The area surrounding Iceland’s capitol, Reykjavik, is known as the Golden Circle. It’s the area of Iceland that is best known for its tours and travel-related activities. While there is no place in Iceland that is not beautiful or that I disliked, this area was probably my least favorite. Tour buses everywhere, hoards of groups, and people shoving cameras everywhere. Not really the “remote” feeling that we were aiming for when camping through Iceland. Nevertheless, we weren’t going to miss out from catching a glimpse of mother nature’s wonders and she definitely didn’t disappoint!
The Golden Circle consists of the stunning Thingvellir National Park (where we spent most of our time with the Silfra Dive), the Geysir geothermal area, and Gulfoss.
Thingvellir National Park is a place where dramatic geology meets a fascinating history. It is here in this valley where the Mid Atlantic Ridge can be seen above sea level. The Eurasion and North American tectonic plates continue to separate at a rate of 2cm each year! The first parliament was formed here and it was a symbol of independence. Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A church has been at Thingvellir since shortly after christianity was formally adopted in the year AD 1000. It is not known for sure where the original church stood and it’s most likely that there were two churches in Thingvellir, one for the parliamentarians and one for the local parish. Research shows that the church was moved to the place where it now stands around AD 1500. The current wooden church was built in 1859. Inside are 3 bells from previous churches. Independence-era poets Jónas Hallgrímsson and Einar Benediktsson are buried in the cemetery behind the church.
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The Geysir geothermal area is dotted with many hot pools, clay pots, and fumaroles, and the hills and soil are colored vividly by the minerals of the earth. Geothermal areas in Iceland are divided into high and low temperature areas depending on the nature of the geothermal systems. The high temperature areas are within the volcanic zone, the low temperature ones outside. Geysir is a high temperature geothermal area with a base temperature around 250 degrees Celsius!
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Gullfoss (Golden Falls) is found in the Hvita river canyon. The water travels from the glacier Langjokull cascading 105 feet down in two stages. Absolutely powerful and so mesmerizing. I could watch the water fall for hours if I wouldn’t end up sopping wet from the heavy mist!
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And of course, we found some other hidden gems near or along the Golden Circle (some that are becoming not so hidden anymore).
Ever eaten a meal in a greenhouse? At Fridheimar tomato greenhouse tomatoes are the theme of this cuisine (not surprising considering it’s a tomato greenhouse). The food is absolutely delicious and it’s such a charming experience to eat among the plants. Greenhouse growing has been practiced here since 1946. Tomatoes are grown all year long in 5,000 sq metres of electrically lit greenhouses. Annual production of tomatoes is about 300 tons, which is about 18% of Iceland’s total tomato market. Control computers in each greenhouse control heat, humidity, carbon dioxide, and lighting. No pesticides are used and bumble bees are imported from Holland to pollinate the tomato plants.
For the main course, I had to try the tomato soup that was served on a buffet with sour cream, home baked bread, cucumber salsa, butter and fresh herbs. I topped it off with our waitresses recommendation of the Happy Mary drink made from green tomatoes. It was a perfect and very delicious dish! My husband had the fresh mussels cooked in their special tomato seafood sauce topped off with a refreshing Fridheimar Tomato Beer that’s brewed with fully ripe red tomatoes. We even had our own basil plant on the table where we could could cut some fresh basil for our dishes! After some tomato based specialty food and drinks we couldn’t very well leave without trying dessert! So we ordered…what else… but the tomato ice cream. Served with two different dessert sauces, one is made from green tomato and vanilla, and the other is made from Piccolo tomato and strawberry. Unfortunately, none of us were a fan of the dessert (not even the kid), but it was fun to try it!
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Located in the geothermal area near Fludir, the Secret Lagoon was made in 1891. It is the oldest swimming pool in Iceland. Through the ages it has been a tradition to take a bath in the warm water from the hot springs in the area. This was also the site of the legislative body of the community until 1894. In the year 1909, the first swimming lessons took place in the pool.
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The crater Kerid was formed about 6,500 years ago. Its oval, about 270m long, 170m wide, and 55m deep. The water in Kerid does not drain out, but rises and falls according to changes in the water table. Its depth varies between 7 and 14m.
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The Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River was a unique and incredible way to experience Iceland’s geothermal wonders. A 45-minute hike will bring you to a thermal river nestled in the mountains of Iceland. Throughout the hike there are several geothermal holes and amazing views the entire way! Since becoming more popular, they have put up wooden docks and semi-private changing stalls next to the river for the tourists less inclined to undress in front of the public.
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!