When I decided to visit Iceland, I immediately knew that I wanted to see the Northern Lights. Thus, the Golden Circle and Northern Lights Package was the obvious choice. My hunt for the Northern Lights will be forthcoming, so I’m just going to focus on the Golden Circle, one of the most popular tours to do year-round in Iceland. It is a long day but filled with some beautiful scenery!
First up was a visit to Frioheimar Greenhouse, which I did not realize was on my trip because it is only on the extended tour (I thought I was on the ‘basic’ tour…this is the only difference, I believe). It is a family owned greenhouse that is the largest tomato producer in the country. It is pretty cool how they grow a variety of tomatoes year round, particularly in a country that is very dark half the year. They also have honey bees in boxes to help keep them alive in the winter months. I am going to say that I hate tomatoes, so this was not the most exciting morning of my life. It was pretty but I probably wouldn’t have missed it. There is a cafe filled with tomato based products from beer to coffee to cheesecake. I tried none of it so I cannot speak to how it is but others on the trip seemed to enjoy it. What was very cool was the horses! Iceland is notable for their horse population because they are essentially the same horses the vikings brought nearly a millennia ago. They’re a bit fuzzier, shorter, and stouter then American wild horses. To see them up close was pretty awesome!
Next up, geysirs! Fun fact, the word geyser actually comes from the name Icelanders gave theirs! The most famous is Strokkur and it consistently goes off every 5-12 minutes. I have actually never seen a geyser so I did not know quite what to expect, most notably how quickly they occur. The entire “show” lasts maybe a second. I have never been to Old Faithful, so I cannot speak to this being “normal.” There is also another, the original Geysir, just up from Strokkur. It used to go off frequently but apparently an earthquake dislodged a rock causing the geyser to stop. Another earthquake shifted the rock so now it does go off occasionally, but when is anybody’s guess. Our guide for the day said the last time he saw it was three years ago. So best of luck! It the original and where we get the name, so you can still say you saw the ‘first.’ As discussed I am really fascinated by volcanoes, so seeing all of these sulfuric hot springs was very cool and made my desire to visit Yellowstone National Park, one of the largest volcanoes in the world, even greater!
One of the most beautiful stops was to Gullfoss, a spectacular waterfall. It is essentially a series of falls that feed into one another culminating in a significant drop. There are several levels to view the falls, including the base. Unfortunately, the lowest vantage point was closed due to conditions. The guide said that route will usually be closed due to ice or exceedingly slippery conditions, so it may not just be because I went in January. Make sure you are bundled up, due to the location and the water it was the coldest I was the entire day. The wind was really something else. I love a good waterfall, this did not disappoint. There are no words for the beauty (including the image used for the main page).
Winter is Here! The final stop is Þingvellir National Park, most famous (culturally) for a shooting site of Game of Thrones. It is historically significant because it is where the very first parliament was called in 874. While, as a historian, I thought this was very cool what I was most taken with, because plate tectonic and all things volcano, was driving through the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Due to its location on the two plates, the North American and the Euroasian, Iceland is literally ripping apart. The idea that you can stand on two plates at the same time is a misnomer, the ridge is nearly 4 miles across. As someone who grew up on the San Andreas fault, seeing this was wild. It is just as if it’s just a valley not a geologic anomaly. From where your coach drops you off to where you will depart is about a mile. You walk right past the parliament marker and the see what appear as if they are fractures caused by lot of earthquakes. I should probably note, since I’ve mentioned plates and volcanoes a lot, I never felt an earthquake while I was there, so don’t worry!
I really enjoyed the tour! I wish the waterfall trails were open and I could have wandered more around Þingvellir a bit more, but it was a wonderful day to see some pretty spectacular landscapes!
All images were taken with my Panasonic Lumix G7 camera. The conditions started to deteriorate by days end, so I apologize for the glare on the last few images.
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