PINGVELLIR – It lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – north America / Eurasian continental plates. It is at the northern end of Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland. 2cm per year – on average the valley floor drops a couple of centimetres but in 1789 it dropped by half a meter.
Parliament or Alþingi (“Althing” in English) was established at Þingvellir in 930 and remained there until 1798. 48 cheiftans 12 from each quarter of the country – pass new laws, amend old laws, pass sentence with jurors who were nominated from free farmers.
Oxarafoss – the axe river – 20 m drop
Geysir means ‘The Gusher’. The area has underground temperatures are about 100 degrees. Old geysir used to go 70m skywards but an earthquake in 2008 seems to have awakened the old geysir but eruptions are extremely irregular.
Strokkur (Icelandic for “churn”) is a fountain geyser shoots in the air 15 – 20m every 4 minutes.
Gullfoss – Flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 m and 21 m) into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 m (60 ft) wide, and 2.5 km in length, extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime.
Gullfoss is more than just a pretty waterfall, it has a story to tell.
In the early 20th century foreign investors wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss to produce electricity.
In 1907 Howells, an Englishman wanted to buy Gullfoss from Tómas Tómasson, a farmer who owned Gullfoss at this time. Tómas declined Howells´ offer to buy the waterfall but later he leased it to him.
The farmer´s daughter, Sigriður Tómasdóttir who grew up on his father´s sheep farm sought to have the rental contract voided. Sigriður using her own saving hired a lawyer in Reykjavik to defend her case.
The trial lasted years and Sigriður went several times barefoot on traitorous terrain to Reykjavik to follow up on her case. She even threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the construction would begin. Her attempts failed in court but before any damage was done to the waterfall the contract was disposed due to the lack of payments of the rent fee. The struggles of Sigriður to preserve the waterfall brought to people´s attention the importance of preserving nature and therefore she is often called Iceland´s first environmentalist.
In 1940 the adopted son of Sigriður acquired the waterfall from Sigriður´s father and later sold it to the Icelandic government. Gullfoss and its environs was designated as nature reserve in 1979 to permanently protect the waterfall and allow the public to enjoy this unique area.