Situated on the floor of a giant geological rift in the Southwest corner of Iceland is Thingvellir National Park. Taking the form of a natural amphitheatre, Thingvellir is a stunningly beautiful place that sees the North Atlantic Ridge carve its way northwards across the island. But it is not only on the strength of the area’s outstanding natural beauty that Thingvellir is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No, there’s a lot more to Thingvellir than meets the eye!
The World’s First Parliament
In 930AD the people of Iceland chose this protected location as the venue for a gathering of Icelandic chieftains. The gathering resulted in the establishment of the world’s first parliament where tribal representatives came to settle differences through diplomacy and (mostly) peaceful initiatives. Named as the Althing, this open-air assembly ran for a two-week period every year. Representatives would journey from all over Iceland to put their cases forward to the Althing, helping to shape the laws of Iceland through the ages.
Fragments of stone and turf booths on which representatives took their places can still be seen within the park today. To get a good overview of the area where the assembly once gathered visitors should climb the nearby cliff of Logberg. It is from here where some of the most influential members of parliament would have addressed the assembly.
Getting to Thingvellir
Thingvellir is 31km east of the capital Reykjavik. International travellers should fly into Reykjavik airport and pick up a hire car. From the airport it is advisable to travel eastwards on route 41 towards Reykjavik and then pick up route 36 towards Thingvellir National Park. Car hire can be booked in advance for pick up from the airport at http://www.your-carhire.com