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What to See in Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is located just 28 miles northeast of Reykjavik along Iceland’s popular Golden Circle route.

3 mins read

As one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, the area is also a hub of natural beauty and great geological importance. Thingvellir Park rests right along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet — a true confluence of continents.

A short history of Thingvellir National Park

This area of outstanding natural beauty was named Iceland’s first national park in 1928, starting a wonderful trend of nature preservation that remains in place today.

Thingvellir, which literally means "parliament plains," played a crucial role in the country’s social and political development. Iceland's first parliament met here in AD 930, and the spot remained in use until 1798, making it a point of great importance for locals and those interested in Iceland’s cultural history.

Diving in Thingvellir Park

The incredible clarity of the pristine waters, with visibility of up to 260 feet, makes diving and snorkeling in the Silfra and Davíðsgjá fissures one of the top activities in the park. These two underwater canyons were formed by movements of the tectonic plates; the opportunity to explore a gap between two geological continents makes diving here a thrilling experience for underwater adventurers.

The water temperature is a chilly 35–43°F, and, despite shallow entry points, the canyons plummet to a depth of 207 feet at their deepest points. To reach these depths, special training is required; most amateur divers cannot descend to more than 60 feet below the surface.

Hiking and horseback riding in Thingvellir Park

The stunning landscapes that surround the plains are an excellent setting for a brisk hike through the rugged terrain of Iceland's countryside. Well-traversed hiking routes wend their way among the now-abandoned farms of Hrauntún, Skógarkot, and Vatnskot , where walkers can get a glimpse of the past while enjoying the gorgeous vistas of this historical region.

Wildlife in Thingvellir Park

The area’s unique geography makes the park a wonderful natural habitat for animals and fish. Brown trout, Arctic char, and the three-spined stickleback have lived in Lake Thingvellir since the last Ice Age. Birch woodlands dominate the landscapes around the lake and, along with other plant species such as dwarf birch and heath, transform the area into a rich hue of browns and golds during the autumn months — a spectacular time to visit.

More than fifty species of wild birds are known to live on the shores surrounding the lake. The great northern diver originates in North America, and Iceland is the only place you'll find these birds in Europe.

Brought to Iceland in the 1930s for their fur, several minks quickly escaped their cages and established a thriving population along Lake Thingvellir’s shores.

Thingvellir Park is a true delight for nature lovers, with its stunning geological quirks and its range of outdoor pursuits. The park's proximity to the capital also makes it one of Iceland's most accessible natural spots, thereby securing its place on the much-revered Golden Circle.

Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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