Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Iceland - Þingvellir National Park

August 7, 2013

Distance: 5 miles
Time: ?
Year to date miles: 202.6

Driving directions: How to get to Thingvellir

Map: Mal og menning, Reykjanes-Pingvellir (purchased from Omni Maps) - thought we didn't actually end up using a map. The visitor center had brochures, maps, books, etc.

Parking: N64 15.322 W21 07.833
There are multiple parking areas. We parked at the main one, which has the visitor center. It was crowded. While hiking, we came across other parking areas, which had many more parking spaces.

More info: Thingvellir National Park

Restrooms: Yes - look for the WC sign. The restrooms cost 200 kronur to use, however the park itself is free. I believe this is the most popular tourist site in Iceland, so going outside kind of hard. Yet, when we hiked along the dirt trail between the tectonic plates, the further away we got from the main tourist areas, the fewer people we saw.

Hike directions: We just wandered around, so can't describe where we were. We started out at a platform where you can view the tectonic plates. We then headed towards where the plates meet, and turned right. We followed a dirt trail between the plates - most tourists didn't go here, and those that did, didn't go very far. We went back to the main walkway, and visited a waterfall, church, law rock, etc.

Lodging after: Laugarvatn Hostel

Hike notes:
This is one of the 3 sites that make up the "Golden Circle". There are many tour operators that will take you to these 3 sites on a long day trip from the city. We opted to do it by ourselves & stay in Laugarvatn.

This is the site of the first parliament, and is a very historically significant site for Icelanders. Glen was most interested in the tectonic plates - there is a rift between the North American and Eurasian plates. It grows approximately 2cm/year. If you head down towards the rift from the main parking area, you can turn right or left to walk between the plates. Turning right puts you on a dirt trail, with very few people the further you hike. We didn't go as far as you could go - we had left our backpacks in our car which was a mistake. We probably walked a mile. We then returned to the car, picked up our backpacks and continued along more paths. Of the 3 golden circle sites, this is the one where you can spend the most time at.
There are a number of hiking trails here, but we just wandered around - there really wasn't any danger of getting too lost. After stopping here, we also went to Geysir & Gulfoss.
In the evening we stayed at the Laugarvatn Hostel, which is a very nice hostel. We were in a private room, with our own bathroom. We provided our own bedding, but bedding could be rented. Having a private bathroom in Iceland is NOT a given. Private rooms in hostels are still moderately expensive, but cheaper than guesthouses and hotels. There was a kitchen down the hall from our room which was a major plus! The kitchen comes equipped with everything you need, you just need to provide your food and clean up after yourself. There is also a refrigerator in the kitchen. The receptionist there was very friendly. I also enjoyed mealtime, as we got to talk to other visitors from rural Alaska, Switzerland, and Belgium. That is one of the benefits of common kitchens - more interactions with other people compared to guesthouses (unless the guesthouse had a kitchen) or a hotel. The  hostel was quiet, and I would definitely stay there again.
Main viewing area next to the visitor center - where you can see the two plates

Heading down between the  two plates along the main path

Still between the plates, wider at this point.
We turned right on the dirt hiking trail you can see - and got away from the crowd.
It goes for quite a ways. We didn't bring our backpacks, so we didn't go as far as you could.

During the hike, we discussed if this would be an okay place to be during an earthquake :P

Notice all of the tourists are gone.....

North American plate - meet Eurasian plate. Pointing to home.


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