Icelands Golden Circle

1 August 2007.

The first full day in Iceland was planned to be spent exploring the Golden Circle—Gullfoss, Geysir, and Thingvellir. Those sites together are referred to as the “Golden Circle” because they all together make up Iceland’s major tourist destinations.

We woke up quite early in our hotel. After a decent breakfast, we hit the road. We slept in Thingvellir National Park, so our first stop was at the visitor center, which was about 25 kilometers from our hotel.

Thingvellir NP is Iceland’s most important historical site and place—here the Vikings established the world’s first democratic parliament, the Alþing in 930 AD. There is not much that remains to be seen about that event. But the place is also important as it contains a rift valley caused by the separating North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Thingvellir National Park was established in 1930, and the rift valley was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004.

The rift valley was really interesting. We got from the visitors’ center the map of the suggested walk. From the viewpoint, there is an excellent view of the

Gulfoss

Thingvallavatn (Thingvellir Lake), Iceland’s largest natural lake.This 84 km2 lake was really blue on that sunny day. The lake lies 100m above sea level and its greatest depth is 114m. 90% of the water in Thingvellir Lake comes from springs and fissures beneath the lake’s surface or along its shore.

During the time we enjoyed the views, two tourist buses arrived, and we somehow realized that we would like to have some more privacy than just enjoy the walk in the rift valley. Therefore, we drove a couple of kilometers to another parking spot and peacefully enjoyed the views and walked.

When driving towards Geysir, we made two stops—first in the coffee shop at the camping site, and second in the K1 service station. At K1 service station, we bought some salads to have a picnic lunch.

The next stop was at the Geysir Center. The Geysir is the original blasting hot water spout after which all other geysers around the world are named. Since 1950, when Geysir did not gush water, tourists spoiled it by throwing rocks into the spring. But we saw Strokkur, the most reliable geyser, bursting upwards of some 20 meters of plume. We saw it blow every 4 minutes. The view was really impressive, even better from a distance on the hill. There are several colorful springs, bubbling milky pools, and steam vents around the field at the Geysir center. It is worth taking some time to enjoy the area, but be careful; the water is really hot, 100 °C.

Gullfoss was about 10 km from Geysir field. Gullfoss is a spectacular double cascading waterfall. As we had clear skies, the view was stunning. Due to the wind, photographing and videotaping were difficult. The number of visitors was also quite high. We walked there, enjoying the views, and then had a picnic lunch on the south side of the hill. Excellent views and good food—local salmon and salad.

After Gullfoss, we drove south to explore the 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 beaches. The sand on the coast of the North Atlantic was really black. Later, we even saw that children’s sand boxes were covered with black sand. This was really odd.

Another strange place was the Seltun geothermal zone. Here the mud was really hot and bubbling. Definitely a place worth visiting. Although the place was unplanned before the trip, it was something we expected to see in Iceland-a lot of hot springs. We also stopped at Kleifarvatn, a lake with extraordinary color—it was more blue than any of the waters I have seen so far.

The driving on 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 on the Reykjanes peninsula lets us see many great views.

We ended our day at Fosshotel Nesbud in Nesjavellir. Again, we had a delicious dinner at Sagreifinn fish shop, and it was difficult to leave Reykjavik. Now we have obtained a better map for exploring around. After such a busy day, we took a rest in hot pots, and the sleep was good.

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