Before our visit to the fairytale South Coast of Iceland where we also went ice climbing, we took the popular Golden Circle route including Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park, the famous Gullfoss Waterfall, the geysers Geysir and Strokkur, the Kerio volcano crater and endless magnificent landscapes. Upon our arrival in Iceland, we rented a 4×4 drive and drove this famous route ourselves instead of taking a tour.
Thingvellir (Þingvellir) National Park
Thingvellir (Þingvellir) is famous cause it’s the place where Iceland’s first assembly (Alþingi) took place in 930 and remained there till 1271. The National Park was founded in 1930 and was the first National Park in Iceland; later – in 2004 – it also became a Unesco World Heritage Site. We started our visit in the visitor center where you can watch several videos about Thingvellir’s history and nature. From the Hakid viewpoint, you have a stunning view over the National Park including Thingvellir (Þingvellir) church and Lake Thingvallavatn (Þingvallavatn), the biggest natural lake in Iceland.
From the viewpoint we took the path down through the Almannagjá Canyon. The continental drift between the North American and Eurasian Tectonic Plates can be best seen under water in the Silfra fissure on the lake’s northern shore. There you can scuba dive between the tectonic plates, spectacular! On land, the best place is probably the Almannagjá Canyon. the biggest fault in the region.
The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are drifting apart with about 0.8 inches (2 centimeters) a year cutting Iceland slowly in two. We walked to the Thingvellir Church and from there to the Nikulásargjá fissure also called the Peningagjá (coin) fissure. For decades, visitors have been throwing coins in this fissure; the water is so clear that you can easily see the bottom littered with coins.
The Gullfoss Waterfall – situated in the upper part of the River Hvita – is probably the most famous Waterfall in Iceland. It’s an impressive sight to see the wild water tumbling down into a long canyon below. You can take pictures here from every angle; we walked down the path to get as close as possible to the waterfall and afterwards took the path higher up to get to one of the viewpoints on top. An incredible sight!