The history of Iceland and the Icelandic nation is not as evident in any location like is at Þingvellir. It is where the parliament Alþingi was founded in 930 and gathered all the way through to the year 1798. Many of the nation’s greatest moments have taken place at Þingvellir and for most Icelanders Þingvellir has a place in their hearts.
Þingvellir is a protected UNESCO heritage site and in Icelandic laws, you can read that the land will and should always be a mutual property of the Icelandic nation and under the protection of the parliament.
Studies in recent decades have led to the conclusion that Þingvellir is a natural wonder on a global scale and that lake Þingvallavatn and Þingvellir’s ecosystem form a unique whole.
In Þingvallavatn Icelanders have watched new creatures come to life and active earthquakes have reformed the area frequently. The reason why the Þingvellir area is so volcanically active is that the continental plates, the North American and the Eurasian meet at Þingvellir and the rift between them runs right through. You can visit the meeting of the tectonic plates in many different locations at Þingvellir and even go snorkeling or diving in between if you join a tour in Silfra fissure.
The Þingvellir area is home to rich history, to the alluring Law Rock and Almannagjá but also a place of great beauty, waterfalls and a birch forest. You can’t and shouldn’t miss it!
Geysir and Strokkur
Geysers and hot springs are among Iceland’s most remarkable features and with more than 700 such sources, there is no shortage of hot water. The heat which chutes up from the earth’s molten core creates unique formations in a fascinating array of shapes and sizes one of them being the Haukadalur hot spring area, home to both Geysir and Strokkur geysers.
The most famous Icelandic geyser is The Great Geysir, the king of all geysers, as the word geyser originates with it and it was the first geyser to catch people’s attention when visitors first started traveling to Iceland.
The name Geysir comes from the Icelandic verb að geysa or to gush and is very fitting as the Great Geysir has at some points in times spouted up to about 170 meters high (557.743 ft). Today the Geysir has gone quiet but when it did its baby brother Strokkur gained the power Geysir lost and now shots into the sky every four to ten minutes with great applause from the audience.
Gullfoss or the Golden Falls is usually the last stop people make in the Golden Circle. It is a stunning and powerful waterfall in the glacial river Hvítá which originates at Langjökull Iceland’s second largest glacier and a true totem of Iceland as it is one of Iceland’s best-known landmarks. In early 1900 the plan was to turn it into a power plant but with a great fight of a local farmer’s daughter Sigríður Tómasdóttir the plans ended up not going through. For this, we are eternally thankful as the mesmerizing two story drop fall entertains and takes the breath away from anyone who visits.
About one kilometer above Gullfoss waterfall the Hvítá river makes a sharp turn to the right and then flows down going into an extremely wide curved three-story gorge that then abruptly plunges into a much higher two-story valley that is the home to the actual waterfall. The first drop is 11 meters (36 ft) and the second is 21 meters (69 ft) making the waterfall exceptionally impressive. The average volume of water falling down the waterfall is 140 cubic meters (4,900 cu ft) per second in the summer and 80 cubic meters (2,800 cu ft) per second in the winter. The greatest flood every to be measured contained was 2,000 cubic meters (71,000 cu ft) per second.
Golden Circle Winter vs. Summer
The Golden Circe is easily doable all year around. The distance from Reykjavík to the first stop from is only about 45 minutes meaning you will not be going far into the highlands and that the roads are good.
In summertime, the roads are all clear and you can expect to see young lambs and ponies play at the farms surrounding the stops. The grass is beautifully green and yellow flowers grown in the fields. The steam from the hot springs surrounding the area is evident and more options are to add adventure tours to the experience such as River Jet or River Rafting.
In wintertime, you might have a harder time driving on the roads around the Golden Circle as they can get slippery but the area surrounding the Golden Circle is a true winter wonderland and furry horses play at the farm fields around. The look of the locations is like something out of a Christmas card and you come to see why we named it Ice-land.
The look of the circle is very different depending on the season and many have described it as two very different planets. You simply must experience both!