Even though I traveled through Iceland solo, I didn’t really want to do any tours. That being said, everyone does the Golden Circle. Everyone. Plus, it was my first full day, so I figured it would be a good way to meet some people and recover from the long plane ride.
The Golden Circle consists of 3 major visitor attractions, the first of which is the magnificent Gulfoss. It’s a sight to behold.
We also stopped at a geothermal facility, which was pretty cool. The stop at the geothermal plant included a lot of science that went way over my head. I mean, a lot of science. They just so happened to be working on the guts, so they had everything exposed for us to see. I was in Iceland while Bárðarbunga volcano was getting ready to erupt under the Vatnajokull glacier. As this chart indicates, a quarter of the country is in an active volcano zone, so needless to say, no one there was worried in the least. The drive out was really beautiful. Our driver, Harpa, stopped on the side of the road so we could lie in the moss. She said Icelanders will sometimes stop and take naps in the moss. Myself and a fellow solo traveler, Pascale from Montreal, took her up on it and shot a bunch of selfies with my GoPro. I never even saw them, so not sure how those came out. But it was the softest moss I’ve ever been on. I had planned to visit a “Game of Thrones” location when I was there, but it didn’t happen. Harpa said that on the other side of this hill is where they filmed a bunch of scenes, so I guess that will have to do.
This crater doesn’t look that big, but if you look at the very far left of the water, you can see the size of the people down there. It’s HUGE. It was also whHHipping wind.We stopped on the side of the road to feed these Icelandic horses. They were really tame and just beautiful.
I had put my GoPro in my hand and put some bread on top of it, so I scored some killer footage of a horse eating out of my hand, but alas, those are to be found along with the rest of my pics in 50 years when the glacier melts.
The water was pretty powerful for how short the drop was. Feel free to check out the video I shot of Paxi.
The next stop was Geysir. This is the spot of the main geyser (they spell it with an ‘I’ in Iceland but I’m being autocorrected here). This one was dormant. The other one, however, was going off. I’m not really sure what people’s fascinations with geysirs are. I mean essentially it’s just a lot of waiting around for this. It’s cool, but I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather see.
It almost looked cooler when the geysir wasn’t erupting. After geysir, we stopped at one of the most visited attractions in the country and one of the most magnificent waterfalls ever, Gulfoss. I think unless you’ve got a drone or a helicopter, it’d be impossible to shoot the length of Gulfoss in one pic. the boardwalkSomething I don’t think a lot of people realize is just how much spray comes off of a waterfall this size. I highly recommend a good rain jacket and protective gear for your camera if you’re going to be dabbling in long exposures. From the top it looks as though Gulfoss just drops into a bottomless cavern, but in this pic you can see that the water funnels down a really narrow stream.
I also highly recommend a polarized filter. Iceland delivers some serious cloud porn. I brought a couple of neutral density filters with me to enable really long shutter speeds in broad daylight. They were tricky to use with the amount of spray coming off the falls, but I did manage some nice shots.
The final stop on our tour was Þingvellir, which holds a special place in Icelanders hearts. It was where their parliament was established and held until 1798, AND it’s the site of the continental divide between the European and American Tectonic plates. I KNOW, RIGHT?And did I mention it’s a UNESCO site?!?It’s also the site of Iceland’s largest lake.This is the site of the continental divide. Beneath this rift, the tectonic plates meet. I’ll just let that soak in for a second.
The water is incredibly clear, and you can actually snorkel there. They offer Golden Circle tours that include the snorkel portion. The water is really, really cold, but they give you full body dry suits. The two girls I met who did it said it was still insanely cold. You can see all the coins in the bottom in this pic. Harpa said that Iceland people don’t believe in tossing coins for good luck, but so many other people around the world do that it’s become a thing now. And of course, there was a waterfall.
And lastly, this. Iceland isn’t the first place I’ve seen charge to use the bathroom (although at around $1.75 it’s the most expensive). But they are the first I’ve seen to accept credit cards for the service!