On my brief visit to Iceland during the summer, I took the Golden Circle tour courtesy of Reykjavik Excursions. The Golden Circle is a 190 mile round trip from Reykjavik into central Iceland that goes to Þingvellir National Park, the Gullfoss Waterfall and the geothermal valley of Haukadalaur.
We traveled to the Golden Circle region in a coach with a tour guide, and the drive was one of the most scenic I’ve ever been on. I tried to take pictures, but stopped after a while because I was not capturing what I was seeing. I’m sure the glare and reflection from windows probably had a lot to do with that, but whatever the reason I decided to just enjoy the journey, be in the moment, and not worry about capturing it for Facebook.
Þingvellir is where the Althing, the first Icelandic parliament, was established in 930 and continued to meet until 1798, making it the oldest known functioning parliament in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site also is the junction of the North American and Eurasian Plates, which has a number of visible rifts, including the Almannagjá rift and is home to Iceland’s largest lake, Lake Pingvallavatn.
I found it interesting that the world’s oldest Parliament and a gigantic rift can be found in the same place, but that might just be my cynical nature.
Gullfoss means golden waterfall and is one of Iceland’s biggest waterfalls. According to my guide, if you visit the falls when the sun is shining you will understand the origin of the waterfall’s name. The sun was not shining the day I went, so while I’m still a little foggy on the origin of the name, I can attest to its beauty. Please note that if you ever have the opportunity to go to Gullfoss, WEAR APPROPRIATE SHOES. I saw a woman wearing high-heeled boots. Stylish? Very. Good for getting around waterfall and Thingvellir? Not so much.
The geothermal valley of Haukadalaur is where you will find the geysers Strokkur and Geysir, the world’s most famous geyser and from which all other geysers are named.
The main geyser on the site hasn’t erupted since 2000, but the smaller Strokkur geyser erupts every few minutes, firing boiling jets of hot water into the air.
Another place I got to see geothermal energy at work was the Hveragerði greenhouse village. This greenhouse grows tomatoes using geothermal heating, a practice used by most greenhouses in Iceland since its climate is not the most conducive to traditional agriculture. And while I found the idea of using geothermal energy to grow tomatoes pretty amazing, there was still the question of what these tomatoes would taste like.
I’m happy to report that the tomato soup that I had from the greenhouse café was also pretty amazing, as was the bread, but that’s another post.
The Golden Circle is Reykjavik Excursions’ most popular tour. The 6-hour tour is offered daily and is a great way to see Iceland beyond Reykjavik. Visit the Reykjavik Excursions website for more information on the Golden Circle and other tours.