What can you see in Thingvellir Island
Information about: Þingvellir
The Þingvellir National Park is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on mainland Iceland and one of the three stops on the world-famous sightseeing route of the Golden Circle, next to the Haukadalur geothermal valley (geyser) and the Gullfoss waterfall. Just south of the park is Þingvallavatn, Iceland's largest natural lake.
Numerous guided vacation packages take you through this national park, such as this 6-day summer vacation. If you'd rather drive there yourself, you can rent a car. Alternatively, you can take an organized tour to the Golden Circle or opt for a self-drive package that visits the Golden Circle, such as this 10-day rental car tour.
The first thing that strikes visitors to the national park is its sheer aesthetic beauty: frozen lava fields, covered in Icelandic moss, carved by glacial springs, and surrounded by ancient mountain peaks.
The park's greatest attractions are the exposed tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia; the park is one of the few regions in the world where you can see geology like this on land.
Visitors can stroll along the North American tectonic plate where they can learn about the fascinating formation and history of the area before descending into the valley below.
Þingvellir can be translated as "Fields of Parliament", a nod to the fascinating history and importance of this area for Icelandic culture. After all, the world's first democratically elected and still active parliament, Alþingi, was formed here in 930 AD.
It may seem unlikely that the Vikings wanted to live under such an uncomfortable government, but the thirty or so clans living in Iceland at the time tried to grow in their harsh new environment.
The first meeting was such a success that the meetings became annual meetings, and Þingvellir became a place to settle disputes, bring criminals to justice, and pass laws for the benefit of all.
This marked the birth of the Icelandic Confederation, a time of independence and freedom for the Icelandic people before they became part of the Norwegian monarchy. Meetings continued to take place in Þingvellir until 1798.
Although Parliament was ousted by the Danes at the time, it returned to Reykjavík in 1845.
Another important reason why Þingvellir is so important to the Icelanders is the fact that it was here that the decision was made to give up belief in paganism and the Norse gods; the people adopted Christianity in AD 1000 under threat of invasion from Norway.
That turning point in history was left to pagan lawmaker Þorgeir Þorkelsson, who rested on this decision for a day and night before reappearing to announce his choice.
To symbolize the change in the country, he threw the idols of his ancient gods into the northern Goðafoss waterfall, whose name means "waterfall of the gods".
Þingvellir is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, in large part due to the fact that it is home to the Silfra crevice, which is filled with clear glacial water and is one of the top ten places in the world for snorkelers and divers.
Silfra (meaning "silver") is a sunken canyon within the park that has visibility of up to 100 meters and a temperature just above freezing. The tour participants are dressed in the Silfra parking lot with neoprene hooded jackets and gloves as well as an undersuit and a dry or wetsuit as thermal protection.
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