Þingvellir National Park in southwestern Iceland made history with the ancient parliamentary assembly of Althing and impresses with the continental gorge between Europe and North America.
Þingvellir is a national park in Iceland and is located about 40 km northeast of the capital Reykjavík. Together with the waterfall Gullfoss and the thermal field Haukadalur with the famous geyser Strokkur, it forms the most important sights in the south of Iceland, the so-called "Gullni hringurinn" ("Golden Circle"). Since 2004 Þingvellir is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site . It is also on our list of the top 10 sights of Iceland.
Þingvellir National Park was established in 1930 and is located on the largest inland lake in Iceland, Lake Þingvallavatn. The lake is about 83km² in size and over 100m deep. Although Þingvellir is almost considered a "sanctuary" by Icelanders, there is no need to worry about too many visitors, even in high season. The visitors usually spread out quickly over the spacious area, so it is not disturbing.
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Althings in Þingvellir - the scene of Iceland's history
In Þingvellir the first and oldest parliamentary assembly in Iceland was held in 930, the "Alþingi" or in German "Althing". From that time on, the chiefs of Iceland (also called goden) met here every year. The main task was to judge disputes among themselves as well as to agree and pass laws. The Goden elected a law speaker for a period of 3 years. It was not until 1117 that the laws were written down.
The parliamentary assemblies always took place around the time of the summer solstice and lasted about 2 weeks. However, the Althings were not only about political issues. In addition to the Goden and their clans, several thousand Icelanders and their entourages often came and used the opportunity to fight duels, conclude marriages and transact various business. The Althing was thus also a public festival.
Thus, important decisions have already been made in Þingvellir, such as the adoption of Christianity in the year 1000 and the proclamation of the Republic of Iceland on April 17, 1944 in front of almost 30,000 Icelanders.
Between America and Europe - Almannagjá Gorge
Nowhere in the world is the drifting apart of two tectonic plates more impressively displayed than in the Almannagjá Gorge ("Allmans Gorge"). The spectacular gorge lies exactly between the North American and European continental plates. The imposing rift valley is particularly visible here.
The plates drift apart at a rate of 1-2 cm per year. In the last 10,000 years, the two continents have moved about 70 meters away from each other. The valley depression has sunk by almost 40 meters. The result of the geological forces that can be seen in Pingvellir National Park is absolutely impressive.
Diving in the Silfra Fissure
The drifting apart of the continental plates also continues under water. The resulting Silfra Fissure, which widens by 2 cm every year, is one of the most fascinating dive sites in the world. Due to its cold temperature (2-4°C) and its journey through lava rocks, the meltwater in the Silfra Fissure is of excellent drinking water quality and incredibly clear. Unique visibility of over 100m is not uncommon here. Among the most beautiful dive sites are Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon.