If you are planning a trip to Iceland and need to know what to see and do then here is why you need to put Þingvellir (Thingvellir) firmly at the top of your list!
With the snow-capped hills, waterfalls, plains, rugged terrain from when time began and the largest natural lake it is a truly spectacular place. It probably sounds a little wanky but you can actually feel that it holds significant importance to Iceland and its people.
I don’t know how many more superlatives I can use when talking of Iceland but visiting Thingvellir and seeing the beauty and grandeur of the area really is something else!
Its name comes from the old Norse words Ping (assembly) and vollr (field). I’m almost embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about Thingvellir before went but i soon learnt it is more than just an important historical landmark it’s also where you can LITERALLY walk between a continental drift. Which coincidentally is also a GOT filming location. Two birds one stone.
The National Park contains the site of the first parliament of Iceland dating back to 930. It was where the clans would meet, settle disputes and decide upon the laws that would drive the country forward. It became a national park in 1930 and this was largely to protect the ancient assembly site and to protect the natural land. There are several information boards up around the main assembly site explaining the history behind where you are standing.
If all that history wasn’t enough then there is the chance to see with your own eyes what a continental rift looks like. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is where the Eurasian and North American plates meet and the land between them subsides. On average each year they drift 2 cms a year apart. You can see, walk or even scuba dive along it!
The best place to do this is in Silfra Lake where you can dive between the tectonic plates. We didn’t get a chance to do this but it’s on the list for next time.
If camping and hiking are more your thing then you are in luck and camping – There are facilities for this and It would be an AMAZING place to see the Northern Lights. There are two campsites and from what we found out you don’t need to reserve but you do need to obtain a permit from the visitor centre and there is a cost per person. Children under 17 are free though. If you just want to hike then there is plenty of routes to take you around the park including the remains of the historic abandoned farms of Hrauntun and Skogarkot.
Obviously, there has to be a waterfall, it is Iceland after all, and you can find the beautiful Oxarafoss Waterfall for yet another postcard-perfect waterfall photo. The good thing is you don’t need to hike to far to see this one as it is fairly close to one of the car parks.
There is a very quaint 19th-century church close to the assembly site which you should walk around. This church was built in 1859 but Christianity was introduced to Iceland prior to 1000 which at the time split people’s religious beliefs from paganism and Christianity. At the time to stop chaos the Lawspeaker declared that Icelanders should take up Christianity but if there were pagan they should practise this in private. There has been a church at Thingvellir soon after the decision was made. The church is open 9-5 daily from May/June to early September. We didn’t get to go inside but you can have a good peek in the windows and it’s beautiful to look at both inside and out.
If you are a big fan of Game of Thrones you will be aware there are many filming locations dotted around Iceland. Thingvellir was also used as a filming location with 4 scenes featuring in the show. The Wildlings Camp, the path leading to Eyrie, Brian and the Hounds battle scenes, as well as Arya’s and Sandors journey, all were shot here.
Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is located on Golden Circle route of Iceland, just 40ks northeast of Reykjavík. You can easily self-drive through the park just keep an eye on the weather or most Golden Circle Tours will include a visit within their itinerary.
As with most natural wonders in Iceland, it is free to visit and explore just be aware of the parking fees and if you need the loo it will cost you so have some change to hand. You may also need to check the seasonal hours as with the reduced daylight in winter certain areas may be inaccessible.
A trip to Iceland really wouldn’t be complete without visiting this stunning atmospheric place, that just epitomizes Iceland and its history.
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