We woke up early enough to get breakfast before getting on the shuttle that would take us to the BSI Bus terminal. Once we finished eating, we went to the front entrance of the building where we met an older gentleman carrying a sign for Reykjavik Excursions.
He asked if we were going on the Golden Circle tour and we replied that we were. He was our ride; he was very punctual. Reykjavik Excursions told us to expect pick up at 7:45 and there he was. Punctuality is a refreshing trait. By the way, nearly everyone we met could speak English fluently enough so that we had no issues understanding them. Only the cab driver spoke purely Icelandic (Iceland/England Adventures).
We climbed into a shuttle emblazoned with the Reykjavik Excursions logo and took off for the BSI Bus terminal. All Excursions went out of the BSI Bus terminal. The gentleman was very friendly, telling us interesting tidbits of information. He put up with my incessant observations and questions (I know- this doesn’t sound like me). We sped through the dark to get to the bus terminal by 9:00.
Soon we were safely on the bus designated for the the Golden Circle Tour. Thankfully, each bus was clearly marked so we had no problem finding the right one. Our tour guide spoke French and English; she would give her spiel in English and follow up with the French version or vice versa. We soon pulled out of the terminal and onto a remote road. Again, the scenery was breathtaking and I am sure I will not do it justice. I tried taking notes but typing on a smartphone can be quite tedious.
The first leg of the journey was through relatively new volcanic rock and moss. According to one person there were over 600 species of moss; another person said 500 something. Either way that was a lot of moss! Stark landscape, jerking this way and that over crumbles of black volcanic rock covered in electric green moss. I was reminded of the scenery of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. The exception being that the rock in Rohan looked old and tired and had eroded enough so that there were soil and random pillars of rock. Rohan was covered in grasses, a more complex plant form. This meant the land was older. In Iceland the rock was new and moss was a simple life form, not quite the complicated grass type. We drove through sharp hills and craggy mountains. Slowly, the stark landscape morphed into a slightly softer environment. There were mountains everywhere but the new black volcanic rock had eroded so that there was enough soil to support grasses and other hardy plants. As such, the land could support Icelandic ponies and sheep which are not found anywhere else on Earth. I glimpsed these animals. I also saw creeks and lakes.
Our first stop was at a tomato farm-Friðheimar greenhouse cultivation center. Iceland isn’t a very plant friendly county; it is termed the place of fire and ice. Iceland does not get very much sun; because it was so far north, the days can be very short and the nights very long. On the Southern edge of Iceland, the temperature rarely goes above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The North Atlantic and the Irminger Currents help moderate the temperature. So… How was it possible to grow tomatoes? Large green houses cover the plants and protected them from the variable Icelandic weather. Our first stop was here. We went in the greenhouse; a man working there told us how they operate. He showed us boxes of bees that were imported in boxes so that they can pollinate the plants. There was a restaurant featuring tomato based dishes. I thought it was very cool. And no…. that is not my hand and wrist in the picture.
Our second stop was not far away. We piled back into the bus and drove to the Geysir geothermal area near Laugarvatn Lake. Apparently the name geyser was a variation on the actual term (geysir) which comes from these geothermal spouts of water located here. The location was a field surrounded by scraggly trees and mountains and covered in flat, large sheets of rock. Gravel paths wound around the geysirs. Geysirs were formed by really hot water coursing below the crust of the earth; this extremely hot water was seeking a place to go. More and more hot water was generated and confined below the crust. The build-up of pressure and temperature caused the water to shoot through a crack in the ground. Once the pressure was relieved, the upward movement stopped. Geysirs went dormant when the crack became so large that there was no pressure buildup (at least, that was my theory). The most active geysir was called Strokkur; it blew every ten minutes. Reportedly, it spit water 98 feet into the air. I saw lots of steaming water running over the barren landscape and pools of hot water. The field reeked of sulfur; the smell of really bad eggs (Jack Sparrow) permeated the air.
Before visiting the Geysir field, Leigha and I went to the visitor’s lodge. There was a shop with everything woolen and outdoorsy equipment. There was also a cafeteria with a few restaurants. We decided to get food and beat the rush. I got lambmeat stew and two rolls of bread. There… I had two traditional and iconic Icelandic meals (mashed fish and lamb)! Of course, I had to spill my tray of food and my rolls went flying. Thankfully the cashier was more than helpful (although, I am sure he was rolling his eyes) and held my place while I got more rolls (luckily, the cafeteria wasn’t too busy). Then he carried my tray to the table. Helpless American girl…. That’s a battle I face having a crazy right arm: choose the easy way and ask for help as soon as possible or wait, try it myself, and when I fail, ask for help?
We climbed into the bus and found our seats taken by a random couple. This forced us to get a new seat in the back; this was not a bad transition (because all the young men seemed to be back there; apparently, they were traveling to study the intriguing environment on Iceland)! The engine started and we started moving towards our next destination. Soon after we pulled out of the parking lot, we passed a golf course. Kind of random but after some thought, seemed normal as that was the best place to grow grass. Our next stop was the Gulfoss waterfall. Whereas Niagra Falls was one tiered, this waterfall was two tiered. Reportedly, Gulfoss rivaled Niagra.
It was very beautiful; I got slightly wet because of the mist. I remember it because it looks like a piece of pie with water (or whipped cream) oozing over the “v” part. We had to descend lots of stairs to see it the best. The roaring water tumbles 32 meters; that was approximately 100 feet.
The weather was variable; one second the sun was out and shining and there were rainbows, the next minute there were angry dark clouds and a rough wind tore at jackets, hats, and scarfs. The surrounding landscape was beautiful and barren; dead grass fields plummeting suddenly and carved by liquid.
We got back into the bus and trundled off to UNESCO site Þingvellir National Park. Here, we would observe the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates grinding against each other. Rocks would be thrown up, creating ridges and fences over which water passed.
There was a nearby lake where the waterfalls sent their water. Apparently, one of the world’s oldest parliament convened here; Þingvellir translated to “Parliament Plains.” The bus dropped us off at one section; we walked to the waterfall and then quickly walked to where the bus picked up. The terrain got really rocky and we slowly made our way up. We got a good view of the surrounding territory. We returned to the bus and went on our merry way.
We hit all the major Golden Circle sites! We returned to the bus station and asked when the next bus was going out. We had some time to kill so we got food at the little café. Eventually, we got on a bus to Keflavik. As the bus did not pick up any customers in Keflavik, we convinced the driver to drop us off at Alex’s. I can’t remember the exact time we got back but it was after 7 but before 9. Tomorrow was the Blue Lagoon appointment at 8:00 am so we asked the receptionist if we could get a shuttle to the airport early in the morning. Then we went back to our room and crashed. We put on some dumb Adam Sandler movie and went to sleep!