Thingvellir National Park in Iceland

October 4, 2011 by

Day Trips, Sightseeing, Things To Do, Unforgettable Experiences

Sunrise over Lake Thingvallavatn at Thingvellir National Park

Also known as Þingvellir for those of us with Icelandic keyboards, this is one of the key sites to visit when in Iceland. An easy hour-long drive from Reykjavik, Thingvellir National Park is the site of Iceland’s first (and the world’s longest running) parliament. From 930AD, the various clans used to come together here to discuss issues relevant to sharing this small, tough island, and then head off back to their different corners for another year.

But while the history of the area is important, it’s the landscape that will really blow your mind. Sure, you saw lava fields on the way in from the airport, but at Thingvellir it is hard for your mind to grasp the sense of pure space. The land just seems to go on forever – I’ve never felt that same sense of incomprehensible scale anywhere before.

Just to add to the wonder of this place, it’s where two of the major plates of the earth’s surface meet: the North American and Eurasian plates are parting company right here, pulling further apart; geologically this is known as a rift system. No wonder Iceland tends to erupt and spew lava at times. There is a huge fissure in the rock that you can peer down into to get a real sense of the earth as a living, moving entity. But don’t worry: the plain is only sinking by about 1mm per year.

If you like fishing, the huge, deep Lake Thingvallavatn is well known for its trout and arctic char but you need to buy a fishing license from the service center (they are not expensive).

-Phillippa Burne

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