Our second day in Iceland was spent pursuing the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is known for three attractions that may not necessarily go well together but are easy access from Reykjavik. We spent the previous night in Reykjavik at Auður’s recovering from our red eye and were in no rush to start our day. The nice thing about staying in someone’s flat is we could make breakfast and pretend we were locals as we watched the “rush” to work.
By the time we left Reykjavik around 9:30 in the morning, it was beginning to get light out. Even with the light we got lost a few times before finally heading out of town. It was all worth it as we reached the Thingvellir National Park. Word to the wise: If you are driving on Iceland’s highway system, be ready to exit to the left or the right, there doesn’t seem to be any distinction between which way they prefer.
The national park includes two main attractions, the original location of the Viking parliament and the fissure of the North American and European tectonic plates. Historical significance aside, my favorite part was seeing the North American and European tectonic plates so close.
We tempted fate and
climbed slid down the side of the hill to see the law rock where Vikings from all over the country would come to make things into law. Back in the day, the Viking Parliament would convene yearly and would base their camp between the tectonic plates.
After our nice little hike around the Viking Parliament site, we got back into our car and headed around the national park and on to Geysir. This geothermal area is home to several active geysers, which were the first in recorded history. The word geyser is actually derived from the Geysir, which is an old Islandic word meaning “To Gush”. Geysir is the tallest geyser in Iceland and one of the tallest in the world. This area reminded me of Rotorua. It was cool to see Strokkur (the geyser below) go off so many times while we were there.
Next we headed a little further north-east to see Gulfoss, the largest waterfall in Iceland. It was bitter cold when we were there so we did not linger long but the images of water flowing around the frozen islands is beautiful. Per advice from one of our guide books, we stopped into the gift shop cafe for organic Icelandic lamb stew. It was delicious and the perfect cap to our day.
From here we braved the confusing roads on back to Reykjavik. Once we arrived back into town we caught word that the Aurora borealis was showing as far south as Massachusetts in the United States. Conditions were only ok in Iceland, they weren’t as record breaking as back home. Regardless, we headed out into the night and back tracked our journey from earlier in the day. At one point we saw a very very faint version of the lights near the national park, but nothing to write home about.
While our evening excursion didn’t meet our Aurora Hunting expectations, we’re glad we went out to witness the beauty and peacefulness of Iceland at night.