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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 countrywasn’tdeclared a republicuntil 1944. Throughout the island's journey, the national flag would be created and go through an evolution of its own.
The modern Icelandic flag,oríslenskifáninn,in Icelandic, is a blue flag designed with what's called a "Nordic cross." The shape represents Christianity and can be seen onother Scandanavian flags, such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The crossdates back tothe 8th century whenChristianityspread acrossScandanavia. Each country has its own variation of the cross with their own unique colors. Iceland’s flagiswhite, blue, and red. The colorsare meant to signify the Atlantic Ocean, white glaciers and snow, and the red magmaofvolcanoes.
The History of the Flag
The earliest records of settlers in Iceland date back to 874CE, 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 1397until -1523, followed by Danish rule.The country didn’tfly theircurrent nationalflag until 1944.
Iceland'sfirstflag came from the leader of the Icelandic nationalist movement, Jørgen Jørgensen.Jørgensenwas 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, amore regal and traditionalsymbol.
The falcon flagwas used until 1870 when nationalism in Iceland was on the rise andcries 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 crossand although it wasn't passed, they agreed that the colors of the flag would be blue, white, and red.
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. Hearguedto have the flag changed to a cross, using the national colors.He was the onewho proposed two have the white cross over the bluebackground, referred to as,“Hvítbláinn” (thewhite blue).
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.
InDecember 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.
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. Ifyou want to capture a cool cultural pic next to the flag on your trip, you can find it atsome several famousattractions.
Bessastaðiris the Icelandic equivalent of the U.S White House. Located inAlftanes, a suburb of the capital region, this is where the president and his family live.Bessastaðiris architecturally stunning and historically significant. Visitors and tourists are welcomed by invitation on special days.
Not only can you find the Icelandic flag here but the flag for thePresident of Iceland, whichfeaturestheNationalFlag with the coat of armsat the center of the cross.
Nearby points of interest:
Alftanes Geothermal Pool
The Blue Lagoon
Huts in Thorsmork
There are several huts inThorsmorkValley insouthernIceland thathavetheNationalFlag hoisted above them. These huts are open to campers, hikers, and travelers seeking lodging in the area. Home to the popularLaugavegurhiking trail, adventurers can reachThorsmorkby a 4x4 vehicle or aSuperJeepfrom Reykjavik in less than three hours.However, we recommend joining a hiking tour.
Nearby points of interest:
Thingvellir National Park
As the birthplace of the first parliament in Iceland, it isfittingthatthere would be a national flag at Thingvellir National Park. Located just 47 kilometers northeast of Reykjavik, this UNESCO World HeritageSte is filled witharich history and awe-inspiring geology. Thingvellir's arguably most fascinating feature is that it sits on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with divergingEurasian tectonic plates splitting the park in two. Standing between two tectonic plates while posingnext to the Icelandic flag makes for a great photo!
Nearby points of interest:
Geysir and Strokkur Hot Springs
Official Flag Days in Iceland
Good Friday (the Friday before Easter, when the flag flies at half staff)
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 withcolorful designs that represent the local culture and history of the area.
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 100,000posts and counting! And“#iceland🇮🇸” has accumulated over half a million!
With its cinematic landscapes, stunning nature, and diverse wildlife there is no question whyphotos 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!