Let's discover the Thingvellir National Park in Winter. This attraction of the Golden Circle is one of the most visited in Iceland. It is fascinating to see the giant fissure caused by the rift of the tectonic plates. Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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Why visit Thingvellir National Park in Winter
When visiting Thingvellir (Þingvellir), you will walk between giant walls of rocks. The North American and the European plates are drifting apart and this is where the fault lines are the most visible.
In Winter, the site remains accessible but only the main track maintained daily. A lot of the other hiking trails are not cleared of snow.
Thingvellir is one of the most significant places in Iceland:
- Historically, in 930, this is where the parliament was established. It is considered as the founding of the Icelandic nation.
- In terms of geology, it is a series of fissures in the Earth's crust. Some are full of water, others are canyons where you can walk
- Thingvellir is a national park. In 1928-1930, it has been established to protect the remains of the parliament site and then extended to also included the natural aspect.
- And in 2004, it became a Unesco world heritage site (ref 1152) for its historical, cultural and geological importance.
Planning Tips - Thingvellir National Park Iceland
How to get to Thingvellir
- Part of the Golden Circle, North East of Reykjavik
- On road 36
- Reykjavik to Thingvellir = 1h drive
- Thingvellir to Seljalandsfoss (if continuing towards the South Coast) = 2h
- If you don't want to drive, you can book a day trip of the Golden Circle from Reykjavik - see options
- The National Park is included in my Winter road trip guide to help you plan your itinerary:
Plan your perfect trip to Iceland in Winter!
- 6 easy-to-plan Maps
- 75+ pre-selected scenic locations
- Winter Accessibility + Planning Tips
- 115+ large photos to decide where to go
- GPS coordinates direct to the carparks
Accessibility in Winter
- The road and carpark are cleared to allow access - both Parking P1 near the main visitor center and Parking P2 at the other end of the main walking path
- P5 for the Silfra visit is also cleared
- Of course road closure can always happen due to snow and wind - check out the status on road.is
- As it is a very touristic spot, they clear the marked walking paths - but it can always get icy, so carry spikes (see options) that you can add on your shoes at any time
- The main visitor center at Parking 1 is open in Winter with food, souvenirs and toilets
- Next to P1 is the the viewpoint and the beginning of the path down a canyon
- Carpark for a fee - ticket for the day covering all parking lots
- Plan 1h to enjoy the view and the main walk. Longer if you plan on taking other trails (which are not maintained as much)
- It is a very touristic spot (part of the Golden Circle), expect many buses. As always visit early or late for lesser crowds.
- One of the most amazing activities there is to snorkel or dive in the Silfra fissure. It is possible in Winter as well. Learn more here
Need to rent a car for your road trip in Iceland?
- You can choose from some great local companies - Iceland has a lot of specificities and their offerings are adapted - you can compare cars and prices of quality local brands on this expert Icelandic website
- Otherwise you can compare offers from international companies on RentalCars.com
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Thingvellir - Winter accessibility
The 2 main areas to access in Winter are Hakid (P1) and Kastalar/Fossplan (P2).
At Hakid you can find the large carpark P1. Sorry my pictures o the carpark were all blurry...
This is where you can find the Gestastofa visitor center. There are toilets, food and souvenirs.
At Kastalar / Fossplan, you can find the carpark P2 (photo below). There are no facilities except toilets.
Near the visitor center the walking path is made of wood with railing. But it can still be slippery so be careful.
The path between the 2 carparks is flat soil, easy to walk on. The viewpoints are also wooden structures.
There are clear signs to get oriented everywhere.
Outlook - Thingvellir in the snow
So you can park at P1 and enjoy the Hakid viewpoint.
From there you can see:
- Fissures from above
- The house and church from the distance
- Thingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland with a surface of 84km2 (and a deepest point at 114m)
It is perfect for sunrise.
Walking in a fissure - Almannagja canyon
The main path to enjoy in Winter is between P1 and P2.
It is 1km long.
This path is cleared and maintained by the National Park. It is made or small gravel.
It is downhill from P1 and then flat to P2.
On this path is where you can really stand between 2 rock walls, the narrowest area which is easily accessed in the Almannagja canyon.
Note: before the gravel track you will notice that you will start by walking on a wooden structure.
This is because in 2011, a large hole appeared on the path. It was probably due to the movement of a large boulder.
Almannagja is one of the largest fault lines in the area. Cars used to go down through it.
After a while the scenery opens to the right and only the left wall remains (if walking towards P2).
Below is a picture taken in the direction P2 to P1.
A little it more about the Almannagja canyon geology:
This is an eruptive belt and an earthquake zone. As the tectonic plates move, new earth crust is formed that accumulates at the fault edges (therefore the oldest rocks are far away from it on the East and West fjords).
It is part of an active volcanic region that extends to the Langjökull glacier.
Thingvellir is 7km wide between the Almannagjá and Heiðargjá faults. It is covered with 10,000 year-old lava..
Since the lava flow, the rift has been of about 70 metres.
Lower viewing platform - Lögberg
Midway through the walking path I presented just before, you can turn for a small detour to the Lögberg viewing platform.
It is made of a wood platform.
First you can look towards the lake. You can see the P5 carpark (Valholl). This is the carpark for the Silfra fissure diving or snorkeling experience. Learn more here
From this viewing platform you have a better view of the Summer House of the Prime minister (zoomed in the picture below).
Next to it is the small church of Thingvallakirkja. It is closed in Winter.
The first church was build soon after the adoption of Christianity around year 1000.
The current church is from 1859 but inside is a pulpit from 1683.
At the viewpoint you can get explanation about Lögberg also knows as the "Law Rock".
This is where the Law Speaker proclaimed the laws of the Commonwealth out loud. According to the official website, he memorized them all and had 3 years to recite them all.
This is also where speeches were given and where news of significant events were reported.
From this Law Rock, anyone attending the assembly was entitled to present his case on important issues.
The bridge and waterfall - Drekkingarhylur
Further down towards P2, you reach the area of Drekkingarhylur, "the drowning pool";
In winter the small fall is frozen but water is still flowing and you can enjoy beautiful icy views from the bridge.
It is really pretty with the ice and snow. However the site has a horrible history. This is where women found guilty of crimes were drowned.
Further paths and activities - Oxararfoss and more
There are more paths you can enjoy in Thingvellir however they are not as maintained in Winter as the main trail.
Therefore you should have your spikes/crampons and maybe walking poles.
The most famous one is from P2 to reach Oxararfoss (just over 500m one way). The waterfall can be frozen, covered in snow or still flowing. It will be a surprise.
Want to see more of ICELAND IN WINTER
Impressive, isn't it?