Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir in English which literally means “Parliament Plains”) in the Golden Circle region of Iceland is a UNESCO World Heritage site where the Alþing (Althing) open-air assembly, like a Viking parliament representing the whole of Iceland (they would meet for 2 weeks each year and set the laws of the land and settle disputes in applicable courts) was established in 930 and remained in operation until 1798 (when a more modern form of parliament was established in Reykjavik). Ruins of the Alþing (Althing) can be found within the park but ultimately the scenery steals the show (so typical of Iceland).
Major events that helped shape the history of Iceland occurred in this location making it very sacred to Icelanders. Something very interesting happened at the Alþing in the year 1000. Pagan and Christians were divided and neither groups would accept the laws put in place by the other, so how did they resolve this? It was decided Icelanders should take up Christianity but those who wanted to remain pagan could do so in secret! It seemed to work and Christianity was eventually adopted as the main religion and Iceland has remained a peaceful place (today they have no military, just a Coast Guard and although police are there it is a generally law-abiding society). Shortly after this decision the King of Norway (who ruled Iceland at the time) sent wood and a church bell to build a church at Þingvellir. Although not the same church, there is still one there to this day (this one was constructed the 1850’s on the site of the 11th century church).
The natural stone walls of Þingvellir made a perfect backdrop for the Alþing and you can imagine the heated debate and discussions that were held here to govern Iceland. Those stones remain much today as they did over a 1000 years ago and beyond as a natural reminder of this parks historic past.
This was the finale for my tour of the Golden Circle of Iceland and as the sun set on the day, it was very cold and my face was pretty much frozen and my lips too numb to speak! Despite this minor calamity, it was a perfect way to finish a great trip.