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The Final Information to Nationwide Parks in Iceland

Iceland's national parks are all staggeringly beautiful in their own right, showcasing a wealth of flora, fauna and fascinating sights.

The reasoning behind the three nationwide parks and their official recognition lies within the respective areas’ geology, historical past and cultural significance, offering an unbelievable backdrop from the place guests can purchase a deeper perception and understanding into what makes Iceland so distinctive. 

All three parks are managed and maintained by the Surroundings Company of Iceland, Umhverfisstofnun, whose primary duties embody selling environmental safety, the sustainable use of pure assets and providing travellers recommendation referring to the parks themselves.

Throughout the summer time months, Umhverfisstofnun will typically tackle volunteers to work on conservation tasks inside the park (additional data will be discovered on the company’s web site.)

Þingvellir Nationwide Park

Almannagjá, the North American tectonic plate, during the wintertime.

The beneath poem, ‘Mt. Skjaldbreiður’, was written by Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807-1845), a author whom Iceland’s solely Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness (1902-1998), as soon as claimed to be the “poet of Icelandic consciousness.” 

Eastward, stony steeps are leaping
stalwartly from Raven Gorge; 
westward, partitions of rock are 
watch above our nation’s forge. 
Grímur Goatshoe, sage and intelligent, 
grasped the promise of this place: 
Almanna Gorge, on guard 
for ever
girds the councils of my race. 

The poem is in regards to the volcano, Mount Skjaldbreiður (Broadshield), and the expansive, dried lava fields that—following an eruption at Skjaldbreiður over 9000 years in the past—drained and fashioned on the base of Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest pure lake. 

Warrant to Skjaldbreiður’s spectacular top (1060m), the dried lava lined an space of over 200 sq. kilometres, altering the very face of the panorama and making a deep and cragged community of caverns, fissures and subterranean tunnels.  

Þingvallavatn (“Lake of the Parliament”) is an 84-square kilometre physique of water, protected below the Surroundings Company of Iceland. It rests simply to the aspect of Þingvellir, Iceland’s oldest Nationwide Park and is the one park within the nation to carry UNESCO World Heritage web site standing, having been awarded the popularity in 2004.

Þingvallavatn is the largest natural lake in Iceland, and is filled with springs like Silfra.

These travelling from the capital will set their eyes upon Lake Þingvallavatn earlier than seeing the park itself. It makes for a incredible cease for budding photographers particularly. Regardless of its chilly temperature, over 150 totally different species of flowers and 50 kinds of invertebrate have been found from the lake’s centre to its shorelines.

Because the previous Icelandic proverb goes, “Fertile is the water that runs below the lava.”

Þingvellir Nationwide Park (“Fields of Parliament”) is situated in Bláskógabyggð municipality, 49 km away from Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, roughly forty minutes drive by automotive. Þingvellir makes up one of many three stops alongside the extremely common Golden Circle sightseeing route, together with the dramatic Gullfoss waterfall and the geothermal valley, Haukadalur, dwelling of the geysers. 

Historical past & Geology

Þingvellir was designated a nationwide park in 1928 as a way of defending the stays of the parliament web site.

At that second, it was judged to be “…a protected nationwide shrine for all Icelanders, the perpetual property of the Icelandic nation below the preservation of parliament, by no means to be bought or mortgaged”. 

The park is the unique web site of the primary Alþingi (“Nationwide Meeting”), fashioned in 930 AD. It was, arguably, the primary democratically elected parliament on earth. No matter whether or not or not this may be confirmed, it’s past doubt the second that the Icelandic nation was born.

Amongst one of the best supply of knowledge relating to this time is the Ebook of Icelanders (“Íslendingabók”) written by the priest, Ari Þorgilsson, between 1122-33.  

Thingvellir National Park is steeped in history.

Right here, the early settlers used to assemble in momentary camps known as ‘Búðir’, on the base of the uncovered North American tectonic plate. The Lawspeaker (“lögsögumaður”), the best official of the proceedings, would use the rock face as a makeshift sounding board, permitting all these gathered to listen to, loud and clear, the dispelling of justice and the brand new legal guidelines of the land.

It was the Legislation Council (“Lögrétta”) who stood on the centre of those proceedings; comprised of the nation’s many chieftains (or “Goðar”), choices had been made by easy majority on all tribal and authorized disputes, in addition to queries referring to the regulation and on a regular basis livelihood. 

Attendees to the meeting would typically journey for weeks by horseback or foot, battling the treacherous Icelandic panorama to make sure their voice was heard. Upon arrival, meeting goers would arrange the camps amongst the crevasses and lava lobes, sharing tales of their lives from the farthest corners of the nation. 

Thingvellir was central to all of the major events in Iceland's history before the 1800s.

The positioning is especially necessary for an additional, and wildly influential historic level; Þingvellir is the place Icelanders made the ultimate resolution to desert their pagan methods and, as a substitute, undertake Christianity, within the 12 months 1000 AD. This resolution continues to have consequence at this time, ceaselessly having modified Icelandic tradition.  

Right now, guests can stroll and discover the very same areas as these utilised by the early settlers, respiratory life and historical past into the arduous and cracked fissures of Þingvellir Nationwide Park. 

By the point the Alþingi ended at Þingvellir within the 1800s, the establishment had turn out to be little greater than a minor regulation court docket, its jurisdiction absolutely depending on the laws handed from the ruling Danish monarchy. It was a great distance from the glory days of the Alþingi, days the place the considerations of Icelanders had been heard in full, the place their future might be sculpted by themselves and their fellow countrymen.

Thingvellir has many beautiful streams and springs.Photograph by Johnathan Stewart

Throughout the nineteenth century, nevertheless, a drive towards Icelandic independence started to develop, fuelled all by ideas of capitalist commercialism and a free parliamentary discourse. Although there can be many obstacles alongside the way in which, Iceland lastly managed to convene at Þingvellir on 17 June 1944 the place the meeting’s president, Gísli Sveinsson, declared the Icelandic structure to be in full impact. Finally, the Alþingi was moved to Reykjavik, the place it’s situated at this time, however Icelanders have by no means forgotten the necessary progressive steps made at Þingvellir. 

Another excuse why Þingvellir Nationwide Park is a chosen UNESCO World Heritage Website lies in its astounding geological make-up. Þingvellir is likely one of the solely locations on the planet the place guests can see each the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates uncovered from the earth. The one different place that such an statement will be made is within the Nice Rift Valley of Jap Africa. 

In between the plates is a graben valley—continentally talking, a ‘no man’s land’—a plateau of dried lava fields, crevasses and startling rock formations, all lined with a thick blanket of fragile Icelandic moss. That is simply half of what’s described by geologists and naturalists because the North Atlantic Rift system; Þingvellir sits within the Reykjaneshryggur-Langjökull rift system, (don’t fret, no-one will anticipate you to pronounce that completely!) 

Thingvellir National Park sits on a volcanic rift.

Photograph by Tucker Monticelli

Probably the most dramatic function is, certainly, Almannagjá, operating 7.7km and marking the jap boundary of the North American tectonic plate. The western boundary of the Eurasian tectonic plate is known as Hrafnagjá, operating 11km. Each plates are seen because the visible personification of the earth’s make-up beneath the floor. 

To the south of Þingvellir, the plates transfer adjoining to at least one one other; on the park itself, the plates are actively breaking up, creating an ever-increasing quantity of land between them. That is an extremely gradual course of, the land growing at little below 1 millimetre a 12 months (the plates themselves see a draw back of seven millimetres). 

That’s to not recommend that the geology is inactive; in reality, inner-tension builds below the earth’s floor all through this era, typically breaking out in sudden and probably violent bursts of vitality. The final main outburst was in 1789, inflicting an earthquake at Þingvellir that elevated the graben valley by 1-2 metres.


As beforehand said, Þingvellir is an attraction in itself, its astounding magnificence so totally pleasant that it makes up an integral a part of the Golden Circle sightseeing tour. However what truly is there, apart from the pure splendour, that may preoccupy your treasured vacation time at Þingvellir? Fortunately, greater than you may assume. 

For starters, guests to Þingvellir can go to the rumbling waterfall, Öxarárfoss. The waterfall flows from the river Öxará, lastly reaching its lip and tumbling down over the aspect of the Almannagjá right into a rocky pool beneath. 

Öxarárfoss is one of the many attractions found in Thingvellir.

The identify of the waterfall interprets to “Axe Falls”. Some contemplate this an allusion to the numerous executions that passed off at Þingvellir over the presiding centuries, whereas others declare the identify derives from an axe—a logo of land possession at the moment—that was thrust into the icy river Öxará by early settlers.

A walkway now constructed alongside the Almannagjá supplies data boards describing the realm’s unbelievable historical past, even declaring explicit spots of curiosity, such because the “Legislation Rock” (“Lögberg”) and the Deep Drowning Pool, Drekkingarhylur, part of the Seventeenth-century Icelandic judicial system; girls accused of adultery had been drowned there, including a spookiness to Almannagjá that may hardly be described. 

Þingvellir can also be dwelling to certainly one of Iceland’s most well-known sights, the chic glacial spring Silfra Fissure. Routinely voted as one of many Prime 10 scuba diving and snorkelling websites worldwide, Silfra Fissure is famed for its crystal clear visibility, typically extending to greater than 100m. 

The explanations for this are twofold; first, the water in Silfra originates from the glacier, Langjökull, taking between 50-100 years to journey by means of a sequence of underground networks and filter. Because of this Silfra Fissure is crammed with glacial water, making certain its drinkability and freshness. 

Silfra Fissure is so clear and dramatic, it often cited as one of the Top 10 Snorkelling and Diving sites in the world.

Second, Silfra is a spring, that means its water is in fixed circulate on its technique to Þingvallavatn. This ensures that, ought to any sediment be kicked up by divers or snorkellers in entrance, the visibility will shortly be restored. This fixed circulate can also be the first cause as to why Silfra fissure doesn’t freeze within the wintertime, maintaining it available as an attraction all year long. 

Silfra Fissure’s surroundings is, in a single phrase, epic; cut up into 4 distinct areas. Scuba divers and snorkellers will first enter ‘the bathroom,’ rudely named, however simply, particularly contemplating this part sees the glacial water open up into the fissure.

Swimming by means of this slim, cragged gorge, the group will come into Silfra Corridor, the fissure’s widest level; Silfra Corridor supplies a wonderful perspective on simply how dramatic this function is. Transferring additional together with the sunshine present, the fissure will turn out to be deeper, its depths turning to a darkish and mysterious blue. This space is known as, aptly, Silfra Cathedral.

The glacial water is so clear in Silfra that visibility will often reach 100m.

Photograph from Diving SIlfra Tour | Dry Go well with Dive with Pickup

Turning away from the lake, snorkellers and divers will transfer into what guides describe because the “actual Blue Lagoon.” This comparatively shallow space permits friends to discover the numerous cracks and fissures at their very own tempo earlier than exiting the water. General, a single run by means of Silfra will final from half an hour to 45 minutes. Don’t anticipate fish; the water tends to be too chilly within the Fissure, although child fish will use the rock’s hidden crannies as a nighttime nursery.



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