Day 3 and the last day in our short trip to Iceland and we’re feeling the need to see something in a more natural environment, certainly more natural than some of the ‘curiosities‘ we saw yesterday in Reykjavik. We’re off to explore the wilds of Iceland on the Golden Circle tour, Iceland’s most popular tourist route, one you will inevitably be sharing with hundreds of others and for good reason. Bubbling hot springs, geothermal lagoons, tectonic plates, gushing geysers and mighty waterfalls all wrapped around the stark beauty of giant lava boulders and volcanic fields. We’re off to see ‘the big three’ in Iceland’s Golden Circle of Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geyser.
It’s a full day out on a bus with a fully guided tour or a fair few hours driving. Either way, you’ll see some stunning sights and either way, you should be prepared for the weather. Did we bring the waterproof clothing we’ve got, did we bring the waterproof camera we’ve got. No. I don’t think we’ve been ever so wet in our lives. It chucked it down the entire time out and it killed our DSLR. If you are in doubt at the amount of rain, just look how wet we are in the photos. We were soaked at Thingvellir, the first stop on our travels, which set the scene for the rest of the day, you can only get so wet and by that time you’ll no longer care.
The first stop is at Thingvellir (Þingvellir), a national park and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. For those of us not from Iceland, Thingvellir is more famous for its geology where a fissure zone runs through Iceland. There’s not many places in the world where you can see evidence of continental drift and Thingvellir lies on the junction of two tectonic plates on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These plates are clearly visible where you walk between two tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia moving apart at around 2 cm per year and see rifting of the Earth’s crust.
Thingvellir is also one of Iceland’s most important historical sites with parliament founded here in 930 AD with the Law Speaker reciting the laws on the Law Rock. Those who attended the the general assemble at this parliamentary site were immune from vengeance and vendetta but not everyone was so lucky. At least 72 people were executed here, 18 of them were women who were drowned in the pool of water you walk past.
No words can do justice to the sheer beauty and amount of water at the mighty Gullfoss waterfall which you will hear before you see. Misty water vapour rises up past the valley floor before you eventually see the mighty crashing of water which is staggering. Gullfoss is actually two waterfalls, the upper waterfall is 11 metres and the lower one is 20 meters with a total height of 31 metres. The Gullfoss gorge is 20 metres wide, approx 2.5 km in length and up to 70 metres in depth, was formed by flash flood water that forced its way through cracks in the basalt lava layers. It delivers a ferocious water flow of 140 cubic metres per second that outdoes Niagara Falls, all of which you can get right up to.
The top viewpoint is windy and the lower platform right by the water is very wet as you get blasted by misty spray when you walk down. It’s worth popping into the cafe for lamb soup and free refills to warm up after, at at £21 for 2 cups of tea and 1 bowel of soup, thats’ a bargain in Iceland. Gullfoss is wet, wild and wonderful.
Talking of wet wild and wonderful, I get a geyser shooting its hot load all over my face, which I loved and recommend, not something I thought I would ever say, I’ve even filmed it. We’re in Haukadalur, home of hot springs, Geysir and Strokkur and the last stop on the Golden Circle tour. Geysir is the original geyser and what all other geysers are named after. Geysir is a high temperature geothermal area within the volcanic zone and approx 3 square kilometres with hot springs up to 100 degrees C. Geysir is the old Norse word for gush, which is exactly what visitors do when it erupts. Geysir itself stopped erupting some years ago but we do get to see the magnificent Strokkur geyser erupt approximately every 8 minutes and rises to 15-20 metres.
Its certainly something, a few bubbles, the water moves slightly and then from nowhere, this big blue bubble forms up and throw as a mighty column of hot water into the air. What comes up, must come down, and down it comes, hot water and steam all over unsuspecting tourists. It’s at that point you realise why the other tourists are stood where they are. But trust me, you wont care. This is the gem in the Golden Circle tour.
I don’t care if the Golden Circle tour is super touristy, if you see nothing else in Iceland, see this. Iceland is cool. Sometimes cloudy, sometimes wet and sometimes freezing but definitely cool. We may not have seen the Northern Lights this time but that’s OK, it gives us another reason to come back here!
Iceland – Reykjavik
Iceland – Icelandic Phallological Museum