• 800–1050: The age of the Vikings, when Norsemen brought terror to the coasts of Europe.
  • 871+/-2: The age of settlement. According to the Íslendingabók (The Book of Icelanders), the settlement of Iceland began around 870, with the arrival of Ingólfur Arnarson in Reykjavík. In the 4th century B.C., long before the land was ever settled, it was described by the Greek explorer Pytheas of Marseille, who referred to it as “Thule.”
  • 930: The need for a common law in Iceland leads to the creation of the Alþing, an annual political assembly of some 40 local chieftains. A Law Speaker is elected who has to commit the laws to memory and recite them. The first Alþing takes place in Lögberg (Law Hill) at Thingvellir and continues for more than 300 years until the Norwegian crown takes over.
  • 982: After being exiled from Iceland, Erik the Red heads for Greenland and establishes a settlement of around 300 houses with 3,000 inhabitants. His son, Leifur the Lucky, hearing about a land west of Greenland, sails off and discovers Vineland in North America. The explorers try to settle on the coast of present-day Newfoundland, but are forced our after 3 years by hostile Indians.
  • 1000: Christianity is brought to Iceland when missionaries from Norway convert a southern chieftain (a relative of the King of Norway). For a while Iceland remains both pagan and Christian, until a compromise is made by the Law Speaker Þórgeir who, after spending a day thinking and reflecting in silence (with a cloak spread over him to discourage people from interrupting), proclaims that Iceland will be Christian, as long as people are still free to worship the old gods.
  • 1120: The sagas of Iceland constitute the first extensive body of prose composed in a European language and largely recount events between 870 and 1350. The fact that most Icelanders are still able to read and understand them is remarkable. Written in a narrative similar to the modern novel, the first manuscripts, the Íslendingabók (Book of Icelanders) and Landnámabók (Book of Settlements), were written by Ari the Wise. The most famous writer of the sagas is Snorri Sturlasson, who wrote Heimskringla (Orb of the World), a history of the kings of Norway. The greatest manuscript of the sagas is the Möðruvallabók (the Möðruvellir Book), which includes 11 of the Icelandic family sagas.
  • 1262–1380: Norwegian rule. Plans by the Norwegian crown to take over Iceland are first recorded in the year 1220, when Snorri Sturlasson unsuccessfully tried to win Iceland over to the king of Norway. A period of conflict ensues, culminating in the Battle of Örlygsstaðir in North Iceland. Conflict continues until 1262, when Gissur (the first earl of Iceland) induces the chieftain of the lands to swear allegiance to the king. Iceland remains in the realm of the Kings of Norway until 1376, when the crowns of Norway and Denmark are inherited by King Ólaf. Iceland then becomes subject to the Danish throne and remains so until 1944.
  • 1300: Fish exports from Iceland to England are recorded in English import records. The industry expands over the next 100 years as demand increases from Europe, probably because fish is allowed on religious fasts.
  • 1402–1495: The plague sweeps through Iceland a little later than it does in Europe, arriving in the 15th century with two major epidemics. The first arrives around 1402 and spreads rapidly from Hvalfjörður in the west, to the north and south, finally reaching the east by 1403. The plague claims around 50% of the population before dying out around Easter 1404. The second epidemic occurs in 1494–95 and also claims a significant proportion of the population, but does not reach the Westfjords.
  • 1536: Religious reformation. The introduction of Lutheranism in Iceland is not as peaceful as the transition to Christianity, bringing violence and murder. The Danish government in Iceland is wiped out twice as it tries to convert the Icelanders to Protestantism. In 1552, another royal Danish government is established and completes the reformation of Iceland.
  • 1600–1785: The Dark Ages was a particularly pious period for Icelanders as they lived under the repressive thumb of the orthodox Lutheran church. At least 25 people accused of witchcraft were burned at the stake.
  • 1751–1806: During this period, Reykjavík emerges as the capital of Iceland. First comes the opening of a wool industry workshop by a team of Icelandic entrepreneurs, then the abolition of monopoly, which leads to the establishment of more trading hubs, and finally the relocation of Iceland’s main administration offices.
  • 1830–1904: Fight for autonomy. During this period Iceland struggles with the Danish rulers for more power, and in 1874 is awarded its own constitution and legislative power, limited to internal affairs. Icelanders have to wait 30 more years to win complete control.
  • 1873–1914: Emigration. Around 50 million people head to America from Europe, including 15,000 Icelanders (20% of the population at the time). Most leave from the north and east of Iceland.
  • 1916: Workers’ movement. This year sees the establishment of a national federation of trade unions.
  • 1944: Sovereignty. On June 17, 1944, independence is established and the Republic of Iceland is formed, with a ceremony in Þingvellir (where the first Alþing was established in 930).
  • 1955: Halldór Laxness wins the Nobel Prize for literature with his book Independent People.
  • 1958: Fish Fight #1. After World War II, Iceland expanded its fishing boundaries, and in this year sets them at 12 nautical miles from the coast. British trawlers under protection of British warships oppose the boundary. This first Cod War is eventually resolved through diplomacy.
  • 1972: Fish Fight #2. In 1972, after an economic slump, Iceland extends its fishing boundary to 50 nautical miles. The British answer with a second Cod War.
  • 1975: Fish Fight #3. When Iceland further extends its fishing boundary to 200 nautical miles, the Cod War becomes more destructive. Diplomatic ties are severed, and the British orders their warships to ram Icelandic fishing vessels. Iceland fights back with a secret weapon: a sharp hook dragged underwater in the path of British ships. In the end Britain is forced to back down and Iceland regains power of its primary natural resource, a symbolic win for tiny nations around the world.
  • 1970–1980: Girl power and red stockings. In the 1970s, a radical women’s movement forms called Rauðsokkahreyfingin (the Red Stockings) to campaign for the rights of women in Iceland. The movement gathers strength, and in 1975 a rally is attended by 20% of the population of Reykjavík. Women all over the country take a mass day off from work and domestic duties.
  • 1973: On January 23, 1973, a crack appears in the long-inactive volcano Helgafell on Heimaey (Home Island). Fortunately, because of a recent storm, the entire fishing fleet is at hand to assist in the evacuation of the island during the massive eruption. The resulting mountain, named Eldfell, adds an extra 233m (764 ft.) to the island’s height.
  • 1980: The much-admired Vigdís Finnbogadóttir becomes the world’s first democratically elected female president.
  • 1986: Iceland hosts the famous meeting between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev during the Reykjavík summit, where both leaders take important diplomatic steps toward ending the Cold War.
  • 1993: Björk releases her first solo album, Debut, which goes on to receive global critical acclaim and propels her to international stardom, making her Iceland’s biggest star.
  • 2003–2008: Kárahnjúkar hydropower project. A massive dam project created in order to provide power for an aluminum smelter in the east of Iceland outrages environmentalists and causes much controversy. The project goes ahead anyway and floods large areas of Iceland’s natural wilderness.
  • 2006: The U.S. pullout. On September 30, American forces based in the Keflavík NATO base pulls out of Iceland after a 55-year post–World War II presence in Iceland. The area, which was home to more than 1,200 servicemen and women, has since been turned into student housing.
  • 2007: The U.N. names Iceland the world’s best country to live in, based on life expectancy, education levels, medical care, income, and other criteria.
  • 2008: Rise and fall. What goes up must come down. After years of thriving, October 2008 sees the global recession take hold, leaving Iceland in debt so severe that within 3 weeks the major banks of Iceland are declared insolvent, the króna plummets, and suddenly the interest rates for cheap car and house loans—pinned to foreign currency—doubles. Many Icelandic families find themselves unable to make ends meet. The government comes under heavy criticism and is ultimately forced to resign after a mass protest. After a general election in 2009, the Social Democrats are elected to lead the country out of recession.
  • 2010: On March 20, a vent fissure eruption opens in Fimmvörðuháls in the south of Iceland, followed shortly by a larger volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull, directly to the west of the first. The ash cloud from the second volcano brings European air traffic to a halt for more than a week, creating the biggest-ever shutdown of passenger traffic.
  • 2010: In May, the Best Party (Besti Flokkurinn), led by comedian Jon Gnarr, wins control of Reykjavík, with more than a third of the vote in the city elections. Pledges include “sustainable transparency,” free towels at swimming pools, and a new polar bear for the city zoo.
  • 2011: Iceland is honored as special guest at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, the world’s leading book marketplace, in recognition of its rich literary heritage.
  • 2013: Keflavík-formed band Of Monsters and Men, which began after winning a local battle of the bands contest a few years earlier, appears on Saturday Night Live.
  • 2015: Although it did not receive as much international attention as the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, the Bárðarbunga eruption in central Iceland lasts 6 months and is the largest continuous eruption in Iceland in the past several hundred years.
  • 2016: The smallest nation to ever appear in the Euro 2016 futbol championship, Iceland ties Portugal, then famously beats Austria and England. They eventually lose in the quarterfinals to France, a game that an estimated one-tenth of the country's population travels to Paris to see.
 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.