At Þingvellir – literally “Parliament Plains” – the Alþing general assembly was established around 930 and continued to convene there until 1798. Major events in the history of Iceland have taken place at Þingvellir and therefore the place is held in high esteem by all Icelanders.
It was here where Icelanders from all around the country would convene two weeks of the year to discuss matters of law, politics, arrange marriages, trade with each other, hear and compose sagas and most likely either start or avoid blood feuds. The sagas are replete with characters meeting at Thingvellir and the foundations of their stone booths are a marked feature of the landscape.
Egill Skalla-Grímsson, hero of Egil’s Saga, planned on scattering his silver coins on the ground at the Althing. He was blind and wanted to amuse himself by hearing men fight over the coins, but when his plans were thwarted, he resorted to burying his coins in a chest somewhere on the grounds instead. His treasure has never been found and some wonder whether this event was more fictional rather than historical which the sagas are so ripe with.
Þingvellir is on the plate boundary of the tectonic plates of America and Europe. Þingvellir was created by the drifting apart of these plates. The drifting has made the planes around Thingvellir sink, making the modern area lower than it was when Althingi operated in Thingvellir.
Lake Thingvallavatn is unique in that nowhere else in the world are there four separate morphs of the same species of charr, unusual for it evolving this way in the same environment over a 10,000 year span. Also unique is that 80% of the lake’s water is from an underground spring.
The clear water makes the surroundings around Thingvellir one of the best places in the world for cold water diving.