Thingvellir National Park is a cultural landscape representing mediaeval Norse/Germanic culture.
It lies in the the southwest of Iceland near the peninsula of Reykjanes and the Hengill volcanic area.
The valley is one of the most important places in Icelandic history. In the year 930, the Althing, one of the oldest parliamentary institutions of the world, was founded. The Althing met yearly, where the Lawspeaker recited the law to all of the gathered people and decided disputes as well. Criminals were also punished at these assemblies; to this day, visitors can see the Drekkingarhylur ("drowning pool") in the river, where woman lawbreakers were drowned.
This was a really interesting and rewarding place to visit and as Paul Tanner states is an essential part of any trip to Iceland. We visited on a beautiful late September day when the bright autumnal colours were staring to show, and it made this a great experience.
Though somewhat intangible the relationship between the natural and cultural aspects of the site are very noticeable. The rift between the Eurasian and North American plates provide a large plain, ideal for the purpose of annual meetings whilst the banks of the plates themselves provide a great point from which to survey the whole area. The relationship between natural and cultural factors is something very noticeable in Icelandic history and culture, but this is one place where it is very evident.
The importance of the site historically is very important being the site of the world’s oldest Parliament, this being essentially the first political institution of the European ‘New World’. In terms of remains there is not much to see, just outlines from the walls of Buð small temporary booths used as houses when the Alþing was in session. There is a also a small church.
The drive out from Reykjavik is very nice, being well sign posted, and with some great scenery in the distance. The mountains and glaciers tantalise with glimpses of the more rugged natural delights that Iceland’s interior and North West Coast hold in store.
On the same day we also visited the spouting hot springs at Geyser, the Kevið crater, Skalholt Church, Sigur Rós’ recording studio at Álafoss, and the magnificent waterfalls of Gullfoss (perhaps my highlight of my all too brief view of Iceland). These can mostly all be viewed on the ‘Golden Circle’ tours running from Reykjavik, though it worked out better for us to hire a car. This also enabled us to round of the day watching the sunset over Reykjavik from the hot-pots of the Árbæjarlaug swimming pools, the perfect way to round off one of the best days of travelling I have ever had.
A trip out to Thingvellir is an essential part of any trip to Icelend - as well as providing an opportunity to see some Icelandic scenery (albeit a long way from the wildest!) you will reach a place which interesting both for its
a. Geology – this split in the rocks in the photo is the Mid Atlantic Ridge which runs across Iceland as it spreads at around 2 metres per century (Near Myvatn in the north there is a rather nice piece of evidence of this as a water pipe has been parted as it crosses the gap!)"Interesting" as this scenery might be however it is worth noting that it is NOT relelvant to the inscripion of this site which is inscribed on PURELY cultural grounds as a "Cultural Landscape"!
b. History – the site of what claims to be the oldest parliament in the world (starting in 930). The Icelanders gathered here once a year and the Speaker of the Parliament would stand atop the Logberg, or Law Rock, to read the law to the members in the valley below to the left. These are the aspects which Iceland and UNESCO (via ICOMOS) consider make this location a place of universal value!
If you haven’t got your own transport there are daily trips taking in Geyser as well.
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Full name: Thingvellir National Park
2004 - InscribedReasons for inscription
The site has 16 connections. Show all
- Places of Execution "Drekkingarhylur ? Drowning pool - Guilty women were put in sacks and drowned in Drekkingarhylur while men were beheaded or hanged..... This obnoxious practice remained in effect until 1838."
- Built in the 10th century Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was established here in 930
- Cultural WHS set within an IUCN recognised protected area Thingvellir National Park (IUCN Management Category II)
- First inscriptions Iceland 2004
- Free entrance
- Game of Thrones (Filming Locations)
- Locations of famous/infamous drownings There were 70 - 80 executions in Thingvellir from the 17th century onwards. Of those there are recorded 15 hangings, 30 beheadings and 18 women were drowned in the so called 'Drowning Pool' which was where the bridge across the river is now. It is the only place of execution which is marked by a memorial plaque but there are also places at Thingvellir with self-explanatory names such as Gallows Rock (Gálgaklettur), Scaffold beach (Gálgaeyri) and Burning gap (Brennugjá).
- On Banknotes 1000 Kronur; 1961
World Heritage Process
- Associative Cultural Landscape Cultural Landscape & criterion vi: strong association of the Althing to mediaeval Germanic/Norse governance, known through the 12th century Icelandic sagas (AB ev)
- On T List for a different nomination For Viking transboundary serial nomination
- Relict Cultural Landscapes The park landscape is therefore a relict cultural landscape, providing ample evidence for the way the landscape was husbanded over the past 1000 years (AB ev)