19 October 2010

The Golden Circle: Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss

Conveniently located a mere 1.5 hours away from Reykjavik is The Golden Circle, which is comprised of the three most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. Included in this circle are Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.

The drive to Thingvellir was breathtaking. It was foggy and early in the morning as we drove through the Thingvallavatn region. There were moss, mountains and moisture as far as the eye could see.

Almost the entire country of Iceland is powered geothermally, as a result there are these gigantic pipes zig zagging the countryside.

Thingvallavatn is the largest natural lake in Iceland. The lakeshore was sparsely occupied by homes providing plenty of solace to its owners. If the population of Iceland was equally dispersed throughout the country, then there would be 3 sq. km for every person.

Thingvellir is the exact location where the mid atlantic ridge occurs, this rift is where the North American and Eurasian plates are slowly pulling apart at a rate of 1 cm per year. Also in this area was where parliament was created in 930 and remained here until 1789.

I was elated by all the fall foliage. I was sad to miss New England this year, but Iceland was equally filled with swaths of orange, yellow and red.

Although this was the visitor's center at Thingvellir, I would love to have my Dad design me a house like this one day. The foot print was an L shape and was the perfect combination of simplicity and sleek design.

Priceless expression from Cameron. He used to torture me in high school by having impromptu photo shoots when he dropped me off at my home, little did he know I would get him back one day by a lifetime of impromptu photo shoots.

All the world's hotsprings are named after the great Geysir, which is located in southwest Iceland. Geysir began erupting in the 14th century and ran out of steam (no pun intended) in the 20th century. Rumor has it its underground pipes were clogged with rocks thrown in by tourists. Strokkur has dutifully become Geysir's replacement and reliably erupts every five minutes spraying somewhere between 60-100 feet in the air.

I have never seen a geysir erupt before and the sloshing and glurping is mesmerizing as you anticipate its eruption. I was surprised by just how high it blew.

Lastly, we went to Gullfoss, the largest waterfall I have ever seen. It was stunningly beautfiul and mammoth. If it looks like we are having too much fun, we are. Even amongst the three most popular tourists attractions, we could count on one hand how many other people were there.

A crevice 60 ft wide and 105 feet deep allows the Hvita river to drop twice before continuing on.

After The Golden Circle we headed back to Reykjavik for dinner. We were curious as to why we were the only people eating dinner at the restaurant, but it reconfirmed our thoughts that:

1. Food in Iceland is expensive
2. Service is questionable, which may explain the no tipping policy
but added a new one:
3. They will let you sit at your table for as long as necessary for you to discover, that payment is at the register and not at our table.

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