All about Iceland’s National Parks

You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views and stunning scenery everywhere you look in Iceland.

The “Land of Fire and Ice” is a treasure trove of captivating natural jewels and elemental splendor, with the most diverse geological features you could ever hope to see in one country!

But even here, some places are so magical, mysterious, and magnificent that they have been awarded special status.

These are Iceland’s three National Parks:

·        Þingvellir National Park (the oldest and the site of Iceland’s famous Viking parliament)

·        Vatnajökull National Park (the largest National Park in Europe)

·        Snæfellsjökull National Park (the inspiration for “Journey to the Center of the Earth”)

More than a hundred other nature reserves, natural monuments, and parks now protect nearly 20% of Iceland’s most precious environments.

Here’s what you need to know about Iceland’s National Parks!

Where are Iceland’s National Parks?

Þingvellir National Park is easily reached with a 45-minute drive from Reykjavík and is a featured stop in our popular Golden Circle tours.

Vatnajökull National Park is in southeast Iceland and covers 13% of the country; you can see it on our Glacier Lagoon tours.

Snæfellsjökull National Park covers the tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland, just a couple of hour’s drive from the capital city. Explore it on our Snæfellsnes National Park tour!

Thingvellir National Park with a sunset

All about Thingvellir National Park Iceland (Þingvellir National Park)

With its breathtaking natural beauty and rich historical significance, Thingvellir National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike. Located in Iceland, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a unique combination of stunning landscapes and cultural heritage.

Historical significance of Thingvellir National Park Iceland

One of the most fascinating aspects of Thingvellir National Park is its historical significance. It served as the site of Iceland's first parliament, the Alþingi, which was established in the year 930 AD. This makes Thingvellir not only a natural wonder but also a place of great importance in the country's history.

The Alþingi was an assembly where representatives from all over Iceland would gather to discuss and make important decisions. It played a crucial role in shaping the country's laws and governance. Today, visitors can still see the remains of the assembly site, which provides a fascinating glimpse into Iceland's past.

Geography and natural features of Thingvellir National Park Iceland

Spanning over 3,000 square kilometers, Thingvellir National Park showcases Iceland's diverse geography. The park is located in a rift valley, which is the result of the Eurasian tectonic plate and North American tectonic plate pulling apart. This geological phenomenon has created a unique landscape, with rugged cliffs, deep fissures, and stunning volcanic formations.

One of the park's most iconic features is the Silfra fissure, a rift between the North American and Eurasian plates. This underwater canyon offers incredible visibility, making it a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. Visitors can explore the crystal clear waters and marvel at the awe-inspiring geological formations.

Exploring the tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park

One of the highlights of visiting Thingvellir National Park is the opportunity to explore the tectonic plates up close and walk between two continents. The park offers several marked trails that take you through the rift valley and along the edges of the plates. As you depart the car parks and walk along these trails, you'll be in awe of the sheer magnitude of the geological forces at work.

One of the most iconic spots in the park is the Almannagjá Gorge. This massive fissure cuts through the landscape, offering a glimpse into the vast rift between the tectonic plates. As you stand on the edge of the gorge, you can truly appreciate the power of nature and the constant motion of the Earth's crust.

Another must-visit location is the Öxarárfoss waterfall, which is located within the park. This picturesque waterfall flows over a series of basalt columns, creating a stunning display of nature's beauty. It is a popular spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Flora and fauna in Thingvellir National Park Iceland

Despite its harsh climate, Thingvellir National Park is home to a surprising variety of flora and fauna. The park's diverse habitats, including lakes, rivers, and lava fields, support a wide range of plant and animal species.

The park is known for its vibrant birdlife, with species such as the Arctic tern, whooper swan, and golden plover making their home here. In the summer months, the park becomes a haven for birdwatchers, who can spot a variety of species nesting and feeding in the area.

In addition to its birdlife, Thingvellir National Park is also home to several mammal species, including Arctic foxes, reindeer, and minks. These elusive creatures can occasionally be spotted by lucky visitors who venture off the beaten path.

Activities and attractions in Thingvellir National Park Iceland

There is no shortage of activities and attractions to enjoy in Thingvellir National Park. Whether you're an adventure seeker or a nature lover, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Hiking is a popular activity in the park, with numerous trails offering stunning views and the chance to explore the park's unique landscapes up close. From short walks to multi-day treks, there are options for all fitness levels and time constraints.

For those who prefer a more leisurely experience, the park also offers several scenic driving routes. These routes allow visitors to take in the beauty of the park from the comfort of their own vehicle, stopping at various viewpoints along the way.

Hiking and walking trails in Thingvellir National Park Iceland

Thingvellir National Park is a paradise for hikers and nature enthusiasts. The park boasts a vast network of hiking and walking trails, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging treks.

One of the most popular trails is the Almannagjá Gorge trail, which takes visitors through the heart of the park's geological wonders where two tectonic plates meet. This trail offers breathtaking views of the rift valley, volcanic cliffs, continental drift and the Silfra fissure.

For those seeking a longer and more challenging hike, the Laugavegur Trail is a must. This multi-day trek takes hikers through some of Iceland's most stunning landscapes, including glaciers, hot springs, and mountains.

Camping and accommodations in Thingvellir National Park

For those who wish to spend more time exploring the park, camping is a popular option. Thingvellir National Park offers several designated campsites where visitors can pitch their tents and enjoy the tranquility of the surroundings.

If camping is not your style, there are also a variety of accommodations available in the nearby area. From guesthouses to hotels, there are options to suit every budget and preference.

Tips for visiting Thingvellir National Park

Before visiting Thingvellir National Park, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience.

Firstly, it's important to dress appropriately for the weather. Iceland's climate can be unpredictable, so it's always a good idea to layer your clothing and bring waterproof gear.

Secondly, be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks, as there are limited facilities within the park. It's also advisable to bring a map or guidebook to help navigate the trails.

Lastly, be respectful of the park's rules and guidelines. Thingvellir National Park is a protected area, and it's crucial to leave no trace and preserve the natural beauty for future generations to enjoy.

Conservation efforts and initiatives in Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park is committed to preserving its natural and cultural heritage. The park's management works closely with various organizations and stakeholders to ensure the sustainable management of the area.

Efforts are made to minimize the impact of tourism on the park's fragile ecosystems. Visitors are encouraged to stay on designated trails and follow the park's guidelines to protect the flora and fauna.

Additionally, educational programs are offered to raise awareness about the park's unique features and the importance of conservation. These programs aim to foster a sense of stewardship among visitors and inspire them to become advocates for the park's preservation.

Why you should visit Þingvellir National Park

With its stunning landscapes, rich history, and commitment to conservation, Thingvellir National Park offers a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you're captivated by natural wonders or intrigued by history, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has something for everyone.

Immerse yourself in the beauty of its landscapes, explore its hiking trails, and discover the historical treasures that lie within its borders. Thingvellir National Park rift valley is a destination that will leave you in awe and inspire a deep appreciation for the wonders of nature and the resilience of the human spirit. Plan your visit today and prepare to be amazed.

Thingvellir National Park and the Golden Circle Route

Nestled in the stunning landscapes of Iceland lies Thingvellir National Park, a place of striking natural beauty and deep historical significance. As visitors embark on the iconic Golden Circle Route, they are treated to a journey through Iceland's geological wonders and cultural heritage. Stepping foot into Thingvellir National Park is like entering a realm where time stands still. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to breathtaking rift valleys, cascading waterfalls, and crystal-clear freshwater springs. Travelers can explore the park's many walking trails, immerse themselves in its serene atmosphere, or dive into the fascinating history that took place within its boundaries.

History and Significance of Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park holds immense historical and cultural significance for the people of Iceland. It was here, in the year 930 AD, that the Alþingi, the world's oldest existing parliament, was established. For centuries, this open-air assembly served as the gathering place for Icelanders to discuss laws, settle disputes, and make important decisions for the nation. The Alþingi continued to meet at Thingvellir until 1798, making it an enduring symbol of democracy and national identity.

Beyond its political importance, Thingvellir also played a vital role in the cultural and religious life of the early Icelanders. The park is home to several ancient pagan ceremonial sites, including the Law Rock. Law Rock is where laws were recited and publicly announced. These historical remnants serve as a tangible link to Iceland's past and provide insight into the country's rich cultural heritage.

Exploring the Natural Wonders of Thingvellir National Park

One of the most captivating aspects of Thingvellir National Park is its unique geological features. The park sits on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet. This geological phenomenon has resulted in the formation of a massive rift valley, known as Almannagjá, which stretches for kilometers through the park. Visitors can walk along the Almannagjá fissure and witness the awe-inspiring sight of the two continents slowly drifting apart.

Another highlight of the park is the picturesque Öxarárfoss waterfall. Fed by the crystal-clear Öxará River, this cascading waterfall provides a tranquil setting for visitors to relax and soak in the natural beauty of the surroundings. The park is also dotted with numerous freshwater springs, such as Silfra, renowned for its exceptionally clear visibility. Diving or snorkeling in Silfra is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, allowing visitors to explore the underwater world of this otherworldly landscape..

Hiking and Outdoor Activities in Thingvellir National Park

For outdoor enthusiasts, Thingvellir National Park offers a plethora of hiking trails and recreational activities. The park boasts several well-marked trails that cater to all levels of fitness and experience. One popular trail is the Flosagjá trail, which takes visitors through the Almannagjá fissure, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. Another notable trail is the Öxarárfoss trail, which leads hikers to the picturesque waterfall and allows for a close-up encounter with its beauty.

Aside from hiking, Thingvellir is also a great place for fishing, camping, and birdwatching. The park's crystal-clear lakes and rivers are teeming with trout and salmon, providing ample opportunities for anglers to indulge in their favorite pastime. Camping facilities are available within the park, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in nature and spend a night under the stars. Birdwatchers can spot a wide variety of bird species, including the majestic Icelandic falcon and the colorful ptarmigan, which are native to the area.

Best Time to Visit Thingvellir National Park and the Golden Circle Route

The best time to visit Thingvellir National Park and the Golden Circle Route largely depends on personal preferences and desired activities. The summer months of June to August offer longer daylight hours and milder temperatures, making it an ideal time for outdoor exploration and hiking. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so the park and the Golden Circle route can be quite crowded.

For those seeking a quieter experience, the shoulder seasons of spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) can be an excellent choice. During these months, the landscapes come alive with vibrant colors, and the weather is generally mild. It's worth noting that the weather can be more unpredictable during these seasons, so it's advisable to check the forecast and be prepared for changing conditions.

Winter, from November to March, offers a completely different experience. The park is covered in a blanket of snow, creating a magical winter wonderland. Visitors can witness the Northern Lights dancing across the night sky and enjoy unique winter activities such as ice skating on frozen lakes and snowshoeing through pristine landscapes. However, it's important to note that some roads and trails may be inaccessible during this time, so it's crucial to check for any travel advisories and plan accordingly.

Make sure to add Thingvellir to your trip to Iceland

Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of Thingvellir National Park and the Golden Circle Route, where nature and history intertwine in perfect harmony. From the historical significance of Thingvellir to the geological marvels along the Golden Circle Route, this Icelandic adventure promises to leave visitors in awe of the Earth's raw power and unparalleled beauty. Whether exploring the park's walking trails, witnessing the erupting geysers, or simply taking in the serene atmosphere, Thingvellir and the Golden Circle offer an unforgettable journey through Iceland's rich heritage and natural wonders. So pack your bags, embark on this captivating route, and let the enchantment of Iceland unfold before your eyes.

Vatnajokull National Park Glacier

All about Vatnajökull National Park

Vatnajökull National Park includes Skaftafell in the southwest and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north, and large parts of it are concealed under a massive icecap!

Gigantic glacier tongues reach down toward the sea, creating glittering lagoons filled with immense icebergs at Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón.

The icecap covers several active volcanoes, and when these erupt, they can trigger glacial floods that sweep all before them!

On our Glacier Lagoon tour, you’ll see the twisted bridge girders that remain after the last great eruption.

Back in 1783, the effects of the Laki volcanic eruption here were so catastrophic that some say the changes in climate and the resulting crop failures were a factor in the French Revolution a few years later! 

Majestic mountains tower above the glacier tongues, including Iceland’s highest peak, Hvannadalshnúkur.

Skafatell offers thrilling hikes and beautiful waterfalls, including the black basalt columns of Svartifoss.

Further north lies Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe!


Snaefellsjokull National Park view from Londrangar

All about Snæfellsjökull National Park

Snæfellsjökull National Park encloses one of Iceland’s most famous volcanoes, the inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” the book that put Iceland on the map.

Some say that the Snæfellsnes peninsula is a mystical place, one of Earth’s seven so-called “chakra” energy centers.

Others say that Snæfellsnes is “Iceland in Miniature” because all of its finest features can be found in this 100-km peninsula.

The National Park takes its name from the 700,000-year-old active stratovolcano that occupies the peninsula’s far end, rising nearly 1500 meters above the sea.

Don’t worry – it’s been at least 1700 years since it last erupted!

There’s a lot to see here, including the spectacular rock arches at Arnarstapi, jagged bird-filled cliffs at Lóndrangar, beautiful black and golden sand beaches, and relics of Iceland’s rich fishing culture.

When did the National Parks open?

Þingvellir was declared a National Park in 1930, marking a thousand years since the ancient Viking parliament was established there.

Snæfellsjökull National Park was established in 2001.

Vatnajökull National Park was formed in 2008 when the existing park was merged with Skaftafell in the southwest and Jökulsárgljúfur in the north.

How big are the National Parks?

Vatnajökull National Park is the largest in Europe at 13,952 km2 (5,387 sq miles).

Þingvellir is about 240 km2 (93 sq miles).

Snæfellsjökull National Park is the smallest, covering 170 km2 (66 sq miles).

What should I bring with me to the National Parks?

Bring a camera. Or your smartphone. You’re going to take a LOT of pictures!

As always, dress in layers that are comfortable and easy to take off. The weather in Iceland is famously changeable, so you must be prepared.

Bring scarves, gloves, hats, windproof pants, and sturdy shoes.

Depending on the season, you might need all of these!

·         Thermal undershirt

·         Thermal leggings/tights

·         Thick socks

·         Long-sleeved shirt 

·         Warm fleece 

·         Touch screen gloves (to access your phone’s camera) and mittens

·         Heavy-duty waterproof parka 


Safety at Iceland’s National Parks

Listen to your guides before exploring Iceland’s National Parks.

Stay on marked paths, and don’t tread on the moss!

Don’t risk injury from a fall. No picture is worth risking your life!

We offer a range of tours featuring visits to Iceland’s National Parks for you to choose from, with different schedules and formats. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

As you plan your visit to Iceland's National Parks, you may have some questions. Here are answers to frequently asked questions:

Q1: How can I reach Þingvellir National Park?

A: Þingvellir National Park is easily accessible with a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik. Grayline offers Golden Circle tours that include a visit to Þingvellir, allowing you to explore this fabulous place along with other iconic attractions.

Q2: What is the best way to explore Vatnajökull National Park?

A: Grayline's Glacier Lagoon tours provide an excellent opportunity to explore Vatnajökull National Park. These tours take you along the south coast, allowing you to witness the park's majestic glaciers and icebergs.

Q3: How can I experience Snæfellsjökull National Park?

A: Grayline offers Snæfellsnes National Park tours, which take you on a scenic journey through the Snæfellsnes peninsula. These tours provide an immersive experience, allowing you to discover the wonders of Snæfellsjökull National Park.

Q4: Are there any additional activities available in the National Parks?

A: Yes, Grayline offers various additional activities in the National Parks, such as angling, horse riding, scuba diving, ice climbing, and glacier hiking. These activities allow you to have unique and memorable experiences in Iceland's pristine natural environments.

Q5: What are the opening hours of the National Parks?

A: Iceland's National Parks are open year-round, but specific opening hours may vary. It's advisable to check the official websites or consult with tour operators for the most up-to-date information.

For more information and answers to specific questions, you can visit Grayline's website and explore their National Parks section.

Icelands National Parks with Gray Line Iceland

Iceland's National Parks are truly remarkable destinations that offer an incredible blend of natural beauty, geological wonders, and historical significance. Whether you choose to explore the rift valley of Þingvellir, witness the enchanting glaciers of Vatnajökull, or immerse yourself in the magical landscapes of Snæfellsjökull, each park promises a unique and unforgettable experience. With a range of tours and activities available, Grayline is your trusted guide to discover the wonders of these National Parks. So pack your bags, bring your camera, and embark on an adventure of a lifetime in Iceland's majestic National Parks.