Iceland’s Iconic Golden Circle

Svava shares her favorite stops on the popular tour

The sun and spray guarantees a rainbow at Gulfoss waterfall.

The sun and spray guarantees a rainbow at Gulfoss waterfall.

A must-do on every holiday to Iceland is the Golden Circle tour and there are three iconic stops, each of which unique and very popular. The first is Gullfoss waterfall  or Golden Falls. The wide river Hvítá rushes southward, turning sharply to the right before plunging down a wide curved three-step 'staircase' and dramatically disappearing into a deep crevice. It’s hard to take in the volume of water that surges past; it’s simply breath-taking no matter how many times you see it. A bonus is always when the sun appears and a rainbow forms over the falls. 

Strokkur geyser getting ready to blast

Strokkur geyser getting ready to blast

Second stop is the equally spectacular Strokkur geyser in the geothermal area. It’s not hard to spot the main attraction with the huge circle of onlookers poised around a hole in the ground, cameras at the ready. This natural wonder is great because, dutifully, every 8-10 minutes a powerful jet of water suddenly shoots up vertically from literally nowhere. You wait, and you wait and you wait and then there is a churning from deep in the earth, water rolling and bubbling. It’s still impossible to predict and then whoosh in an instant the powerful burst some 20 metres high erupts, showering hot water. All that build up and anticipation and its all over in an instant. So exhilarating. 

Þingvellir 

Þingvellir 

 

Þingvellir is my favourite stop on the Golden Circle route. The place is so beautiful and peaceful, with a huge pristine lake at the centre of the vast national park. The geology is unique, with lots of evidence of the rifts that characterize the area, which sits along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The most impressive of these is the Almannagjá canyon formed by the constant drifting apart of the North American and European continental plates.

Walking through Almannagjá gorge; one side is the European the other the North American continental plates which are continually pulling away from each other.

Walking through Almannagjá gorge; one side is the European the other the North American continental plates which are continually pulling away from each other.

Reykjavik may be the capital, but for Icelanders Þingvellir is the true heart of Iceland. The location has great historical significance, as it is where the oldest existing parliament in the world first assembled in 930AD. The early Viking settlers gathered here each year in June and debates took place, the law speaker who committed the laws to memory presided, and harsh punishments were meted out. From all corners of Iceland people made this annual pilgrimage to what must have resembled a mid-summer’s festival. Scanning the land, I always imagine crude camps, trading of horses and sheep, the bridal troths made, disputes settled, gossip exchanged, friendships and romance started and rekindled. I picture the campfires, music, livestock, rough shelters, fighting and flirting. I wonder how on earth they made these incredible journeys, how they survived - who were these distant ancestors of mine?