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5 January 2018 / leggypeggy

Touring Iceland’s Golden Circle

Strokkur geyser, Golden Circle, Iceland

Strokkur—such a show-off

It’s winter in the Northern Hemisphere so it’s time to head back to our recent travels in Iceland. According to my weather oracle (an app on my mobile phone), it’s going to snow there this weekend, so that fits in with our snowy travels around Iceland’s famous Golden Circle.

We were super lucky to be able to stay with friends in Reykjavik—Mary Pat and Siggi—and even luckier that Siggi had four days off while we were there.

So he set aside one of those days to squire us around the 300-kilometre Golden Circle loop that starts and ends in Reykjavik. The circuit has three main stops.

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Looking out over Þingvellir National Park. The buildings are part of a farm. We also stopped here the night we went chasing the Northern Lights

Þingvellir National Park
Our first stop was at Þingvellir National Park, Iceland’s first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This park is also a huge part of Iceland’s history and folklore, and the scene of unique geology.

Þingvellir is situated directly between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, in the rift valley that runs all the way through Iceland. This is the only country where this valley, called the Mid Atlantic Ridge, can be seen above sea level. And nowhere is it more visible than in Þingvellir.

But the UNESCO status has more to do with the park’s importance in Iceland’s human history. The country’s first permanent settlers came in the 800s and were mostly vagabond clans who refused to bow to the new High King of Norway.

Nevertheless, by 930 AD they decided some sort of collective government might help to resolve disputes on the island. So each of 30 or so groups in residence on the island sent someone to represent them. They called their meeting place ‘the fields of parliament’, which translates to Þingvellir.

Þingvallavatn, Iceland's largest natural lake

Looking out over Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake

That first parliament was such a success that the tradition continued every summer for centuries. In fact, parliament didn’t move to Reykjavik until the mid-1800s.

We arrived at a high point in the park and looked out over just a fraction of the wintry landscape. The area has long stretches of lava rock, and many volcanoes surround the park, rising above Þingvallavatn, Iceland’s largest natural lake. There are regular earthquakes in Iceland, and volcanos perform too. You might remember that Bárðarbunga caused a lot of aviation problems when it erupted in 2015.

We walked down a busy tourist pathway and Siggi picked us up at the bottom. We sneaked down a side road he knew to have a look at a section of the rift.

Then back in the car to our next stop—the geysers, 50 kilometres away.

Strokkur geyser, Golden Circle, Iceland

Strokkur belches every 10 minutes or so

Geyser geothermal area
Geothermal activity in the Haukadalur valley is visible long before you get there, with steam rising on the horizon in many places. The area is dotted with hot pools, clay pots and fumaroles, and the hills and soil are vividly coloured by the minerals of the earth. And then there are the two geysers that make the site famous.

Geysir (from which we get the word geyser) is the grand old geyser that is mostly dormant today. That’s because of the tectonic activity in the area, as well as intrusive human intervention. Studies show that it has existed for about 10,000 years and that it tends to erupt in cycles. Usually, a large earthquake will trigger it to start off, then it will slowly peter out. It’s last big blast was in 2000, when it shot water 122 metres (almost 400 feet) in the air.

Geyser geothermal area, Iceland

Approaching the geothermal area

Geyser geothermal area, Iceland

Waiting for Strokkur to perform

Strokkur is the star now. It goes off every five to 10 minutes, throwing steam and water from 20 to 40 metres (66 to 132 feet) into the air. We saw her (are geysers female?) perform four or five times while we were there. A word of warning: pay attention to the signs. The whole area is bubbling with activity. Don’t stray from the paths or you could get burned. The water temperature ranges from 80°–90°C (or 176°–194°F).

Our third and last stop was another place to take care—the Gullfoss waterfall.

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

The impressive two-tiered Gullfoss waterfall is on the Hvita river. See the people up on the ridge at the left?

Gullfoss waterfall
Gullfoss, which means golden waterfall, is an amazing two-tiered waterfall on the Hvita River. It was our third and final stop of the day. 

Gullfoss cascades down 32 metres (the first tier is an 11-metre drop and the second is 21). In summer at its heaviest flow, Gullfoss dumps an average of 140 cubic metres of water over the edge every second, which then spills into a 2.5-kilometre long crevasse. This crevasse was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic floods. The constant bombardment of water means the crevasse lengthens each year by 25 centimetres (or almost 10 inches). 

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

No one was silly enough to jump the fence and follow the path to the edge

There’s a walkway down to the edge of the falls, but wild weather meant it was closed the day we were there.

Now here’s an interesting aspect. Not long ago, when the walkway was closed, a couple of people jumped the fence and ended up being swept away. Yeah, they died. Perhaps people have paid attention to the news! The same do-not-enter sign was up the day we were there and not a single soul had ventured over the fence.

Sometimes common sense kicks in.

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

You get a hint of a rainbow from this angle. See the people on the ridge in the upper right and no one on the path

Iceland’s countryside and happy new year
This post is already long enough so I’ll do another post on some of the gorgeous countryside we saw as Siggi drove us around the Golden Circle.

Wishing you all a wonderful new year. Here’s hoping that 2018 is good for all of us.

P.S. It’s been crazy busy here, but I hope it’s calmed down and I can post more regularly. Also hope to tidy up the categories and tags. Fingers crossed.

Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland

The viewing platform gave us a great look at the falls

87 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. IreneDesign2011 / Jan 5 2018 5:04 pm

    Really beautiful memories from Iceland, Peggy 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. dfolstad58 / Jan 5 2018 5:38 pm

    Another well written post and very interesting

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andrew Petcher / Jan 5 2018 6:35 pm

    Took me straight back to my Golden Circle tour a few years ago. Strokkur is reliable entertainment but the original great Geyser erupts only infrequently now. Apparently people used to encourage it to blow by pouring soap powder into the borehole as this was a way of encouraging it to perform but eventually this stopped working because the residue of the soap clogged up the underground vents rather like an automatic dish washer that hasn’t been rinsed through.

    Thanks for the memory nudge!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 5 2018 10:41 pm

      Glad to kick-start some memories for you. I read about the soap powder tactic and the fact it didn’t work for long.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. derrickjknight / Jan 5 2018 8:02 pm

    A wonderful post, Peggy. Beautiful photography – isn’t the light marvellous? – and informative history

    Liked by 1 person

  5. beetleypete / Jan 5 2018 9:32 pm

    Iceland always looks so forbidding, and primeval. Majestic though, and a sight to see indeed.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 5 2018 10:43 pm

      Iceland isn’t at all forbidding. You just need to jump in and enjoy—but don’t get swept away at the waterfall.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. GP Cox / Jan 5 2018 10:47 pm

    One place I’d really like to see – but I may have to settle for just viewing your terrific photos!! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robert Parker / Jan 5 2018 11:32 pm

    It is beautiful, and

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert Parker / Jan 5 2018 11:32 pm

    Looks like an earlier age of our planet

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 5 2018 11:38 pm

      And I agree that is seems rather pre-historic. Interesting because it’s a young landmass.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. chattykerry / Jan 6 2018 12:23 am

    Wonderful shots, as always, Peggy. Did you know that most Icelanders have some Irish DNA because the Vikings traded Irish slaves. Do you friends love potatoes? 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 7:59 am

      Yes, I knew that Kerry. The Viking men captured Irish women! Doesn’t everyone love potatoes? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Midlife Dramas in Pyjamas / Jan 6 2018 3:00 am

    I’ve never been to Iceland but have friends who have, and they say it is utterly gorgeous x

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 7:59 am

      It’s a beautiful country and I hope to see it someday when it’s not winter.

      Like

  11. Steph McCoy / Jan 6 2018 3:30 am

    Oh, Peggy, these are some of the most stunning views I’ve seen. The waterfall is especially spectacular! Happy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 8:03 am

      Happy New Year to you too, Steph. The waterfall really is spectacular. The World of Waterfalls ranks it in the top 10 waterfalls of the world. https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/top-10-waterfalls.html

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sy S. / Jan 7 2018 10:56 am

        Hello Peggy,

        Very interesting write up and pictures of Iceland including the waterfalls. Based on the URL above, Q: How many top 10 waterfalls have you seen in your travels? When I was in the Army way back when, I was stationed in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area of New York State. The only one of the top 10 I have seen is Niagara Falls! Spectacular in winter with the ice & snow and great images at nighttime with the colorful lights on the falls.

        Aside: Some day when you tour around North America… I am sure Yellowstone Park would be one of your favorite places… many geothermal sights to see; Geysers and colorful pools of hot water (including “free range,” roaming Buffalo and other animals).

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jan 7 2018 3:59 pm

        Hi Sy, we’ve seen six of the 10 on the list. I’d love to go to Yellowstone again. I went once just after the earthquake in 1959. Wasn’t there as a tourist. Went briefly with my dad who was the civilian pilot for the Army Corps of Engineers.

        Like

  12. Laurie Decker / Jan 6 2018 5:28 am

    What a beautiful country! Fantastic pictures and post, Peggy. I would love to visit Iceland and hope to do just that someday. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 8:36 am

      You are most welcome. Iceland is gorgeous and I hope you can visit sometime soon.

      Like

  13. Dorothy / Jan 6 2018 6:37 am

    Wow Peggy, your globe trotting takes you to some amazing places. Loved the crevasses and waterfall. Have you been to the geothermal area in New Zealand?

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 8:04 am

      Thanks Dorothy. We’ve been to New Zealand’s geothermal area twice, but I think we’re overdue for another visit.

      Like

  14. Vicki / Jan 6 2018 11:15 am

    All I can say is ‘WOW’

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Brian Lageose / Jan 6 2018 1:56 pm

    That waterfall is just STUNNING. I keep scrolling back up to the photos as I sit here and try to think of something clever to say but… yeah, I’m gonna scroll back up again… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  16. lexklein / Jan 6 2018 2:33 pm

    Great photos, Peggy, especially at Þingvellir and Gullfoss, which was so interesting to see in wintertime. I saw it gushing like a mad thing a few summers ago! Happy New Year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 3:38 pm

      I can hardly imagine how wild Gullfoss must be in summer. Apparently the water flow then is almost twice as much as in winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Alison and Don / Jan 6 2018 2:37 pm

    This looks like it was a fabulous day. That waterfall is really something! Happy New Year to you too!
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

  18. paolsoren / Jan 6 2018 2:44 pm

    …and we always thought that Iceland and Greenland were always just cold deserts. You continue to show us more of the magic of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 6 2018 3:40 pm

      I keep hearing that Iceland is covered in green and Greenland is covered in ice, so maybe the latter is the cold desert!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Jolandi Steven / Jan 6 2018 3:58 pm

    How lovely, Peggy. It is great to travel to Iceland with you, as I definitely won’t get there anytime soon. A happy, adventurous 2018 for you guys. I hope you get to all your admin, as that is usually far less exciting than the travelling part. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  20. thewonderer86 / Jan 6 2018 6:54 pm

    It’s all so beautiful. What a gorgeous place the world is.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Author: Sadaf Siddiqi / Jan 6 2018 9:51 pm

    What a stunning view that was. Have a great year.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. jeanleesworld / Jan 6 2018 11:22 pm

    I love the color contrasts in these images. There’s a raw openness here that I haven’t seen since North Dakota. Beautiful captures once again, my friend! xxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 7 2018 10:23 am

      Wow, your comment brought back memories. I haven’t been to North Dakota in many, many years. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Brenda / Jan 6 2018 11:46 pm

    With all that surging steam and shifting tectonic plates, the land there looks as if it’s having growing pains and can’t quite figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. I’m looking forward to your travels in the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 7 2018 10:20 am

      Thanks Brenda. Iceland is still heaving and growing. Apparently it is the youngest country on earth.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. theburningheart / Jan 7 2018 5:19 am

    Iceland always an intriguing far away place. Nice pictures, and your great comments to illustrate your trips, we always enjoy your adventures Peggy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 7 2018 10:21 am

      Thanks so much. I appreciate everyone who stops by to join us on our adventures.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. adventuredawgs / Jan 7 2018 12:53 pm

    I never would have thought a place like Gullfoss existed. That is gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jan 8 2018 7:07 am

    What a spectacular place – reminds me how small we are on this planet, and that left alone (or at least not impeded so much) Earth can re-build herself. I really appreciate the history and other commentary about your journey. And very glad no one on your trip crossed the boundaries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 8 2018 7:52 am

      Yes, it is spectacular. It was so icy and windy that day, I think everyone had visions of being swept off the path and over the edge.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. shawnthompsonart / Jan 8 2018 3:51 pm

    Iceland is amazing with all its geizers and hot springs. It is also warmer than most places of its latitude due to the Atlantic Effect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 8 2018 10:43 pm

      Thanks for mentioning that. Iceland is way warmer than most places that far north.

      Like

  28. Rhythm Honey / Jan 9 2018 4:12 am

    Awesome pics, really appreciating

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 9 2018 10:49 pm

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for commenting. Really appreciate all the interest you are showing in my blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Superduque777 / Jan 9 2018 4:45 am

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Curt Mekemson / Jan 9 2018 7:46 am

    I really like the falls, Peggy. I’ll bet there is quite a roar! –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 9 2018 10:47 pm

      Oh my, Curt, the sound was deafening. But who cares. It was all so magnificent.

      Like

      • Curt Mekemson / Jan 10 2018 10:37 am

        One of the things I like about waterfalls! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jan 10 2018 2:55 pm

        The noise certainly adds to the magnificence.

        Like

  31. JoytotheWorld / Jan 10 2018 2:51 pm

    Lovely pics! Thanks for sharing😊

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Aquileana / Jan 16 2018 7:39 am

    Absolutely beautiful… Plus such an advanced country when it comes to gender issues… An example to follow 🙂 Hugs and happy week ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 16 2018 11:45 am

      Yes, Iceland is leading the way on sensible responses to gender issues. Hugs and happy week to you too.

      Like

  33. Steve Schwartzman / Jan 16 2018 12:00 pm

    You and nature have provided plenty of reasons to visit Iceland.

    Old English had the letter Þ but we respelled it as th.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 16 2018 2:13 pm

      Yes, lots of reasons to visit Iceland. Thanks for explaining the history of Þ. Most appreciated.

      Like

  34. tony / Jan 16 2018 2:32 pm

    Fabulous photos as usual Peggy. Iceland is definitely on my bucket list, but most people seem to go in the brief summer. The winter shots look fabulous. How did you find the cold?

    Tony
    http://breadtagsagas.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 16 2018 5:01 pm

      Hi Tony, the cold wasn’t too bad. Nothing like Alaska was last year. But the ice was scary.

      Like

  35. Antonia / Jan 17 2018 2:10 pm

    I would love to go there one day. What a cool and beautiful place!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. artandkitchen / Jan 20 2018 9:15 am

    Gorgeous pics Peggy! I always can’t believe you have been there only a few weeks before we found the same way and to the same great hosts! I visited the places now twice, but was so beautiful, that I would love to go there again as soon as possible and wonder this magic Golden Circle. Your pictures are a refreshing souvenir for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 20 2018 12:04 pm

      Thanks so much Adriana. Glad you like the pics. We had such a wonderful time in Iceland, and such fantastic hosts. Could go back any day.

      Like

  37. vinneve / Jan 23 2018 2:54 pm

    Oh so many beautiful places in the World, you are lucky to see some of them. I hope to visit Iceland someday… wish!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jan 23 2018 7:59 pm

      I hope you get to see Iceland. I think it must be wonderful in every season.

      Liked by 1 person

      • vinneve / Feb 1 2018 10:28 pm

        There is a blogger from Iceland I ocassionally go and read when I get the chance. I learned a lot from her about the Country. Yes, I hope so I can visit.

        Liked by 2 people

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