Iceland is a small country both in terms of landmass and population. Despite this, Iceland has its fair share of several famous people. Going all the way from Viking times with explorer Leif Erikson to Iceland’s most famous singer Björk, the small Nordic nation’s contribution to culture is undeniable. Let’s take a look at some famous Icelandic people.

Blue and red Icelandic flag

Famous Icelandic People – Groundbreaking Singer Björk

Björk is probably the most famous Icelandic singer and celebrity that has ever come out of her home country. She was born in Reykjavik and got involved in music at a very young age. After several groups, she formed “The Sugarcubes”, a hugely successful pop-rock band with thousands of fans. They split up a few years later and Björk released solo albums which became an outstanding success. Critics hailed her creativity and innovation. Her unique voice and style had a deep impact on the international music scene of the 90’s and 2000’s.

 

Famous Icelandic People – Award-winning Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson was a famous laureate songwriter and composer from Iceland. He got involved in music as a musician in rock bands. After a few years of interdisciplinary collaborations, he found his own sound and started composing. He was twice nominated for an Academy Award and won a Golden Globe for creating the score for the award-winning film “The Theory of Everything”. Some other well-known soundtracks he wrote include “Prisoners” (2013), “Sicario” (2015) and “Arrival” (2016). Unfortunately, this extremely talented artist died much too soon at the age of 48 in February 2018.

Composer playing piano

Famous Icelandic People – Rock Group Kaleo

This young Icelandic rock band from Mosfellsbaer came together in 2012 and released their first album, “Kaleo”, in 2013. Their bluesy folk-rock style and uncommon sound gained them fans from their earliest stages. Performing in Icelandic festivals really helped them gain even more exposure. Their fame began to grow and now they are based in Texas. This is a great home from which to nurture their incredible blues folk style. They’re also one of the bands playing the Madrid MadCool Music Festival in 2018. We hope they will become another celebrated music group in Icelandic history.

Famous Icelandic People – Explorer Leif Erikson

This Icelandic Viking was one of the first Europeans to ever set foot in the Americas. In the year 1000, he explored eastern parts of North America known then as Vinland. Unfortunately, history says that he was probably unaware that he had discovered a new continent. His ancestors were also notable people and had exploration in their blood. His father, Erik Thorvaldsson, settled Greenland. And about one hundred years earlier, his ancestor Naddoddr discovered Iceland, the island where Erikson was born. While most people say America was officially discovered by Christopher Columbus, Barack Obama proclaimed October 9th as Leif Erikson day in recognition of the exploration of North America 500 years before.

Icelandic Viking with Horned Helment

Famous Icelandic People – Writer Halldór Laxness

Halldór Guðjónsson was a notable Icelandic writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1955. He was born in Reykjavik but his parents moved to Laxnes, in Mosfellsbaer, where he grew up. He later changed his last name to Laxness to honor his hometown. When he was still very young, he joined an abbey in Luxembourg and converted to Catholicism. During that time he wrote several stories. As he started traveling around the world, he began learning more about socialism and communism and eventually gave up abbey life. These journeys inspired the novels, short stories, poetry and other literary works that would win him the Nobel Prize for Literature. This is the only time an Icelander has ever won this particular prize.

Famous Icelandic People: Singers, Songwriters, Authors, and Explorers

There’s one last thing we’d like to point out. Iceland has a population of 331,000 and a literacy rate of a 99.9%. Perhaps being the country with the highest number of books read per person and per year has a powerful effect. From writers to musicians and more, Iceland has produced a large number of notable people when taking their population into consideration.  

 

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