A common way to spend a day in Iceland is driving the “Golden Circle” There are several attractions on this drive and one could easily spend a couple of days instead of just one on it.
Our first stop was Thingvellir, a national park and UNESCO world heritage site.
It’s an important site for two reasons:
First, in 930 the first seat of government was established here because it was at the intersection of all major trade routes on the island. Once a year, the chieftains of every family would gather here to resolve arguments, perform weddings and take care of any other issues which might have come up during the previous year. As you can imagine, this gathering took the shape of a celebration which lasted several weeks and allowed for people to meet and trade with each other. It was called the “Law Rock” since parliament had its seat here until 1798. Iceland gained its independence from Denmark in 1944 and Icelanders gather here at Thingvellir to celebrate that occurrence every 17th of June since.
The second reason is geological. The North American and European plates meet, or rather drift apart, here. They are drifting apart at a rate of about 2.5 centimeters per year and this can be clearly seen in the huge cracks they cause, some of which could be called canyons.
A popular activity is to take a dive in the lake to the Silfra fissure to observe the plates.
One could easily spend an entire day just hiking thru this park as it holds natural beauties such as Oxararfoss
and of course it’s share of wildlife.
We then continued on to Haukadalur which is famous for being the site of the OG=original geyser. (“No! Mom, don’t try to be hip.” went ignored) All other geysers take their name from this one.
Unfortunately the “Geyser” is no longer spewing hot water and steam but a much bigger geyser, or so we were told, is now taking up the slack: Strokkur.
Only from this far can its height be appreciated.
This is the view on the other side which rewards those who make the strenuous climb to the top of the mount.
After having what must have been the grossest and most expensive hamburgers in the entire world, we continued our drive on to Gulfoss, a massive waterfall which drops 32 meters down.
The story of how Gulfoss came to be is quite interesting. Back in 1907, an Englishman wanted to harness the power of the waterfall and leased it from the farmer who owned the land. One of the farmer’s daughters loved the waterfall so much that she protested this contract and even went to court to plead for it to be voided. The legal battle lasted years and Sigridur (the farmer’s daughter) threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if the Englishman went ahead with construction, very dramatic. One must be in awe at Sigridur’s strength of character back in those days. Eventually, Sigridur lost her case but it was moot as the Englishman lost the concession for failure to pay rent! Iceland began waking up to the importance of protecting its natural beauties because of Sigridur and she is now thought of as Iceland’s first naturalist.
Our last stop of the day was Kerid, a small caldera in a collapsed volcano. As the boys threw rocks into the lake, we watched the sun fall.
Or rather just diminish a bit because it doesn’t actually set until almost midnight and is up by 2am. Those few nighttime hours are quite bright as well. Our sleep has been suffering due to the lack of darkness, somehow light always filters into our rooms. The weather has been all kinds of crazy, we’ve had hot, short-sleeves kind of mornings, only to have to wear thermal underwear in the afternoon. The bedrooms are usually too hot but the toilets too cold. This place is absolutely gorgeous but I surely wouldn’t survive a winter.