My roommate, Katie, had finally arrived late this morning, and we started the day at around 7:00a (3:00a back home), with getting ready, then breakfast down in the hotel’s basement. Breakfast was traditional european-style breakfast with a selection of cheeses, cold cuts, croissants, jams and jellies. After breakfast, we get all of our things for the day back in our room and then meet the group in the lobby at 8:45a.
The weather was also slightly chilly, at around 47-51 degrees, so I was very thankful for packing my warm tights, hiking boots, light puffer vest and long winter coat.
We load up the tour bus for an exciting morning on the famous Icelandic Golden Circle Tour. The Golden Circle is a popular tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometres looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back.
The first part of the tour, most everyone naps as we ride through the scenic volcanic landscape.
Our first stop is the Alafoss wool store. Inside is is filled to the brim with real Icelandic sweaters, mittens, hats, blankets, yarn and more. Some of our group spend time purchasing souvenirs while the others walk around outside taking picture of the early morning landscape.
Katie and I walk down the cute road, filled with artist’s workshops, unique art (see the random computer posted into the ground), and at the end of the road, was a couple of horses out grazing. We pet the friendly horses and then make our way back to the bus.
Our next stop was Pingvellir National Park. Þingvellir (Thingvellir) is a historic site and national park in Iceland, east of Reykjavík. It’s known for the Alþing (Althing), the site of Iceland’s parliament from the 10th to 18th centuries. The park sits in a rift valley caused by the separation of 2 tectonic plates, with rocky cliffs and fissures like the huge Almannagjá fault.
The rocky terrain was incredibly, with tall rock walls and small waterfalls every now and then, peaking through the rocks. This was also where Season 3 of Game of Thrones was filmed, so it was an awesome experience to be able to walk through.
After the park we went down the road to See the Strokkur Geyser(s). This is a small trail that looped around a hot spring, where the main attraction was a massive geyser that erupted every ~8 minutes. We watched about three rounds of the geyser explode, and the followed the rest of the path past multiple other smaller geysers and bubbling hot mud pits. The entire place smelled of sulfur and rotten eggs but it was incredible to walk past these deep, dark holes filled with extremely hot, boiling water.
The group was allowed two hours at the geysers, so we were all able to eat lunch as the center’s food court. I got a quick sandwich and filled my water bottle up with some icy cold, fresh Icelandic water for the road.
The next and final stop on our tour (took us roughly 5 hours to complete) was Gullfoss waterfalls. Gullfoss is a powerful waterfall located approximately 130 km inland from Reykjavík. Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall” in Icelandic.
This waterfall was massive, and as we approached it, you got misted with the water from even a great distance. We started at the top of the falls, and then make our way down to the very front of the falls, hiking up a simple, but steep rocky path. The falls thundered, and as we got close, we were able to see a rainbow peak over the canyon. Such an incredible experience!
After an hour at the falls, we all loaded back onto the bus for the ride back into Reykjavik. Our tour guide, Ronnie, was a middle-aged Icelandic woman who was hilarious but very knowledgeable, and even played us some famous and popular Icelandic songs (including Monsters and Men), and told us some local folklore tales as we drove back through the beautiful volcanic countryside.
The evening was then free to use, so as soon as we got back to the hotel, Andrea and I walk straight to the harbor where we walk through Harpa Concert Hall. It’s beautiful geometric glass walls sparkle and dance with color as the daylight streamed through. We snap a couple of photos and then walk down the street to the famous Solfar Sun Voyager sculpture.
The sculpture is just as it is pictured and we get some beautiful photos with it as it overlooks the water and mountains in the distance.
We then head back into town to Hallgrímskirkja church, but this time, pay $9 to ride the elevator up to the top of the bell tower, for the best overlook of the city. Once at the top, you have the option to peak through the actual clock face, or climb a few stairs to reach an outdoor lookout, with small boxes to stand on that let you get an incredible view of the whole city, from every direction. This was worth every penny, and after taking multiple pictures (and now slightly cold and hungry), Andrea and I head back down in search for some dinner.
We found a quick restaurant right near the hotel and I was able to try some Icelandic meat soup which was a hearty beef & both soup that was affordable at $17, filling and incredibly delicious.