Visiting Thingvellir National Park + snorkeling in the Silfra gorge? Info & tips
The Þjóðgarðurinn á Þingvöllu (Thingvellir National Park), is one of the three national parks of Iceland. The park is part of the Golden Circle and is therefore one of the most touristy destinations on the island. This is with good reason because the park is the most important historical location of the country and a special geological area.
In 1930, this became Iceland's first national park, and since 2004, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enough reasons to visit the Thingvellir National Park.
Tours and excursions Thingvellir National Park
Would you like to visit the Thingvellir National Park yourself or would you join an organized tour? Tours will pick you up at your hotel or residence. View all tours and options online. More tours look below:
History Thingvellir National Park
The first inhabitants of Iceland
After the first inhabitants of Iceland settled on the island in the years after 874, plebiscites were organized in the various settlements. In the year 930, chieftains gathered for the first time in, what's now called, Thingvellir. This area was very favorable since there was a crossroads and a large lake nearby. Every year the parliament met for two weeks in the summer to make laws and make decisions. The parliament is considered to be the oldest parliament in the world.
The centre of Iceland
In Thingvellir, not only justice was meted out, they also gathered to do business, trade and spread news. This was done until 1262, until Iceland came under the control of Norway.
From Thingvellir to Reykjavik
After Iceland regained some power in 1843, it decided to move the meeting point to Reykjavik. Thingvellir has been used for important events ever since. For example, on June 17, 1944, Iceland's independence was proclaimed in Thingvellir, Iceland's 1100th anniversary was celebrated in 1974, and the island's 1000th anniversary of Christianity was commemorated in the park in 2000.
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In addition to the historical importance of the Thingvellir National Park, the area is also an important geological region. The park is located on the fault line between the Eurasian and American tectonic plate and is the geological boundary between Europe and North America. The plates slide a maximum of 18 millimeters each year.
The fault line has created a valley 6 kilometers wide and 40 kilometers long. Various gaps, cracks and subsidence can be found in the valley. The Öxará River, which flows through the valley, is the actual separation, but the entire park serves as a dividing line.
Highlights Thingvellir National Park
North of the park you will find the Öxarárfoss. This waterfall is part of the Öxará river and is the separation between the two tectonic plates. The waterfall is 20 meters high and 6 meters wide and falls over a wall of black rock that is part of the Almannagjá gorge.
The waterfall is located at parking lot P2, from the waterfall there is a path through the Almannagjá gorge to the Thingvallakirkja.
The Drekkingarhylur pond was used by the Alþingi to punish women accused of infanticide, adultery, or other domestic crimes. The women on trial were sentenced to death and thrown into the water.
A little further from the Drekkingarhylur is Brennugjá. In this gorge, nine men were burned at the stake in the seventeenth century after they were accused of witchcraft.
At the Flosagjá ravine, in the east in the valley, there is a sign explaining the name of the ravine. It is named after a slave who jumped into the ravine in order to regain his freedom.
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De Almannagjá, alle-mensen-kloof, ligt aan de rand van de Amerikaanse plaat en is ontstaan door aardverzakkingen die door het verschuiven van de platen ontstonden. De laatste verzakking was in 1789 en werd veroorzaakt door een aardbeving. Deze zorgde ervoor dat de kloof 60 centimeter zakte in 10 dagen. De kloof wordt omringd door een imponerende rotsmuur die symbool staat voor de scheiding tussen de twee continenten.
De Lögberg, of de rots van de wetten, was de locatie waar de wetspreker ieder jaar de wetten aan het volk voordroeg. De rots wordt in het park aangeduid met een vlag van IJsland, die trots boven de omgevende rotsen uitsteekt.
Thingvallakirkja en Thingvallabear
In de vallei van het Thingvellir National Park liggen er een wit kerkje en een kleine boerderij verscholen tussen de naaldbomen. De originele kerk die hier stond was de eerste staatskerk van IJsland, maar brandde af in 1118. De huidige kerk werd in 1859 gebouwd en bevat nog enkele onderdelen van de voorgaande kerken.
Naast de kerk ligt de Thingvallabear, een kleine hoeve die dateert uit 1930. De boerderij werd cadeau gedaan voor het 1000-jarig bestaan van de Alþingi. Tegenwoordig woont de parkwachter hier.
Silfra: Diving or snorkeling between the contintents
The Silfra gorge is located in the southern part of Thingvellir, which is in the north of the Thingvallavatn. The gorge is very popular amongst divers and snorkelers, who can swim between the tectonic plates, it is therefore one of the most important dive sites in the world. On a sunny day, the water is ultra clear and 2 ° C.
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Video, discover the clear blue water from the Silfra gorge
In the south of the National Park, is Iceland's largest natural lake, Thingvallavatn. The lake is 84 square kilometers in size and holds mainly the glacier water that comes from the Langjökull. On the northeastern part of the lake you will find the Vellankatla hot spring surrounded by lava fields. The lake is a beautiful place for bird watchers, You can spot the harlequin duck and the ice diver here.
Activities in the Nationale Park
In the Thingvellir National Park there are many hiking trails where you can walk for hours or even days. Along, a free one-hour tour of the park departs at 10:00 in the summer. This hike starts at the Thingvallakirkja.
A map with the various walks can be found on the website of Thingvellir. More info.
Between May 1 and September 15, it is allowed to fish in the national park at Thingvallavatn. However, you do need to apply for a permit first. More information.
Diving and snorkeling
The Silfra gorge is a great place for diving or snorkeling. To dive you need to have a certificate. You should get permission from the park to dive and you should never enter the gorge alone. More info
Our tip: Experience diving or snorkeling in the icy water between the continents, check out the tours and excursions here.
For centuries, Thingvellir was a stop for people traveling through the country on horse. To this day, you can still discover the area surrounding the park via two bridle paths. In the Thingvellir park there are still some horse stables where you can take a ride on an Icelandic horse.
Opening hours & tickets
- Het Thingvellir National Park is open every day and generally doesn't set closing hours.
- The visitor centre is open daily from 09:00 till 18:00.
- The infor centre is open in the summer (15 mei - 31 augustus) from 09:00 till 22:00.
Open in the winter (1 september - 14 mei) from 09:00 till 18:00.
- Entrance to the Thingvellir National Park is free.
- But take into account that you have to pay for parking.
- Traveling around Iceland with a rental car? Thingvellir National Park is located on the Golden Circle, about 40 kilometers northeast of Reykjavik.
- From Reykjavik, it is 45 minutes to Thingvellir National Park.
- From Reykjavik, follow Ring Road (1) up north and at the roundabout take the exit Vesturlandsvegur onto Route 36.
- Keep following this road until you get to the parking spaces of the nature park.
- There are five parking lots around Thingvellir National Park. Parking costs ISK 750 (€ 5.40) per visit and can be paid on the spot at the machine using your license plate number and credit card.
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With a guided tour
- From Reykjavik, there are routes around the Golden Circle daily, by which one of the stops is Thingvellir National Park. Discover the possible and available tours here.
Practical information for your visit
- There are no restaurants or shops around Thingvellir, so bring some food and drinks yourself. When you drive a little further towards Geysir you pass the village of Laugarvat, where you can find several stores and restaurants. The Geysir visitor center has its own large restaurant.
- Along with the Golden Circle, Thingvellir National Park is the largest attraction in Iceland. The park is not only visited by travelers who stay in Iceland for a long time, but also by city trippers who take a day trip from Reykjavik. This makes the park very busy, especially in summer. To avoid the biggest crowds, it is best to visit the park early in the day or at nightfall. In addition, the park is less crowded in the mid-season (spring and autumn).
- In the winter months you have a great opportunity to see the Northern Lights. In and around Thingvellir there is only little air pollution, which makes the aurora more visible. When it is clear you can also spot beautiful stars.
Thingvellir National Park location on the map?
Video: Bring a visit to Thingvellir National Park
Curious on how Thingvellir National Park looks like? In this video we take you to the beautiful park. Come to Iceland if you want to experience this yourself!
Which car to rent?
- Are you still unsure which car to rent for your road trip?
- Do not rent a car that is too small, go for a comfortable car.
- Be sure to book an all-inclusive insurance policy so you can drive around in peace.
- A reliable car rental company is Rentalcars (very large offer).
- Read more tips about renting a car on vacation.
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