So, as I mentioned in my first post about Iceland, our second and only FULL day in Iceland got off to a late start, as jet lag knocked us down a bit. We set off to explore the Golden Circle, an area of Iceland that is located to the east of Reykjavik and manageable in a day trip.
I was very concerned that the forecast showed nothing but rain for the weekend, but after some quick research, I came to the conclusion that Iceland weather is unpredictable and ever-changing. So, although we did hit rain at some inopportune times, we also had plenty of driving and touring time that was dry.
As we set off toward Reykjavik, we immediately noticed the landscape was again dark, moss covered rocks and lots of flat land. It was strange to not even see any shrubbery or trees. However, way off in the distance, we could see the mountains. My mind recounted all the articles I had read about the beauty that was Iceland, and I reassured myself that there must be more to come.
Once we reached Reykjavik and turned Eastward, some shrubbery and green began to appear.
Our first stop was to be Thingvellir National Park. The scenery began to get more interesting, and as I was the driver, I just needed to stop and take in the views.
As soon as we opened the car doors, we were surprised by the force of the wind, and made sure to hold the door tightly. (Remember that I had read about people’s car doors being blown off by the wind!)
Once we arrived at Thingvellir National Park, we found parking and headed to the Pay and Display machine, which graciously accepted credit cards at its kiosk. From the parking lot, we could see a waterfall up ahead, so we followed the path up towards it.
We could’ve spent more time at Thingvellir, but due to our late start, I wanted to make sure we saw the two other main spots along the road, so we moved on.
As we drove along, I was really struck by the raw, natural beauty of Iceland. There is so much untouched land! As you see in this picture below, the colors of the trees and bushes blend together in such a stunning way, as if you’re looking at a painting.
We didn’t see many animals, mainly some sheep grazing, some horses, and lots of birds, but no other animals. Did you know that there are more puffin than people in Iceland? Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. But, we did pull over to get a closer look at some Icelandic horses:
Our second major stop of the day was Geysir. We parked at the first lot we came to with a store and cafe, but if I’d known, I would’ve skipped the first lot and driven directly to the second one, which was much closer to the geysirs.
It had turned extremely cold at this point, and quite honestly, we decided to do a quick “run” through the area. Although it’s a pretty area, it is only a teeny tiny fraction of the size of Yellowstone, and much less impressive, except for the fact that it’s in Iceland, so that just makes it cool!
Strokkur was the main geysir at this location, as it erupts about every 10 minutes. We were just too cold to linger. See that rainbow?
Gullfoss Waterfall was our final stop, and not too far from Geysir. We parked at the main parking lot by the store/cafe, mainly because it started raining and we needed to find a bathroom. However, there was a better parking lot that was also closer to the Falls, but we missed it on our way in.
We followed the first sign we saw for toilets and ended up paying $2 to use toilets. They were so efficient at taking your money that you could even get change in many currencies or use your credit card! I soon discovered that the “free” toilets were located in the building next door.
As we emerged from the gift shop after the downpour, the sun shone through and a rainbow appeared above the Falls. By the time we made our way down the pathway, the sun had disappeared. Within 10 minutes, sideways, pelting rain came down, soaking us to the bone.
Nevertheless, the Falls were surreal and amazing.
We warmed up in the gift shop with some hot cocoa, and did the mandatory shopping, which in our case consists of super small items that can fit in our backpacks – stickers and patches.
As we left, the sun came out again, and we started the two hour drive back to Keflavik. We had seen many rainbows throughout our day driving the Golden Circle, but as we drove back, we saw the biggest and brightest I’ve ever seen!
Our intention was to drive into Reykjavik for dinner, but it was just too complicated to find parking, so we simply observed from the car, and went back to Keflavik instead. We caught the sunset before we settled in for the night, setting our alarm clocks, and hoping we’d awake in time for our 6 am flight to Scotland!
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