A sweeping land of sublime beauty, Thingvellir National Park is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations owing to its historic, cultural and geological significance. The first stop along the Golden Circle route, this UNESCO-listed rift valley offers far-reaching vistas, encompassing a breath-taking landscape of rugged peaks and jagged terrain.
History of Thingvellir National Park
Boasting a profound history dating back to the ‘Settlement Period’ in 874 A.D., Thingvellir National Park proudly signifies the dawning of Icelandic antiquity. Following in the footsteps of the nation’s first settler Ingolfur Arnarson, the communities that began arriving in Iceland clashed over their shared territory, consequently resulting in the establishment of a general assembly at Thingvellir in 930 A.D. Representatives of each settled group gathered for parliamentary sessions from this date forward, where debates were resolved and criminals were tried and punished. Today, however, Thingvellir demonstrates no physical evidence of this rich political heritage apart from its name which translates as ‘the fields of parliament’, a fitting tribute to this expansive rift valley. In 1930, a millennium after parliament was originally established, Thingvellir was declared a National Park; in fact, the first of its kind in the entirety of the nation. Following that, in 2004 this immense land was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
What is Thingvellir National Park
From the lava fields, which consume the valley, to its deep ravines and Iceland’s largest natural lake, Thingvellir’s fluctuating topography is undeniably beguiling. Sitting upon the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, Thingvellir National Park rests in the centre of a deep canyon which marks the divide between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Bearing the scars of its geological positioning, this enormous fissure stretches over 16,000km and was fortuitously created over 3,000 years ago. Tectonic movements continue to divide this stunning land by 2.5cm per year and have subsequently created some of the most unique ravines in the world, including the Silfra Ravine. Filled by meltwater from the Langjokull glacier, a natural purification process filtered Silfra’s crystal-clear waters which radiate a vivid blue and permits visibility of its unique underwater geology of over 100 metres.
Why visit Thingvellir National Park?
Thingvellir’s appeal doesn’t end at its distinctive landscapes, unique topography or stunning views, wildlife enthusiasts are also spoilt for choice. Golden Plovers and common snipes make regular appearances in the skies overhead, curious mink and arctic foxes are also often seen tracing the embankments of Iceland’s largest natural lake. Covering 84 square kilometres, Lake Thingvallavatn enjoys a thriving underwater kingdom, where minerals, algae and dense vegetation provide the perfect habitats for a variety of fish. Whilst fishing for trout is a popular pastime in Thingvellir National Park, it has become a highly regulated activity to protect fish colonies from overwhelming human interference. Preservation of this stunning landscape is more essential than ever before due to its ever-increasing number of visitors; clearly established paths outline popular hiking routes so that guests still get to enjoy the stunning surroundings, without causing any long-lasting damage to this precious landscape.