We were up early and out of our room with our bags in the car before the hotel started serving breakfast at 7am. Food is SUPER expensive, so we enjoyed the quick free breakfast before setting off on the Golden Circle drive.
Our first stop was þórufoss, a bit off the beaten path, but an easy addition when you have a rental car. We were the only people there (which we would appreciate later in the day when we caught up to the tour buses) and it was a great way to start our exploration outside of the city.
Next, it was time to scratch that ongoing national park itch at Þingvellir National Park!
We got there right as it was opening and enjoyed a quick walk through the visitor's center, before strolling down through the hiking paths. The site hosted Iceland's parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries and also boasts Þingvellir Church, ruins of old stone
shelters and the Prime Ministers "summer home", which is really just used in the summer to host political gatherings. It was a beautiful and interesting stop! You can read more about some of the activities that took place at the Þingvellir site here. The site also has another great example of the crack forming between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America.
Our next stop was a hopeful one: we had read about an amazing waterfall called Bruarfoss with crystal blue water. However multiple sites said it was difficult to find the right place to park, as well as the trail leading to the waterfall. We allocated an hour in our plan, crossed our fingers and said a prayer. And it worked! Definitely an discrete trail and a very muddy path, but we found our way to the bluest waterfall I've ever seen!
Still on schedule we made our way to the Geysir Geothermal area, which is a lot like a mini-Yellowstone! In fact, "geyser" derived from the Icelandic verb geysa, "to gush", the verb from Old Norse.
Bubbling mud pots, steaming ground and a few geysers make up the small area. The main geyser is larger than Old Faithful, but has been dormant for some time. Strokkur geyser goes off about every five minutes, and we saw it "gush" a number of times while we strolled around.
Just beyond Geysir, was Gullfoss - our final official stop on the Golden Circle drive (there are other sites people include, but these were the ones we prioritized). Another beautiful waterfall - this time a double, that flows directly into a crack in the earth.
At this point we headed south, planning to spend the last hours of the afternoon on a hike to a hot spring located in the mountains. Along the way I received an email from the guides that were supposed to take us on a glacier hike tomorrow saying they had to cancel due to high wind and rain being forecasted. Well, heck. Some quick regrouping and we decided to switch the hike planned for today, with the one we were going to do tomorrow since that one was more on the way to our stop for the night. So we threw the itineraries out the window (figuratively), we made our way to Seljalandsfoss and it's walk-ably close neighbor, Gljúfrabúi.
Gljúfrabúi actually turned out to be one of our favorites in a place where waterfalls start to feel a bit like cathedrals in Europe. ("There's *another* amazing one...") While many people debated whether to wade through the craack into the cave, Scott took off and, of course, I had to follow. Inside, where the water falls, was amazing. Wet, but amazing. The the only source of light came from the hole where the water flowed in, making for a bit of a surreal feeling. After wading back out we decided to try our luck with climbing the rock that blocks the lower section of the waterfall. Suffice it to say some of the climb involves chains that have been added to assist with the climb up the face (or around the side) of the wet rock.
We don't have a lot of pictures because:
A) We were hanging on for our lives
B) We promised my parents we wouldn't die while they were watching the boys and we didn't want proof we had attempted this climb.
For the record, we were successful:)
Still going strong we headed for our last major stop of the day: Seljavallalaug pool
The pool was built in the hills of southern Iceland in 1923 as a place where children could learn to swim. It captures the water from a nearby hot spring, making it possible to use year-around. (Although many people who entered while were there clearly expected it to be much warmer then it was.) A small stream towards the back, in addition to a pipe in the corner from the main spring, turned out to be the places to be. This was definitely one of my top five experiences from the entire trip. I loved this little pool and hated to have to leave just a short hour later.
At 6:30pm we were back in the car and headed to Vik, our stop for the night. We arrived at our Airbnb just after 7pm, checked in and headed out for one final walk to explore the tiny little town, find some dinner and see the famous black sand the southern coast is known for. The sun finally set about 11pm and so did we! Another great day in Iceland!
Pictures from our Golden Circle day are posted here.
Things we've learned so far:
1. foss = waterfall
2. vik = Bay
3. Þ = "th" sound
4. ð = "d" sound
5. æ = "ee" sound
6. We are very grateful for all the sites that recommended waterproof hiking boots. We've passed many people trying to navigate mud and streams that we just trekked right through.
7. The time Scott put into figuring out how to get us a phone was well spent! We've chatted with the boys, texted pictures and actually got the email that canceled our hike tomorrow!