Blog WHS Visits
WHS #737: Thingvellir
Thingvellir is probably Iceland’s most popular tourist attraction (well, the geysers may just beat it), but surely the core of the country’s national identity. Its meaning has already been well explained by previous reviewers: it comprises the remains of the place where the Althing, the Icelandic ‘parliament’, met yearly to make judicial and administrative decisions. I’ll focus a bit more on the practical details for visiting as I was surprised by some.
I arrived by car from the north (road 36) and was immediately confused where to park. There are signs, there are numbered parking lots, but the pros and cons of those were unclear. I ended up in parking lot P2 which is at the northern end of the park. It is a paid parking, it costs 750 ISK per full day (4,60 EUR). You pay with a credit card at a machine after typing in your car registration plate number. P1 and P5 are also paid, but lot P3 is free however located a few hundred meters further away. P4 is for handicapped only.
A pole with signs in Icelandic awaited me at the start of the trail, signs to… yes to what actually? There were things on it like “Lögberg 350m” and “Hakid 300m”. I decided to just follow the main path along the ridge, where I encountered the following (fortunately with information panels in English too):
- The intriguing “Drekkingarhylur”, which turned out to be a place where women were drowned as punishment. They were tied in a bag and thrown into this water hole.
- The “Lögberg”, which is really what it's all about: this is a rocky outcrop where the Speaker of Parliament had his seat and from where speeches were held. The exact location is unknown and may have moved due to changes in the landscape. Where they think it was, a large Icelandic flag now flies.
- “Snorri’s Hideout”, which includes the remains of an encampment where the visitors to Parliament stayed overnight during the two weeks of the meeting. With some imagination, traces of it can be seen in the grass.
I ended up at the Visitor Center. There’s a mildly interesting exhibition that can be viewed for 1000 ISK (6 EUR). No entrance fee to the park itself is charged. Remarkable I found also that there is no café or restaurant or other ostentatious tourist complex within the park area. The visitor center has a souvenir shop and a refrigerator full of soft drinks and the ubiquituous sandwiches, but that’s all. A bit further along road 36 there is a Service Centre with a few more amenities, but nothing like the craze at Geysir or Gulfoss.
The site is not huge, I spent 2 hours on a leisurely visit that covered all in the upper and lower areas I think except the Öxarárfoss waterfall. I was intrigued by a signpost ‘Silfra 400m’ at the bridge. It brought me and some other curious travellers to a fissure that has been formed due to the Eurasian and North American plates drifting apart and subsequent earthquakes. Its clear groundwater and location within the continental rift makes it an interesting spot for scuba divers, however for a casual visitor there’s not much to see.
Els - 2 September 2020