|Gate bearing Þingvellir National Park emblem|
With just one day left for this trip we decided to hit the 'Golden Circle'. The circle is a popular tourist route that hits 3 popular spots: Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall. All three are an easy day's road trip from Reykjavik. So off we went!
FYI: Þingvellir is pronounced, "Thing-vel-lear". There now we can all pronounce 1/35th of the Icelandic Alphabet.
First stop on the scenic drive was Þingvellir National Park. Not only is the park a UNESCO World Heritage Site but the whole park is seated in a valley that lies between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates - GAK! We trusted the tectonic plates would behave for our visit.
|Þingvellir Visitor Center under overcast sky|
But the main thing I will remember was the lovely young lady from Africa who handily took care of my purchases in English - as do it seems all Icelandic people - then turned to her Icelandic co-worker and spoke a blitz of Icelandic that made my head spin! I know. How silly of me not to expect an African to speak fluent Icelandic - but honestly it was so cool. If I'd had the nerve I'd have videotaped her.
In a nutshell, once upon a time, Þingvellir was a meeting place in the age before the first century, for Icelandics to gather from all over the island.. The area had grazing, water and handy routes that led the various old Icelandic peoples to hold their 'meet ups' the area.
On the right today's tourists travel a path over the lake that leads them to recent age buildings.
|Buildings on the site of the old Icelandic Parliament at Þingvellir|
Loved the scenery of Þingvellir which included this old, solitary, presumably feral Icelandic sheep.
Next we headed for the Gullfoss, passing at least a couple of bathhouses featuring water from underground hot springs.
|Along the road there were geothermal springs and whatever this thing is|
|Yellowstone? Nope, the Geysir field of Haukadalur|
|Hot water and poofs of steam|
The Strokkur geysir is Iceland's retort to Yellowstone's Old Faithful. And whereas Old Faithful's geyser is slightly higher than Iceland's famous Strokkur, the later is far more regular, i.e., 'faithful' than the former, erupting every 8 to 10 minutes as opposed to every 30 to 100 minutes. You show 'em how its done Iceland!
|Strokkur geysir erupting in the distance|
Redwing exploring the geysir field.
The Visitor Center was immense, with restaurants with gourmet and snack foods, vast areas with all the souvenirs one can imagine. But what was my favorite thing in the visitor center? Surprisingly it was not the vast area full of souvinirs - but I bought nothing - I must have been ill.
My favorite thing was the bathroom. What impressed me so much? Nope. Not the instructions on proper use of the toilets.
Like a budgie in a cage, I got the biggest kick out of the mirror, outlined as an Icelandic horse & rider. It is the first thing you see on leaving the ladies room.
The final stop on our 'Golden Circle' tour was the 3rd national treasure, Gullfoss. We hussled through the artistic Visitor Center.
|The Gullfoss Visitor Center|
... walking down the long wooden boardwalk for a view of the magnificent double waterfall.
Look how gorgeous a natural structure that is Gullfoss - 'Golden Waterfall'. It is terraced and I can't imagine anyone traversing in a barrel and surviving both falls.
|The Michelin Woman at Gullfoss|
|Still under construction|
Quick note, prior to this trip I watched several YouTube videos on 'what not to miss' and we took said advice to heart. Therefore before getting back on the highway to Reykjavik, we stopped to sample the following treats...
An Icelandic Lamb Hotdog with French (Icelandic?) Fries.
a WILDLY generous serving of chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream cone.
Well worth the hype.
What was my favorite view opt of such a lovely day? Not the falls or the geysirs? The ice cream cone larger than my head? Nope. It was the lovely little, hooved dudes & dude-ettes below. We had stopped to see them when I veered off the little highway, so excited I was hyperventilating. There was a small farm in the distance, and a spot where these Iceland horses were lined up awaiting treats (first) and petting (second).
|The friendly little line up of sweeties|
Finally! I was going to be able to touch, and get close to those darling multi-colored horses! The owner of the horses was there, a six foot plus giant of a man. I bought a little cup of horse 'candy' from him, and when I excitedly fed the ponies, he kept coming over and giving me free cups to me.
I told the v. sweet giant, that I can't wait until I get my weight down enough so I can ride an Icelandic horse. He made my day by telling that he rides Icelandics and he certainly weighs more than I do. I was so happy to touch these touch-stones of the equine world that I was fighting back tears the whole time (Ah! I get sooo emotional when I get to do things I've only ever dreamed of getting to do).
|I said he was a giant!|