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Iceland: Þingvellir

Mission accomplished image

Þingvellir | Iceland | Europe

[Visited: November 2008]

As the sun was slowly but surely giving the grey clouds above me a pinkish colour, the landscape I could only guess before was finally giving away its appearance. On my right, Þingvallavatn, the largest lake of Iceland, looking calm and lonely this morning. If only I had known this is one of the best scuba dive sites in the world, I would have taken my licence and gone for a cold exploration of its waters. Ahead of me, some meadows, and behind those, mountains with some snow on top. Soon after reaching the northern tip of the lake, I stopped for a view.

Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Sun colouring the sky pink in the Þingvellir area

Below me, wedged in between Þingvallavatn to the south and the mountains a little further away, plains with clear cracks and fissures, a few houses and a church right on the shore of the Öxará river. At the same time, I was looking at the cradle of Icelandic parliament, and the point where North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are moving away from each other. Literally meaning Parliament Meadow, Þingvellir was chosen as the setting of the first democratic parliament worldwide, in 930CE. Here, speeches and debates were held, laws were designed or altered, sentences were passed, contracts were signed, punishments were carried out, and marriages were performed. The annual meeting of parliament was an event which drew thousands of people in a gathering of national unity. For weeks, ordinary people would stay here, to party, talk, drink, hear stories from other parts of the island.

Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Crack filled with clear water in the Þingvellir area

I descended through a canyon-like crack, one of the main fissures of the area. Here, the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are drifting apart at a rate of 1mm a year. Further down, I saw Öxarárfoss, where a river comes down one of the cracks in a pretty waterfall, finding its way to Þingvallavatn through this historic area. The landscape is unique: deep rifts over which you can walk from North America to Europe, some of them filled with crystal-clear water, the mosses covering the lava landscape, the steep walls of the fissures, the friendly waters of the Öxará finding its way through the rocky landscape.

Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Water of Öxarárfoss waterfall running down towards Þingvallavatn
Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Path between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates
Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Water flowing from the Öxarárfoss waterfall
Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Abrupt crack in the earth: the Almannagjá fault in the Þingvellir area
Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Sunrise coming over the Þingvellir area
Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): Sunrise coming over a crack in the earth
Picture of Þingvellir (Iceland): View over Þingvallavatn across a crack in the earth

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Þingvellir (Iceland). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Þingvellir.
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