Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Day 14 - The Golden Circle - þingvellir National Park, Geysers, and Gullfoss

Gullfoss Waterfall
Our trip was winding to a close, and we had left one of the most visited parts of the island for last - the Golden Circle.  The Golden Circle is a popular tourist driving route that includes þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, and geysers.  We had a great day exploring these beautiful sites before returning our rental car to Reykjavik.  Here is how to recreate this adventure...

Day 14 - The Golden Circle - þingvellir National Park, Geysers, and Gullfoss
Kerio Crater

The day started with a drive up Rt 35.  We made quick first top at Kerio - a crater with a turquoise lake inside.  There was a charge to enter the area (~$2 US), but worth it to see the beautiful sight.  Visitors can walk the rim as well as walk down to the lake.

Our next stop was to the large and powerful Gullfoss waterfall.  Hundreds of tourists walked with us along the short 10 minute trail to the viewing area at the top of the falls.  It was an awesome and formidable sight.

Crowds walk down to Gullfoss waterfall
From Gullfoss, we retraced our way back on Rt 35 down to Geysir - a popular geyser that blows every 10-15 minutes.  Surrounding the geyser are some mud pots, sulfur pools, and other geothermal formations.  It was exciting to watch the geyser erupt multiple times and explore the area.
Geysir sequence
Views from þingvellir
We stopped for a lunch of sandwiches and soup and the large visitor center, gift shop, and cafeteria across from Geysir.

Afterwards, we traveled across Rt 365 to þingvellir National Park (pronounced Thingvellir) where Leanne and I had gone on our snorkel trip the night before.  We hiked on the well-labeled trails by serene lakes, shadowing cliffs, and cascading waterfalls.  Interpretive signs educate visitors about the social and historical significance of the site.

From þingvellir, we took Rt 36 back to Reykjavik to return our Enterprise rental car.  Somehow along the trip, a piece of gravel (probably from an overzealous 4x4 passerby in the Westfjords) had chipped our windshield. This chip lead to a significant crack.  As a result, we had to pay for a new windshield (about $500 US).  Why didn't we get the gravel insurance you might ask?  Well, first of all, we weren't told it was important, but also it would have cost about $300 to insure ourselves against gravel on the trip.  Realistically, I would have been willing to gamble that on a no-chip trip.  Either way, Enterprise was easy to deal with and they gave us a ride from the bus/rental station to our accommodations -  Reykjavik Village Hostel.
Smaller waterfall in þingvellir
The hostel was adequate - bunk beds in a private triple room with shared bath.  The location was great - near the start of popular shopping street, Laugavegur.  We strolled down the street and eventually settled on a Thai dinner.

We retired to our hostel, knowing that tomorrow would be our last full day in Iceland.  It was a bittersweet thought.  We were all a little homesick, but sad to leave this dynamic and amazing country.

A folded basalt ground with tall lava-rock cliffs in þingvellir National Park.
READ ABOUT THE NEXT DAY HERE: Day 15 & 16 - Reykjavik- Hot Dogs, Happy Hour, and Sunshine City

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