Friday, April 4, 2014

Beautiful Iceland

By: Janine

If I had to sum up Iceland in one word, that word would be beautiful. We saw snow capped mountains from every single place we went, along with multiple waterfalls, volcanic rock covered terrain, farmland, countryside, glaciers, and geysers. They don't call it the land of fire and ice for nothing! On the second day of our trip, we walked around Reykjavik in the morning, then opted to see the famous Golden Circle on an express tour run by Iceland Excursions The Golden Circle is basically a tourist route that shows some of the famous highlights of the country, the 3 main stops being Thingvellir National Park, the waterfall Gullfoss, and the geysir's.  It seems like every other tourist in Iceland also opted for this tour, as they picked us up from our hotel around 12:15 and brought us to a bus depot where we had to pay the $80 or so per person and then proceed to board one of 4 extra large buses that were all going to the same place.

Mountains iceland
The moutains can be seen from anywhere in Iceland, even on a cloudy day
Hallgrímskirkja church Iceland
Hallgrímskirkja church, can be seen from anywhere in Reykjavik

If you know Brian and I at all, then you know a cow herding type tour like this is something we usually would not partake in. There are more adventurous options to see these sights, such as by super jeep or a combo tour which would take you horseback riding, snowmobiling, snorkeling (yes, they snorkel in Iceland in the winter!), or any other choice of activity in the morning and then would take you to see the Golden Circle highlights in the afternoon. However, on this occasion, since we had done 3 tours the night before (Yes 3! Caving, the brewery, and the Northern lights boat at night), and were climbing a glacier the next morning, we opted to take it easy on this day and just join a few of our other friends who were already signed up for the express tour.

beautiful Iceland
The view from the bus, we weren't complaining
The tour took 6 hours total (the classic golden circle tour will take you to the same stops but is longer at 8-9 hours), and it was about 2 hours to the first stop, Thingvellir National Park. This park is famous in Iceland because it is where you can see the two tectonic plates split between North America and Europe.

Thingvellir National park Iceland
The view at Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National park Iceland

Thingvellir National park Iceland tectonic plate split
You can technically walk in between Europe and North America here, where the 2 tectonic plates split

We spent about only 20 minutes here before heading towards the second stop, Gullfoss waterfall. There is some walking involved down steep stairs to get to this waterfall, and in the winter much of this is covered in ice, so beware! We watched about a half a dozen people fall on their face... Just use some common sense and avoid obvious ice patches and it should be fine.. The waterfall is worth the walk and is breathtaking! They also have a cute but pricey gift shop where they serve traditional lamb soup. We had about an hour at this stop.

Gullfoss waterfall Iceland
Beautiful Gullfoss waterfall

Gullfoss waterfall Iceland

Tradtional lamb soup iceland
Traditional lamb soup at the Gullfoss cafe
Last stop was the geyser, where we had about 30 minutes. The geyser here is actually named "Geysir" and is where all other geysers get their name from. This geyser is actually inactive now though, so the one we watched erupt was the one next to it called Strokkur. It usually erupts every 5-10 minutes, and I believe it went off about 5 times while we were in the area.

Iceland geyser eruption
The geyser erupting from afar

We then took the 2 hour drive back to the hotel. Overall, we weren't a fan of the bus tour in general, but still think it was worth it to see the famous sites as they didn't disappoint.

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