Historical lands of Iceland

Even though historical sites are not what tourists usually come for to Iceland, they are there and they are pretty old. We don´t know much about Iceland´s earliest days, but it seems that it was first settled in  870s by Vikings. In early 10th century all of Iceland land was claimed and there was a need for some kind of government. The settlers didn´t want to elect one person, though, and instead formed a national assembly which was held every year during 2 weeks in summer at a place called Þingvellir (Þing meaning assembly) located in southwestern Iceland. The laws were recited there, disputes were settled and everybody feasted.

Today, the site is under UNESCO protection, there is a visitor center which explains all the historical details and next to it is a viewing platform from which you can see where the assembly used to take place. But what is really interesting about this place? Throughout Iceland, two tectonic plates meet, or rather expand one from the other, but here in Þingvellir it is actually visible. There is the northamerican plate on the left and the eurasian plate on the right and each year, the distance between them widens about 1,5 cm.

The gorge between the two tectonic plates

Þingvellir is part of the Golden Circle formed by 3 sites, relatively close to each other. The next one is the Geysir, the place from which all geysirs in the world take name. The Geysir used to spit its load 70m skywards, but nowadays it is rather inactive. Tourists don´t have to be disapointed, though, just next to it is the Strokkur, which shows off every 5 minutes or so and makes a 30m spout. There are also other smaller geysirs around and a hill from which you can watch it all.


The third site is the Gullfoss waterfall. Or rather two waterfalls, the first 10 meters high and beautifully visible in its entirety, the second falling down into the gorge another 20 meters. For its strength (it is supposedly stronger than the Niagara falls), there were thoughts about building a hydroelectric powerplant here at the begining of 20th century. But luckily, the daughter of the owner of the estate fought bravely to prevent this, walking all the way to Reykjavík several times to discuss the issue with the government and also changing public opinion about this issue by her speaches. Her name was Sigríður Tómasdóttir and it is said she was the first Icelandic environmentalist.

Upper Gullfoss
Full rainbow in the afternoon