Monday, August 18, 2014

Iceland Must-Do: Golden Circle Tour

We were in Iceland a year ago, so this week I wanted to reminisce and share a few more posts about what we did while we were there.

One of the must-dos when in Iceland is the Golden Circle tour.

Flo knew some people who lived in Iceland for about a year and a half, and they gave her a recommendation for a company that could take us on a Golden Circle tour: Gateway to Iceland. Our tour guide for the day and the president of GTI is Gummi.

Our tour group and Gummi. Gummi is in the center in blue.

The tour consists of three major stops: Thingvellir, Gulfoss, and the geothermal fields of Haukadalur.

At Thingvellir, we got to see the Viking Parliament. The Parliament is a great wall where the Viking leaders would stand and speak. The reflection of the sound off of the wall allowed for those gathered to hear what was being said. Lee is standing just below the spot where you would stand to speak.

 We also got to see Silfra, the place where two continental plates--North American and Eurasian tectonic plates--meet and are drifting apart about 2 cm a year. The water was beautiful and clear.

Silfra at Thingvellir National Park

We then headed to Gulfoss, an amazing and popular two-tiered waterfall in the Golden Circle. It was windy and loud and breath-taking.

Gulfoss in Iceland. Notice the tiny people on the left ledge.

One of the best parts of this leg of the trip was Lee coming upon a group of Japanese tourists. They were all bundled up with jackets, hats, and gloves to keep warm due to the wind and mist, while Lee was dressed like he usually is: short-sleeved shirt, no jacket, no hat.

An older tourist mimed a question to Lee, rubbing her arms and pointing and asking him why he wasn't wearing a jacket and if he was cold. Lee mimed back to her that he wasn't cold and grabbed his belly. All of the tourists laughed and laughed.

Lee is always hot

Our last major stop was the geothermal field Haukudalur, where you could see geothermal pools and geysers. In fact the word "geyser" is derived from the Icelandic word "geysa", which means to gush.

Strokkur geyser exploding

Selfie with one of the clear blue geothermal pools

Because the Golden Circle tour is a must-do in Iceland, we saw a ton of Asian tourists. I'll be honest, I LOVED seeing them all, taking pictures and being goofy. I love being Asian!

Crazy Asian tourists at Strokkur Geyser

We loved the tour, not only because we got to see Thingvellir, Gulfoss and Strokkur, but because of all the little stops and bits of information that you don't get along the way if you're doing it on your own.

Like stopping by Alafoss, where you could buy some famous Icelandic yarn or see the studio where the band Sigur Ros records.

Alafoss yarn

Sigur Ros' recording studio - We even got to go inside!

Or getting Gummi's tip about this sign. He suggested that if we were ever driving around and we saw this symbol, we should stop and explore.

Point of interest in Iceland

He showed us one such spot, which turned out to be a hidden waterfall called Faxi. 

Faxi Waterfall

Another of the other lesser known spots we saw was the lake called Laugarvatn. There was a geothermal pool off it where the resort Fontana was situated. We may have to go there for a soak next time we go to Iceland.

The cool thing about Fontana was that they bake their bread via the geothermal energy. The rye bread dough is placed in a container and buried in the ground near the head of the geothermal spring. They unearth it an hour later and voila--you have delicious rye bread. Wow!

The bubbles indicate boiling water

Here is a list of pros and cons for doing the Golden Circle tour with GTI.

  • Loved having a personal tour guide who is native and knows the history of Iceland.
  • Got some good suggestions on how to navigate in Iceland after the tour.
  • We saw some obscure stuff that we wouldn't have seen without a guide.
  • It was fun to meet and interact with fellow travelers. We were lucky to have a pretty good group too.
  • They picked you up and dropped you off for the tour.

  • At some of the stops we were at, we were at the mercy of how long others wanted to look around and/or shop. 
  • There are stretches of just driving with not much to see, but you would have that even if you were doing the tour on your own.

Overall, we had such a fun day on that tour--we saw and learned a lot. It was nice to have Gummi as a tour guide, with all the history and stories he shared with us. We recommend it!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Your pics are so incredible! And I loved seeing the Silfa, that is so cool! All of them are so beautiful!


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