24 June 2016

The Golden Circle

Our last full day in Iceland was spent on a well-known road trip east of Reykjavik. When one googles "things to do in Iceland", The Golden Circle always comes up. 

While there are a number of different possibilities for the Golden Circle, the traditional route takes one to four major sites:
Þingvellir Natioanl Park
Strokkur Geysir
Gulfoss Waterfall
Kerid Crater

There are a number of tours that take one through the Golden Circle, but the best way to see it, is to drive yourself. This will give you the flexibility to stop as much and as long as you want. The actual drive itself would take about 3.5 hours without stopping. We started at 9am and returned to Reykjavik around 4:30pm. 

Þingvellir (Pronounced Thingvellir in English) is a national park. There is no one specific sight, but rather a number of beautiful landscapes to see. We drove through the park, admired the lake, and stopped to pet horses. The main route of the Golden Circle takes on through the southern end of the park, at the north side of the lake.

After exiting the park, we continued our drive to Geysir. Up until this point, the route had been mostly just nature, no gas stations or stores, however as we approacched Geysir, a huge rest stop appeared. It was complete with a cafeteria, store and hotel. It also had 100s of tourists. Despite not encountering many people along the route until this point, we suddenly were in throngs of tourists. 
Geysir was incredible. This was probably my most favorite view not only during the Golden Circle but on the entire trip! Geysir is not only the location of a Geyser, but also the origin of the English word geyesr. 
In Geysir are a number of hot spots and water spouts, however one stands out above the others: Strokkur. This geyser shoots water into the air roughly every 10 minutes. While the height varies, I saw it go up to possibly as high as (if not higher than) 50 feet. 

Behind the geyser were some hills. Kelly and I climed up the hill and admired the view, as well as the Geyser from above.

The area was awash with blue lupines. It was one of the most beautiful places, that I have had the privilege to visit.

After spending nearly an hour and a half at Geysir, we ventured away from the "circle" part of the Golden Circle, but still very much stayed on the route. We headed to Gullfoss waterfall. Once again, we came to a huge rest stop with a restaurant, a store, and of course 100s of tourists. 

The Gulfoss waterfall is not the biggest waterfall in Iceland, but it is Iceland's most famous one. The water comes from the Hvítá River which originates at Lake Hvítávatn at Lángjökull glacier. Spray from the waterfall rains upon tourists walking the bath to the observation deck.

From Gullfoss we returned to Geysir and then continued along the circle. We were headed towards Kerið, but first we stopped at a roadside picnic table to eat our lunch and pet more horses. While there we also discovered a stable built into a small mound of earth. It was a beautiful day, sunny, but not too hot, perfect for being outside.

The final stop on our drive was the Kerið Crater. This crater lake was formed by a volcano that caved in. Unlike the last two major stops, this site only had a small parking lot and attendant stand. Surprisingly, there was a cost to enter. This was the first natural site we had visited with a cost. It was only 400 Kr. The water in the lake was a deep turquois. One could walk around the top or go to the bottom, but entering the water is not permitted.

After Kerið, we headed back to Reykjavik. Driving the Golden Circle was an experience that I'll never forget and would highly recommend. It is simply beautiful. 

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