Just a quick day excursion from Reykjavik, many sights such as a national park, stunning waterfalls and geysers can be visited along the popular tourist route.
Our first stop along the Golden Circle was Thingvellir National Park. It’s stunning vistas and unique geological features offered a breath of fresh outdoor air from the chaotic, claustrophobic streets of the Reykjavik Culture Night festival. While the park was not without its share of bustling tourists, it was a welcoming start to the long road trip ahead. Also, trying to figure out how fast you are actually driving in kilometers per hour versus miles per hour can be quite entertaining.
The park is located in a rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that result in the many cracks and canyons in the region. Most notable of these is the rising fissure that follows the fault line through the park that visitors can walk along and admire. Just a short walk from the park entrance is a small waterfall, as well as various paths that meander through creeks and streams just waiting to be explored.
Geysers, Geysers Everywhere
I admittedly confused Strokkur geyser with The Great Geysir, since they are in such close proximity to one another. The Great Geysir has reached heights as tall as 230 feet in the air, but Strokkur located to the south has been known to erupt much more frequently and hence draws a large number of visitors. The path leading up to the geyser is filled with hot springs and boiling mud pools, filled with the scents of sulphur and sand (aka rotten eggs).
Many Rivers to Cross
The impressive Gullfoss Waterfall is another must-see stop along the route and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland. Not much needs to be said about it other than that the above photo required the most minimal amounts of filters and photoshopping. Iceland is seriously one of the most photogenic countries I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and you’d have to seriously try very hard to take a bad picture. Rainbows will literally appear out of the blue over a waterfall to offer you that postcard-perfect selfie.
Our last stop of the day would be the impressive Kerid Crater Lake, a cone volcano that geologists believed to have expelled all of its magma and collapsed in on its own weight. The small lake we see today is about equal to the ground’s natural water table and surprisingly not formed by rain fall. Thanks Wikipedia! Although it was a quick visit with a nominal entrance fee, hiking along the perimeter atop the crater as well as by the lake itself was an enjoyable diversion from the long day of driving.
It would be a few hours until we reached the small southern town of Vik (population 300), where we would enjoy some delicious seafood at possibly the only restaurant open by the time we arrived that evening. A good night’s sleep was in order before stocking up on road snacks and diesel the following morning before continuing north on what would be the longest leg of the trip. Next on the agenda– driving up the eastern coastline!