We were happy to awake to sunshine as we were to begin our anti clockwise navigation of the island today. At 9:30 a young man arrived in the lobby to drive us to the rental car location where we would pick up our vehicle. We had rented a 4WD in case we wanted to explore off the paved highway and along with this came many dire warnings about what insurance to carry but we had read about that before arriving in Iceland. Apparently the south coast is prone to wind storms that blow ash capable of stripping the pain off a vehicle and then there are the sandstorms and gravel thrown into the windshields by passing vehicles on the unpaved roads. We just looked at each other and agreed we wanted all the coverage they offered. After a short get acquainted session with the car and a session with “James” our GPS we were off.
The Nordic Visitor Center arranged airport pick up and drop off, all of our accommodations, rental car, GPS, a cell phone for emergencies a wonderful map and two books, one a condensed version with sights along the way and the other a very detailed book on the roads and attractions. They did a great job customizing our tour for us.
Comfortable with the vehicle and well insured against all calamities except fording unbridged rivers we head east into the Golden Circle, a 300 km loop route in Iceland with waterfalls, geysers and national park vistas. It can be a popular day trip from Reykjavik but with three photographers in the car it will take us a bit longer than a day.
We arrived at Þingvellir National Park on the northern shore of lake Þingvallavatn. Þingvellir – literally “Parliament Plains” – is the national shrine of Iceland. It is, for one, a key location in Icelandic history as the oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled there in 930 AD continuing to convene until 1798 and for that reason has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; major events in history occurred here and the site is held in high esteem by Icelanders.
Besides being a location of historical significance, Þingvellir is also protected as a national park due to its unique geology and natural features and that is what interested me. Almannagjá is a canyon formed between two tectonic plates, a visual representation of continental drift where the North American Eurasian plates are drifting apart. The Þingvellir area is a part of the North Atlantic rift system, an area of sea-floor spreading, displaying the close association of crustal rifting and volcanism. Þingvellir and the Great Rift Valley of Eastern Africa are the only sites on Earth where the effects of two major plates drifting apart can be observed.
Almannagjá Canyon Trail
Leaving the park, we continued along Rte 365 to our farm stay, Efsti Dalur . First we checked out their restaurant and ice creamery and oh yes the quality of the ice cream – Grade AAA+. It was a busy place and quite comfy with tables, couches and chairs; the windows looked into the cow barn where the cows were busy munching on hay.
After checking into our cabin we decided to continue on to Geysir and Gullfoss to save ourselves some time tomorrow. Geyser was, as advertised, an area with over a dozen hot water blow holes; it had started raining so we did not spend much time. We have spent time in Yellowstone NP and are familiar with bubbling hot pools and geysers but we did wait the 10 minutes until Stroker faithfully erupted shooting boiling water into the air, impressive.
Back in the car and on to Gullfoss waterfall. It was still raining and the wind was fierce but we made our way down to the falls; trying to take pictures was futile so instead we put away the cameras and just stood in awe of this wonder of nature. The power and energy is palpable. We will come back in the morning and hope for better weather.
Retreating to our little cabin on the farm we enjoyed a delicious dinner of trout and mushroom soup, had a good night sleep with beautiful views out of our cabin window. This is a delightful little place.
Our route today.