Þingvellir pronounced as Thingvellir is not just any other National Park, it is in fact, a highly revered shrine in Iceland. Established in 930 AD, the park was the site of an open-air assembly for the parliament called the Althing. The assembly was primarily tasked to settle disputes, create laws for the free men and discuss pertinent issues about the county. It was not until 1798, that the parliament assembly was abolished. Thus, it is no wonder that the Althing has a deeply-rooted symbolism for Icelanders, and that the park was is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, when you visit the Thingvellir National Park, you will see what remains of the Althing – ruins of about 50 booths made of stone and turf. There is also a church right near the site that is open daily during summer. To get a good idea of the function and history of the old parliament site, drop by the Visitor’s Center, which stands out as the newer building located near the lookout at Hakio.
The center features a state-of-the art interactive multimedia exhibit, which is the first of its kind in the country. This exhibit highlights the nature and cultural heritage of the park and it landscape, with the aid of large TV monitors, illustrative video and audio presentation, and a touch screen interface. The audiovisual presentation is available in five languages: Icelandic, English, French, German and Danish. Just outside the Visitor Centre is a footpath that goes into the gorgeous Almannagj· fault, another attraction in the park.
Thingvellir National Park’s landscape is mesmerizing to any traveler but it is also the striking evidence of the way of life in the region for 1000 years. If you head out to the lava field situated in the fault valley, you will also get to see the deserted farms that were operating in the 18th and 19th centuries. You will be able to marvel at the farms of Skógarkot, Vatnskot and Hrauntún by taking on some relatively easy hiking routes. There are also other hiking trails that lead you to the River Oxara. Here, you can encounter camping grounds where you can stay for the night and sleep under the stars.
Another prime activity in the Park is diving, and one very popular spot to experience this is Silfra. Silfra is considered to be one of the best diving spots in all of Iceland because of its unique rift, incredible visibility and marvelous surroundings. Make sure to fulfill all diving regulations and requirements set by the National Park authority before you plunge in for some amazing diving experiences!
Other available activities you can enjoy is horseback riding and angling, whose season starts the 1st of May until the 15th of September. The National Park is conveniently located just 45 km northeast of the capital ReykjavÌk. You can get here by driving on your own, hiring a private transport or going on an organized tour.