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Thingvellir

Travel Guide

+10 Tips, Advice and Insights
First visited by us on October 23, 2020
TL;DR: Our updated guide on how to best visit Thingvellir National Park, Iceland's national shrine. We recently visited Thingvellir National Park in the region of Bláskógarbyggð. It's located than an hour from Reykjavik in the southwest of Iceland. This guide has more than 30 tips, insider information and our lessons learned to make the most out of your time. With our curated suggestions, ideas and maps we set you up on a great 1/2-day literary.

So, you want to know how to best visit Thingvellir National Park? Looks like you’re one of those interested people who like to explore national monuments? You’ve come to the right place! Thingvellir is by far the most important historical place for the people of Iceland. This guide will teach you everything you need to know before you visit Thingvellir.

We have so many exciting things to cover! Þingvellir is a site of both historical, cultural, and geological importance. It’s also possibly the most popular tourist destination on the island – interesting, right? We’ll obviously talk about why that is.

We’ll also talk about how to visit this Icelandic shrine, how to get there and how much time you will need to visit Thingvellir. Other topics like Vikings, murder and movies will also be covered! You’ll get a step by step guide, answering every question you may have about this place. Let’s get started!

Where and What is Thingvellir

Thingvellir National Park is a park in the country of Iceland, in the Atlantic Ocean in North-eastern Europe. It’s located in south-eastern Iceland. You’ll find it 50 km, 30 mi, from the central Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.Þingvellir National Park is a beautiful nature reserve. It is the oldest but smallest of the 3 national parks in Iceland. The other two being Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull. The name Þingvellir comes from the Old Norse Þingvǫllr. You put together þing thing/assembly and vǫllr field and get assembly field.

Þingvellir National Park was the set of a number of scenes in Game of Thrones.

Europe
Iceland
Suðurland

How to get to Thingvellir

It is actually very easy to visit Thingvellir National Park. As mentioned it is possibly the most visited site in Iceland. This means that there are plenty of organized tours going there. It is part of the famous Golden Circle that we will talk more about later.

You can not really visit Thingvellir by public transport. Line 15 will take you from central Reykjavik to the outskirts of the metropolitan area. From there you still need to take a long taxi ride to the park. You will with this combination get there in less than 1 hour. But, there is a but, it’s not for the “normal” public transport price since it costs almost 100€/person, yeah, that’s right.

We came in a car and we definitely recommend bringing a car. The park itself is more than 90m2 large. With that said, almost all the important places are within walking distance.

The ultimate budget travellers might consider hitchhiking. It is quite common in Iceland and it is considered very safe. At the same time, it’s not the usual thing you would do to visit Thingvellir, but you can definitely try.

Insider Tip: In Iceland, always make sure to check the weather conditions in advance of any activity. The weather can change really fast here.

How far is Thingvellir from Reykjavik and the airport

One important thing to point out is that the Keflavik International Airport is not the same as the Reykjavik Domestic Airport. In fact, it will take you close to 1 hour from the International Airport to the capital.

If you want to visit Thingvellir directly from the airport, it will take you about 1.5 hours by car from the Keflavik International Airport. It’ll take about half that time, 45 minutes, from central Reykjavik.

Why is Thingvellir a World Heritage Site

All World Heritage Sites are by definition amazing. We as humankind have picked them to be protected for current and future generations. What makes Thingvellir National Park so special that in 2004 the UNESCO decided to include it on the list?

Thingvellir is unique because it’s the location of one of the oldest parliamentary like institutions in the world. More than 1000 years ago an early form of democracy happened here. In 874 the Norse started settling on Iceland. 56 years later, in the summer of year 930, the new settlers of Iceland met here for a 2-week session. They called the gathering the Alþingi. It was such a success that they continued doing so every year.

Geographically the Alþingi met in a river valley. This happens to be where the Eurasian and the American tectonic plates drift apart.

If you want to know more about the UNESCO site itself then click the ‘More’ button below. If you want to get more information on how to best visit Thingvellir National Park then read on.

How to get around Thingvellir

When you visit Thingvellir National Park you will be doing quite a bit of walking. Bring your best walking shoes or even your hiking boots. There are at least 4 large parking in the park to make it easier to visit the different locations if you want to shorten your visiting time. If you are not in a hurry, which you shouldn’t be there are also several hiking trails to walk.

Best time to visit Thingvellir

The best time to visit Thingvellir National Park is between May and October. That is if you’d like to have the nicest weather. Even if you come in the winter the main paths are actually ploughed several times weekly. It is best to first contact the Visitor Center if you are travelling in the winter. This to get first-hand info on the current conditions.Don’t get too excited about the weather though. Thingvellir is a windy place. Iceland is windy. It is always a great idea to bring a down jacket, windbreaker or rain jacket.

Insider Tip: Always bring clothes for windy weather in Iceland. Don't bother to bring an umbrella though, guess why?

Things to do in Thingvellir Park

There are a lot of things to see here. When planning to visit Thingvellir, these are some of the main highlights to consider.

Visit at the Hakið Þingvellir Visitor Centre

The Hakið Visitor Centre is in a new building next to where the main P1 parking is. The parking is also where the pubic toilets are, use them when arriving.

In the Þingvellir Visitor Center, you find plenty of great information about the park, its nature and history. It’s a brilliant, first of its kind, interactive multimedia show. Þingvellir literally comes alive on the large screens. It takes about 40 minutes to view the whole show. There is also a short film about the whole exhibition here. Here they also have maps of the park. They show where the trails are and point out other places of interest so you can visit Þingvellir well prepared.

If you want to this is also where you find a small cafeteria and a souvenir shop.

Should you take a tour to visit Þingvellir National Park

Yes! During the summer park rangers take visitors on free guided walks around the assembly site every day of the week.The tour starts from the Thingvellir Church at 10.00 in the morning and 15.00 in the afternoon and takes about 1 hour. They are free of charge and no booking is needed.

Walk Almannagjá Gorge All Man’s Gorge

One of the most exciting attractions at Thingvellir is Almannagjá, marking the eastern boundary of the North American plate. Almannagjá is 7.7 km long. Its greatest width is 64 m, and its maximum throw is 30-40 m. Its equivalent across the graben, marking the western boundary of the Eurasian plate is Hrafnagjá. It is 11 km long, 68 m wide and has a maximum throw of 30 m. The Þingvellir faults are believed to be the surface expressions of deeply rooted normal faults. The numerous fissures encountered on the valley floor are of similar origin.

Visit the Alþingi

Then we walked along Oxara River to a place that is probably not that spectacular visually but is much more important because of its historical significance.Since 930, Thingvellir, alias Assembly Plains, was a place where the world’s oldest parliament was held under the open sky.Althingi, which translates as a Parliament, held here over centuries many gatherings, and only in the 19th century was moved to Reykjavik.One of the oldest parliament in the world was founded in Thingvellir. It was quite interesting to stand on-site where some of the most important decisions in Iceland’s history were made.You can read many information boards explaining the historical evolvement of this place and the importance for the nation’s history.One of the most notable sites is Logberg alias The Law Rock that was used as a podium for speakers.

Walk to the Öxarárfoss Waterfall

Öxarárfoss is the only waterfall in Þingvellir National Park. It flows from the river Öxará over the Almannagjá. The pool at the base of the waterfall is filled with rocks and is often extremely icy during winter. Legend has it that during the settlement period in Iceland’s early history, some settlers encountered a frozen river. They then dug a hole in the ice and put an axe in it to claim the land. The word öxi means “axe” in Icelandic. The waterfall is one of the main attractions you shouldn’t miss when you come visit Þingvellir National Park. It is located on the eastern end of the rocky fault line. There is a path from the nearby car park leading up to it.

See the Þingvallakirkja Thingvellir Church

The Þingvallakirkja Church of Þingvellir was one of the first churches in Iceland. The original dates from the 11th century, but this wooden building has been there since 1859. Inside there is a small exhibition of bells from previous churches, a wooden pulpit from the 17th century and a painted altarpiece from the year 1834.

Þingvallabær

Behind the Þingvallakirkja is the Þingvallabær. This small farm was specially built in honor of the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing in 1930 and was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson. Now it is a park ranger’s office and the Prime Minister of Iceland uses it as a summer house.

Look at the Lögberg The Law Rock

Lögberg was the focal point of the old Alþingi (parliament), founded around AD 930. During the Old Commonwealth (930-1262), the Alþingi held legislative and judicial powers in modern terms. At the Law Rock in the latter part of June each year, the leading chieftain and priest of the Old Norse religion declared the session of parliament open, and declared sanctuary within the parliament site. At the law rock , important speeches were made regarding the affairs of the country’s inhabitants; the podium was also open to all who wished to address the assembly. Chronology was corrected there, summonses were issued, and various events were made known to the assembly.

Visit Drekkingarhylur Drowning Pool

Thingvellir National Park is not only the place where the Alþing meeting was held annually, but executions were also regularly performed at various locations. Drekkingarhylur is one of those places with a lurid history and is also called the Drowning Pool.Drekkingarhylur (Drowning Pool) is a place where years ago guilty women were drowned.At first glance you walk along a small lake about 150 meters after the Lögberg, but nothing could be further from the truth. On this deep spot of the Öxará River, until the beginning of the 18th century women were put in a bag and drowned here. If you stand here and see the water flowing quietly into the lake, you can hardly imagine that at least 18 women were killed here.However, it is not the only place where executions were carried out in Thingvellir that were decided during the meeting.

Visit Brennugjá Burning Chasm

After Drekkingarhylur you walk passed Kastalar to an area where you will find several large cracks in the earth. The first gorge on your left, about halfway through your walk towards the junction to the church, is the Brennugjá. Although the gap is difficult to see and it is mainly hidden in the green landscape.During the 17th century, residents suspected of witchcraft were killed here at a stake in this gorge. It is also called the burning gap (Burning Chasm).

Flosagjá, Nikulásargjá and Peningagjá

If you walk further you will come to a crossing and you will find a number of other cracks on the left. The first is Flosagjá, named after a slave who jumped his way to freedom.The others can be found near the bridge. Here you look into the Nikulásargjá on the left, named after a drunken sheriff who has been found dead in the water here and on the right you find the southern end of this gorge: Peningagjá.The Peningagjá is also called The Money Chasm. Thousands of coins glitter on the bottom of the clear water and which have been thrown in the water by visitors for years in the hope that the wish they made would come true. Fortunately, throwing the coins is now forbidden in order to preserve the beautiful nature!

The best photo spots in Thingvellir National Park

It’s becoming more and more important to find those wonderfully Instagrammable places. We all want to get those perfect stunning and unique shots. We’re also guilty of that, always looking for the best spots with the best views. We spend time to research where to find the best photo opportunity in every place we visit.

If you want to visit Thingvellir National Park like a pro, keep reading!

Below we’ve put together the top photo spots we found in Thingvellir for you. So, here we go!

The view from the Hakið Platform

From the P1 parking the Hakið viewpoint is your first introduction to Thingvellir National Park. It’s on top of the Almannagjá gorge and offers you a spectacular view over the area.You have a great view of the Þingvallavatn lake from here the largest natural lake in Iceland. You also have a spectacular view of the steep cliffs of the Almannagjá gorge and the area around the Þingvallakirkja. Basically you can see all the main sights here except the vaterfall.

The Almannagjála View

Probably the most iconic photo from Thingvellir is the one of Almannagjála. It is actually a walk between continents known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge! Almannagjála is a gorge between two tectonic plates – Euroasian and Northamerican. They are slowly drifting apart and the edges of each plate exposed. Iceland is driven apart by 2-4 cm each year. Normally this is something you can only see under the water surface. This is one of the few places in the world where you can this unique geology.

How much time should I spend in Thingvellir National Park?

As your schedule is very likely packed, you might want to figure out how much time you need to visit Thingvellir National Park properly.

On average, we would say that most of the visitors spend in the park for 2-3 hours. That was roughly about the same time we spent in Thingvellir as well.

During this time you’ll be able to walk most of the trails close to Visitors Center and see the best things.

How to spend 1 day in Thingvellir

Our 1-day itinerary suggestion

This is a combination of how we did our day at Thingvellir and how we wish we would have done it. We had a car to go there and to do this in 1 day you will likely need a car as well.

Off the beaten track

Visit Þingvallavatn

As you slowly walk back towards the visitor center at the Hakið viewpoint, you can already see the lake: Þingvallavatn. With an area of 84 km² it is also the largest natural lake in Iceland. The freshwater lake is crystal clear and is at the deepest point 114 meters deep.

Dive the Silfra

Silfra: diving or snorkelling between 2 continents. Diving or snorkeling between 2 continents? It is possible in the Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park, which is located in the Þingvallavatn lake. This place, where the North American continent is separated from the Eurasian continent, is therefore one of the most unique places in the world for diving or snorkeling. Because how often can you say that you have swum between 2 tectonic plates?In a so-called dry suit, a special diving suit, you swim for 30-40 minutes through the fissure in the ice-cold and crystal-clear water of the Langjökull glacier. The water is so incredibly clear because it is not only very cold (2-4 degrees), but has also been filtered through old lava for 30 to 100 years. This way you can see up to 100 meters and even swim along a spot where the two tectonic plates are so close together that you can almost touch them!

Other places to visit nearby

This Geysir is the reason the English word geyser exists. It is a big spouting hot spring.
The Gullfoss waterfall is probably the most beloved waterfall in Iceland. There are many waterfalls, many, so that is a feat. The Great Golden Waterfall is also the largest two-stepped waterfall in Iceland. It rumbles through a gorge in two steps from a total height of over 30 meters.Gullfoss is among the most breathtaking and magnificent sights we saw in Iceland. Don’t miss it.
The Kerið volcanic crater lake is one of several in the area, known as Iceland’s Western Volcanic Zone. It was created when the land moved over a localized hotspot, but it is the one that has the most visually recognizable caldera still intact. The caldera is made of a strikingly red volcanic rock. The caldera itself is approximately 55 m (180 ft) deep, 170 m (560 ft) wide, and 270 m (890 ft) across. Thanks to minerals in the ground the lake is opaque and strikingly vivid aquamarine.

Insider Tips on how to visit Thingvellir

Here’s our summary of some of our travel tips and advice. All useful when planning to visit Thingvellir National Park.

So, that’s a wrap! What do you think? Would you like to visit Thingvellir National Park? We had a great time in the park and highly recommend the trip.

Perhaps, after reading all this you still have questions? Was something unclear? Still don’t know how to visit Thingvellir? That’s what we have the Comments section for. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Useful Travel Links

Here you find all the external links we refer to in the text. On top, we have added other links that we found useful when planning to visit Thingvellir National Park.

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