As you saw from my previous post, we went to bed super late. Because we weren’t sure the length of time it would take to drive the Golden Circle, the plan was to get up early and hit the road. So running on less than ideal sleep, we started off for the first stop on the Golden Circle: Þingvellir National Park. Since we don’t have that specific strange character, in English you can find it as Thingvellir. I guess the original parliament of Iceland was located here before re-locating to Reykjavik. Within the park where the visitor center is located marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. You’re literally standing between two giant Earth plates. Pretty neat.
As you can imagine, the area was crowded with tourists. We took it all in and walked around for a bit but then decided to get out of the crowds and head on to the next stop. As we approached the next closest stop of Geysir, I saw there were quite a few tour buses already there. I asked the others, and they agreed, that we should head to the farthest stop of Gullfoss and then stop at Geysir on the way back.
The drive of the Golden Circle contrasted greatly to the previous day’s drive through the very southwestern area of Iceland. The Golden Circle route revealed beautiful lush landscape and rolling mountains and hills (as you can see from the pictures).
Gullfoss (Golden Waterfall) is an iconic waterfall of Iceland. We could see the mist rising from the powerful waterfall before we saw the falls themselves. Arriving by car, you actually are above the falls. While this place was also busy with tourists, it didn’t look to be as packed as it had been at Geysir when we passed. We parked the car and took some pictures in front of Langjökull glacier (Long glacier)
We walked downhill a short while to be able to view the falls. It was an impressive sight.
The waterfall is actually fed from the glacier that we could see off in the distance (makes sense!). There were a few different viewing areas. D wasn’t feeling up to walking up close I headed that way with my folks. We found someone to take pictures of us in front of the intense water.
We then backtracked our way back to the Geysir Hot Spring Area. I guess this is the original hot springs area and was where the term “geyser” came from.
Within this area is Strokkur, which is one of the most reliable geysers in the area.
This reminded me somewhat of Yellowstone National Park though it seemed a lot more active and had more small areas in a concentrated area compared to Yellowstone. We stopped across the street at a restaurant/shops area and had some lunch.
For the drive back, we “completed” the circle by taking a different road back to Reykjavik and the cruise boat. It started to rain some on the way back but overall was a very smooth trip. I enjoyed driving in Iceland, it was pretty easy to do and with the country being sparsely populated, there weren’t a ton of cars everywhere like in the States.
We returned the car (after figuring out how to gas up…we couldn’t use the pay at the pump credit card machines because our stupid US credit cards don’t have pin numbers) and got back on the boat for our next port: Ísafjörður (I just like saying that…is-a-fyor-door)