Published: February 24th 2012February 23rd 2012
Golden Circle tour, this is the tour that I recommend for everyone who comes to Iceland. If you only stop for a week-end, this tour is ideal. If you come for a week or ten days, this tour is the first one to do, I recommend. If you ask why then the answer is: this tour has diverse landscape and the major events in the Icelandic history have taken place in the areas we go through.
Often I am asked if I can pick people up at the international airport and do a daytour before going to hotel. In such cases I usually start the tour with going to a bakery in a town called Hveragerdi. A pretty little town by the roots of a mountain full of hotsprings. One such tour I did at the end of December 2011. The weather looked OK when we set off, drift of snow here and there. A bit cold too and the roads were icy. Good to have an experienced driver in such conditions. The Golden Circle takes us to a small crater which is (hopefully) extinct, to an area which used to be the capital of Iceland 300 years ago, a
waterfall called Faxi and looks like a maine of a horse – hence the name. At the geyser area it had started to snow and blow so my tourists didn’t stop for long. The waterfall we call the Golden waterfall is always beautiful, but the view this time was not so good because of snowfall. On we went to Thingvellir, the Parliament Plaines but as we drove across a plateau before getting to the Plaines it had really started to snow heavily so that the view out of our vehicle was zero. Then as we were stepping out of the car to look over the rift valley in the area, it cleared up! Good for us as the view is great. However, we saw this dark cloud in the west so we didn’t stop for long, wanted to get back to Reykjavik before this cloud sent a load of snow on us. There is mountain road to cross before getting to Reykjavik and as we got closer to it we saw some small rental cars stuck in snow. I was sure we could make it across the snow-band on the road but then some superjeeps appeared out of the snowy
wall in front of us and stopped to tell us that the road was completely blocked by snow, we’d have to turn around. Which we did, took us an extra hour to get back to Reykjavik.
Next time I had a Golden Circle Tour with tourists was in January. This time it was raining and foggy. Icy roads and by icy I mean like a skating rink. No view so my passengers asked if there were mountains in Iceland. I told them we were in fact surrounded by mountains right now. At the geyser called Strokkur my tourists only stopped for one gush, rained too much for them to watch another even though the gushes are every 5 minutes. At the Golden waterfall the paths were so icy and slippery that my tourists didn’t dare step out of the vehicle. Well, one of them did, crawling over to see the waterfall, took some photos and showed the others. The volume of water in the waterfall that day was tremendous.
And now it is February – how is it possible that the year started a week ago, or so it feels, and yet it is already February. A month
My tourists from China
today seems to run by as a week did when I was 17-18 years old. Oh well, this time some Chinese wanted several tours and the Golden Circle is one of them. I guess I recommended that. They also wanted to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), the Blue Lagoon and perhaps yet another tour to see the Glacier Lagoon with all the icebergs. We agreed that I was to pick them up at the international airport and go straight to hunt for the Northern Lights. According to the weather forecast that night seemed the only chance for them to see the lights while staying here. The plane landed just before 2 o’clock in the morning so we were looking for the lights just after that. I had seen on the weather forecast that the best chance should be in the west, clear sky there. I drove around, no lights to be seen. So I t hought I could show them something in the darkness (!) that was worth seeing – like the ghost’s hotspring or the bridge between two tectonic plates. I stopped at the bridge, stepped out and there they were right above me. Green, sparkling Aurora Borealis,
flying through the sky. Everyone rushed out of the car, the tripod taken out of the car too but it was a bit difficult to set the tirpod and when that was done the Northern Lights had disappeared. On we went, hunting the lights again and at another stop I saw the lights in the northeast. Stopped, out with the tripod and the lights flickered away to the west. This time my dear tourist managed to get the lights on the camera. Good luck, I thought, now I don’t need to go another night with them as I had promised in case we couldn’t see them that night. After that we went to the hotel in Reykjavik, this little city which has a party downtown every Friday and Saturday night, a party that I am not proud of. We decided to do the Golden Circle on the Monday, that way we would all get some sleep and for them some time to look at the city without the party going on.
Monday morning I was back at the hotel and now the weather was great, calm, partly cloudy and the sun looked promising. We started with going to the seafront in Reykjavik and there some photos before heading on to the Parliament Plaines. I like that sound people make when I show them my country in such a beautiful day. There was snow covering all mountains, the world was white, clean, so pretty. No, we don’t have many trees in Iceland and that is why we have this joke: “what do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forrest? You stand up.” Our trees are small. I once was told that perhaps we in Iceland should not plant trees, don’t cover you country in trees – this is one of the thing that makes Iceland special, the view is never blocked by trees. That is a thought!
Next stop this time was in a little village which during the winter is a school village but in the summer a holiday resort. The schools are boarding schools so easy to change them into a hotel in the summer. I drove down to the lake to show them the hotspring which heats the lake so partly it is warm. Even as we walked to the lake in this cold weather, snow on the ground, steam coming up from the ground and the lake was warm enough to bathe in it. This was like stepping into a wonderworld, standing in the snow surrounded by steam. I forgot my camera so I didn’t catch that magic moment – perhaps later. My tourists were happy, taking loads of photos of themselves in the steam.
On we went, horses everywhere. Could I stop where horses are? Yes, of course. The horses were in the field, why did I not try to find some horses that were closer? Wait, go to the fence and see what happens. All the horses came to the fence as my tourists approached them. Hoping for bread which we didn’t have.
Next stop was by the geysers. Shall we hurry? Will we get a photo of one gushing? Don’t worry, Strokkur gushes every 5 minutes or so. And, I said, try to get the blue bubble just before it gushes – the blue bubble is the pretty part of it. I walked with them to the geyser area just to make sure they’d see the other hotsprings, not only Strokkur. Blesi is a hotspring which is so charming with its blue colour and the other part of it where you can see the shaft into the ground.
Now we drove over to the Golden waterfall. The land white and the waterfall partly frozen. What a great landscape and how fantastic to show my country in weather like this. Of course I also stopped by the other waterfall, the small one Faxi with its salmon steps. Here I got another question: Does the salmon really manage to jump up such a waterfall? How does the salmon know it can go through the steps instead of jumping up the waterfall?
On way back to Reykjavik we stopped by the crater, I pointed out to them the holiday home in between the rocks, one built for a mother-in-law and on we drove all the way to the Blue Lagoon which never fails to impress. By the end of the day my English speaking Chinese said – Wow, I didn’t know Iceland was so beautiful. I always get a bit shy when I hear this so my reply is: yes, Iceland is different – that’s for sure. And the day after we had a full day going to the Glacier Lagoon. To do that in once day is difficult, a tour of 14 hours – but that is another story to tell later.