Regions of Iceland

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Updates: 

In 2006, due to merging municipalities, two former municipalities were moved from one region to another, resulting in changes to the total populations and areas of those regions. I have updated those two columns in the main table.

FIPS Publication Change Notice No. 10, affecting FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2006-03-23. It assigns new FIPS codes to the current Icelandic regions, superseding the county codes formerly in effect.

Currently, publications of Statistics Iceland show the country divided into eight landsvŠ­i (regions). These are subdivided into 23 sřslur (counties), eight kaupsta­ir (independent cities), seven bŠir (towns), and five divisions of other types. The counties are further subdivided into units which have several Icelandic generic terms applied to them, but which can be referred to overall as municipalities. The number of municipalities has changed almost every year lately. There is a hierarchical set of codes for these divisions. Each region has a one-digit code. Each entity on the second level - county, independent city, town, etc. - has a four-digit code ending in '00', in which the first digit identifies the region it belongs to. Each municipality has a four-digit code whose first two digits indicate the county it belongs to. There is one exception. Reykjavik, the capital, is an independent city with the code 0000, but it belongs to the Capital region, whose code is 1. The eight regions are shown in the table below. (English names of regions are approximate translations.)

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on December 15, 1998. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For Iceland, the draft standard listed 23 townships and 23 counties. In the final standard, those divisions are completely absent. Iceland is shown divided into nine regions. They are the same as the regions given by Statistics Iceland, except that ISO splits Capital region into two regions: "H÷fu­borgarsvŠ­i utan ReykjavÝk" (i.e. Capital Area without Reykjavik), and ReykjavÝk. The ISO standard lists only the Icelandic names.

In my opinion, the ISO list shows Capital and Reykjavik as two separate regions only because Reykjavik has a code beginning with 0, and the rest of the Capital region has codes beginning with 1.

Country overview: 

Short nameICELAND
ISO codeIS
FIPS codeIC
LanguageIcelandic (is)
Time zone0
CapitalReykjavik

 

Iceland was part of Denmark until 1918-12-01. After its independence, it retained its allegiance to the Danish crown until 1944-06-17, when it became a republic.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Island
  2. Dutch: IJsland, Republiek IJsland (formal)
  3. English: Republic of Iceland (formal)
  4. Finnish: Islanti
  5. French: Islande f
  6. German: Island n
  7. Icelandic: ═sland, Ly­veldi­ ═sland (formal)
  8. Italian: Islanda f
  9. Norwegian: Island, Republikken Island (formal)
  10. Portuguese: IslÔndia, Rep˙blica f da IslÔndia f (formal)
  11. Russian: Исландия
  12. Spanish: Islandia, Rep˙blica f de Islandia (formal)
  13. Swedish: Island
  14. Turkish: İzlanda Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Icelandic is: ice, land: country

Spelling note: The Icelandic language uses the letters edh and thorn. The capital and small edh are printed đ and ­; thorn is Ů and ■. Edh is used to represent the voiced 'th' sound (as in 'this'), and thorn the unvoiced (as in 'thing'). When place names are transcribed into a typeface that lacks these letters, edh is normally transcribed 'dh', and thorn 'th'. However, because of their superficial resemblance, thorn is sometimes erroneously transcribed 'p'.

Primary subdivisions: 

Iceland is divided into eight landsvŠ­i (sing. landsvŠ­un: regions).

RegionHASCISOFIPSRdsPopulationArea(km.²)Area(mi.²)CapitalIcelandic
Capital IS.HO1*IC394187,4261,062410ReykjavÝkH÷fu­borgarsvŠ­i­
Eastland IS.AL7IC38913,82222,1108,537Egilssta­irAusturland
Northland East IS.NE6IC40827,01722,7358,778AkureyriNor­urland eystra
Northland West IS.NV5IC4178,87012,5814,858Sau­ßrkrˇkurNor­urland vestra
Southern PeninsulaIS.SU2IC43417,915829320KeflavÝkSu­urnes
Southland IS.SL8IC422,322,41324,5269,470SelfossSu­urland
Western Fjords IS.VF4IC4467,5519,4093,633═safj÷r­urVestfir­ir
Westland IS.VL3IC45514,8779,5543,689BorgarnesVesturland
8 regions299,891102,80639,694
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Region codes from ISO 3166-2. These are the same as the Statistics Iceland region codes.
    For full identification in a global context, prefix "IS-" to the code (ex: IS-7 represents Eastland).
    * Note: ReykjavÝk, although it is part of Capital region, has the ISO code IS-0.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • Rds: The first digit of a highway number identifies the region in which the road is located.
    Highway number 1 is the ring road which encircles the whole island.
  • Population: 2005-12-31 (compiled annually from population registers).

Postal codes: 

Iceland uses three-digit postal codes. Postal codes for Icelandic addresses can be identified by prefixing them with "IS-".

Further subdivisions:

See the Municipalities of Iceland page.

Two of the regions are often grouped together: Capital Area, also called ReykjavÝk, and Southern Peninsula, also called Reykjanes. The regions are subdivided into 23 counties (1977, 1981-17; 1959-16) and 23 independent towns. These are further subdivided into 79 sveitarfÚl÷g (sing. sveitarfÚlagi­: municipalities), as of 2006-04-08. Each of the independent towns coincides with a municipality. The number of municipalities has been steadily decreasing, while the number of independent towns has generally been increasing. The Association of Local Authorities in Iceland  has published this report  (in Icelandic, dated 2004-08-24) with a list of all 229 municipalities as of 1950, a list of all 105 municipalities as of 2002-12-31, and descriptions of all the changes from 1950 to 2004.

Territorial extent: 

Rangßrvallasřsla includes the Vestmannaeyjar, sometimes called the Westman Islands.

Origins of names: 

  1. Akureyri: Icelandic akur: field and eyri: alluvium
  2. Hafnarfj÷r­ur: Old Icelandic hafnar: port, fj÷r­ur: fjord
  3. Reykjavik: Icelandic for smoky bay

Change history: 

  1. In 1900, Iceland consisted of three amter (counties) in the Danish administrative system: North, South, and West. North corresponded to the present-day regions of Northland East, Northland West, and most of East (all but part of Austur-Skaftafellssřsla); West corresponded to the present-day regions of West (excluding Borgarfjar­arsřsla) and Western Peninsula; and South comprised the rest of the country. These counties evolved into regions. The number of divisions was changed to five ~1937, to seven ~1945, and to eight ~1960.
  2. There were 16 counties in 1958. Some of them have split since then. Specifically, Gullbringu- og Kjˇsarsřsla split into Gullbringusřsla and Kjˇsarsřsla, and Mřra- og Borgarfjar­arsřsla split into Mřrasřsla and Borgarfjar­arsřsla, both ~1964.
  3. According to Table 1.2 in "Statistical Yearbook of Iceland 2002", "The separation of the judicial and executive branches of government at district level took place 1 July, 1992." This table shows that up to that date, there were 27 "National government districts". These disappeared, to be replaced by eight district courts (judicial) and 27 district commissioner offices (executive). It's possible, although I can't be sure, that the jurisdictions of the eight district courts are the eight regions.
  4. 2006-01-28: Siglufjar­arkaupsta­ur municipality (2005 pop. 1,352, a.k.a. Siglufj÷r­ur) transferred from Northland West to Northland East region.
  5. 2006-04-08: Skeggjasta­ahreppur municipality (2005 pop. 125) transferred from Eastland to Northland East region.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Capital: Reikiavik (Spanish); ReykjavÝk (variant); ReykjavÝk og Nßgrenni, ReykjavÝkursvŠ­i (Icelandic-variant)
  2. SnŠfellsnes- og Hnappadalssřsla: SnŠfellsnessřsla (obsolete)
  3. Southern Peninsula: Reykjanes, Southwest Peninsula (variant); ReykjanessvŠ­i (Icelandic-variant)
  4. Western Fjords: Western Peninsula (variant)

Population history:

Region191019501970198019912000
Capital15,00665,555119,822135,000149,482174,991
Eastland9,7139,70511,31512,85613,18011,930
Northland East11,95918,36822,22525,70026,38226,471
Northland West9,01210,2649,90910,63110,3409,424
Southern Peninsula2,5895,093  15,35716,500
Southland13,25013,84718,05219,63720,54821,123
Western Fjords13,38611,16610,05010,4799,7568,144
Westland10,2689,97513,20514,88414,53214,266
8 regions85,183143,973204,578229,187259,577282,849

 

Sources: 1910, 1950, 2000 data from Iceland in Figures 2001-2002, page 6 (no longer available online, but see more recent versions at Statistics Iceland ). 1970 and 1980 data from the EncyclopŠdia Britannica, 1984 edition; data for Southern Peninsula are included in Capital (listed as ReykjavÝkursvŠ­i og ReykjanessvŠ­i, i.e. Reykjavik area and Reykjanes area). The 1980 data are identified as an estimate in the EB, but they are in exact agreement with the populations shown in the 1985 edition of Almanaque Abril (Brazil). 1991 data from The Statesman's Year-Book, 1993-94 edition. The date is December 1 of each year shown until 1991, otherwise December 31. Recent data were compiled from population registers.

Sources differ regarding the 1950 census. Here are some data I've collected from several editions of the EncyclopŠdia Britannica World Atlas (EBWA), and The Statesman's Year-Book, 1959 edition. All areas are in km.². The data in the 1957 EBWA were listed in mi.², but they had evidently been converted from the rounded figures shown in this table.

Source ->EBWA 1951EBWA 1957EBWA 1964SY 1959
DivisionArea1940 pop.Area1950 pop.Area1950 pop.Area1950 pop.
East22,51510,12315,5009,84321,9919,70515,5009,705
North35,45227,40635,50028,77135,46128,63235,50028,632
South24,67713,59631,80013,90825,21413,84731,80013,847
Southwest10,67957,39610,70080,42610,69380,62310,70080,623
Western Peninsula9,46912,9539,50011,3159,47011,1669,50011,166
5 divisions102,792121,474103,000144,263102,829143,973103,000143,973

 

The total 1950 population of Iceland is the same in EBWA 1964, SY 1959, and the 1950 "Iceland in Figures" data given above. Comparing the individual divisions from those columns, it looks as if East division is the same as Eastland region; North division is the same as Northland East and Northland West regions put together; South division equals Southland region; Southwest division equals Capital, Southern Peninsula, and Westland regions; and Western Peninsula division is Western Fjords region. The likeliest explanation is that some of the divisions were split up between about 1964 and 1970, and the data from "Iceland in Figures" are proleptic. I'm suggesting, that is, that Statistics Iceland had population data for lower-level entities, such as counties, and added them up as if those entities belonged to the regions that they belong to today.

There are significant differences between the areas of the divisions in these reference works. Moreover, none of them is a very good fit for the areas that you would get by converting the present-day regions into the old divisions. I can't account for these discrepancies.

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