Thingvellir (Þingvellir) was the original site of the annual parliament gathering in 930 AD, considered to be the first democratic assembly of its kind. Thingvellir is not only historically relevant but sits astride the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which means that the gorgeous Thingvallavatn lake has shores on both the European Continental Plate and the American. This stunning rift valley is like a lesson in geology in its own right, and as such is a treasured landscape in the Icelandic psyche.
Today, the largest of the three national parks in Iceland is the one covering the Vatnajökull glacier and surrounding areas, including Skaftafell park with its lush green forests and meadows and gorgeous Svartafoss falls, tucked just under the looming glacier itself. About a five hour drive from Reykjavík, it’s a popular camping destination for locals and visitors. A short walk from the campsite brings you to a tongue of Vatnajökull (“Glacier of Lakes”) named Svínajökull, or “Swine Glacier”, which you can literally climb onto (though at your own risk!)
Snæfell (‘Snow Mountain’) with its gleaming glacier is a global mystical energy spot, according to many. At the end of its own peninsula north across the waters from Reykjavik, in certain lighting it looms huge on the horizon and in others almost disappears. Camping under Snæfell or just day tripping at the beaches and cliffs at its feet does give you a certain special sense of wonder. It’s as if this volcano really is, as Jules Verne wrote it to be, the entrance way to the magical center of the earth.