flag. Outside of totems to represent their clans, there was no symbol to represent the island. Later the country fell under the rule of the Norwegian Kingdom from 1397 until - 1523, followed by Danish rule. The country didn’t fly their current national flag until 1944.  

Flag Joergen Joergensen Design Cod Fish Iceland

Iceland's first flag came from the leader of the Icelandic nationalist movement, Jørgen Jørgensen. Jørgensen was a radical Danish writer and adventurer who sailed to Iceland in 1809 and seized power of the island for two months, naming himself the "protector of the island." During his brief stint, he designed a flag with three codfish on it, which was not well-received by Icelanders. When Jørgensen's rule came to an end, the islanders motioned to have the fish replaced with a falcon, a more regal and traditional symbol.  

Icelandic Falcon Old Flag

The falcon flag was used until 1870 when nationalism in Iceland was on the rise and cries for independence from Denmark became louder. To symbolize their pleas for independence Icelanders demanded a new national flag with their campaign. Painter Sigurdur Gudmundsson entered a flag design with a blue background and a white falcon spreading its wings, which received widespread support.

The official national flag of Iceland was eventually proposed in 1885. The design had the flag divided into four rectangles by a white-bordered red cross and although it wasn't passed, they agreed that the colors of the flag would be blue, white, and red.  

Taking Pictures Westfjords Winter Flag in Iceland

Today’s Flag

So how did the modern-day flag transform from a falcon into a cross? Well, the idea came from a poet, not a painter. In the late 19th century, poet Einar Benediktsson expressed his dislike for the falcon, saying he felt it didn't represent the island nor did it follow the patterns of other international flags. He argued to have the flag changed to a cross, using the national colors. He was the one who proposed two have the white cross over the blue background, referred to as, Hvítbláinn” (the white blue). 

White Blue Cross Icelandic Flag Old

Adding to Benediktsson's idea the keeper of National Antiquities, Matthias Thordarson said he felt the flag should have three colors to represent Iceland: blue for the mountains and ocean, white for the ice and snow, and red for the lave from the volcanoes. As more design ideas were discussed, support for Thordarson's idea grew. 

In December 1913, the then prime minister called a committee where two flag designs were proposed: one with a bright red cross inside a larger white cross on a sky-blue background, and another with a sky-blue cross on white with a stripe of white and blue on either side.  

On June 19, 1915, a royal decree from the Danish Monarchy arrived to ratify the flag of Iceland we know today.  

Reykjavik Icelandic Flag Waving

Landmarks with the Flag of Iceland

Unlike some countries, Iceland is pretty low-key when it comes to flying the national flag. Unless you are visiting on June 17, Icelandic Independence Day, then you probably won't see the streets flooded with flags. If you want to capture a cool cultural pic next to the flag on your trip, you can find it at some several famous attractions. 


Bessastaðir is the Icelandic equivalent of the U.S White House. Located in Alftanes, a suburb of the capital region, this is where the president and his family live. Bessastaðir is architecturally stunning and historically significant. Visitors and tourists are welcomed by invitation on special days.  

Iceland Bessastada Kirkja

Not only can you find the Icelandic flag here but the flag for the President of Iceland, which features the National Flag with the coat of arms at the center of the cross.  

Icelandic Landmark Flag

Nearby points of interest: 

  • Alftanes Geothermal Pool 
  • Hafnarfjordur 
  • Kleifarvatn Lake
  • The Blue Lagoon 

Huts in Thorsmork

There are several huts in Thorsmork Valley in southern Iceland that have the National Flag hoisted above them. These huts are open to campers, hikers, and travelers seeking lodging in the area. Home to the popular Laugavegur hiking trail, adventurers can reach Thorsmork by a 4x4 vehicle or a Super Jeep from Reykjavik in less than three hours. However, we recommend joining a hiking tour.  

Thorsmork Basar Camping Hut Base in Iceland

Nearby points of interest: 

  • Reykjadalur Valley  
  • Seljalandsfoss Waterfall  
  • Gljufrabui Waterfall 

Thingvellir National Park

As the birthplace of the first parliament in Iceland, it is fitting that there would be a national flag at Thingvellir National Park. Located just 47 kilometers northeast of Reykjavik, this UNESCO World Heritage Ste is filled with a rich history and awe-inspiring geology. Thingvellir's arguably most fascinating feature is that it sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with diverging Eurasian tectonic plates splitting the park in two. Standing between two tectonic plates while posing next to the Icelandic flag makes for a great photo! 

Thingvellir National Park Iceland Flag Pole

Nearby points of interest: 

  • Silfra Fissure 
  • Geysir and Strokkur Hot Springs 
  • Gullfoss Waterfall 

Official Flag Days in Iceland

  • New Year’s   
  • Good Friday (the Friday before Easter, when the flag flies at half staff) 
  • Easter Day 
  • First Day of Summer (any Thursday between April 19 and April 25) 
  • Labor Day (May 1)
  • Whit Sunday (seven weeks after Easter) 
  • Sailors’ Day (the First Sunday in June) 
  • National Day (June 17) 
  • Sovereignty Day (December 1)
  • Christmas (December 25) 
  • The Birthday of the President of Iceland 

*The list above is subject to possible updates each year by the Prime Minister's Office. 

Other Flags in Iceland

Apart from the national flag, each municipality in Iceland has its own signature emblem. As you travel around the country you will be met with colorful designs that represent the local culture and history of the area.  

Icelandic Flags Municipality

The Iceland Flag Emojis

Iceland is full of Instagrammable locations, so much so that the hashtag of the Icelandic flag emoji “(#🇮🇸)” has racked up more than 100,000 posts and counting! And “#iceland🇮🇸” has accumulated over half a million! 

Emojis Emoticons Icelandic Flag In Digital World

With its cinematic landscapes, stunning nature, and diverse wildlife there is no question why  photos of Iceland are a social media favorite. Whether it is photographers sharing their skills, travelers sharing their adventures, or admirers sharing bucket list dream photos, Iceland isn't going to be leaving timelines any time soon. As the country's popularity has risen on social media platforms so has the Icelandic flag. The Iceland flag emoji was added to the official emoji collection in 2015 and is known as Icelandic Flag or Flag of Iceland, depending on the operating system.

Since the addition of the flag into the digital world, more people have been Googling the symbol to see what it is. Along with the flag, there has been an increase in internet interest in the country, it's language, and culture!

So don't forget to hashtag after your trip! 

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