5 Awesome Things to Do in Thingvellir National Park, Iceland

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I visited Iceland back in…2019 – one of my last trips pre-pandemic (what a way to mark time nowadays huh?) – and I literally STILL THINK ABOUT IT. Iceland is in my top five favorite countries, largely because of how beautiful it is. And also the amazing food in Iceland. But largely the natural beauty. The National Parks in particular are stunning, spoiler, this post is going to be about all the fun things to do in Thingvellir National Park, but I do want to emphasize that you could just walk about of your lodging and spot natural beauty.

That said, potentially controversial but personallyyyyy I loved the eastern and northern parts of Iceland. I spent almost two weeks doing a VERY speedy road trip around the outermost ring of Iceland, but I did spend the most time in the south. Which makes sense, of course, since that’s where the international airport and the capital of Reykjavík are located. In fact, two-thirds of Iceland’s population live in the southwest of the island country.

In fact, unless you’re ACTIVELY avoiding it, you’ll probably also spend most of your time in Iceland in the southwest. There are more structured activities, museums, restaurants, so…it’s not much of a surprise. Sure, you can go out and do a hike just about anywhere in Iceland, and you should because it’ll be beautiful, but the southwest is a good start to getting your footing. Starting with the famous Golden Circle route.

If you only have a few days in Iceland, like literally two or three days, then sticking to the Golden Circle will give you a well-rounded sample of what Iceland has to offer. It has geysers and waterfalls galore, plus the incredible Thingvellir National Park.

What is Thingvellir National Park

So I’m not just gonna drop some random park and expect you to automatically be convinced to visit. Though, if you are convinced already simply because it’s a park – GREAT AMAZING. We need more people like you in the world.

Possibly the coolest and most unique things about Thingvellir (or Þingvellir) National Park is that it is literally in the middle of two tectonic plates. And I mean literally LITERALLY, you can see the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates pulling APART.

See – Iceland is bonkers.

But anyways, if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones (I’m sadly not), you’ll also recognize Thingvellir National Park as the backdrop of A LOT of scenes in the show. Plus, there’s crystal-clear waters, jaw-dropping cliffs, super lush landscapes, and it’s not far at all from the city making it incredibly accessible. And that’s just the tip of the glacier; there’s TONS of things to do in Thingvellir National Park. It was one of my favorite stops along the Golden Circle, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes one of yours too.

However, since I’ve only been to the park once, Mary from Wandering Michigan Wisconsin agreed to chime in and help round up all of our favorite and recommended things to do in Thingvellir National Park to help make your trip a little easier and less overwhelming.

This is going to be a pretty hefty post, so feel free to use the table of contents to jump around if you know what you’re looking for. Otherwise enjoy the ride of all the best things to do in Thingvellir National Park. With that said, let’s get started and find some Icelandic magic!

How to Get to Thingvellir National Park

Actually before you can do all the fun things to do in Thingvellir National Park, first you need to get there. Blessed be, the actually park is free to enter, but if you are driving yourself there is a parking fee of 1000 ISK (~7 USD) that goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of the park. If you plan on camping in the park, there is a separate designated spot – but I’ll get to camping and lodging a bit later on. Let’s get inside the park first haha.

By Car

Since I was already doing an Iceland road trip, I had a rental car that gave me the flexibility to go pretty much anywhere. Driving yourself is also the most convenient ways to get to Thingvellir National Park.

The park is located about 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Reykjavík via Route 36 – you can just put it into your GPS of choice. The drive takes approximately 40-50 minutes and even the roadside scenery is gorgeous. Parking is available at several locations within the park, making it easy to get around in a car for various ranges of mobility or traveling with kids in tow.

By Tour

If you prefer not to drive or simply don’t have the time, joining a tour is a great option. Many tour companies in Reykjavik offer day trips to Thingvellir National Park, often as part of a Golden Circle tour.

These tours include transportation, a knowledgeable guide, and stops at other attractions like Gullfoss Waterfall and the Geysir Geothermal Area. It’s a great option if you don’t have your own set of wheels, plus you can get deeper insight on the park’s history and geology. And you don’t have to worry about finding parking or driving in Iceland, which…can present its own set of quirks, but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

The best part is that once you’re there, it’s super easy to find all of the things to do in Thingvellir National Park. The park has well-maintained trails that are perfect for hiking and exploring on foot. Most of the main attractions, like Almannagjá Gorge and Öxarárfoss waterfall, are within walking distance of each other.

Things to Do in Thingvellir National Park

As both a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if there’s one thing to know about Thingvellir National Park it’s that the park is going to be BUSY. Because it’s also along the Golden Circle which as I mentioned above has a tasting menu of Iceland’s natural beauty and is super accessible and close to the airport/Reykjavík…so everyone’s going to be there too.

So TECHNICALLY by definition, yes, it is “touristy,” but I want people to let go of the negative connotations around the word touristy. There’s a REASON!! So don’t let the hype deter you and opt to visit earlier if you would like slightly less crowds.

Okay now with that mini-disclaimer out of the way, here are our recommended things to do in Thingvellir National Park!

The Hakid Thingvellir National Park Visitor Center

Start your adventure at the Hakid Visitor Center to get a well-rounded view of the things to do in Thingvellir National Park. If you’re someone who likes knowing the background and context of places and you aren’t on a guided tour, then DEFINITELY start at the visitor center so you don’t risk missing the closing time when you get distracted by how beautiful everything is.

Because you will get distracted.

You can choose to park your car here and hike around to the numerous attractions, or drive (if you have a car) to those further away like the waterfall and the lake.

The visitor center has informative displays and exhibits that explain how the tectonic plates are shifting and how this has shaped the landscape over millions of years. Plus, the staff are super friendly and can offer great tips on what to see and things to do in Thingvellir National Park. Don’t worry, if you don’t care about any of that, there’s also a dope observation deck with panoramic views.

Walk Between Tectonic Plates

One of the most amazing things to do in Thingvellir National Park is walking between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Almannagjá Gorge. It’s COOOOOOL on level 9000 (maybe even over). You will literally be walking through continents.

I think that pretty much sells itself.

The path through the gorge is easy to follow from the visitor center and offers stunning views of the cliffs and surrounding landscapes. It’s pretty surreal knowing that the path you’re walking on is pulling away from each other. Bonkers, man.

Diving or Snorkeling at Silfra Fissure

A slightly more adventurous version of walking between the tectonic plates is…well, SWIMMING IN IT. The Silfra Fissure is a water-filled rift, caused by the tectonic plates being separated, and is one of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the world because the water is CRYSTAL clear. For context, for all you divers out there, the visibility underwater can reach up to 100 meters.

Thankfully for everyone, you don’t HAVE to be an expert diver or snorkeler at all to experience swimming in the Silfra Fissure rift. You can sign up for a Silfra snorkeling tour and they provide all of the dry suits and equipment necessary.

You do need to know how to swim on a basic level though.

It’s truly one of the best things to do in Thingvellir National Park, and honestly is an experience you can’t get many places in the world – especially not so accessibly.

Hiking

Listen, hiking in the US is dope and all, but Iceland offers hands down the most incredible hiking I’ve ever. Anywhere. So, no surprise, one of the best things to do in Thingvellir National Park is to actually explore the park via hiking.

All trails start at the visitor center, super convenient, so park your car and you’ll have an excellent day of exploring the well kept trails. The three trails in the park are the Almannagjá trail, the Oxarafoss Trail, and the Lögberg – Drekkingarhylur Trail. However, the paths are only partially paved so beyond a certain point they are not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs, but you can still see quite a bit on the paved section.

The Almannagjá Trail is a short trail, a little under 0.5 miles (1km), and is the above mentioned tectonic plate hike. Super great for beginners and honestly a must-do in my opinion for any visitors to the park.

The Oxarafoss Trail takes you along 5.5 miles (9km) of boardwalks and well kept trails to the stunning Oxarárfoss waterfall, where you can enjoy the sight and sound of water cascading down the rocky cliffs. Also, sidenote, waterfalls are a BIG thing in Iceland, just like in North America, and this is one of the most accessible ones so definitely make the stop. If you don’t want to hike, you can also drive to it haha.

The Lögberg – Drekkingarhylur Trail is another easy trail which takes under an hour to complete, but this time you get to see some of Iceland’s history along the way. This 1 mile (1.6km) trail takes you to the Lögberg (Law Rock), where Iceland’s early settlers established their parliament, Althing, in 930 AD and Drekkingarhylur which…well, for lack of better words was a drowning pool for executions around the same time. 

ON THAT NOTE, you’ll also pass by the super cute Thingvellir Church on this trail. It was built on the site of the very first church ever built in Iceland (1000AD). While the current church isn’t quite that old, the church is open to visitors in the summer and is a nice lil stop.

Horse Riding

Horseback riding is the one of the few things to do in Thingvellir National Park that I didn’t have time for, but I will definitely work into my itinerary on my next go-around. If you’ve never seen an Icelandic horse, they are SOOOO PRETTYYYY. And, for all you horse people out there, Icelandic horses have a super unique gait called the tölt, which is smooth and comfortable for riding.

So if you tried horseback riding and didn’t love it because of all the bouncing, I’d say it’s worth it to give it a go in Iceland. You can even do the whole Golden Circle loop as a horse riding tour!

Best Time To Visit

Alright now that we’ve covered a few of the cool things to do in Thingvellir National Park, WHEN should you actually visit? Well, it all depends on what kind of experience you want from your Iceland trip.

The short summer months (June to August) has very mild weather with temperatures that range from 41F (5C) but as warm as 77F (25C), but it is still windy so even at “peak heat” it can still be a bit chilly. Summer also offers longer daylight hours (about 19-22 hours!!!) and it’s generally pretty dry save for a few days with light sprinkles.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, winter is…RELATIVELY mild. It’s no Palm Springs, but it’s also not a Siberian winter. That said, it’s still cold – but also still beautiful. The average temperatures of Iceland in winter (November-March) range from freezing (32F/0C) down to even colder (14F/-10C). There’s also usually snow and ice, and winter storms are not unusual and often disrupt travel plans and excursions. Winter only has about 4-5 hours of daylight, but the longer nights offer more chances to see the incredible Northern Lights….if the skies are clear.

The short shoulder seasons of spring (April-May) and fall (September-October) have a mixed bag of weather, but typically have less crowds and SLIGHTLY lower prices.

I personally chose to visit in summer since I was doing a road trip and wanted 1) clear driving conditions and 2) long days for driving. I also hate the cold, so the decision to visit in the summer was easy for me. On my next visit to Iceland, I want to venture into the interior of Iceland (the Icelandic Highlands), and the roads leading there are ONLY open in the summer.

However, if seeing the Northern Lights are on your bucket list and you don’t live close to a destination where you can see them (like Fairbanks, Alaska), then you’ll want to visit in winter.

TLDR; many things to do in Thingvellir National Park and in Iceland overall may only be available in certain seasons. Either pick what you want to do and then go during that season, or pick the season you can get time off and see what activities are available.

How much time do I need?

Honestly, again, the amount of time you need depends on how many things to do in Thingvellir National Park you’re adding to your itinerary…which depends on your personal schedule in Iceland and your own interests. If you’re short on time, you can see the main highlights in a half-day visit, which would include a short hike.

You could also spend much more time if you want to get deep into the trails which could take up a full day to even two days, especially if you’re into diving and horseback riding.

But most people spend a half day.

Camping at Thingvellir National Park

See, I told you I’d get back to camping. Staying overnight is one of the best things to do in Thingvellir National Park, and camping in particular is such a unique way to experience the park’s beauty closer. You can stay (and wake up) to enjoy the park longer than the daytrippers and tour buses, and it is an affordable option for budget travelers.

And trust, in Iceland, you’ll want all the affordability you can find.

The 2 campgrounds are located right next to the visitor center and are simple, but well organized. They are well-equipped with facilities like restrooms, laundry rooms, showers, outdoor kitchen facilities, dump stations and lots with electricity for RVs.

However, if you’re not much of a camper, not all hope is lost. Sometimes, having a one of a kind experience starts with your accommodation regardless of the destination. For a unique and cozy experience, consider staying in one of the cottages on Lake Thingvellir. These charming accommodations offer the same great and beautiful benefits of camping….but with indoor plumping.

There aren’t that many options, so definitely book early! You’ll find cottages ranging from rustic cabins to more luxurious lodges. I didn’t personally stay in the park, but here are some options to look into!

Thingvellir National Park FAQs

Okay, now that we have the things to do in Thingvellir National Park out of the way, I’m just gonna wrap up real quick with some common Qs that I have As for.

Is Iceland Expensive?

Lol well. Yes.

In GENERAL, Iceland can be quite expensive, especially if you’re not already coming from the American east coast or Europe. Especially if you need a visa to visit Iceland, and the Schengen visa can be challenging for many passports. Like, how are we not even stepping FOOT in the country and the price is getting scary?

Accommodation and food is ALSO expensive. Gas/petrol if you’re driving yourself, ALSO expensive. It’s an island country so…yeah the sticker price just comes with the location. I personally did not do my Iceland trip on a budget, but there are ways to make it more budget friendly. Camping, staying in hostels, or even renting a campervan (combining your car + lodging) can help cut down on the biggest costs.

Gas station food has become somewhat well-known in Iceland, partly because it’s pretty decent compared to what gas stations in other countries offer, but also because it’s more affordable than going to a sit-down restaurant. Again, if you’re camping you can save some coin by cooking your own meals at your campsite. Also, while excursions and most activities are…also pricey, most of the natural attractions like waterfalls and hikes (basically the things to do in Thingvellir National Park) are usually free!

Nature provides 🙌

How long does the Golden Circle take?

The Golden Circle route typically takes about 6-8 hours to “complete,” depending on how much time you spend at each attraction and which things to do in Thingvellir National Park you end up doing. This popular tour includes Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss Waterfall. If you’re driving yourself, you have the flexibility to spend more or less time at each site, while guided tours usually follow a set schedule.

Expect to spend a whole day, or most of the day, on the Golden Circle route.

Conclusion: things to do in Thingvellir National Park

Whew, another day, another National Park, and this one is one for the books! I hope you enjoyed this collection of things to do in Thingvellir National Park! Let me know which you’ll be adding to your Iceland itinerary.

If you’ve been before, is what are your recommendations for things to do in Thingvellir National Park? Let me know in the comments below!

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