Iceland & the Golden Circle

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January 31st 2011
Published: May 2nd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

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London - Iceland



Small church in the centre of Thingvellir National Park
31/01/2011 - Iceland seemed to be the place that everyone really wants to go to but for whatever reason isn’t often considered when planning a holiday. We chose to visit during winter to try catch the Northern Lights and timed our visit when the Moon was darkest to increase our chances. Although after constantly checking the weather forecast it was likely to be a very cloudy, very wet week in Iceland. So today we headed to Heathrow Airport to catch our 1PM Icelandic Air flight into Keflavik International Airport, not far from Reykjavik, in the South-West of Iceland. After a smooth flight we took a shuttle bus into Reykjavik which dropped us at our hotel, Hotel Reykjavik in the early evening. It was quite chilly so far however no-where near as cold as I thought it was going to be. We checked in and shortly after headed further into town to find some dinner. We ended up at a steak restaurant and had an awesome meal though very expensive then eventually made our way back to the hotel and were asleep by 10PM.

01/02/2011 - After a good night’s sleep we were up early this morning and threw on layer

The first Christian Church in Iceland.
after layer ready for a trip to see some of the sights outside Reykjavik on a tour called the Golden Circle Tour. We had breakfast then headed to reception where our tour guide came shortly after. We drove East outside Reykjavik into the mountains where the further we went the more snow covered the landscape became. On the way to our first stop our guide pointed out massive snow covered volcanos and geothermal plants where the majority of Iceland’s electricity was produced. We briefly stopped at a large volcanic crater, just an example of how volatile this place can be then continued on. We had another short stop at one of the first churches in Iceland, it was an impressive place with fantastic views, and after a few photos and a toilet stop we were once again on our way. Next our guide took us to what he called a small waterfall, to us it was huge but compared to the Gullfoss which came later it really was very small. Slowly, one by one we walked down the slippery wooden walkway to get a better view. It was hilarious watching as if in slow motion, Hannah’s legs slide apart as

Stunning views of one of the largest waterfalls in Europe - the Gulfoss Waterfall.
she fell over, unfortunately I was too slow to get a photo, I couldn’t stop laughing. After a brief look at the roaring waterfall we carefully made our way back up the ramp and headed for our next stop.

It was a little while after we arrived at highly active Geyser and Haukadalur thermal area. Boiling pits of water created large clouds of smoke giving off the rotting egg smell of sulfur and methane. This site was actually where the word Geyser came from, unfortunately Geyser was now inactive but its smaller brother called Stokkar threw water up to 40 metres in the air every 6-7 minutes. While we waited for the big show it gave off a few very small bursts, nothing extraordinary but suddenly it exploded high up in the air, and what made it even more surreal is how close you could actually get to the boiling hot Geyser, a very impressive sight. It was so incredibly cold outside that even 4 layers and thermals were no match for the freezing cold. We made our way back to the van and had lunch at a small café where it was nice and warm. Lunch was nothing

The impressive Gulfoss Waterfall.
traditional or Icelandic, just a burger and chips. After a quick look around the souvenir shop here we jumped back into the warm van and continued on our way.

We spent the next hour driving to one of Europe’s largest waterfalls, the Gullfoss Waterfall. Before we had even arrived we could see it up ahead, it was massive. We stopped at a lookout point where the deafening roar of this huge waterfall was just stunning, watching it was mesmorising. There was a path which lead down to the rocks in front of the waterfall however it was closed due to it being so slippery this time of year. However funnily enough our tour guide said it was ‘just a suggestion’ and insisted we go experience it up close, despite the ‘Danger’ warnings. An Australian girl also on the tour and myself were the only people brave enough to face the path, Hannah wouldn’t have any of it. We started slowly down the path holding onto the rope for dear life, but found it wasn’t really slippery at all, it was only when we reached the rocks when it became extremely slippery. Being so close to the waterfall was incredible,

The Strokkur Geyser erupts every 10 - 15 minutes.
it was so loud and extremely cold. So cold was it here that the spray from the waterfall would freeze on the opposite side of the cliff creating large sheets of solid ice. Shortly after we very slowly made our way back up the path, to the top lookout point, another beautiful view overlooking the massive waterfall.

Our final stop for the day was at Thingvellir National Park, which is where in 930AD the first parliament in the world was created by Vikings. It was not only a very historical place to visit but an incredibly beautiful part of the country. It was absolutely freezing here, everywhere covered in thick snow but we braved the cold and had a small walk through the picturesque landscape. Small rivers zigzagged around a track which led us up to volcanic cliffs and another impressive waterfall, sometimes known as the drowning pit. We made our way up to one of the best lookout points I’ve ever been to, overlooking all of Thingvellir National Park and the surrounding snow covered mountains, it was just stunning. The land looked so flat from here with very few trees which made for unobstructed views. All trees in

Breathtaking views of Thingvellir National Park.
Iceland where actually planted by man as our tour guide explained it’s a miracle that anything grows in Iceland having volcanic earth and freezing climate. After taking in this amazing place and trying to capture it in photos we jumped back into the van and made the long drive back into Reykjavik.

Hannah and I were dropped of first and asked the tour guide whether our Northern Lights tour would go ahead tonight. Usually tour companies make a decision by 6PM to if it’s worth running the tour or not. Horrible weather and thick clouds often resulted in tours being cancelled, it was too early to tell for ours yet and we would know closer to 6PM. We raced down to reception just before 6PM to find out whether or not it would be cancelled, it was bad news, no tours would be running tonight, we would have to hope for the best tomorrow night. Instead Hannah and I headed into the centre of Reykjavik to get some dinner, tonight we choose a warm and homey little Italian restaurant which wasn’t anything special and again quite pricey. We skipped dessert tonight and bought some chocolate on the way back

Views across Thingvellir National Park in Iceland.
to the hotel. It was another early night tonight, but we were exhausted.

Hotel Reykjavik

Additional photos below
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The landscapes of snow covered iceland are incredible.

More amazing views over Thingvellir National Park.

The motorways of Iceland, covered in ice and snow.

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