LivingTravelThingvellir National Park: The Complete Guide

Thingvellir National Park: The Complete Guide

Thingvellir National Park is probably what you are imagining when you think of the diverse landscapes Iceland has to offer, even if you’ve never been. The range of activities and things to see is inspiring: diving in the Silfra fissure, visiting farm ruins dating back thousands of years, seeing Europe’s largest panoramic waterfall, the list goes on.

With all the things to see comes a little planning. Getting away from the mass of fellow travelers also requires a bit of research. But that’s where this guide comes in.

From how to get there (including a scenic drive) to all the things you can see in one day, this is the ultimate guide to Thingvellir National Park in Iceland.

How to get there

You can get to Thingvellir National Park from Reykjavik in less than an hour. From the capital city, follow Route 1 north until you reach Route 36 in Mosfellsbær. The path is well maintained and will take you straight to the national park.

During the summer (May to September), there is a scenic route that the Thingvellir website has set out for visitors: Take Route 1 towards Selfoss from Reykjavik. From there, turn left onto Highway 431 and proceed to Highway 435 for stunning views of Thingvallavatn (the lake named after the national park). You will cross the Hengill volcano as you approach the lake. Once you start descending the mountain, turn left onto Highway 360. After 11 kilometers, turn right onto Highway 36, which will take you directly to the visitor center.

Once inside the park, the roads are very clearly marked. There are also plenty of pull-offs where you can get out for impromptu walks and take photos.

What to expect at Seljalandsfoss

First things first: Thingvellir is much bigger than you think. Geographically, it may not cover as much space as other national parks, but the range of activities is staggering and potentially overwhelming.

It is like entering any other national park: there is a sign and then a lot of nature. You can find the visitor center in Hakid, which is located at the main viewpoint of the park. It is near the road to the Almannagjá fault. It is a good place to stop, considering the large amount of information available to visitors.

Make sure you have a plan for your visit to Thingvellir National Park. While you can drive aimlessly and fill your day with beautiful sights, there are some less visible spots that are worth investigating.

What to wear

Prepare to experience each season in one day: rain, snow, wind, sun, and sleet. You’ll never be too far from your car unless you’re planning a bigger hike, so keep rain gear and layers on hand to put on or take off.

Hiking boots are essential. Depending on the climate, the soil can change consistency quite quickly, from solid dirt to muddy puddles. Bring an extra pair of socks too.

Safety

Thingvellir is home to some observation points of the division caused by two tectonic plates: Eurasia and North America. In many places, there are no barriers to tell you where to stay away. Remember that this soil is constantly adjusting and moving and that cracks can occur at any time. Practice safety and don’t get too close to the edge of the ridge.

The best time to visit

One good thing about the park is that it is so large compared to other natural attractions in Iceland – there is plenty of room for the crowds to spread out. Plan to spend a whole day at Thingvellir; Do not rush.

To make the most of your time, plan a trip when the weather doesn’t derail your plans. The shoulder season: late August to early October and late March to early May are a good time to take advantage of longer days and better weather. All things to see in Thingvellir are outside, so keep an eye on the forecasts.

Nearby walks

The best part of Thingvellir may be the hiking which is available to all levels of athletes. For those just starting out or hikers who need a bit more guidance, the Almannagjá fault is a great place to start. It is located near the visitor center and has an artificial walkway that will take you through the two tectonic plates that the area is famous for. Another easy hike is the Öxarárfoss waterfall, which you can hike to from Almannagjá. Again, there is a railing and boardwalk system that takes you right down to the waterfall, but it’s deeper on the fault line, which is something special.

If you are looking for something a little less artificial, Thingvellir is basically just tracts of land waiting to be explored. Your best bet is to stop by the visitor center to ask for hiking recommendations based on the amount of time you want to spend exploring Thingvellir.

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