This was the day to take the Golden Circle route to view the famous attractions which we expected would be the destination for other tourists as well. And we were not wrong as we saw dozens of tourist buses in each of these attractions and parking in a couple of these areas turned out to be as bad an experience as parking in New York city!
It was a beautiful sunny day with no signs of the rain and wind of the previous day, still on the cold side however around 4C.
Thingvellir National Park
This park is a part of the Atlantic Ocean ridge that runs through Iceland because of which it features a unique ecosystem shaped by the erosion of the earth’s crust in the gorges and fissures. It is a haven for hikers in that there are numerous hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty.
It is in this area that the river Öxará plays a major role in this area making it a perfect place for settlement with pastures, firewood and water. And it has been place where numerous events related to the history of Iceland have taken place. Now being a national park, it is a protected area and extremely popular with tourists year around.
The waterfalls you see, flows from the north american plate at a higher level down into the ridge; the difference in the levels is accentuated by the canyon walls as one walks thru to the waterfalls. Apparently the falls has been manipulated in other words man-made to make it an impressive sight and that it is.
Geysir Hot Springs
This is approximately a one square mile geothermal field aligning with the Atlantic Ocean ridge, with a couple of active geysers, boiling mud pits etc. It is a certainly a popular area, where people are lined up waiting for the Strokkur geyser to spout hot water steam which happens once every minute or two. And as expected, the strong smell of sulfur is all around the area.
While it is a great spot to visit, I have to say though that this geyser pales in comparison to the geysers, hot springs, boiling mud pots etc. in America’s Yellow Stone park, which I have seen a few years ago. Yellowstone is sitting atop a super volcano and it is not surprise that this area and the Yellowstone feel similar.
To me this waterfall was the most impressive spot in the Golden Circle as you can experience in the video below. On the river Hvítá which is fed by the glacier Langjökull, it is an impressive falls with intensity close to the Niagara falls. With two stages, we could view the falls from numerous locations and levels (close to the water and from up above). Typical of such powerful falls, the water descends into Gullfossgjúfur canyon, a deep canyon more than 200 feet tall on either side.
Getting to the lower levels and close to the water means that you get drenched from the water spray; if you are planning to get close beware of this fact.
Our last stop for the day was the Kerig crater, a unique volcano with an aquamarine blue lake atop its caldera. When this volcano erupted 3000 years ago, the caldera did not blow out entirely but fell back to create this crater and over centuries the crater was filled with water forming this beautiful lake.
We hiked around the top of the crater getting a complete view of the crater and finally climbing down to the lake. There is a hiking path along the lake too, but having seen a couple of slip on that trail because of rains on the previous day, we decided not to hike but just enjoy the scenery.