Reykjavík – Þingvellir National Park

Whilst we did visit Þingvellir National Park yesterday, I was waiting until after our second visit to write a post. This natural and cultural World Heritage Site is where you can see the North American and Eurasian Plates slowly separating. The result of this process is spectacular.

Between 930 and 1798 AD, Þingvellir was home to the open air parliamentary assembly that would gather in the space yearly. Here they would set laws and settle civil disputes. On top of this, the park is in an active volcanic area. According to UNESCO: “The National Park is enclosed by a varied belt of mountains on three sides, featuring grass-covered lava fields, and Lake Þingvallavatn lies at its southern end. This outstanding scenery gives the area its unparalleled value.”

Similar to other heritage sites I’ve reviewed, I am going to go through the criteria it’s been listed under and why.

Criterion (iii) – to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.

It has been listed under this criteria as the landscape is a reflection of medieval Norse/Germanic culture. There is evidence of this settlement within the park including the assembly ground and booths.

Criterion (vi) – to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria).

It is regarded as a “shrine for the Icelandic identity”. This is because it has a strong connection to medieval Norse/German governance, appears in many 12th century Icelandic sagas, and was a focal point during the fight for independence during the 19th century.

We’ve visited the park on both a Golden Circle and Game of Thrones tour. During the former, we had a lovely view over the park. There were a few signs along the viewing platform, but, the main form of interpretation was found in the visitor centre. There was a short film and some information on the park that allowed for a sense of its history and significance. Apart from the centre we also joined our guide on a quick overview tour.

Today we visited the park to see something much more specific. I am a massive Game of Thrones fan. I did know that quite a bit of the series has been filmed in Iceland. What I didn’t know is that there were scenes filmed in Þingvellir. More specifically, the scenes filmed on the journey to the Eyrie. When The Hound and Arya, and Sansa and Little Finger, visit Lysa Arryn they walk through a canyon and the Bloody Gate. These were the scenes  filmed in the park. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen in my life.

If you are visiting I would recommend that you read a bit about the park beforehand so you can appreciate it in full. We were so lucky to see the landscape both with and without snow. A picture paints a thousand words so to finish this post here are some of my favourite photographs that can only slightly capture the beauty.

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