Thingvellir national park was established in 1930, making it the first national park of Iceland. This followed a legislation that had been passed two years earlier for the purpose of protecting the site of establishment of Iceland’s national parliament, the Althing, which held its meetings at this site up until the late 18th century. The first ever of the meetings of the peoples’ governing assemblies was held at this site in 930 AD and the establishment of Thingvellir National park marked a millennium after the establishment of the Althing. This is no doubt the longest running parliament in the world. The whole national park covers about 240km2, after been enlarged to conserve not just the ancient parliament ruins.
Located just close to 40km northeast of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, Thingvellir national park is among the most popular tourist destinations of Iceland, for other than being a very significant historical and cultural site, it’s also a place of great geological importance and geographical beauty. Thingvellir national park borders the northern shore of Iceland’s largest natural lake, Lake Thingvallavatn. It lies in the boundary between the Eurasian and the North American tectonic plates. Evidence of this can be seen in the many faults found around this region. The area is situated right on the path of the volcanic fissure joints that traverse through Iceland. Though the weather here is at time almost just as harsh as in other parts of Iceland, the climate of this region is among the best in Iceland.
Thingvellir National Park is a key tourism centre for Iceland. It is one of the three key destinations of the Golden Circle, a very popular tour track that flocks with tourists from all parts of the world. Some of these rifts formed due to tectonic action have very clear water which adds to the beauty of the park, another great tourist attraction. These water bodies also make it a favorite for scuba diving. Silfra, one of the best diving spots in Iceland, is found here. Lake Thingvallavatn, lying at the southern border, also plays a major role in luring people to the park. The water is so clear, with a visibility of up to 12 meters deep.
As you would expect, the most popular of these attractions are the ruins of the old parliament buildings. Although nothing much remains of it, signs have been put in place to indicate what used to the there. There is a visitors’ centre where there is an exhibition centre and all questions by visitors can be explained. The exhibitions display all the cultural, historical and natural aspects of Thingvellir and its surroundings. Camping is permitted in some parts of the park and you just have to obtain a permit from the authorities. Most of the main attractions are located close to each other and close to the parking lot, and walking from one to another is not a very hard task.