The Golden Circle

Filling much of the rift plain, Þingvallavatn is Iceland’s largest lake, at 84 sq km. Pure glacial water from Langjökull filters through bedrock for 40km before emerging here. It’s joined by the hot spring Vellankatla, which spouts from beneath the lava field on the northeastern shore. Þingvallavatn is an important refuelling stop for migrating birds (including the great northern diver, barrow’s golden-eye and harlequin duck).

Weirdly, the waters here are full of bleikja (Arctic char) that have been isolated for so long that they’ve evolved into four subspecies. It's possible to submerge into the depths of the the lake with Dive Silfra and potentially see them up close.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Golden Circle attractions

1. Þingvallabær


The little farmhouse in the bottom of the rift, Þingvallabær was built for the 1000th anniversary of the Alþing in 1930 by state architect Guðjón…

2. Þingvallakirkja

2.03 MILES

Behind the Þingvallabær farmhouse, Þingvallakirkja is one of Iceland’s first churches. The original was consecrated in the 11th century, but the current…

3. Búðir

2.04 MILES

Straddling both sides of the Öxará river are the ruins of various temporary camps called búðir (literally 'booths'). These stone foundations were covered…

4. Alþingi Site

2.19 MILES

Near the dramatic Almannagjá fault and fronted by a boardwalk is the Lögberg (Law Rock), where the Alþingi (Parliament) convened annually. This was where…

5. Tectonic Plates

3.02 MILES

The Þingvellir plain is situated on a tectonic-plate boundary where North America and Europe are tearing away from each other at a rate of 1mm to 18mm per…

6. Þingvellir National Park


The world’s oldest parliament, Althingi (pronounced ál-thingk-ee; also called Alþing) was uniquely situated at this monumental site where two tectonic…

7. Ljósafoss Power Station


The 1937 Ljósafoss Power Station catches the outflow of lake Úlfljótsvatn and turns it into electricity. In 2016, an elaborate state-of-the-art multimedia…

8. Glymur

11.9 MILES

At the head of Hvalfjörður, and up Botnsdalur valley, lies Glymur, Iceland’s highest waterfall (198m). From the trailhead, it’ll take a couple of hours to…