Thingvellir National Park is probably what you're envisioning when you think of the various landscapes Iceland has to offer, even if you've never been. The range of activities and things to see is inspiring: snorkeling Silfra Fissure, visiting farm ruins that date back thousands of years, seeing Europe's largest panoramic waterfall — the list goes on.
With all of the things to see comes a bit of planning. Getting away from the mass of fellow travelers takes a bit of research, as well. But that's where this guide comes into play.
From how to get there (including a scenic route) to all of the things you can see in a 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 hit Route 36 in Mosfellsbær. The road is well-maintained and will take you directly to the national park.
During the summer (May through September), there is a scenic route that the Thingvellir website has laid out for visitors: Grab Route 1 toward Selfoss from Reykjavik. From there, take a left on Road 431 and follow it on to Road 435 for stunning views of Thingvallavatn (the lake named after the national park). You'll cross Hengill Volcano as you approach the lake. Once you start to descend the mountain, turn left of Road 360. After 11 kilometers, you'll take a right on Road 36, which will bring you straight to the visitor center.
Once inside the park, the roads are very clearly marked. There are also plenty of pull-offs where you can hop out for impromptu hiking and photo opps.
What to Expect at Seljalandsfoss
First thing's first: Thingvellir is much bigger than you'd think. Geographically, it may not cover as much space as other national parks, but the range of activities is astounding and potentially overwhelming.
It's much like entering any other national park: there's a sign and then a whole lot of nature. You can find the visitor center at Hakid, which is located at the park's main viewpoint. It's near the path to the Almannagjá fault. It's a good place to stop, considering the wealth of information available to visitors.
Make sure you have a plan for your visit to Thingvellir National Park. While you can drive around aimlessly and fill your day full of beautiful sights, there are some less visible spots well worth the research.
What to Wear
Prepare to experience every season in one day: rain, snow, wind, sun, and sleet. You won't ever be too far from your car unless you're planning a larger hike, so have rain gear on hand as well as layers to put on or take off.
Hiking boots are a must. Depending on the weather, the ground can change consistency pretty quickly, from solid dirt to muddy puddles. Bring an extra pair of socks, too.
Thingvellir is home to some pretty amazing viewing spots of the split caused by two tectonic plates: Eurasian and North American. In many places, there are no barriers telling you where to keep out of. Remember that this land is constantly adjusting and moving and cracks can happen at any time. Practice safety and don't get too close to the ridge's edge.
The Best Time to Visit
One nice thing about the park is that is is so large compared to other natural attractions in Iceland — there's plenty of room for crowds to disperse. Plan to spend a whole day at Thingvellir; don't rush it.
To get the most out of your time, plan a trip when the weather won't derail your plans. The shoulder season: late August through early October and late March through early May are a great time to take advantage of the longer days and better weather. All of the things to see at Thingvellir are outside, so keep an eye on forecasts.
The best part about Thingvellir may be the hiking that's available to all levels of athletes. For those just starting out or hikers in need of a bit more guidance, the Almannagjá fault is a great place to start. It's located near the visitor center and has a manmade walkway that will wind you through the two tectonic plates the area is famous for. Another easy hike is Öxarárfoss waterfall, which you can walk to from Almannagjá. Again, there's a railing system and boardwalk bringing you right up to the waterfall, but you're deeper in the fault line, which is something special.
If you're looking for something a little less manmade, Thingvellir is basically just expanses of land waiting to be explored. Your best bet is to pop by the visitor center to ask for hiking recommendations based on the amount of time you want to spend exploring Thingvellir.