The Golden Circle of Iceland

The first morning was a bit rough for us - now the real adventure began and it started out pretty darn cold. Camping rules in Iceland are pretty relaxed and you can camp for a single night anywhere on unbuilt land as long as you do not harm vegetation and there is no campsite nearby. So the night before we randomly located ourselves a spot between snow covered mountains on route 36 towards Þingvellir. We went to bed cold, having difficulties getting warm which affected our needs of a good nights sleep. I was twisting and turning in my sleeping bag, having momentary claustrophobic panic attacks, whenever I could not locate the well-tightened face hole. Due to the time difference our inner clock had us waken at 5AM. Everything went slow that morning, in fact too slow. Our fingers were almost stiff frozen by the time we were ready to pack down the tent. First lesson learned: Get up and get out, fast!


We took a drive through the Northern part of the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route due to its close proximity to Reykjavík. We stopped at the most popular spots: Þingvellir National Park where the first parliament is, the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur with shooting geysers, and the gigantic Gullfoss waterfall. If you are staying in Reykjavík or only travelling in Iceland for a few days, this rute is definitely a golden opportunity to experience many of Island's diverse geological wonders and it can easily be done as a day trip.

Þingvellir National Park
First stop was Þingvellir National Park, which is of historical importance as the first Icelandic parliament was established here back in 930. No parliament buildings remain, however, a flagpole has been erected near the plausible location. Þingvellir is furthermore a remarkable geological site and withholds the mid-Atlantic rift, a tectonic plate boundary along the floor of the Atlantic ocean that forms the longest mountain range in the world, and that separates the Eurasian and North American plates. Here we were only standing on the North American plate, but on the very last day, we quickly passed by a spot, that allowed us to jump from one plate to the other. Intriguingly, the tectonic plates still separate from each other, causing Iceland to grow approximately 2 cm per year! Þingvellir National Park was a beautiful morning seight with its red brownish golden colors and we basically had everything to ourselves. Next to the visitor center at Hakið you will find a viewing platform, which gives you a great outlook over the low flat land, that is the actual rift between the two plates. We followed the paved way through Almannagja rift and crossed the river to get to the white buildings; the church and manor houses.


Geothermally active valley of Haukadalur

A short drive took us to the next big attraction within the Golden Circle. Haukadalur Geothermal Area is home to some of Iceland's most iconic features, its geysers - underground springs that send jets of boiling water and steam up into the air. Due to Iceland's high geothermal activity we expected an all-around stench of sulfur, but actually this was not the case. Only near the geysers we had an occasional breeze of rotten-egg-burps. The famous Geysir, which has given name to all hot springs over the world, has gone dormant. Instead we had the chance to photograph the Strokkur geyser, which certainly has become the diva of the show. Eruptions are reliable and she puts on a performance every 5 to 10 minutes, shooting hot water and an occasional rock to heights of up to 30 metres. It is fascinating to think about the unseen and immense underground activity that actually takes place underneath the very ground we put our feet on every day. It is natural wonders like these that really puts the world into perspective.


Gullfoss waterfall

Gullfoss is a powerful double cascade, which is highly praised among visitors. It drops 32m, kicking up tiered walls of spray before thundering away down a narrow ravine. I loved that we catched a view of it, while snow and ice was still framing the waters; adding an additional roughness to the forceful powers of the waterfall. Due to ice we could not get right to the edge and let ourselves be overwhelmed by the colossal masses of water pounding its way forward - but it was still terrific.


During late afternoon snow now came drizzling down from the sky and we decided to treat ourselves the luxury to spend the night inside. The Hestheimar Guesthouse near Hella was the perfect place and we opted for the sleeping bag accommodation in the attic above the horse stable. We were greated by the family dog, a mud-covered friendly soul, who chased our car from the gravel road to the front door. Inside we were bid welcome with a hot cup of chocolate and homemade biscuits, as we chatted with the Czech receptionist about Icelandic weather and Iceland as a travel and working destination.

Before bedtime it was time for a dip in Hestheimar's steaming hot pot. Actually, this was our only encounter with these famous outdoor baths. I was expecting them to be scattered left and right, bumping into them with ease - but that was not the case. Our dream of transforming into bathing nymphs, who gracefully intertwined with the water of Iceland's natural pools, never really came to be. Nevertheless, at this moment, our bodies were soaking good and warm in the hot water as our eyes admired the snow-covered landscape while star-shaped snowflakes settled in our hair.

13 comments:

  1. Jeg har længe gerne ville til Island. Men wow, fik jeg lige endnu mere lyst til at tage afstedkommer efter at have set jeres billeder. Øh ja!! Det ser jo vildt fedt ud! Det har sikkert været endnu federe i virkeligheden! Gode billeder piger! Er specielt vild med dem hvor man virkelig kan se størrelsesforholdet mellem mennesker og naturen! :-)

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    1. Ups! Vi er lidt bagud med at svare tilbage, kan jeg se.

      Men ja absolut, det var rigtig fedt endelig at sætte sine ben på Island, når man nu har gået og drømt om det så længe! Du må virkelig se at få bestilt en billet snarest, Tine. Du vil ikke fortryde det! Og hvis du mangler to rejsemakkere, så ved du jo,hvor du kan søge - haha ;)

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  2. Truly amazing photographs and inspiring writings guys. Keep it up. :-)
    Now I got this feeling that, I want to walk along that Þingvellir National Park walkways in the rain, it would be great. :D :-)

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    1. The national park would probably leave you with a different experience depending on which time of year as well as weather you decide to visit it in. Rain could be a fun and different way to take in the nature of the park :)

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  3. Island er virkelig vakkert! Veldig spennende natur og ikke minst alle naturfenomenene de har der oppe! Færøyene først og Island etterpå... dere har virkelig valgt ut de vakreste destinasjonene også da!

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    1. Når det gælder skøn natur, så er Norden virkelig ikke et dårligt sted at gå på opdagelse. Har ufattelig meget lyst til at tage tilbage til både Færøerne og Island for at opleve mere! :) Men nu venter Sverige og Finland jo som de næste land. Håber virkelig også at Norge kan liste sig ind i rejseplanerne, så vi kan nå at komme forbi alle de nordiske lande i år :)

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  4. Åååå. jeg vil tilbake!!!

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  5. Åhhh kom lige i tanke om alle de uheldige omstændigheder der omgav Michelle de første par dage.... Et glemt pas, og en vandre støvle i min lægmuskel, og hvad var det nu mere? Synes der var mange flere :P
    Og lige et teknisk spørgsmål: Når nu har billeder der sidder ved siden af hinanden, fx liges om de små geysere billeder, er de så sat sammen på forhånd eller kan i pille så meget ved bloggen at i kan bestemme hvordan billederne sidder ved siden af hinanden?

    Ihh vi skal snart have en billede bytte dag, hvor jeg laver ost-med-ost. Men er bare så langt bag ud med mine billeder :S

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    1. Der var også en forvildet albue i din pande, der udløste en mindre uheldig lyd fra dig ude på toilettet hos Hestheimar. Og den første aften hvor jeg fandt på den geniale "her-har-jeg-været-på-toilet-derfor-ligger-der-en-sten"-trick for så at vende en sten og finde et styk gammel serviet under den ;S

      Vi sætter billederne sammen i redigeringsprogrammet. Men i princippet kunne vi godt kode os til at stille billederne ved siden af hinanden :)

      Vi er også langt fra færdig med billederne! Tror vist ikke det haster med en ost-med-ost dag endnu XD

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  6. Så fantastiske bilder! Og det ser ut som om dere har hatt det helt fantastisk på tur! Nå fikk jeg utrolig lyst til å oppleve Island, så det spørs om ikke jeg må reise ved første og beste anledning.... Liker veldig godt ideen deres om å oppleve de nordiske landene altså :) Keep it going!

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    1. Så mange tak for roserne, Christina! Vi havde en rigtig dejlig tur og kan kun anbefale dig, at du får bestilt den billet til Island i en fart - haha ;) Du vil hvertfald ikke komme til at fortryde det. Det er virkelig flot deroppe og der er så mange muligheder for gode oplevelser, så man næsten tror det er løgn. So far elsker vi også vores lille nordiske eventyr. Sverige og Finland står på programmet i juli - mangler stadig at få klemt Norge ind et sted :')

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  7. Iceland looks amazing! It seems like the place to be right now. Great photos, this country looks amazing.

    Happy travels :)

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