We kept the so called Golden Circle for our last full day on Iceland. The golden circle features the waterfall Gulfoss, Strokkur, Iceland’s only Geyser and the historically relevant Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvetlir).
I was expecting another top-nodge day, but I have to say that while it was a nice tour it did fall short of my expectations and is not a good representation of Iceland. I found the tour of Reykjanes the next day to be much more beautiful and to reflect the personality of Iceland much better. I am sure if we’d started out with the golden circle, we’d have been blown away, but with six days of all the wonders of Iceland on our backs, it failed to excite me at least.
We did the golden circle “the wrong way around” as we started out from Hella, not from Reykjavik. Our first stop was the Gulfoss, a big waterfall that falls into a canyon in two big steps. Coincidentially we had previously noticed that the way which led up to Gulfoss kept going on into the highlands of which we had had a small taste so far and were hungering for more. So after a discussion on the previous night it was agreed that we’d take the small detour of 200km up to Hveravellir to discover once more the stunning and sparse landscape of the highlands.
I had done my best to research the road and found many sites on the internet saying that the road was in good condition and all rivers had been bridged. A follow up enquiry at the information desk at Gulfoss taught us that the road was easy, and that there was only a small part at the beginning was difficult because it had many curves in them. So we decided to tempt our luck and try to drive up. We soon learned that what is difficult to an Icelandic may not appear difficult to us and vice versa. We never quite identified the “difficult part with the curves”, but we suddenly found ourselves in front of water that was more than knee-deep and nowhere to drive around it.
I’m not sur whether this simply did not qualify as river because it was to shallow for the “real SUV drivers” or if was over-looked when everybody said that all water had been bridged, in any case it took us by surprise and we sat in front of it slightly stumped as to what to do next. While I was reiterating what google had said about “safely crossing a ford” and my sister was still debating whether to turn around or not, my mum, as the driver, suddenly took action and hit the gas. With a lot of heart and the desperate desire to “just make it through” we hit the water, which splattered onto our windshield and left us almost blinded. But there was no stopping us now, the food glued to the gas pedal she kept going (steadily) towards the safe shore on the other side. After what seemed like seconds, but was probably less than one, we were back out of the water and now had a neatly clean car. Not for long though, the road wasn’t tarred and it hadn’t rained in weeks.
After a short drive we then reached Hveravellir, another field of sofataras of Hveravellir, where an historic couple of outcasts (whose names I’ve conveniently forgotten) once lived and managed to survive the cold and long winters for several years. Hveravellir offers some nice “hot tubs” of almost a hundred degrees in beautiful colours, including in a lovely light blue. The thing I found the most fascinating though was the alien face shown on the right . It reminded me of Jabba the Hutt. It is actually another hot tub, which will spit out boiling water on occasions, so it’s better not to get too close.
We had plenty of adventures getting to Hveravellir, but the time to return was approaching, and with that the ford crossing again. Another thing that was approaching was a snow storm. We had already noticed some snow lying in the curves on our way there, but now it was also falling from above. The tension rose… By the time we reached the crossing, the snow storm had climaxed into a rather unimpressive but constant drizzle of snow flakes. With the knowledge that we had already overcome this obstacle once before we took this added challenge without a blink of the eye! The snow storm soon realized that he was no match for us and turned off left. We were all a bit relieved, but not for long as we saw a sand storm slowly forming at the horizon. Looking at this new challenge, we decided the wisest thing to do would be to follow the friendly sign on the right hand side of the road advertising hot coffee and cake.
Half an hour later the sand storm was gone and we drove back to Gulfoss and then continued on to the next stop on the golden circle: The geysir. The geysir is easy to spot, it’s the only basin around which tons and tons of people are standing with their camera in hands waiting for the eruption and the perfect shot. Nevermind the fact that Strokkur goes up almost 30meters and there’s no way you can get it onto your camera if you stand less than a meter away. Until a few hundred years ago Strokkur’s bigger brother would also erupt regularly, but now it (apparently) only erupts once every hundred years. Of course I secretely hoped that the 100 years might be up exactly when we visited, but it just wasn’t case. So we watched Strokkur shoot up into the air a few times and then we moved on to our final stop Þingvellir.
Þingvellir was somewhat of a disappointment. This is supposed to be the meeting point of all the most important community leader of ancient Iceland, where laws were decided and people were cast out if they had done something wrong. But when you read the boards carefully, you will come to realize that while Þingvellir as a place definitely existed, but that nobody remembers where it was and that it probably looked like the place you’re currently looking at. While they are not sure that this is the spot where the law-making organs of Pre-Christian societies met, they are however sure that this is the spot where law-breaking women were drowned, burned or stoned to death. You name it, they did it there. Not really a place I needed to visit, in retrospect…