Thursday, July 20, 2017

Iceland: Golden Circle Tour

One sure thing about Iceland is that the weather is very changeable, so even though we could see rain in the distance as we started the Golden Circle Tour, there was also blue sky. 

Golden Circle is the name for a day-trip that all the operators offer, going to Gullfoss, Geysir and Þingvellir (Thingvellir). Lasting about 8 hours, the trip can also include other sites, depending on the guide/driver's interests and on tourists' agreeing and complying with returning to the bus after a certain pre-determined interval at each stop. Tourists enjoying themselves often are noncompliant and oblivious of time. It's sometimes hard to turn away from these awesome places! Wendy and I, by the way, were completely compliant (smug smile)

Our first stop was in the tour guide's current hometown, Hveragerði (don't ask me to pronounce it - it doesn't sound anything like the word looks!) The guide was English, from Newcastle, but has lived in Iceland for nearly 20 years and is married to an Icelandic woman. He's also an expert at saying "Hveragerði".

Hveragerði is known for being very near the epicentre of a 6 magnitude earthquake in 2008. There were no deaths other than some sheep, but quite a few injuries and a lot of freaked-out people.

This building has a couple stores, a bank, a post office and an earthquake exhibition and simulator.

A few of the local folks had their earthquake story on the wall.

Iceland is well known for its huge number and variety of waterfalls. We visited two of them today.

This is the Faxi waterfall.

It has a fish ladder.

The guide told us that many of the trees and shrubs in Iceland, though very small, may be extremely old. Cold soil/permafrost = slow growth, similar to that of the Canadian North and Alaska.

We next visited Geysir, hot springs where you can walk right next to bubbling hot water in the ground, smelling like hydrogen sulphide. Water spouts out in a couple of places on a regular basis.

After lunch at Geysir, we hopped back into our small van with too many other people - a bit cramped, shall we say - and headed to Gullfoss, another waterfall, named after its often gold (gull) colour when seen in the sunshine.

It is pretty impressive!

Last stop on our day trip was Þingvellir National Park, the birthplace of Iceland and revered by all Icelanders. Not only of historic and cultural importance, the area also has geologic significance since it lies on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, dividing the North American from the Eurasian landmass. 

The Park is located on the north shore of Iceland's largest lake, Thingvallavatn, and comprises a large flat area where meetings were held and where Icelanders gather in modern times, camping en masse, to celebrate historic events.

The national Icelandic parliament, the Althing, was established here in 930 AD and yearly sessions were held here until 1798.

We saw so many wonderful sights on our tour. 

I even loved this signpost. Hiking in Iceland might be a challenge.

Another highlight of the tour was seeing Icelandic horses. I was surprised to see so many. Beauties - hardy animals with friendly dispositions, just like the rest of Icelandic inhabitants ;)

In doing a bit of research on the Icelandic horses at home I've discovered that they are a 5-gaited breed, sure-footed and able to cross rough terrain.

Our stop-over took place May 30 to June 3, 2017

On the blog:

Day of Arrival
Golden Circle Tour
A Walking Tour of Reykjavik
Whales and Puffins
Last Morning