Up early, we were eager to get started on our day trip excursion around Iceland’s famed, Golden Circle. The three main attractions of the roughly 150-mile near loop into the southern highlands of the island include: Thingvellir National Park, the Geyser Geothermal Area, and Gullfoss. We planned to see these sights, along with a few others: Brúarfoss, and the crater Kerið. We weren’t sure we would get to everything, but we were going to try.

While eating breakfast, we were in contact with the airport regarding our lost bag. The bag had made it to Iceland, but it was going to take a while to be taxied to the Fosshotel Reykjavik, where we were staying. We didn’t want to wait for it, but had no choice as the bag contained essential jackets for two group members.

The lost bag appeared around noon, which meant we would now have to race around the Golden Circle. The large frumpy van with tiny wheels we had rented was about to be put to the test.

Thingvellir National Park was our first stop. Thingvellir (the fields of parliament) has duel importance – political and geological. Thingvellir was the original site where Icelandic chieftains came together to discuss law on the island and create a commonwealth back in 930 AD. Iceland was originally settled in the 9th century by the Norse (man from the north). Norsemen largely fled Scandinavia in search of more arable land and peace from civil strife.

Thingvellir is the only place in the world where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge can be seen above sea-level, giving it a fascinating geological importance. The ridge is where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates come together. The plates are divided by a spectacular rift, and Thingvellir is located within it. Standing in a valley with North American on one side and Europe on the other dazzles the eye in both beauty and wonder.

Braurfoss along the Golden Circle, Iceland

Brúarfoss (bridge waterfall) was the next stop on our journey around the Golden Circle. Brúarfoss was a place we really wanted to see because it’s a hidden gem, embedded off the beaten path. After parking the van, we discovered it would require a solid hike through private property and wilderness areas to get to Brúarfoss. We thought about moving on, unsure about traipsing through private property, but the scenery was too beautiful to pass up. So, we set out up a long street surrounded by autumn gold. As we trekked through the dirt, mud, and golden plants, we could see nearby houses but also hear the rush of a great body of water off in the distance. It was that exciting sound that pushed us forward when we weren’t totally sure we were headed in the right direction.

Just about the time I was beginning to feel lost, we rounded a corner and came upon the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. The bluest waterfall in Iceland was before us. The whole of my body was instantly consumed by the magnificence of the golden fauna, the rush of the icy blue glacier water, the crisp air at my face. I had the feeling as though I was in church, my surroundings a great temple. My worries and anxieties about being in such a far-off land began to fade away and, for the first time, my guard lowered allowing me to fully enjoy myself.

I later discovered that the water’s blue color comes from a saturation of glacial silt or flour. The flour remains in the water, and the sun reflecting off it is what gives it it’s stunning color. The water is cloudy, and is sometimes referred to as glacial milk.

Time was now our worst enemy as we still had several items to see before the sun went down. Skipping lunch, we hurried to the Geyser Geothermal Area. When we arrived, steam was rising from the ground creating an eerie fog. The smell was awful, like something rotten. We quickly found our way to and crowded around Strokkur (churn). Unexpectedly, it blew, giving us all quite a scare. It’s louder than you might imagine. A couple next to us told us that Strokkur erupts about every ten minutes so we waited for it to blow a few more times before heading off to the next destination.
Strokkur geyser along the Golden Circle, Iceland
Strokkur geyser along the Golden Circle, Iceland
From Strokkur, we rushed to Gullfoss (golden waterfall). When we arrived, there was just enough light to capture a few images of the spectacular staircase waterfall. What Gullfoss lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in sheer power. There was so much water. As happy as we were to see the waterfall, we were sad that we weren’t going to get to everything our list.
Gullfoss along the Golden Circle, Iceland
Now pitch dark, we needed to find our way back to the main road of the Golden Circle. With only the stars and Google Maps as our guide, we set off to find our way home. For unknown reasons, Google, decided to take us on unpaved back roads. We probably should have rerouted, but we had no clue where we were. Things got dicey, especially when we had to cross a tiny, rickety bridge just wide enough for the ugly van. But, we did make it. The van saw us through. Nearing eleven o’clock when we got back to Reykjavik, one of the only restaurants we could find open was an Italian restaurant. We sipped hot soup savoring our spectacular road trip around the Golden Circle, anticipating what the Artic island had in store for us next.