Another attraction that is quite common to see in Iceland is the Golden Circle. Actually, I cannot imagine that you come to Iceland and do not go there. It is basically a must do! I went there two weeks ago with a friend of mine, visiting me with her mother. I joined them on some trips, including the Classic Golden Circle tour by Reykjavik Excursions. The Golden Circle is called Gullni Hrigurinn in Icelandic and is one of the most popular travel routes in the south. The three most important sightseeings are the Þingvellir Nationalpark, the geothermal area Haukadalur and the waterfall Gullfoss.
Traveling to the Golden Circle
Since it is not far away from Reykjavik it is easy to get there, especially since the road is so popular. I joined the tour my friend booked, which was a bus tour with Reykjavik Excursions. The tour was around 8 hours long and usually you get picked up at your hotel. Our tour guide speaked English and German and actually talk the whole time. There were many interesting information about the history that she provided us. Furthermore, we additionally stopped at a greenhouse. Of course, you can also take the car there. Parking spaces are available at each of the locations. It is all close by and you do not need a 4×4 car to drive the streets. With the bus you need 50 minutes, with the car just a little bit less.
Geothermal Area Haukadalur
You know, that the area were everyone waits in the cold to take picture of hot water erupting out of the ground. But seriously, it is actually quite spectacular. Therefore, it freezing your fingers to death is almost worth it. The biggest geysers are Strokkur and Geysir.
The more spectacular one would be Geysir, but it is not the one erupting every 5 minutes. It was the first geyser described and the word geyser derives from this Great Geysir. In former times it apparently hurled up water between 40 to 70 meters and was active every 30 minutes. However, since the beginning of the 20th century the eruptions became rare. Currently, the eruptions are still quite rare and the government actually allowed geologist to force eruptions. Since 2000 the geyser is active again but infrequent and mostly the eruption are not as spectacular as in former days.
The smaller one is called Strokkur and erupted around every 5 minutes. If I remember right, the tour guide said that its usual hight is around 15 meters.
According to our tour guide Gull means gold and hence foss is the waterfall. It is simply impressive, and huge. There is a lower and a upper area you can walk. The lower part is a little bit more walking, especially stairs, but the view from there is just sensational. Fascinating should be the history for environmentalist like me. There were plans about using the Gillfoss for generating electricity. However, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of the owner, was determined to preserve the area and stopped the exploitation. But mind, there are many different stories about Sigríður. Apparently she threatened to throw herself down. I guess, she put all her heart and soul into the project. here are also many sources saying the project was cancelled simply due the lack of money. Either way, good they preserved it.
Nationalpark Þingvellir and Thing
Thing was the assembly of a northern Germanic society. It consisted out of free people from the community and a lawspeaker. The lawspeaker was the only paid member and his main function was to recite the law. The Thing was hold in the Nationalpark Þingvellir which is a rift valley. As you can imagine, all kind of important events happen there and even nowadays it is still used for Icelandic celebrations.
The Nationalpark Þingvellir is one of the places I want to go again to explore it even more. As mentioned, it has historical and political importance. Since it is the Rift Valley, it is significant regarding geological aspects. It marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and therefore it is the border between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plate. One minute you are on the European plate and if you walk up the Thing, you are on the North American plate.