The Golden Circle

DAY 3 – SEPT 10TH, 2010

It was a Friday and we were still pinching ourselves at the idea of being in Iceland.  Sandholt Bakeri had provided a loaf of amazing bread and local blueberry jam for breakfast. We added to the gastro goodness with a bowl of cornflakes and incredible Scandinavian yogurt, one of our favorite international foods. Why is yogurt not packed with sugar so difficult to find in the United States?

Whenever we travel, we grow in appreciation for food; good food. The kind of food that leaves you physically and almost spiritually satisfied and closer to the culture. Why in the U.S. do we have to create flavors from corn? Or add chemical preservatives to just about everything?  It saddens us deeply, but makes us thankful and more determined to support the people and companies who are trying to make a good difference in our food choices.

My non-conformist pride mentioned earlier ended this Friday as we could not stay away from the most visited locations in Iceland: The Golden Circle. We traveled North and then East taking the 36 out of Reykjavik following the East to West route. We figured we’d avoid more tourist buses by mixing things up. We had also heard from a local shop owner that we would be surprised by how much we would enjoy  the National Park, Þingvellir, on the northern side of the circle. Indeed he was correct.

Þingvellir, is beautiful. It is also of great historical and geological significance. Not only is it the location of the world’s first parliament, but also home of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the North American and European plates meet and are continuing to pull apart at a rate of 2.5 centimeters per year.

It felt amazing to stand there amongst so much history. My feet in the footsteps of real Vikings partaking in a government no one had ever known before. I loved that the Prime Minister still has a residence in Þingvellir, uniting the past to the present.

We strolled and lingered in this ancient place for a long while. We took the main path through the ridge, better known as, Almannagjá Rift. If you continue through the rift to the base and continue on for about ¾ mile and climb the steps at the far end to rejoin the rift, you emerge in to another part of Eden. Pure, is the only way to describe it. Blue above, rolling thunder in the distance, and light perfectly shining down on moving water erupting over the edge of the rift. We just sat there, breathing it all in; never wanting to leave, Öxarárfoss but with rain threatening we departed, praying the images would be burned permanently in to our memories.

God certainly makes it clear in Iceland that we’ll not be threatened by flooding ever again; rainbows abound in this breathtaking country. Now we have fire to worry about…especially here. We’ve referred to Iceland as Yellowstone on steroids. The point of this little tangent is that for the first time ever, we observed out the car window, the end of a rainbow – literally in a field. We could see the colors extending in to the ground. Then as we passed, it disappeared. We’re sorry to say that there was no pot o’ gold or Lucky Charms for that matter. Beautiful, but disappointing to our prosperity dreams.

Continuing on the Golden Circle. We’d like to point out that in Iceland you may have a paved road for 10 kilometers, but it can abruptly change in to a fine black gravel road (there is a gravel road driving video if you take Iceland Air). The roads are certainly easy to use, but with such lonely environment in some locations a gravel road can make you wonder if you’re even moving in the right direction.  Signage eventually gives you confidence to carry on and carry on we did to Geysir.

Geysir is the location of the original geyser. The word geyser actually originated in Iceland, meaning ‘to gush’ in the old Viking language. The original Great Geysir, hasn’t exploded since 2003 or so. Strokkur, its nearby geyser counterpart, erupts very frequently and the small area they have roped off around this projectile H2O, still allows the tourist to be thoroughly doused in warm water.  It spouts off higher than Old Faithful! Besides a few coins in another geothermal pool (people drop coins in every pool they see in this country…tempted to jump in and pay for our trip multiple occasions) there wasn’t much else to see at this stop off.

The last big stop on the Golden Circle: Gulfoss. I thought Skógafoss was spectacular! I’m pretty sure there is little I love more on this planet than the power of rushing water and Gullfoss blew me away.  Two tiers of white-water barreling over rocks and ledges. We really appreciated that there was an ankle high rope provided at the edge of the rocks to prevent anyone from falling (or tripping?) in to the roaring falls.  Safety first folks!

Check out the gift shop at Gulfoss. They have really great sweaters for a lot of money. Varma is made in Iceland, 66 North is made in Latvia so don’t be tricked by their clever marketing. Buy local! After visiting the gift shop stand in the parking lot and check out the amazing mountain range. That big white thing making its way through the mountains to the ground; that’s a glacier.

The rest of the Golden Circle is farmland and in September, sheep round ups. A short little stop at the crater, Kerið completed our days journey. It was a pleasant drive home.

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