Still trying to get caught up, so here is a look at what we did yesterday in Iceland.
The Golden Circle
A little background for those that aren’t in the know about the Golden Circle. This consists of 3 famous landmarks in the interior of Iceland – Gullfoss, a gigantic waterfall, Geiser, where the name geyser comes from, so a huge boiling water spout and Thingvellir, which roughly translates to ‘Parliamentary Plains’, and is the origination of the Athing, the Icelandic Parliament.
After searching and searching on the interwebs for some sort of deal on the Golden Circle tour, we finally had settled on one company because it seemed reliable and big. Well, lucky for us, we have a great hostel staff who pointed us in the right direction to Bustravel, which is way cheaper than any other company out there, plus they were running a summer special on their site. We wound up spending 14 400 ISK or about $120 for both of us for the tour.
So yesterday, we set our alarms and woke up at 7am to make sure that we met the bus on time (since we have been sleeping in way too late here). After eating a delicious breakfast of the Icelandic yogurt, skyr, and toast, we headed out and were picked up right from our hostel. That’s what I call sweet service.
We headed out to the east a bit and the tour driver took us on a few detours to see different things that we would not have known about or had the chance to see.
The first detour was stopping at this small town where a destructive 6.3 earthquake hit in 2008 and inside if a strip mall, they have a small museum dedicated to it along with the fissure from it. It was incredible to have it immortalized in such a fashion.
The next stop was to this church and excavation site to show us what life was like for Icelanders in the Middle Ages. We walked into the church, with beautiful glass windows and immediately went down into the crypt. Yep, that is us. Sometimes, you are lucky when you go down a creepy flight of stairs to a dark basement and other times, well, you’re probably filming a horror movie. We were lucky though. We found some ancient relics, a stone casket and a secret entrance from the church to the school. Unfortunately after a quick few minutes of searching, we were ushered back on the bus for our next stop and probably most explosive: Geiser.
These certainly were interesting…and smelly. The bus driver dropped us off in the tourist shop parking lot for a glorious hour and 20 minutes for exploring, plus George’s favorite activity of lunch. We walked across the street to where the geysers are, most are just small pockets of bubbling water and then there is the great geyser of Strokkur which erupted 6 times while we were there, or at least that we noticed. Geysir, for which all of the geysers are named after, is a great, big, steaming, bubbling pit of water. Apparently, after an earthquake in the region in 2000, Geysir stopped erupting and has now handed that task over to his brother. Shame that we didn’t get to see it erupt, but still a great area to check out and get some great pictures. In order to save a bit of money, we decided to pack our simple, but yummy lunch of smoked salmon, bread, butter and some popcorn as a snack. Lunch + snack probably cost us about 750 ISK or $6.25. After lunch, we browsed the shop full of overpriced wool sweaters, strange t-shirts and real fur stoles, of which we bought nothing.
It was a short bus ride from Geysir to Gullfoss and as soon as we stepped off our bus, we knew this was a sight not to be missed. It was so windy at the top of the waterfall, I was practically being blown away. We snapped a few pics from that angle, and then headed down the stairs to get a closer glimpse. It was definitely less windy, but more wet. Gullfoss is a two-tiered waterfall, so you spayed multiple times walking up. Lucky for us, it was a beautiful, sunny day out, so we were to catch a rainbow over the falls. Great photo opps, but I highly recommend wearing a waterproof jacket because we were pretty damp after viewing it that close.
One of the more exciting things for us to see was the glacier off in the distance. We have never seen one before and even though we weren’t that close, just the enormity of it, took our breathes away. There was also a small corral of Icelandic horses, who are a little shorter and stockier than the typical American horse. They were absolutely beautiful and the herder dog was just too funny running circles around the horses. Almost as soon as we arrived, we were taken to our final destination of the day: Thingvellir.
This was probably my favorite stop of the day. I don’t know if it was because the landscape was gorgeous or if it was because it was sunny and warm. We only got 30 minutes to roam around, so we wanted to make the most of it. At the entrance from the parking lot, there is this incredible river that is so deep, yet so clear that you can see down to the bottom. We then zoomed up this trail to read about Thingvellir and its history. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 AD and they used to hold trials and make new laws every June during this 2 week period. If there was any place I wish we could have had more time, it was here.
We were then dropped off directly back at our hostel around 4:30pm so we could figure what we wanted to do for the rest of the evening.
I sat and wrote a couple of blog posts to catch up and then we headed out to,grab some dinner. We decided on Hamborgarabùllan, something similar to a Wendy’s, but it was a big meal and cheap for Icelandic standards at a bargain price of 2 980 ISK or about $25. Yeah, not doing that again. We then headed back to the hostel and decided that since it was Saturday night that we should go out and grab a drink. We hit the main street, Laugavegur, and found the appropriately named Lebowski Bar, where I got a glass of white wine and George got a light lager for 2 150 ISK. We nursed those drinks while listening to typical American 50’s diner music and soaking up what a typical Icelander does on a weekend night. We had a great time, finally going to bed around 2am.
I definitely recommend having at least one night out to check out the crazy nightlife and warm yourself up a bit.