We got picked up by our Golden Circle tour guide van on Thursday morning at the very early hour of 8:00am. The plan was to go see some of the best natural sites in the area around Reykjavik. It’s called the Golden Circle because the tour makes a loop, and one of the best stops is the Gullfoss waterfall, which looks golden at sunset.
Some Early Troubles
The tour started off well, but we quickly ran into some trouble at the first stop, when Andre our guide tried to slide open the van door and this happened:
The Ancient Icelandic Parliament
The first stop was Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir), which was the site of the ancient Icelandic parliament from around 1000 A.D. From this site, you can see the slowly widening gap between the North American and Eurasian continental plates, leading to some amazing rock formations and natural vistas:
The water here is straight out of a spring, and you can’t even believe how crystal clear and clean the lake is. You can see straight down to the bottom and even see the ripples of light playing on the bottom surface. All around the edges, water was bubbling up from the springs and we drank this very pure clean water:
Our next stop was a geothermal hotspot, where the water table is heated by underground lava to boiling hot temperatures. There were a lot of amazing features to see here, like Strokker, which regularly blasts water 20m into the air every 5-8 minutes. Check out a video below, or look at the picture if the video doesn’t work for you:
We also learned that the word Geysir originally applies to the specific Geysir here, which goes up to 60m in the air but is very intermittent and has been dormant since around 2000. The generic word geyser comes from the one named Geysir here.
We also saw hot-water mineral pools that were a beautiful blue color:
Our next stop was a huge two-tier waterfall called Gullfoss. It is a glacial river, so the water was grey with sediment and freeeeeezing cold! The falls were amazing to see, and the whole landscape was just beautiful:
On the way back, we also stopped at a waterfall on a spring-water river, and the water color was so pure and blue, very different from the Gullfoss falls:
Our final stop on the tour was a volcanic crater. This was a place where a volcano had long ago collapsed, and the interior is so deep that you can see the water table in the bottom. It had the same blue tint from the minerals:
And we stopped in a little cave on our climb down to the pool:
Back in Reykjavik
We got back to Reykjavik exhausted, but we just kept powering on! We asked the tour guide to drop us off in this big city park area because we wanted to check out one of the many public bathing pools in the city. Icelanders love bathing in the geothermal water in these public pools. There are a lot of customs and expectations about how you do it: shoes outside the locker room only! shower before entering with no swimsuit! dry off before re-entering the locker room!
We navigated all this successfully, and it was so worth it! The pool was a ton of fun, the sun was shining bright, and they even had a water slide.
It seemed like most of the people there were Icelandic, and we played a game where we looked for Icelandic versions of people we knew.
After the fun times in the pool, we wandered over to a beautiful botanical garden. It was already about 9pm by this point but the sun was still shining bright. After enjoying the plants and flowers, we found a little Cafe tucked in the back. This was a great discovery! We had wonderful meals in a very romantic atmosphere – even if we weren’t really dressed for it.
We had a long meandering walk home through the city, but at 11pm it was still full daylight and beautiful the whole way home. An exhausting but wonderful day!