Thingvellir National Park

Unique Gorge on the Border of Europe and North-America

Thingvellir National Park in Iceland is very special. This is where the tectonic plates of Europe and North-America meet. It's very visible in the rugged landscape. In fact, you can hike between the cracks. Or even go swimming on the fault line, although it's more snorkelling in a wetsuit. These are the best things to see and do of Thingvellir National Park.

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The park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located on the famous Golden Circle. The beloved Thingvellir is one of three national parks in Iceland. For many visitors to Iceland, Thingvellir is the first stop. It is close to the capital Reykjavik and is immediately a wonderful introduction to the ruggedness of the island. Here you will find waterfalls, steep gorges and lakes. These can be visited via hiking trails and viewpoints.

There is something remarkable to see in this nature reserve. In Thingvellir, a fault line runs between two tectonic plates. This one is still in full swing; each year these plates move a few millimetres apart. Although Iceland is part of Europe, you walk on the border between the Eurasian plate and the North Atlantic plate. Which can be seen in countless places.

Silfra Fissure

Snorkelling and diving in the Silfra fissure. ©Wolfgang Poelzer

This gorge between the two tectonic plates is called the Silfra fissure. The line runs right through Lake Thingvallavatn. This is now one of the most popular diving and snorkelling spots in the world. You can do an amazing excursion with a guide (and a drysuit). Where you go into the water to explore the crystal clear water. I did it and thought it was amazingly beautiful.

Öxarárfoss Waterfall

Öxarárfoss waterfall in Thingvellir National Park.

The most impressive waterfall in the national park is Öxarárfoss. It lies in the chasm created by the fault lines. The water of the Öxará River suddenly flows over the edge into the canyon. It ends in Lake Thingvallavatn. The waterfall is 19 meters high and especially in spring and winter very impressive. I visited this one in late April and got wet from the fog.


Thingvallavatn is Iceland's largest natural lake. It is no less than 82 km2 in size and is located for the most part in Thingvellir. Again, the Icelandic name is actually Þingvallavatn, but this is difficult for tourists to pronounce. There are fish in the lake: trout. You can partly walk around the lake, but the snorkelling or diving tour is the best way to discover it.

Drekkingarhylur Waterfall

Drekkingarhylur waterfall has a unique story. ©Corno van den Berg

The waterfall Drekkingarhylur is very special for Icelanders. There are countless stories about this waterfall. At the beginning of the 18th century, women who had committed crimes were put in a bag. They were drowned in the deepest part. I was trying to find out if I could find more information. For example, why only women? But I couldn't find any.


Walking through the Silfra fissure at Lögberg. ©Corno van den Berg

Lögberg means Rock of Justice. Laws were read here, which makes sense when you consider the location. From here you can take a lovely walk to Dreckingarhylur, where you mainly walk between the steep rocks.

Thingvellir kirkja

The church in Thingvellir.

The church of Thingvellir is officially called Þingvallakirkja. If you walk around here, you will see it popping up naturally in the landscape. The current church was built in 1859, even though the church tower dates from 1907. The church has three church bells, the oldest dates from 1697, and one from 1944. The church is not very big, but it is worth a look. And always good for a photo.

Location of Thingvellir National Park

It is located in the southwest of the island, about fifty kilometers from the capital Reykjavik. It is well signposted everywhere so you can't miss it. Take your time for this place; Thingvellir is worth it.

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