Iceland: Wild and wonderful
The first full day I spent outside of Reykjavik was the Golden Circle Tour with Reykjavik Excursions. This tour included a stop at a geothermal greenhouse (not pictured but interesting), the Geysir geothermal area, Thingvellir national park, and Gullfoss (a waterfall). I’m not featuring Gullfoss today because I am saving the 3(!) waterfalls I saw for a separate post.
Reykjavik Excursions allows you to leave from their central bus station or to be picked up at your hotel. Since I was staying in an Airbnb, I chose to be picked up at the nearest hotel. They were right on time and their buses are comfortable, clean, and the guides knowledgeable and friendly.
After leaving the city, our first stop was a Friedheimar cultivation center, which had a geothermal greenhouse where cucumbers and tomatoes are grown. It was interesting and the tomato soup was delicious. There were also Bloody Marys - and as our guide mentioned “you’re on vacation!” but it was too early without a real breakfast for me to have one. I bet they were delicious though because the tomatoes were fresh, delicious, and pesticide-free. On this stop and from our guide, I did learn that 25% of Iceland is heated with geothermal heat. It was not a stop I was expecting, but honestly an educational and interesting stop before getting to nature.
Second stop was the Geysir geothermal area, where the famous Strokkur Geysir blows its top every 5-7 minutes. The area surrounding the geysirs is red clay-looking earth, very green vegetation that reminded me of succulents, and steamy pools of very hot water. It was amazing to get walk among geothermal pools and see geysirs steaming. It made me think that this was how the earth was during pre-historic times. After watching Strokkur blast into the air multiple times, and getting completely soaked by it once (along with about 100 other people), we made our way to the visitors center/restaurant/rest area for some lunch and a break from the wind.
After digging into the delicious lamb meatball soup for lunch and having a quick rest, we boarded the bus to move on to Gullfoss and then to Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellir is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates have been separating for thousands of years, and where the original Icelandic Parliament met in the 900′s AD. The acoustics between the rocks are fantastic and it makes sense that it would be a great outdoor space for a large group to meet, such as a Parliament. In the photos, the North American side is the taller wall of rocks. The hike up from the bottom to the top of the rocks for the view of Lake Thingvellir was a bit steep and the tour guide encouraged those with heart issues or health problems to stay on the bus and ride to the top.
The views from the top were spectacular. Seeing the lake, the mountains, experiencing the WIND; Iceland is like another planet once you get outside of Reykjavik. This tour really felt like seeing Earth in its unspoiled state. So much of the country still seems so wild and untouched - I can’t imagine what the northern part of the island is like, where the population is much more sparse.