Golden Circle and Reykjanes Peninsula
1 August 2007
The first full day in Iceland was planned to spend to explore Golden Circle - Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir. Those sites together are referred to as Golden Circle because they all together make up Iceland's major tourist destinations.
We woke up quite early in our hotel, after decent breakfast we hit the road. As we slept in the Þingvellir National Park, our first stop was at the Park's visitor Center, which was about 25 km from our hotel.
Þingvellir NP is Iceland's most important historical site and place - here Vikings established world's first democratic parliament, the Alþing in 930AD. There is not much remains to be seen about that event. But the place is also important as here a rift valley caused by the separating North America and Eurasian tectonic plates. Þingvellir National Park was founded already in 1930 and because of the rift valley Þingvellir was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004.
The rift valley was really interesting. We got from visitors' center the map of suggested walk. From the view point there is excellent view on the
Þingvallavatn (Þingvellir Lake), the largest natural lake in Iceland. This 84 km² lake was really blue at that sunny day. The lake lies 100m above the sealevel and its greatest depth is 114m. 90% of the water that flows into Þingvellir Lake comes from springs and fissures beneath its surface or at its shore.
During the time we enjoyed the views two tourist buses arrived and we somehow realised that we would like to have some more privacy then enjoying the walk in the rift valley. Therefore we drove couple of kilometers to an other parking slot and peacefully enjoyed the views and walk.
When driving towards Geysir, we made two stops - first in coffeshop at camping site, second in K1 service station. From K1 service station we bought some salads to have a picnic lunch.
The next stop was at Geysir Center. Geysir is the original blasting hot water spout after which all other geysers around the world are named. Since 1950 Geysir does not gush water, tourists spoiled it by throwing rocks into the spring. But we saw Strokkur, the most reliable geyser, bursting upwards some 20 meters plume. We saw it blowing in every 4 minutes. The view was really impressive, even better from distance at the hill. There are several colorful springs, bubbling milky pools and steam vents around the field at the Geysir center. It is worth taking a time and enjoy the area, but be careful, the water is really hot, 100°C.
Gullfoss was about 10km from Geysir field. Gullfoss is a spectacular double cascade waterfall. As we had clear skies the view was stunning. Due to the wind photographing and videotaping was difficult. Also, the number of visitors was quite high. We walked there enjoying the views and then had a picnic lunch at the south side of the hill. Excellent views and good food - local salmon and salad.
After Gullfoss we drove south, to explore Reykjanes peninsula. We made several stops. As suggested in LP, when the sign "Place of Interest" was present, we stopped. We saw beautiful waterfalls, hot springs, volcano craters and black beach. The sand at the coast of North Atlantic was really black. Later we even saw that children sand boxes are with black sand, this was really odd.
An other strange place was Seltun geothermal zone. Here the mud was really hot and bubbling. Definitely the place worth of visiting. Although the place was unplanned before the trip, it was something we expected to see in Iceland - a lot of hot springs. Near Seltun we also stopped at Kleifarvatn, the lake with extraordinary color - it was more blue than any of the waters I have seen so far.
The driving at the Golden Route was easy - the roads are good and traffic is rare. At the coast the traffic was even rarer, although the roads were in bad condition. But driving at the Reykjanes peninsula let us see many great views.
We ended our day in Fosshotel Nesbud in Nesjavellir. And again we had a delicious dinner in Sægreifinn fish shop and again it was difficult to navigate out from Reykjavik. Now we obtained a better map for exploring around. After such a busy day we took a rest in hot pots and the sleep was good.