Iceland, a place of many sharp contrasts. One moment you’re hiking a glacier and the next you’re scaling the rim of a volcano. It is no wonder it attracts many landscape photographers here every year. Dubbed as, “The Land of Fire and Ice” I go to explore its many natural wonders.
Day 1: Þingvellir National Park
Flying into Iceland you will first flying into the Keflavik Airport. It is a town of a little over 15,000 and is the gateway to Reykjavik, the golden circle and the rest of Iceland.
After grabbing the car from a local rental shop and agreeing not to drive it into any rivers or use it for off roading and getting not one, but two insurance policies I am ready to start my adventure and capture some amazing photographs (Click here).
The first stop isn’t the hostel but Þingvellir National Park.
Þingvellir is the only UNESCO world heritage site on mainland Iceland. Both its history and geographic location make it of significant importance and is one of the hot stops in the Golden Circle you will hear a lot about when you start researching your trip to Iceland.
To first understand the importance of this site we first need to look at some basic Icelandic history. Let’s Discover!
Iceland was first settled by, Ingólfr Arnarson, a Norwegian Viking in 874 AD and for the next 56 years the settlement era was upon Iceland. Driven away from mainland Norway many new settlers came to Iceland in search of a new home. This created many problems.
Although there was a common language, religion and customs wars broke out between different clans and settlements from around the island. Although there was many commonalities between the settlers violence was ongoing and needed to be stopped.
There happened to be some assemblies of the clans in the southwest region of Iceland in the modern-day area of Reykjavik however this only benefited the clans in the south west regions of Iceland. Some clans did not like this and pushed for a greater assembly so all the clans in Iceland can live together in harmony.
A man called Grímur Geitskör was given the duty to find a suitable location for all the tribes to meet and also find a representative from each tribe. Geitskör found the Þingvellir location. It is a place that is sheltered from all directions and takes no more than seven days travelled from the east. Over thirty chiefs ended up banding together for the first time in 930 AD at this location and discussed rule of law on the island. Thus a crude workings of a parliamentary system was born which brings us to the word, Þingvellir. Þingvellir directly translates to the fields of parliament. In perspective modern day parliamentary systems in France and Canada appeared hundreds of years later.
The cultural and historic importance is important but when we look at this location we also see a geographic importance. Iceland is located on the mid-Atlantic rift. It is the joining point of the North American and European continents. Nowhere else on the world will you see this rift above sea level. If you drive through the valleys you will see the valley of the rift which Is the split below. It is quite a surreal experience to be literally walking from one continent to another.
Through the park runs the Öxará river and has a waterfall called Öxarárfoss. Often called Þingvellir falls it is one of the main attractions of the Þingvellir National park.
Self Guided Tour:
There is a small parking lot at the base of the valley you can park at with a couple pathways leading up the valley and into the falls. In winter this location can be exceptionally Icey so take caution.
I used the Spasso Travel flight search and Car Rentals to get to my location from Edmonton. Which offered me competitive rates to and from my destinations.