What is Thingvellir National Park?
Þingvellir National Park is a beautiful nature reserve and one of the three national parks in Iceland. A special feature of this national park is that the earth has subsided here and the fault line between the North American and the Eurasian continent is located here: also known as the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
As a result, Iceland is driven apart by 2-4 cm each year and you can see with your own eyes what the movement of these tectonic plates does to the landscape. From a waterfall and solidified lava to deep gorges filled with crystal clear water. You will find it all, with the highlight being Almannagjá: a huge fissure that runs through the national park.
It is also a place with a lot of history for the inhabitants of Iceland. The Icelandic parliament was founded here in 930, the so-called Althing (Alþing). Every summer a meeting took place here where farmers, landowners and traders came together to do business, adopt new laws, discuss crimes and carry out executions.
The meetings are not being held anymore, but sometimes the area is still being used for national events.
Did you know that Thingvellir National Park also served as the backdrop for a number of scenes in the movie Game of Thrones?
Where is Thingvellir National Park?
Thingvellir National Park is located 47.4 km northeast of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. And is also one of the highlights of the well-known Golden Circle, a fun one-day roadtrip from Reykjavik. For a visit to Thingvellir National Park, it is best to fly to Reykjavik, Keflavik International Airport (KEF).
Here book your flight to Reykjavik
How do you get there?
The national park is visited by many travelers during a visit to the Golden Circle or as a day trip from Reykjavik and is best reached by rental car. It is not only cheaper, but you also have the freedom to explore Iceland at your own pace when you have a rental car.
You can book a rental car quickly and easily via for example Sunny Cars (all-inclusive rates) or Rentalcars.
From Reykjavik you follow ring road 1 in the direction of Mosfellsbær, after which you take the exit on the right at the large roundabout and you drive to Thingvellir National Park in 25 minutes (31 km) on route 361.
|Reykjavik||47,4 km||47 min|
|Laugarvatn||31,8 km||29 min|
|Selfoss||49,9 km||48 min|
|Gulfoss||69,9 km||60 min|
Another possibility to visit the park is to go on one of the many tours from Reykjavik. When you bring a visit in the winter and you do not like to drive a rental car in winter, this can be a good alternative. Although it is a lot more expensive and you have less freedom during your visit.
Best time to travel
Thingvellir National Park is open all year round, although May and September are the best months to visit. Then it is less busy and both the accommodations and flights to Iceland are a lot more affordable.
Try to visit the park in the early morning or a little later in the afternoon, when most tour buses are not yet there or are already on their way back to Reykjavik.
During winter, from December till April you have to bear in mind that there can be a lot of snow, the days are short(er) and many accommodations and roads are not yet open. But you do have the chance to see the Northern Lights between mid-September and the end of March.
The highseason in Iceland runs from June to September. It is not only very busy, but the prices are also a lot higher.
In the park you can go to two visitor centers for information about Thingvellir National Park:
Visitor center at Hakið viewpoint
There is a visitor center in the south at the Hakið viewpoint, where you can visit an exhibition about the history and nature of Thingvellir National Park. You can also go there for information about the park and you will find a cafeteria as well as a souvenir shop.
Opened from 09.00-18.00h (09.00am-06.00pm).
Visitor center at Leirar
North of the national park there is a second visitor center at Leirar. Here you can get more information about the park, the walks and other nice highlights in the area. For a snack or a drink you can go to the cafeteria.
In the summer (May 15 – August) it is open from 09.00-22.00h (09.00am-10.00pm) and in the winter (September – May 14) from 09.00-18.30h (09.00am-06.30pm).
Please note that the visitor centers may be closed during the holidays. Before your visit, check the official website of Þingvellir to be sure they are opened.
Sights Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park is a special combination of history and nature where you can take a beautiful walk along various sights. Are you coming with me?
Once you have parked your car at the visitor center at car park P1, the Hakið viewpoint is your first introduction to Thingvellir National Park. It lies at the top of the Almannagjá gorge and offers you a wide view over the area.
From here you not only overlook the steep cliffs of the Almannagjá gorge and the area around the Þingvallakirkja, but also Þingvallavatn (the largest natural lake in Iceland) and therefore the Eurasian continent.
Almannagjá gorge (All Man’s Gorge)
From the viewpoint at Hakið you can already see it, the huge rock face of the Almannagjá gorge. This is where your walk through Thingvellir begins and you first descend to the valley along stretches of solidified lava, while you see the North American continent on your left and the Eurasian continent on your right.
It is also the place where Iceland is still moving and drifts 1-2 cm apart each year. While walking, you wonder what this place will look like in decades.
After having walked through the Almannagjá for a few hundred meters, you will come across the Lögberg on the right (also called Law Rock).
Via a footbridge you reach a viewing platform and you can see the Icelandic flag waving proud on the left. A historic place. It is the place where, since the establishment of the Icelandic parliament in 930, the Lawspeaker passed the laws and announcements during the annual Alþing meeting.
And this place was not chosen entirely by chance to let the Lawspeaker speak here. The Almannagjá gorge worked as a kind of amplifier and ensured that the speaker’s voice could be heard clearly by the many spectators who gathered here during the meetings.
Nowadays meetings are no longer being held, but Þingvellir is still regularly used for national events.
Thingvellir National Park is not only the place where the Alþing meeting was held annually, but executions were also regularly performed at various locations. Drekkingarhylur is one of those places with a lurid history and is also called the Drowning Pool.
Drekkingarhylur (Drowning Pool) is a place where years ago guilty women were drowned.At first glance you walk along a small lake about 150 meters after the Lögberg, but nothing could be further from the truth. On this deep spot of the Öxará River, until the beginning of the 18th century women were put in a bag and drowned here. If you stand here and see the water flowing quietly into the lake, you can hardly imagine that at least 18 women were killed here.
However, it is not the only place where executions were carried out in Thingvellir that were decided during the meeting.
After Drekkingarhylur you walk passed Kastalar to an area where you will find several large cracks in the earth. The first gorge on your left, about halfway through your walk towards the junction to the church, is the Brennugjá. Although the gap is difficult to see and it is mainly hidden in the green landscape.
During the 17th century, residents suspected of witchcraft were killed here at a stake in this gorge. It is also called the burning gap (Burning Chasm).
If you walk further you will come to a crossing and you will find a number of other cracks on the left. The first is Flosagjá, named after a slave who jumped his way to freedom.
Nikulásargjá and Peningagjá
The others can be found near the bridge. Here you look into the Nikulásargjá on the left, named after a drunken sheriff who has been found dead in the water here and on the right you find the southern end of this gorge: Peningagjá.
The Peningagjá is also called The Money Chasm. Thousands of coins glitter on the bottom of the clear water and which have been thrown in the water by visitors for years in the hope that the wish they made would come true. Fortunately, throwing the coins is now forbidden in order to preserve the beautiful nature!
Your next stop is the Þingvallakirkja (the church of Þingvellir), one of the first churches in Iceland. The original dates from the 11th century, but this wooden building has been there since 1859. Inside there is a small exhibition of bells from previous churches, a wooden pulpit from the 17th century and a painted altarpiece from the year 1834. Opposite the church you will also find a small cemetery, where the poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Einar Benediktsson are buried.
Do you want to visit the church? This is possible. The church is open daily from mid-May to early September between 09.00-17.00h (09.00am-05.00pm).
Behind the Þingvallakirkja is the Þingvallabær. This small farm was specially built in honor of the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing in 1930 and was designed by Guðjón Samúelsson. Now it is a park ranger’s office and the Prime Minister of Iceland uses it as a summer house.
As you slowly walk back towards the visitor center at the Hakið viewpoint, you can already see the lake: Þingvallavatn. With an area of 84 km² it is also the largest natural lake in Iceland. The freshwater lake is crystal clear and is at the deepest point 114 meters deep.
There are even 2 small islands in the lake, Sandey and Nesjaey, which are remnants of ancient volcanoes. The fishing season is from 1 May to 15 September and you can fish in the lake for various types of salmon. Do you want to do this? Then you do need a permit. You can get this at the visitor centers.
A swim in the lake is definitely not recommended, unless you want to get out of it shaking like an ice cube or being caught by the cold. The water is only 2-4 degrees. Do you want to explore the lake while swimming? Then choose to make a dive or snorkel, but with a special diving suit that keeps you warm.
Silfra: diving or snorkeling between 2 continents
Diving or snorkeling between 2 continents? It is possible in the Silfra fissure in Thingvellir National Park, which is located in the Þingvallavatn lake. This place, where the North American continent is separated from the Eurasian continent, is therefore one of the most unique places in the world for diving or snorkeling. Because how often can you say that you have swum between 2 tectonic plates?
In a so-called dry suit, a special diving suit, you swim for 30-40 minutes through the fissure in the ice-cold and crystal-clear water of the Langjökull glacier. The water is so incredibly clear because it is not only very cold (2-4 degrees), but has also been filtered through old lava for 30 to 100 years. This way you can see up to 100 meters and even swim along a spot where the two tectonic plates are so close together that you can almost touch them!
To be able to dive or snorkel, you must be at least 12 years old, a minimum of 150 cm and a maximum of 200 cm tall and weigh a minimum of 45 kg or a maximum of 120 kg. However, when you want to dive, you still have to meet some extra conditions. You should:
- be a certified diver (minimum PADI Open Diver Water)
- be able to dive with a dry suit or have proof that you made at least 10 dives in a dry suit max. 2 years ago
So if you are a fanatic diver and would like to add a unique place to your dive log? Then this dive site should definitely be on your bucket list!
Snorkeling, from ISK 18,990 / € 139 per person.
Diving, from ISK 29,990 / € 217 per person.
Thingvellir National Park Silfra Fee: ISK 1500 / € 11 per person.
You can visit Thingvellir National Park 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Only the facilities, such as the visitor centers, are only open at certain times and days.
Admission to Þingvellir National Park is free.
Do you want to visit the exhibition in the visitor center at Hakið? Then you do have to pay an entrance fee.
|Type of visitor||Entrance fee|
|Adults 18 years and older||ISK 1000 / € 7,20|
|Children (younger than 18 years old)||Free of charge|
|Seniors (67 years and older) and students||ISK 500 / € 3,60|
|Disabled||Free of charge|
Parking is possible at one of the four parking places.
- P1: Hakið visitor center
- P2: two parking spaces, one of which is close to the Öxarárfoss waterfall.
- P3: next to the road 36, at the start of the hiking trail to the Öxarárfoss
- P5: in the south of Thingvellir National Park
You can park your car for free at P3, but you still have to walk about 2 km from here to the visitor center at Hakið. Although this walk through the gorge is certainly not a punishment.
At P1, P2 and P5 you have to pay to park and the parking costs for a day pass are as follows:
- Car 5 seats or less, ISK 750 / € 5.40
- Car 6-8 seats, ISK 1000 / € 7.20
- Bus 9-19 seats, ISK 1800 / € 13
- Bus 20 seats or more, ISK 3500 / € 25.5o
After you have paid the parking costs at a payment machine in one of the parking spaces or at the visitor center, you can use all paid parking spaces in the national park throughout the day.
You can use the toilets 24 hours a day at the visitor center at P1 (ISK 200 / € 1.65).
Food and drinks
Accommodations near Thingvellir National Park
There are no hotels to spend the night in the national park itself, but there are many accommodations close to the park and therefore in the Golden Circle area. Below you will find some recommendations.
The Héradsskólinn Historic Guesthouse is located in the Golden Circle.
Here you will stay in an old school building from the 1920’s and is also a hostel.
Or opt for an overnight stay at this Icelandic dairy farm in the Golden Circle. And do not forget to take a look at the cowshed while enjoying a delicious ice cream from the milk of these cows or to have dinner at the lovely restaurant.
Do you still want to spend the night in the park? Then your only possibility is to camp in Thingvellir at the places that have been designated for this:
- at the Leirar visitor center (open in summer and winter)
- on one of the four camping sites: Nyrðri-Leirar, Fagrabrekka, Syðri-Leirar, Hvannabrekka
- Nyrðri-Leirar is open all year round
- Showers are available at Syðri-Leirar and Nyrðri-Leirar
- Toilets are available
- Vatnskot, on the shores of the Þingvallavatn lake
- Open from about May 21 to August 31, depending on the weather
- On the grounds of an abandoned farm
- Toilets are available
To be able to camp, you do not only need a permit, which you can get at the visitor center of Leirar. You also need to pay an amount per person per night and per tent / caravan / motorhome per night. No reservation is required.
|Type of visitor||Rate (per night)|
|Adults 18-66 years old||ISK 1300 / € 9,40|
|Seniors (67 years and older), disabled visitor||ISK 650 / € 4,70|
|Children 0-17 years old||gratis|
|Tax per tent/caravan/campervan||ISK 300 / € 2,20|
|Surcharge electricity RV’s and campervans (only at Leirar)||ISK 900 / € 6,60|
|Use of washing machine / dryer (only with Leirar)||ISK 800 / € 5,80|
If the visitor center is already closed, a ranger will come along to whom you have to pay the costs for camping.
You will find toilets at the campsites and you can store your waste in the bins. You only have to sort aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles as well as charcoal and ashes from the barbecues in the special waste containers.
Travel guides Iceland
- Marco Polo Iceland: €9,16 (The Book Depository).
- Lonely Planet Iceland: €14,12 (The Book Depository), €16,99 (Bol.com).
- Rough Guide Iceland: € 15,14 (The Book Depository), €13,99 (Bol.com).