Iceland, Day 8: Thingvellir and Thingvallavatn

It was the 8th day of our 9 day tour of Iceland. We spent most of the day in and around lake Thingvallavatn (Þingvallavatn), starting with Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park.

Thingvellir is located about 45 km to the east from Reykjavík, immediately to the north of lake Thingvallavatn. It is a site of a major historic and cultural significance for Icelanders, probably like Acropolis for Greeks or Stonehenge for English.

From 930 C.E. to late 18-th century Thingvellir was the site of the Althing (Alþingi), the annual parliamentary assembly of Iceland. It was originally chosen as the site for the assembly due to its location that was more or less equally accessible to chieftains of various clans dispersed over the island. It also had enough open space to host a multitude of people and their horses. Thingvellir is said to be the birthplace of Iceland as a nation. Many decision of historic importance were made here, such as accepting Christianity as the official religion of Iceland.

There are no historic buildings or monuments there. A cute church and a few cottages were all the structures we saw there. However, the setting is gorgeous:

Thingvellir is not only a major historic site, but also a geological one. It lies on the boundary between Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, and the continental drift left its imprint on the terrain:

The area is crisscrossed with rampart-like rocky formations, small rivers and waterfalls:

Some of the faults formed by the continental drift are quite deep, and are popular with divers. The water is as clear as one can imagine:

Flosagja canyon in Thingvellir

After enjoying the open spaces of Thingvellir we headed south, driving around lake Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. The lake and the surrounding area are quite beautiful.

A church at Lake Thingvallavatn

We saw a lot of agricultural activity, with farms scattered all around the lake.

To the south of the lake we saw a geothermal power plant that was throwing huge flumes of vapor (not smoke) into the atmosphere. Iceland takes full advantage of its abundant geothermal energy sources.

Geothermal power plant at Lake Thingvallavatn

Out hotel was not far from the power plant. It was modern, clean and comfortable. One interesting details: the hot water in hotel’s faucets had a distinct sulphuric smell, since it came from underground water sources located in volcanic rocks.


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