Þingvellir is a remarkable place both geographically and historically and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and understandably so. Þingvellir is the site of the world's oldest parliment, the AlÞing. In the year 930 local chieftains and community leaders from all over the country met at Þingvellir for the first time to discuss laws and settle disputes. The AlÞing was held every summer for two weeks and attendace by the chieftains was mandatory. Þingvellir remained the seat of the AlÞing for the next ight centuries before it finally moved to Reykjavik where it is still situated and is modern day Iceland's Parliament. Þingvellir literally means Parliament plains.
However, this is not the only reason that floods of visitors converge on Þingvellir every year. As well as being one of the most beautiful and scenic areas in the south western Iceland, it is also the location of the great rift valley where the two tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia are literally tearing Iceland apart as they move further away from each other at a rate of 1cm to 2cm a year.
It is here at Þingvellir where you can understand why some Icelanders claim to live in both America and Europe as this is technically very true. In fact no where else in the world can you cross from America to Europe with just a few short steps crossing from one plate to the other! Not only that but I suppose that as you walk along the crack in the earth where the two plates are pulling apart, you could claim that you are neither in America OR Europe - No Man's Land.
Þingvellir is scenically a very beautiful place. From the panoramic views from near the visitor/information centre to the lava fields surrounding the area and from the rift valley cracks to the volcanic mountains in the distance you are surrounded by a rugged natural beauty not to mention the often frozen beauty of the Oxará River and Þingvallavtn Lake. To vist Ieland and not make the trip to Þingvellir is unforgivable no matter how much you usually try to steer clear of crowds of tourists.