The Golden Circle...Kind of
Welcome to another installment of my trip to Iceland! After a break day spent in Reykjavik, we spent the next day checking out stops on the Golden Circle.
The Golden Circle is the most popular tourist route in Iceland. Usually, for those who only have a day or two for a stopover in the country, the Golden Circle is where they go for an introduction to what Iceland has to offer. By this point, we'd already driven halfway around the country and back and had seen some incredible things that Iceland had to offer outside of the circle. We knew we'd be seeing more tourists than any other place we had visited so far, but were still interested in seeing the famous sites and what they could offer.
It was also nice to be able to have a little bit of an easier driving day, especially since the next day was going to be the longest of the trip. We got to leave a little bit later, and even with an extra stop or two we made it back very early compared to all the other driving days.
It was decided that we would visit a few extra stops along the Golden Circle trail. Our first stop was actually the Secret Lagoon, but half of us didn't have swimsuits (mine had accidentally gotten burned and obtained compromising holes) and some weren't interested, so we just kind of stopped to check it out and then continued on. Next up was this little waterfall. I don't know what it's called, but....it was another waterfall. If you really, really love waterfalls then I might recommend it, but the main stop on the Golden Circle is Gullfoss, which provides enough waterfall experience for the entire day, at the very least.
Speaking of Gullfoss, I think I was more impressed with it than I thought I would be. True, it was just another - really big - waterfall, and true, I was kind of extremely tired of waterfalls at this point. But this was kind of THE waterfall. Gullfoss has a colorful and interesting history, much of which I can't really verify as being true but that still makes a good story.
In the early 1900s a businessman wanted to purchase the waterfall from the farmer who owned it at the time. The farmer said no, but did eventually agree to lease it to him. The farmer's daughter later wanted to have the rental contract voided and hired a lawyer for the case. The trial lasted for years, and there's this famous story about the daughter, Sigriður , threatening to throw herself off the waterfall if they began construction to harness the energy from Gullfoss. Eventually she won, and all her efforts over the years earned her the title of Iceland's first environmentalist.
The power from Gullfoss is indeed very spectacular. You can feel it even when you can't see the waterfall, and the mist from the pummeling water reaches all the way to the top of the canyon. I got carried away staring at the waterfall and walking along the paths (there's an upper and lower one) that I forgot to put my lens cap back on my camera. The next time I went to take a picture, everything was blurry and soaked and it was kind of a disaster.
For the most part, it wasn't terribly busy at Gullfoss. Yes, there were a lot more people than at previous destinations, but it wasn't so bad. Parking at the lower level was a little bit of a disaster at first, but cleared up pretty quickly once all the tour buses were removed. Plus, it's always kind of fun to see lots of other people there experiencing the same moment you are. I like having a place to myself as much as the next guy, but it was a nice reminder that there actually are other people in Iceland - most of the time it feels pretty empty.
After getting sufficiently sprayed down by the waterfall, we headed on to see even more water in the form of a geyser.
Geysir, also called The Great Geysir, is a geyser that was actually the first geyser ever described and known to Europeans. In fact - and kind of obviously - the English word "geyser" comes from the original "geysir" which traces back to Old Norse and meant "to gush." They say that it's been an active geyser for about 10,000 years, and earthquakes have been the major reason for its changes in activity.
Although it's known for being pretty regular at jutting water up to 70 meters in the air, Geysir can be a little picky and has been known to completely stop erupting for years at a time. Lucky for us, that wasn't the case and we were able to see it go off a couple times.
Once we were done at Geysir, the plan was to go to Thingvellir park. I'd heard so much about this place and how amazing it was, so I was ready to see what all the hype was about.
After about another hour or so of driving, we arrived at the park and found....not much, to be honest. Maybe it was because I'd already seen so many other things and so much of the Icelandic countryside, or maybe it was because it reminded a little too much of home and not enough of a foreign country, but I was extremely underwhelmed.
Maybe we went to the wrong part of the park? Maybe it was a bad day? But whatever it was, we ended up not spending long at all and just heading home. We just chilled out for a little while and then went to out to dinner for Kevin's birthday. I would have been more than fine if it was just the two of us, but everyone came along to the Chuck Norris Grill (Kevin's choice, of course) with us. I thought the food was pretty good, but it also could have been the fact that I hadn't had a real meal in a week.
After dinner we had to hunt down some ibuprofen and tried to find a pharmacy that was still open. We found one at the last minute, got gas for the next day, and went home.
It was an okay day, but I think that if you're with the right people, the Golden Circle could be a lot of fun, and I'd like to spend more time along the route stopping for pictures or to see some horses next time.
The next day was the longest day of the trip, hands down. It was a mostly great day and I got to see one of the things I came to Iceland for, but that will just have to wait until next time....and when I get around to going through the photos.