The Golden Circle – Iceland Day Two

Enjoying some delicious Skyr

Starting my morning with a pot of Skyr, a delicious Icelandic yoghurt-like treat, we waited outside the Guesthouse Pavi for our tour bus to arrive. Yes, that’s right. Tour Bus. Although it goes against everything Brendan and I love about travelling, we opted for the tour, mostly because we were too tired to try and organize a car and drive it on the totally unknown roads of Iceland, and also because we were just a little bit lazy in our research of Reykjavik and didn’t know what the best option was. So, with a little apprehension, we headed on our Golden Circle day tour, which was to take us on a 300km route to some of Iceland’s most famed attractions.

Our first stop was the geothermal power plant; all energy in Iceland is created using the steam that is naturally forming under the ground. This high-pressure steam powers a turbine which provides extremely low-cost power to the whole country as well as hot water (the by-product of geothermal electricity). Energy is one of the only cheap things available in Iceland, as we discovered.

From there we made a quick stop at a volcanic crater (basically once the volcano erupted, it collapsed on itself and filled with water):

Volcanic crater

Our next destination was the site of Geysir; the original water spurt (yep, that’s the technical name) from which all other geysers were named.

The original Geysir

Geysir is rarely active these days, but the nearby Strokkur sends a jet of steaming hot water 30m into the air at 4-8 minute intervals. It is a pretty impressive sight to watch; for the first few minutes you’re watching a small pool of water (very intently, I might add), and after a while bubbles start to make their way to the surface and the water in the pool heaves a little. Then, all of a sudden the water rises into a huge blue bubble and the bubble bursts, causing an eruption of hot water straight up into the sky. It all falls and rushes back into the now-empty pool and the process begins again.

Strokkur, the active geyser right next to the original

Strokkur from the hilltop

After some spectacular geyser-watching, we drove to the magnificent Gulfoss (Icelandic for Golden Falls), the largest waterfall in Europe. I was suitably impressed, but I don’t really have much more to add to that. Waterfalls don’t excite me; Europe’s largest included:

Me looking...uh...glamorous...ahem...at the edge of the waterfall. Apparently they don't really have public safety concerns in Iceland.

Gulfoss from the lookout

Our last stop was Thingvellir, the site of the world’s first parliament. Apparently the vikings and leaders used to meet here as long ago as 930AD to settle disputes and create laws. The surroundings here are beautful; flat expanses interrupted by volcanoes and mountains; rivers ambling through the green land and small, picturesque buildings dotting the landscape.

View from the top of the parliament site

All in all, it was a day of learning new things, seeing new sights and really experiencing the many landscapes of Iceland. This country is a seething, steaming, ever-changing land of extremes, and it was amazing to be able to learn a little about it as well as seeing some impressive natural phenomenon. We’re still not sure that we would do the tour if we were in Iceland again – self-driving is more our style, but we’re glad to have seen all that we did on this day around the Golden Circle.

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