I love Iceland for many reasons. I love how they are so proud of their heritage. I love how they continue to preserve their language. I love how they still have a list of viking names that their children are named after and I love how they do not use last names in the same way as the Western world. The tour guide gave us an excellent example of this. If his name was David and his son was named Harley, his son would be referred to as Harley Davids-son. His daughter would be referred to as Heidi Davids-daughter Love it!
Iceland’s Natural Wonders
As I mentioned in my previous posts about Iceland, there is so much to do in such a small country that you will find yourself trying to find the time to do it all.
When I book trips, I try to do as much as possible in the shortest amount of time. The Golden Circle tour was one of our must-do excursions.This was our chance to see Iceland’s rugged, yet beautiful scenery, gushing waterfalls and mysterious geysers.
We also stopped to see a smaller waterfall and the oh-so-glamorous Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses look more like ponies as they are short in stature and have a thick layer of hair on their body. They are special because 1000 years ago, there was outbreak of disease amongst horses so Icelandic laws were passed to prevent the importation of horses into Iceland. This law was never changed to this day, so the horses that are seen in Iceland today are the descendants of those ancient horses. We stopped to take pictures with these horses which acted like they were on a photo shoot as they pranced around like they were part of a movie!
The Gulfoss Waterfall (also known as the Golden Falls) is one of Iceland’s main attractions. The waters originate from a glacier lake 40km from the waterfall. As the current picks up minerals from its journey towards the waterfall, it becomes slightly brown colour. When the sun hits the waterfall, it gives the waterfall a golden glow, hence the reason why it is known as the Golden Falls. I loved watching the glistening water rush from the top of the waterfall to the rapid waters below. It was almost therapeutic.
The Geysers are a natural phenomenon where water from underground chambers make their way to the top and form pools of bubbling water and steam. At a particular point, the pressure causes the Geysers to erupt 30 metres above ground level . This sight was one of my favourites on the Golden Circle tour because it was my first Geyser sighting. If you’re going to see a Geyser, Iceland has some of the most active in the world!
We took a long time to take this picture because we were distracted from the Geyser that erupted every 3-5 minutes behind us. We giggled as we stood there with a goofy smile on our face as we tried to get the winning shot. I think this is the longest I have stood still for any photo!
In the end, I think we did ok, what do you think?
Note: For a detailed description of how the Geysers work, click here.
Thingvellir National Park
We also had the chance to see the Thingvellir National Park. The Thingvellir National Park is also the sight of the first Icelandic Parliament and represents the location where parliamentary proceedings were held to acknowledge the founding of Iceland as a nation; with a common heritage and national identity.
Thingvellir National Park is also famous for its natural environment, and more specifically for the place where two tectonic plates collide. When we stood in between the European and Eurasian tectonic plates, we were in effect, simultaneously standing in between two regions. We thought that was pretty awesome, until the cold winds hissed from the east and we continued our very fast walk through the beautiful landscape.
As we walked we enjoyed the view, and also giggled at the fact that it was possibly one of the coldest days that we had ever experienced in a long time! We only walked for half an hour but during that time, the rain pelted down and then it slowly turned to snow so harsh that we had snow burn afterwards. If you read my post about seeing the Northern Lights, you’ll realise that Icelandic weather conditions can change in a heart beat. Though we experienced some treacherous weather conditions during the day, the weather cleared up for perfect Northern Lights spotting!
Which sight on the Golden Circle tour do you prefer?
The tour company we used:
- Icelandic Horizon: we loved using this tour company because we were picked up from our hotel and traveled by mini-bus that held less than 16 people. This made it easier to see the sights and round-up all the guests at each stop. We booked this tour on the same day as our Northern Lights tour which gave us a few hours in between dinner and the Northern Lights, so it was perfect for us.
What to wear in winter
- Conditions can be harsh and can change so quickly. I wore at least two thermal layers, a fleece, thermal tights, a warm pair of pants, thermal gloves, snow boots in case of snow or rain, warm hat and snow jacket with a hood. When we were on the tour, it was only 5 degrees, but weather can reach as low as minus degrees so it is best to be prepared.