This post continues about my brief solo trip to Iceland in January.
Thursday, January 10, 2019 (Day 3)
The third full day in Iceland, I went on a day tour of the the Golden Circle.This trip would have been ideal to do first (but wasn’t possible), since it had the best general background about Iceland. On the other hand, Thursday ended up being the nicest/clearest day of the the trip, so in the end, I was happy about the relative timing. This was my favorite day of the trip.
Leaving in the morning, the van picked me up around 10am. We drove for about an hour before the first stop, towards Thingvellir National Park. Along the way, the guide gave a lot of informative history and background about Iceland, and did so in a fairly interesting manner.
Sunrise along the way
A little after 11am, just short of the main Thingvellir National Park spot, our driver pulled the van over at a stop. We ended up watching the sun rise for a little while over the lake there – it was a really nice view on a clear day. Sunrise was also around 11:06am (sunset was 4:05pm).
Our driver explained to us that this lake is where the North American continental plate meets the European continental plate – Iceland is at this junction, and has lots of geothermal activity because of this. Also, the lake gets roughly 2cm wider every year due to the plates drifting slowly apart. Apparently, it’s also a popular place to go on a scuba diving tour – folks can say that they swam by the junction of the plates, and the water is supposed to be very clear there.
Thingvellir National Park
We continued along to the sites in Thingvellir national park, as our driver explained the significance of this area in Iceland’s history – they held their first parliament there in the 900’s, and this is also where Iceland declared independence in 1944.
Beyond that, the landscape was quite scenic. The guide told us that some scenes from Game of Thrones was filmed here, and it was an interesting mix of rocks and lakes and streams. We had some time to wander around this area.
After driving for a while longer, we approached some geothermal areas. Throughout Iceland, they apparently use hot water from the ground both to produce electricity as well as to heat homes. He took us to a lake with a neighboring small geothermal plant – there was even steam coming up from the ground there.
A bit further, and we made it to Geysir, where we get the word “geyser” from. Geysir actually only erupts infrequently, but the geyser next to it has small eruptions every 5-8 minutes. This was a neat area. We also had some time for (a late) lunch here.
From there, we kept driving until we reached Gullfoss Waterfall. This one was quite impressive as well. Some of the trails were a tad icy, and they had closed one of them, but there were still plenty of angles from which to view the falls here.
At this point, the sun had just set, and this tour stopped at the “Secret Lagoon.” It wasn’t particularly secret, but it wasn’t too crowded and was fairly nice. This stop was a feature of this particular “Hot” Golden Circle tour, and hence everybody had their swim suits. It made a nice ending of a great day.
The water was hot tub temperature (about 100 F, or 38 C), and had a slightly soapy, mineral feel to it. The bottom was actually a combination of black sand and black lava rocks, and was actually fairly pleasant to walk on.
Even though it was January in Iceland, everybody seemed quite toasty in the warm water, gazing at the steam rising from the water and the dusk-time sky and trees.
Back to Reykjavik
After a while to soak, it was time to ride back to Reykjavik. I think we must have arrived back around 6:30 or so, with time to get some dinner and browse the shops downtown.
One slight downer was that my Northern Lights tour (which had been canceled and rescheduled earlier in the week) was canceled again. This happened simply because the conditions were such that it would be unlikely to see anything. As a result, no Northern Lights for me this trip, but that’s how sometimes things are.
Regardless, I had a great time this day. I can see how if somebody just had a single day in Iceland, that seeing the Golden Circle would be an excellent initial view of the Iceland landscape.