After a nice couple of days in Reykjavik and attempting to catch up on sleep, Paul and I rented a little-bitty car (a Nissan Micra) and hit the road. One of Iceland’s main scenic drives is the Golden Circle. The narrow roads are frequented by tour busses and rental cars like ours this time of year.
First on the drive was Þingvellir National Park. Here, the Eurasian and American tectonic plates are moving away from each other at a rate of 1mm to 18mm per year, leaving large fissures in their wake. Vikings also established the world’s first parliament here called the Apthing. After taking a few pictures of the lake and walking around the park a little, seeing the waterfalls, and throwing a coin in one fissure filled with deep blue water, we were off for our next stop.
Geysers (pronounced GAY-zeer here) were found in Iceland. The name is Icelandic and is used to identify all geysers today. So Old Faithful is a geysers because the Icelanders named them such. After working and spending lots of time in Yellowstone, however, Paul and I were less than enthused about seeing more spouting water and hot springs. Grand Prismatic in Yellowstone is still our favorite thermal pool by far. But there is a geyser in Geysir which rarely takes more than 6 minutes to go off. And when it does erupt, it splashes all of the people standing nearby with water. Since you’re required to stand back in Yellowstone and the water is quite hot, we were surprised to be close enough to get splashed by relatively cool water. Apparently things are colder in Iceland.
Next on the Golden Circle was my favorite of the trip: Gulfoss, which translates to Golden Falls. It is a magnificent two-tiered waterfall. From the top, it looks as though it falls into an abyss, but you can see the river below from closer to the second fall. As you walk the trail to the brink of the falls, the spray is enough to leave you pretty wet, but the view is well worth it.
With the three main stops on the Golden Circle complete, we continued on to the southern Iceland town of Vik. We had reserved guest house in the town, which is like a hostel and bed and breakfast mixed. We had our own room, shared a bathroom with the other guests, and had a phenomenal breakfast of freshly baked bread, lamb pate, cereals, yogurt, juice, cheeses, lemon cake, and strong coffee.
The evening we arrived, we went to one of the 4 local restaurants, Halldorskaffi, (you can’t expect more in a town of 300) and had an awesome seafood pizza and some potato soup. When we found our guesthouse, Nordur-Hvammur, we popped open a bottle of wine and visited with some other guests in the common room before we went to bed. The nest day we slept in, but our hostess had breakfast waiting and we ate with a group of German girls staying at our place before heading out to explore. First was Reynisdrangar to see our first puffins and walk a portion of the black sand beach. We were lucky to have a bit of sun while we were there, but it disappeared all too quickly.
Next was a visit to town, in hopes that the weather would clear up, to take care of some business and buy Icelandic sweaters. The weather never got any better but we were happy with our sweater purchases here. They were made in Vik and were a just about $15 cheaper than in Reykjavik. Next, we stopped at Dyrholaey but only took a few pictures before wanting to get out of the cold and rain. So we went back to the guesthouse, to get ready for dinner, which was a cheaper town option for lamb soup, a burger and a veggie pita while watching the Olympics. Not the best food ever, but nothing to complain about and good for the price. Plus, I just really wanted to watch the Olympics. Later, we opened a bottle of wine, and had a wonderful, relaxing evening. It was a great day to recharge before hitting the road early for our next destinations with a couple of hitchhikers on board.