Iceland: Day 2: Golden Circle

Day 2: Golden Circle Tour

June 22, 2014
There’s so much to see in Iceland. It’s an amazing lunar-like landscape with lava fields, volcanos, glaciers, and tectonic rifts.

We started with the quintessential Golden Circle Tour with Iceland Horizon.

IMG_0985

Tour to Þingvellir
I know: what’s that peculiar P-looking letter?  It’s called a “thorn” and pronounced with a “Th-” sound, so you’ll see the thorn and “Th-” used interchangeably.

Thingvellir is located about 45 minutes northeast of Reykjavik. This is where the mid-Atlantic ridge is exposed, and it’s where you can see the rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that divide the island nation.

A quick refresher courtesy of USGS:

Iceland_Mid-Atlantic_Ridge_USGS

The valley is also home to the largest lake in Iceland called Þingvallavatn.

The rift through the area is quite apparent as it splits open this centuries old lava field (note the swirling pudding-like pahoehoe):

This rift continues and widens down the valley – large enough to walk through.  This is the Almannagjá Canyon:

Some parts of the mid-Atlantic rift have even filled with water. We will be returning in a couple days to plunge into the 2°C waters of a water-filled portion of the rift nearby named Silfra.  The water is very blue and incredibly clear.

Geysir

Our next stop was to see Geysir, the namesake of all geysers. Unfortunately, Geysir stopped spouting in 2000 shortly after we were there, however, Stökkur is still active and erupts every 4-8 minutes.

Here is Geysir from January of 1999 …

and the ice patterns around it:

Ice_in_Iceland-Geysir

Around Geysir and Stökkur were other colorful pools and bubbling pots:


The area, in general, was very pretty with wildflowers growing on the hillsides:

Gullfoss

Gullfoss is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Iceland.  Its name means Golden Waterfall.  Approaching the falls, you might never know it’s there except for the rising mist…

But once you get closer to the falls, it really opens up:

Not satisfied with this view, we went down for a closer inspection:

 

Here it is almost completely frozen in 1999 (we were almost completely frozen, too!):

Here’s a neat comparison:

Vatnsleysufoss (Faxi)
Faxafoss or Faxifoss was our last stop – more of a side stop. It was another pretty fall. Small, but wide.

There are Icelandic horses and sheep along most roads in Iceland. We stopped to visit with a few of the local horses.


We headed back to Reykjavik, had a bite to eat, and walked around town. More on Reykjavik in a later post.

Time to hit the hay because we have yet an earlier start tomorrow (7AM) for the South Coast tour.

Happy RTW Travels!