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Happy Earth Day – Iceland’s Forests

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Happy Earth Day!

Have you heard about the Friendship Forest in Iceland? It is called Vinaskógur (Frienship Forest) and was opened 26 Jun 1990 when the President of Iceland, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir and the Queen of the United Kingdom, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II each planted a tree. This forest is a symbol of friendship and goodwill and since then, many world leaders and dignitaries have visited the forest and planted a tree. It is located at the Þingvellir National Park.


Iceland has the fewest trees of any country in Europe. Just over 1% of the country has forests. Scholars believe 25-40% of the country had woodlands with willow and birch trees during the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century. Fossil evidence indicates that many trees grew in Iceland millions of years ago including Sequoia and Magnolia trees. Later, as the weather became cooler, there were Pine trees growing. Together with a climate that became more severe, glacier activity, volcanic activity, and the people using the trees for their farms and homes, the forests were destroyed.

The people of Iceland began planting many trees starting in about 1950. With about 1.5 million seedlings planted each year in the early 1960s. From 2007-2009, about 6 million seedlings were planted!

Here is an aerial view of a portion of Þingvellir by our friend, Mats Wibe Lund. He has an amazing collection of photos that anyone can order from his website: . You can order photos of your ancestral Icelandic farms or lots of locations in Iceland.

Þingvellir Mats Wibe Lund

Þingvellir Mats Wibe Lund

If you are interested in reading more about the forests in Iceland, click on this link to a very interesting article: Forestry in a treeless land 2009. Click on this link for an article about Mapping Iceland's Forests.

Iceland is a beautiful and earth-friendly country. There is a forest, Kjarnaskógur (Kjarni forest), which is located 3 km south of Akureyri. The first trees were planted here in 1952. We visited Iceland´s largest forest on a tour with Jónas Þór. It is located on the east coast 25 km south of Egillstaðir called Hallormsstaðaskógur. It is 1854 hectares and includes an area 15 km along a lake called Lagarfljót. It is a beautiful forest, with many huge trees. The sign at the forest says that it includes 70% native birch trees and 30% imported trees. People can rent boats or swim in the lake, go camping, bird watching, or hiking in the forest.

Kjarnaskógur Woods south of Akureyri

We did NOT swim in Lagarfljót, though. It is a glacial-fed lake but more importantly -- there is a HUGE Lake Worm Monster that lives in the lake! Sightings were first mentioned in the Icelandic Annals of 1345. But I am getting off the topic -- I will write a story about this lake monster another day. :)

So, today .... I wish you all a very Happy Earth Day. Enjoy the trees, forests, and all of nature. To our friends and cousins in Iceland and to all people around the world, I leave you with this forest photo from our North Dakota farm, Óðinssæti.

Jeff og Sunna Furstenau's Farm View at Óðinssæti

Email us your questions or join the conversation on our Facebook Group.

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