Since I was in Iceland I wanted to make the most of the time that I had. There were a couple of tours that I could consider, but it seemed that the most comprehensive one would be the Classic Golden Circle Tour. It is a full day tour that leaves from Reykjavik and explores a number of locations in the area known as the Golden Circle.
Golden Circle Tour
It is a full day tour that leaves from Reykjavik and explores a number of locations in the area known as the Golden Circle. The tour covers some of my favourite things including waterfalls and churches but also stops at geysers and craters.
Þingvellir (Thing Fields)
The tour started with a visit to an area known to the locals as Þingvellir, which roughly translates as Thing Fields. The valley that forms this area is known as a rift and is located directly above two continental tectonic plates. The two plates that meet below this area are the Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate.
Due to the location above the tectonic plates, the area is prone to volcanic and earthquake activity. However, beyond the sudden major events, the land separates by about 2cm every year.
As you walk down into the valley you pass through a fissure in the rock. The fissure has been created be the land separation mentioned above.
The location is also an important landmark in Iceland’s history. The photo below shows the area known as Law Rock in Þingvellir (Thing Fields) was the site for the Alþingi (assembly). The location was a part of Iceland’s Supreme Legislative and Judicial Authority for almost 300 years from its establishment in 930 AD. The Law Rock was the focal point of Alþingi and a natural platform for holding speeches.
Lunch And Gullfoss
Even though I had eaten a good breakfast I was quite glad to hear the next stop gave an opportunity for lunch. There were not many options available, but as I like to say travelling is for trying new experiences. My choice end up being the traditional Icelandic Meat Soup, with bread rolls. It did taste quite good and there was nothing left by the time I was finished.
Once lunch was finished it was time to take a walk to the nearby waterfall. Known as Gullfoss or Golden Falls with two main drops. The first part is somewhat stepped, while the second drop of about 32m is into a deep ravine. There is a huge volume of water passes over the falls at a normal time, and even greater in times of flood.
The view of the falls from above gives a very dramatic look, and to some extent shows the scale. However, it is also possible to walk down and onto the rocky outcropping to the left of the falls. If you look closely you can see people standing right next to the falls.
The walk down to the falls is rather interesting in itself. There is a field and fence along the path that is covered in ice. The ice is the result of the spray created by the waterfall raising into the air and subsequently landing here. With the cool temperatures in the area, the water turns to ice as it lands.
Iceland is home to one of the world’s most famous Geysers. The Strokkur Geyser is located in one of the active geothermal areas in Haukadalur. There are two geysers at the location, one which is now dormant and no longer erupts. While the other Strokkur Geyser erupts with some regularity every 5-8 minutes. It is very interesting to see the geyser erupt, which it did two or three times while the tour was here.
There was a brief unscheduled stop at another waterfall that the bus was passing. Faxi Waterfall is nowhere near as impressive as Gullfoss. But it does create a beautiful interruption to the otherwise barren landscape.
While visiting Europe I have seen a great many churches. However, I did not expect to see one in the countryside of Iceland. Skàlholt Cathedral is the most recent building of this cathedral which was built here in 1963. It is not a large church but has many beautiful stained glass windows along with a mosaic over the altar.
There was another short photo stop as Crater Keriõ, which formed 6500 years ago. The crater is about 55 meters deep, with about 7-10 metres of water forming a crater lake.
Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant
The final stop of the day was at one of the Geothermal Power Plants near Reykjavik, the Hellisheiði Geothermal Power Plant.
This plant is rather new only commencing operation in 2006 and has been expanded in 3 stages to currently produce 303MW of electricity and 133 MW of Hot Water, as of October 2011. When the final stage is complete the plant’s target capacity is 400MW which would rank it as the largest Geothermal Power Plant in the world.
The tour today around the Golden Circle turned out to be a lot more comprehensive than I expected. The commentary provided was excellent and very informative. Even though it was a guided tour and we were on the move most of the day it did not seem rushed like other tours I have taken.