After sleeping like logs, we went down for an early breakfast. With the prices for food and drink in Iceland being comparatively expensive to home, we made sure that we ate well from the buffet (and also took a few cheeky slices of the delicious chocolate flap jacks) and filled our Bodum Travel Mugs with coffee and hot chocolate for the drive around Iceland’s Golden Circle. We made a quick stop on the way out of the old town of Reykjavik at the famous Hallgrimskirkja church with its unique architecture that is inspired by the basalt columns we’d seen the day before at Reynisfjara Beach.
The Golden Circle Tour route is the most popular travel route in Iceland. Whilst it does get busy at times, don’t let this put you off as it is a great day out from Reykjavik. The highlights of the route include Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area, and Gullfoss waterfall. We also added the Secret Lagoon to our day out as we had the flexibility of driving our own hire car.
The route can easily be completed in a day and in fact many tour operators run day trips from Reykjavik. Distance is approx. 230km so there is quite a bit of driving. The scenery is absolutely stunning so as long as you have a clear day, it really is a pleasurable drive. Appropriate Gear Alert! Our trip was in October and there had yet to be any snow settling. It was cold though. We made sure that we had plenty of refreshments in the car and we packed warm clothing and waterproof jackets, waterproof over-trousers and walking boots. If you are planning on driving in the winter we would recommend a four wheel drive vehicle with winter tyres and preferably tyre studs. If driving in these conditions bother you, we’d suggest you book on an organised tour.
Our first stop was Þingvellir National Park which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The scenery is simply breath taking. In 930, the Althing became the world’s first parliament and the assembly representing the whole of Iceland continued to meet there until 1798.
The park is also where North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. You can see evidence of the earth literally ripping itself apart with deep chasms and gorges being formed throughout the area. There are also several waterfalls to visit. A visitor center and toilets are located within the park near the main car park.
After Þingvellir we headed on to the Geysir geothermal springs area. Great Geysir is is the earliest documented geyser in Europe and is the origin of the word used to describe all geysers. Whilst it has been active for around 10,000 years, don’t expect any eruptions as it is mainly dormant. Fortunately Strokkur geyser is located only a short stroll away is still impressively active and frequently blows flumes of boiling hot water 40m into the air. Whilst the area is clearly roped off, you can still be sprayed with water, so wear waterproofs and shoes with good grips as it is slippery. You can visit the Geysir centre for food & drink, toilets and souvenir shopping.
After Geysir we drove on to Gulfoss, possibly Icelands most famous waterfall. Again there are toilets, shops and places to eat located near the car park. Water thunders over the falls creating clouds of spray and if the sun is shining, rainbows. The volume of water cascading over the falls is immense and you can hear the roar of the waterfall even before you lay eyes on it.
Our final planned stop on our Golden Circle Tour was the Secret Lagoon. This is one of Iceland’s oldest geothermal bathing pools which was established in 1891. It even has it’s own mini geyser erupting every 20 minutes or so and that feeds the bathing pool with gloriously hot water. For a thrilling sensation of hot and cold, try a soak in the pool followed by a short walk in the freezing breeze to the mini geyser and back around to the pool for another warming soak. Absolute bliss!!
We’ve managed to get to nearly the end of Day 2 of our Iceland trip without mentioning The Northern Lights (aurora borealis), the natural phenomena of beautiful waves of light that dance across the night sky. Unfortunately for us the ‘Aurora Forecast’ for the period of our stay in Iceland was not good. There was a lot cloud and it was unlikely that we would get to see them. As we were located in a fantastic dark sky area we decided to wait until dark and take our chances. After all, if you don’t attempt something, you will not achieve it. We found a track by the side of a deserted country road and parked. We waited until it got dark. We waited and waited…nothing. Oh well after a fantastic day we were not going to let this disappoint us. There is always tomorrow. We started the drive back to Reykjavik in the dark. All of a sudden we notice a strange glow in the sky. This must be it!! Unfortunately not. We like many aurora hunters in Iceland had been deceived by the light pollution from a massive greenhouse (which was at least powered by free geo-thermal energy).
By the time we had returned to Reykjavik it was late and we were tired. We just fancied hot dogs and a quick search on Google brought up Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dogs. They did not disappoint and the hot dog stand was just minutes away from our hotel.
Several loaded hot dogs each later, we strolled back to our hotel and once again crashed out for the night.
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