The Golden Circle!

Reykjavik Travel Blog

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├×ingvellir

The 2nd (well, 3rd) best decision I made regarding my trip was using GTI (Gateway to Iceland) for my Golden Circle tour.  I had scheduled my tour for Monday, and they said they would pick me up at my guesthouse between 8:30 and 9:00 AM.  9:15 rolled around, and no one had shown up, so I called the offices.  They had tried ringing the guest house, but the phone does not ring when the owner isn't there.  It had been snowing all night, and the roads were bad, so the trip was postponed.  They suggested I call back at 11.  I fell back asleep, waking just at 11 to call; the trip was back on!  They picked me up within 15 minutes, and we were on our way.  

There were ten of us total in a small van, plus the tour guide.  Our guide was the owner of the company, with a long Icelandic name but Gummi for short.

No slipping!!!!!
 He was FANTASTIC.  Over the next 7 hours, he shared history, geological information, and all sorts of random trivia with us almost nonstop.  Because we were a smaller group, we were able to stay longer at different areas if we liked.  We did the normal Golden Circle stops, plus other ones that apparently do not get visited as often.  We first went to Þingvellir, or Parliamentary Plains, which was absolutely beautiful.  This was the site of the first parliament in Iceland, as well as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in the country.  Gummi also gave us crampons for our boots for the whole day! No falling on ice!  

From there, we drove to Gullfoss, where we ate lunch and (in my case) bought souvenirs.

Gullfoss
 The waterfalls were beautiful, and clearer than they are in the summer.  It also wasn't as much water as there is in the summer.

Next we went to see Geyser (which did not erupt) and Strokkur (which erupted many times).  There were also hot springs and "hot spots" all around the geysers.  It was neat to stand in the frigid cold weather but with hot, humid air blowing at you from a hot spring.  The hot springs also were different colors based on the temperature of the water.  Hot spots were areas where the ground was hot enough to melt the snow, and some even had steam shooting out of them like a kettle.  It's amazing to be able to see the evidence of the activity underground!

We then went to a less-visited waterfall called Faxi.

Strokkur erupting
 I enjoyed this waterfall more than Gullfoss because we were closer, which made it louder.  This was probably my favorite site of the day.

Finally we visited a massive crater from an explosion within the earth.  It has been the sight of several concerts, including Bjork in the 80s.  There is a lake at the bottom of the crater, and musicians set up a raft stage on the lake and spectators sit around the edge.  I'm pretty sure I would find this terrifying, but the acoustics are probably fantastic.

We didn't spend much time at the last two sites because it was INCREDIBLY cold outside, and we had been snowed on all day.  We were all tired, cold and wet.  Regardless, it was a fantastic experience.

I was dropped off at the guest house around 6:30 PM, and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to warm up in the sauna.

Faxi
 I had never been in a sauna before, and it was one of the many new experiences I had in Iceland.  I support the sauna movement wholeheartedly!

The weather turned pretty nasty after I got home, and the snow and wind were brutal.  The gusts of wind shook the house, whistled through the windows, and blew things around in the street.  It kept waking me in the night!  This wind blew for over 24 hours, and was my first real blizzard!

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├×ingvellir
├×ingvellir
No slipping!!!!!
No slipping!!!!!
Gullfoss
Gullfoss
Strokkur erupting
Strokkur erupting
Faxi
Faxi
Giant crater
Giant crater
Reykjavik
photo by: MadeleineGL