The most significant place in Icelandic history and one of the most important stops on the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. It was here that in the year 930 the Alþingi, the world's oldest surviving parliament, was established, and after a thousand years it was made a national park in 1930. Then, on 17 June 1944, Thingvellir saw Iceland declare itself a republic.
In addition to its cultural and historical significance, Thingvellir is also home to unique natural landscapes. Its location in the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and the great volcanic activity of the area mean there are cracks and canyons throughout the region, some of which are filled with incredibly clear water.
What to see at Thingvellir?
One of the must-see attractions in Thingvellir are the fissures caused by the movement of the tectonic plates, which are said to move around a centimetre each year. Visitors can walk along the Almannagjá gorge and experience the ominous feel of the enormous rock walls that tower either side, and even swim and snorkel in the Silfra fissure! Can you imagine diving between two continents?
Walking through Almannagjá, you'll see a flag raised in the middle of a rock pile. It is right there, on the Lögberg ("the rock of the law"), that the first Icelandic parliament met. While nothing survives of the building itself, it's awe-inspiring to visit the place that marked Icelandic history to such an extent.
Running through the Almannagjá gorge is the Öxará, a river which leads to Öxarárfoss, a beautiful waterfall whose crystalline waters contrast perfectly against the black rocks.
The national park is also home to one of Iceland's first churches: Thingvallakirkja. The church was originally built in the 11th century after the Christianisation of the country, however it sadly did not survive the passage of time, and the current wooden building dates to 1859. The tiny white-and-green building stands out amid the enormous expanse of Thingvellir's rugged landscapes.
Thingvellir in Game of Thrones
Iceland has been the chosen filming location of any number of films and TV series, and Game of Thrones is one of the best known. The HBO series chose the Thingvellir National Park as the setting for its fourth season. Fans of the Seven Kingdoms will recognise the trail that Arya Stark and the Hound travelled though the Vale of Arryn.
The Thingvellir National Park Visitor's Centre houses a permanent exhibition on the history of Thingvellir. Visitors can discover how Iceland's parliament was founded back in the 10th century as well as using interactive exhibits to explore the national park's geography, learn why tectonic plates move and find out which animals live on the shores of Lake Thingvallavatn.
How to visit Thingvellir?
Thingvellir National Park is located in the Golden Circle, around 30 miles (50 kilometres) northeast of central Reykjavik, and 37 and 43 miles (60 and 70 km) from Geysir and Gullfoss respectively. If you're travelling around Iceland by rental car, you can reach one of Thingvellir's many car parks in around 50 minutes from the capital.
If you'd prefer to let someone else take the wheel, you can book an organised guided tour instead. Our Golden Circle Tour includes transport from Reykjavik and an English speaking guide, allowing you to explore Thingvellir and its nearby attractions in the most convenient and comfortable way.
Daily: 9 am to 6 pm.
Exhibition admission fee
Adults: 1,000 kr (US$ 7.10).
Students and seniors over 67 years old: 500 kr (US$ 3.50).
Children under 18 years old: free entry.
Golden Circle Tour 11,198 kr (US$ 79.40)