Friday, October 28, 2011

Iceland's Golden Circle: Sites & Scenery

Iceland was by far the easiest leg of the trip to plan. We had only two full days there, and we knew exactly what we wanted to do with them: the Blue Lagoon one day, and the Golden Circle tour the next.

The Golden Circle tour is a popular route through southern Iceland that often includes (at the very least) Gullfoss waterfall, the Geysir hot spring area and the Thingvellir historical site. It's possible to make the circle on your own with a rental car, but we took the easy way out and booked an 8-hour bus trip with Reykjavik Excursions.

Gullfoss, or "Golden Falls," was my favorite stop. Think Niagara Falls, only more dramatic since the waters drop down several layers and you can stand on rocks so close you can practically touch the cascades.

As its name suggests, Geysir was the first geyser discovered and lent its name to all others. One of them in the area still blows its lid every 10 minutes or so. Although we saw it pop its top about five times, I feel like I actually only really saw it a couple of times -- so much of the time I was trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to catch it on film. Paul evidently has better reflexes since his was the best photo.

Paul's photo -- the best!

Waiting for the perfect shot.

Thingvellir  is a national park where Iceland's parliament was established in 930. It's also a meeting spot of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, so geographically we were on two continents.

Each stop and all of the landscape we saw from the bus confirmed that the best word to describe Iceland's scenery is dramatic. There was plenty of greenery, but it was combined with mountains, fog, alternating sunny and dark gray skies, and some of the clearest water I've ever seen. Dramatic really is the only word.

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