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Take the Golden Circle Tour in Iceland

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Gullfoss Waterfall on the Golden Circle Tour of Iceland

The Golden Circle is a “must-do” for anyone going to Iceland. It’s an hour out of Reykjavik and a nice balance for those pub crawls that most people indulge in when they visit this cold and lively city on a volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

So, what is it? The Golden Circle has  three different geographical wonders to enjoy. The word Golden comes from the famous and spectacular water fall—Gullfoss—which means Golden Waters.

There are lots of ways to do the Golden Circle—rent a car and do your own adventure, take a tour on a big bus or charter a smaller more personal trip which is what I did.  I booked SuperJeeps and had a wonderful day.

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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

The drive out of Reykjavik was spectacular. As we left the city, the rolling hills an mountains in the distance were lightly snow covered and stunning. I could have stopped and spent the day shooting. I loved the churches, simple and clean lined. I was told some people call them IKEA churches because they look like they could be flat pack. Funny.

There are about 350 churches in Iceland which seems like a lot for a population of 320,000.  Charming structures.

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Typical Church in Iceland

Didn’t get to stop because were on our way to Thingvellier National Park  to see the site of the original Parliament in Iceland and actually the first Parliament in Europe. The site was selected by the Vikings in the 800s because of the proximity to lakes with fish for food, a moving stream for waste removal and the natural setting for gathering.

Thingvellier National Park

I enjoyed walking  to the area where the Vikings met every other year to hammer out the issues of ruling their settlement and enjoy a bit of festivity.

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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Here are some photos of the area and a couple of   drawings showing what it might have looked like in the 800’s.

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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

 

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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

I’m also including an image that made me smile. A group of young people recording their walk along the historic site. I’m wondering if they saw anything of the natural wonders and who they will share their version with.

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Tourists enjoying Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

 Interesting Facts

This is the area where the tectonic plates meet far underground. One side is Europe and the other North America. High potential for earthquakes I imagine. The other is that this national park is free. With tourism in Iceland growing at 20% year I am wondering how long this will last and what will happen to the area if overrun with tourists. it’s a concern.

If you are thinking of going, I’d suggest going soon.

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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Thingvellier National Park, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

 

Geysir Geothermal area

Our second stop on the Golden Circle was the geyser. Yup. Hot water shooting into the air. The English word geyser stems from the name of this hot spring.  I enjoyed the geyser that  went “off” every ten minutes or so. It was fun trying to capture the bubbling that occurs just before she blows. Here’s my effort.

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Geysir, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Geyser Geothermal area, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Geyser Geothermal Area, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Geyser Geothermal Area, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Geyser Geothermal Area, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

 

Gullfoss

And then we went to the Golden Waterfall. Gorgeous and stunning and really fun to see and meander around. I learned that many years ago, there was an effort to damn this up for electric power, but a single woman took charge of a protest and prevented it from happening. I’m impressed with her energy and  foresight.

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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland
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Gullfoss, Golden Circle Tour, Iceland

Langjokull Glacier

Those three stops make up  the typical Golden Circle tour but my SuperJeep tour took me on another stop that I’l always remember—the Langjokull Glacier. Our guide/driver  let some air out of the tires so we could bump along over lava rocks, over very rough and steep terrain. It was a bit out of my comfort zone but I figured, “you only live once and I’m here and this is now.”

Wow. Was it fun and I loved walking on the glacier. It was a bit nerve racking as I made my way towards a crevice to shoot photos and my guide held me back, telling me that it wasn’t clear where the crevice ended and I might be walking on a thin snow and ice shelf.

If I did, down I’d go. Probably gone forever.

I noticed he kept the jeep on tire tracks from other glacier adventurers. No meandering off.

 

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A crevice on XXXXX glacier
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Super jeep Tour

It’s really a spectacular experience and I’m glad I got to go.

 

Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.

Comments

6 Comments
  1. posted by
    Margaret
    Dec 8, 2015 Reply

    Impressive photos, Susan….you seem to have captured the essence of the “Golden Circle Tour” of Iceland. Who has to travel themselves to such interesting places when they have Design Destinations? While Iceland has never been at the top of my travel list, after reading your blog, I’m finding it more intriguing. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 11, 2015 Reply

      Thanks Margaret, I really appreciate your comments. It was a very interesting day and a gorgeous country. Well worth visiting.

  2. posted by
    ann cabezas creed
    Dec 8, 2015 Reply

    Great photos!! have you read the book “Burial Rites” Setting is Iceland .

    Great read! Ann Cabezas Creed http://www.costaricalearn.com

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 11, 2015 Reply

      Thanks, Ann, I’ll put it on my reading list. I haven’t read it but will.

  3. posted by
    Kathy
    Dec 8, 2015 Reply

    Your descriptions are wonderful. I must say that your picture of the crevice is haunting and breath taking!!

    • posted by
      Susan J. Smith
      Dec 11, 2015 Reply

      Actually it was a little scary. Make that “a lot” scary.

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