Iceland is, probably, one of the world's most extraordinary countries. Here, you can dive between the continents, go chase aurora borealis, have fun in Reykjavik, experience spectacular landscapes and thermal springs, and much more. This is a super safe country, there are four cute Icelandic horses per inhabitant, and no mosquitoes at all. Besides all of that, there's another unexpected attraction here - the oldest parliament in the world.
The national parliament of Iceland, known as the Althingi (literally meaning "the all thing" or "general assembly"), is over a thousand years old. It was first held in 930 A.D, during the time of the Vikings. As I am walking along the gap between the two tectonic plates I see the Icelandic flag waving in the wind and our guide is explaining us that Althingi was an outdoor assembly held right here, in Thingvellir. The most important and powerful leaders in Iceland attended it once per year, every June, to dispense justice and decide on legislation. Besides, all free men were allowed to attend the assemblies. This was the biggest social event of the year drawing people from around the country, including farmers and their families, parties involved in legal disputes, traders, craftsmen, storytellers and travellers. All of them built a temporary camp ("búðir" in Icelandic) and lived together during the session. The centre of the gathering was the Lögberg, or Law Rock, where today you can find the flag. That was where the Lawspeaker used to seat while presiding the assembly, and it was also here where Icelanders decided to adopt christianity.
During many centuries Iceland was under the Norwegian and after the Danish crown, but the Parliament kept working, although its jurisdictions were changing from time to time. The last meeting at Thingvellir happened in the summer of 1798, as the meetings were becoming less influential year after year. A new Parliament was created in 1845, and it's located in Reykjavik. However, Thingvellir remained an important spot in Icelandic political history. It was here that the Danish king presented Iceland with its first constitution in 1874, but also, where after years of campaigning, Iceland declared its independence from Denmark in 1944.
Thingvellir area became a national park in 1928. The way the park was described at the time tells about how important for Icelanders it is. It was noted that the park is "a protected national shrine, designated for all Icelanders, for eternal ownership by the Icelandic nation under the protection of the Icelandic Parliament, which can never be sold or impawned". Today, the park is one of the obligatory stops within the Golden Circle tour and as to every other national park in Iceland, there is no entrance fee. Meanwhile, the "new oldest parliament" can be visited in Reykjavik.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.