Friday Postcards from Thingvellir (Þingvellir) in Iceland

 In Europe

It was shaping up to be quite a day. We’d seen the majestic Gullfoss waterfall. Dek and I had both experienced our very first geysir. Our Golden Circle Tour was proving to be worth every penny, even if it was a long day for the boys.

But wait. Now they wanted to bring us to the old parliament. All I could think was: “Oh great. Some old building that we will have to drag the boys through and all I want to do is look at the pretty scenery I’ve been seeing out of the bus window.”

I was in for a pleasant surprise.

We were not headed toward some stodgy parliament building with four walls and a roof. Oh no, we were going into a national park to the original seat of parliament set up in 930 A.D. Yes my friends, that is over a thousand years ago!

Þingvellir Iceland

Thingvellir (written out as Þingvellir in Icelandic) was where Althing, an open-air assembly representing the whole of Iceland, was originally set up. The island’s chieftains gathered every year for two weeks to settle disputes, decide on laws, and as our tour guide told it, more than a few marriages were arranged there as well. The Althing gathering occurred here until 1798. Thingvellir National Park was set up around 1930 to protect this historic site where so much of Iceland’s history occurred.

I was lucky enough to see where the old booths made of turf and stone had been set up for members to sit, argue and debate the latest happenings in their land. Thingvellir is set on the northern shore of Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland, giving the assembly quite a nice view while they discussed politics. This is where I got the photographs I had been waiting for all day. The frozen lake was a sheet of white with black mountains poking up behind. It was a place where at least one movie (Faust) was filmed, but many more should be headed that way.

Þingvellir Iceland

Not only does Thingvellir have historical significance, it also has geological importance. This is the sight of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.  In other words, this is where the North American and Eurasian plates come together, or not, as you can see from the cracks and faults that are across the island. Even through the snow you could see great fissures and stones jutting out from the ground as if the earth can’t decide if it is coming or going.

As the boys slept on the bus with Mike, I hiked to the Althing to see the old seat of parliament, something I had scoffed at earlier in the day because I didn’t realize what it was we were about to see (just goes to show you should always do your research before a trip!). Even with our tour group from the bus plodding along it was eerily quiet in this snow-filled landscape that had been trod upon for centuries by the Icelandic people. Snow began to fall and I finally took a moment to really look around. I put my camera down (you know it must be serious than), and took a long deep breath.

Nothing could prepare me for the beauty I was seeing. Nothing in my travels could have ever prepared me for this stark, yet stunning terrain. Right then and there I made a promise to myself. We would come back here one day. When the boys are a few years older we will rent a car and explore more of this country than we could in four days with jet lag and nap times to worry about. We would see the glaciers, pet some hairy horses and avoid the can tours. This was my promise to my boys and myself. Iceland is worth savoring, and I mean to do it with these tips in mind.

Read more in our Reykjavik Destination Guide

Thingvellir Iceland


Thingvellir Iceland

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Showing 26 comments
  • Johanna

    What a surreal landscape. It looks other worldly and so pristine. What a trip you must be having.

    • Keryn Means

      It really as an incredible trip Johanna!

  • Kim Cunningham

    Such a neat share! I’m so impressed that you visited Iceland! Your images are lovely and this trip sounds like a great experience! Thank you for linking up with Little Things Thursday.

  • Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    Have you ever been in a business meeting and can’t help getting distracted by the view out the window. That’s what would have happened to me if I was a member of Parliament trying to hash out politics in this amazing landscape. Perhaps those guys were used to it though and could pay attention. I wonder if Icelanders (is that what they’re called) become immune to their country’s beauty or are they constantly in awe of nature. Beautiful photos, and an excellent plan to return.

    • Keryn Means

      So SO true Michele. I would never get any work done!

  • Molly S

    Great photos – very atmospheric! I’d love to visit Iceland, both in the winter for the Northern Lights and in the summer for trekking. But I always forget that it’s got so much history as well!

  • Sam

    Wow! I went to Iceland when I was eleven but I’d love to go back and visit as an adult. Its a remarkable country. I will always have vivid memories of floating about in one of the outdoor naturally heated spring pools. As a traveller you must have a lot of moments to choose from for the theme of ‘that was unexpected’ I bet… #ThePrompt

  • Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    Wow, that landscape is stunning and it must have been such a wonderful surprise to be taken out to the original seat of parliament. What a fantastic experience, I hope you do manage to make a trip back. Thanks for linking to #ThePrompt

  • Merlinda Little (@pixiedusk)

    Amazing. I cant express it. This place is just awesome really.


  • Terumi

    This post makes me so excited about Iceland! It sounds so adventurous and beautiful. I wonder how much snow we’ll have next month?

    • Keryn Means

      Terumi the weather changes so fast and so frequently you may see nothing but green!

  • Kate @WildTalesof...

    Amazing shots, Keryn! Love all that history about the parliament. I thought the same thing when we were doing our Golden Circle tour, and was so confused when arrived! I hope you get your wish to return and see more the boys–knowing you though it’s bound to happen!

    • Keryn Means

      I didn’t even know it was part of the tour when I signed up Kate, which is why it was doubly confusing. I thought we would just see the waterfall and geysir. Boy am I glad I didn’t read the description very well 😉

  • Mel

    We did the exact same tour when we went to Iceland with our toddler a few years ago. It was stunning! Iceland is definitely of the most memorable places we have been to. Mel #TheThemeGame

    • Keryn Means

      Mel I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one crazy enough to bring her kids on an 8 hour bus tour of the Golden Circle. Somehow we even got the 2 year old to nap!

  • Mel

    I meant #ThePrompt! It must be time for bed! Mel

  • Bronwyn Joy

    I just wrote a post as a series of postcards! That’s got to count!

    The Cherry Blossom Festival in Kawazu, Japan.

    Iceland is my One That Got Away. We meant to go there when we were living in the UK and never got around to it somehow. I am more determined to go back every time I see such stunning pictures!

    • Bronwyn Joy

      I just read this on my phone and noticed you added my link (thanks!) but I thought I’d let you know that I can’t see the link adding widget on my computer. I’m using a mac with the latest OS. Not sure if anyone else is having this problem? Had to check the post again because I can see it on my iPhone and thought gosh, how’d I miss that? But now I’m using my computer it’s not there again.

      • Keryn Means

        Bronwyn this is so weird. I’m on a Mac with OS too and I see it just fine. I’ll explore a little more though. Maybe it is the web browser you are on. I’ll test it out on a few. Thanks for linking up even with technical difficulties!

        • Bronwyn Joy

          I’m on safari, but the thing is I can see it using Safari on my phone, so it doesn’t make sense. I mentioned it to the husband and it doesn’t make sense to him either, but he’s trying to blame our router (he’s been angling for a new one of these for a while so not sure how seriously you should take this…)

  • Aggy

    Wow that is interesting. I would also associate an old building the words “old parliament”. Your pictures are lovely, Iceland looks so magical, would love to explore the country!

  • Nancie

    I’m really falling in love with Iceland. Your photos are gorgeous. I didn’t know you were doing a link-up. I’ll try to start linking on Fridays. Thanks for linking up to Travel Photo Thursday.

  • Marysia @ My Travel Affairs

    Would love to visit Iceland one day!

  • Lucy @ On the Luce

    Lovely images – like the Gulfloss shots its interesting to see it under a cover of show, makes me miss the lack of snow we’ve had in the UK this winter!

  • Brittany Ruth

    Thanks for popping by and checking out my Bratislava post. I’m visiting Iceland in August so I’m excited for all these posts.

  • Dennis Kopp

    Keryn, those are really great, snowy photos of Iceland. To be honest, I had no idea that there was so much history behind this island and that Thingvellir was such a prominent place. But I can quite imagine how surprised you were to find this beautiful landscape instead of the expected parliament building… 🙂