Region Visit: The Golden Circle, Iceland

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Region Visit: The Golden Circle, Iceland

Today was get away day from Reykjavik and a self drive tour of Icelands’ Golden Circle. We packed up the hotel room and loaded everything into the truck. After a quick coffee and croissant in town, we were on the road towards Pingvellir.

The Route:

The day would end up having calls for stops at Oxafoss, Geysir, Gullfoss, Kerio, Selfoss and ending at the hotel. It was a full day.

As to be expected, the scenery leaving Reykjavik was beautiful and inspiring. The weather was turbulent and the clouds made for some interesting and beautiful mountain vistas.

Visiting Pingvellir National Park:

Our first stop was for some scenery photographs at Pingvellir. Pingvellir itself is a National Park, although it seemed to be lacking official park gates and the usual “entry fee”. There were impressive views over the lake of Pingvallevatin. Pingvallevatin is Iceland’s largest lake at 84 km squared and was one of the larger inland lakes (that actually still looks like a lake) that I’d seen in my travels.

A Visit to Öxarárfoss:

We continued on Route 36 towards Öxarárfoss, a beautiful waterfall about 200 m walk from the nearby parking lot. The waterfall cuts through the Almannagjá great rift of the North American and European Technonic plate continents. The waterfall flows over the continental rifts which was pretty neat to see. The plates are reported to move between 1mm to 18 mm per year.

When we got to the water falls itself, it happened to be one of the rare moments of sun during our day, as the weather happened to change every 15 minutes. The natural effects of Iceland are sheer stunning and beautiful!

We led ourselves back towards the car. The great part about Iceland is that it appears to have walking trails almost everywhere you look. You could spend a lifetime exploring all of them.

A Visit to Geysir:

We continued on towards Geysir. Geysir is the original geyser that has been operating for almost 800 years. Today it seemed pretty dormant, although it’s spouting some steam.

The main event is next door at the Strokkur geyser, which seemed to erupt every 6 – 8 minutes on our visit at heights of 10 to 30 meters. There wasn’t much warning so you had to be fast and ready with the camera.

A Visit to Gullfoss:

After a quick but unmemorable lunch at the café there, we headed onto the highlight of the day at Gullfoss about 10 km down the road. We got thoroughly drenched at the two viewing area waterfalls here.

We start at the upper deck with a great overview of the falls.

We headed down to the lower area for a closer look and got quite wet wandering on the trail through the falls. I was really happy that I had my Mountain Equipment Co-Op Goretex raincoat with me as an ordinary jacket would have gotten totally drenched.

As we left Gullfoss, in addition to traveling across several one lane bridges, we happened across some Icelandic horses that were on the side of the road. We had an impromptu stop to say hello to these beautiful animals who took quite an interest in us.

A Visit to the Keriò crater:

From there, we headed for about the 1 hour drive down to Selfoss; the major town servicing this region. We happened by the Keriò crater so we made an impromptu stop there as the sun was out. For a 400 IK fee ($3 USD), we were able to climb all around this volcanic crater, including down into the bottom where there was standing water. It was pretty cool and the light made for some great photographs.

Part of the fun of this crater was being able to descend right into the bottom for a closer look. This way, you can capture the “I was there’ photograph. All in all, it was a peaceful way to end the tourist trail.

Dinner at Trygavaskáli Restaurant:

We departed and arrived to Selfoss. We had dinner at Trygvaskáli Restaurant (Icelandic). The Trygvaskáli Restaurant was situated Selfoss’ first house built to house bridge workers in 1890. It was decorated in quaint antiques, including some vintage plates that I had growing up in my house in 1973.

I had an Icelandic slow cooked salmon, with roasted barley, broccoli, sunflower seeds, Ljótur (an Icelandic Blue Cheese) and blueberry noisette. It was exceptionally good at just under with sufficient moisture in the fish. It was a really memorable dish, paired with an unmemorable glass of Pinot Grigio table wine by the glass.

The restaurant had a great view over the river. It was a nice way to spend dinner with fresh tasting ingredients.

From the restaurant, we headed back up towards the Ion Adventure Hotel for the night. We had to travel on some secondary gravel roads for this route. The road is reportedly closed in winter. I was wondering how rough the road would be but it was pretty well graded with only occasional potholes. It was fair to say that it was graded well by Canadian logging road standards (laughing). We had a very scenic approach towards the Ion Adventure Hotel. At least Iceland is super organized with their entertaining signs.

We found the hotel and promptly checked in as the skies faced to black.

Overall:

The Golden Circle is one of those must see tourist attractions when in Iceland. It makes several attractions accessible from the capital city of Reykjavik. Although it an be crowded, having your own car is likely the best way to tackle this circuit, allowing you to stop off anywhere you want at any time.

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