The so-called Golden Circle is a tourist route featuring some of the most interesting features Iceland has to offer - geysers, waterfalls, rifts created by the movement of the continental plates, and a little bit of history - and all within an easy reach from Reykjavik. Unless you travel in the off-season, you will have plenty of company. To the opposite side of Reykjavik, the Blue Lagoon with its silica blue geothermally heated waters may be just the place to relax after a busy day of sightseeing.
Pingvellir bears several distinctions - geological, historical, and cultural. It is a place where the North American and Euroasian plates slide by each other and create visible rift lines in the terrain. With a little imagination and stretching your legs far enough, you could almost feel the plates moving in the opposite ways below you. Not quite, the movement is just an inch a year, but earthquakes are common in the area.
Its historical and cultural distinctions are tied to the very early history of the Icelandic settlement. According to Landnamabok, the Book of Settlements, the settlement of Iceland began in 874 when a Norwegian chieftain became the first permanent settler on the island. Others have followed and in 930, the first Icelandic parliament was founded in Pingvellir. For centuries people would gather there for an assembly lasting two weeks in summer. The Commonwealth period lasted until 1271 when the power shifted first to Norweigen and later to Danish rulers.
|Road to Pingvellir||Cairns in front of Pingvallavatn||Rift in Pingvellir||Rift||Irina in Pingvellir||Pingvallakirkja|
|Skoda in Pingvellir|
Geysir Hot Spring area is a geothermal field known for centuries for its geysers, mud pools and fumaroles. Its most famous geyser, Geysir, would sometimes send water 300 ft (100 m) or more into the air. It has gone through periods of inactivity and sometimes earthquakes would wake it up from its slumber. These days, Strokkur is the field's most popular geyser as it erupts frequently, at the time of our visit every 10-15 minutes. It usually sends its water some 50 ft high.
|Ready to blow||Strokkur||Bubble trouble||Strokkur in BW||Strokkur against the sky||Reaching for the clouds|
|Strokkur - 1||Strokkur - 2||Strokkur - 3||Geysir|
Gullfoss is one of Iceland's more impressive waterfall cascades. The waters of the Hvita River drop a total of 105 ft (32 m) in two steps into a narrow crevice extending perpendicularly to the water flow. This is no small river - the average flow is about 140 cubic meters a second and at times a lot more. The mist from the waterfall fills the valley and often frames the waterfall in a rainbow.
|Gullfoss||Irina||Long exposure blur||Sun is out|
|View from above||View from above||Rainbow||More rainbow|
|Yet more rainbow||Rainbow above Gullfoss|
Having come back from the Golden Circuit in the late afternoon, we made a quick search of Reykjavik in order to buy me swim trunks. In a cold country such as Iceland, stocking swimwear did not seem obvious, but whether by luck or rule, the second store was already the charm. Equipped with new trunks, I was ready to go relax which I would normally find hard in a country full of photo opportunitites....
About 40 km west of Reykjavik and not far from the Keflavik International Airport, Blue Lagoon is a spa fed by the waters from a nearby geothermal power plant. The warm water is rich in silica that gives the water milky blue color. Shortly before reaching the lagoon, the clouds broke and we were treated to a sunlit relaxing early evening in the lagoon. It could not get much better than that.
|Geothermal power plant||Baby blue water||Swimming|
|Silica face||Silica face||Blue Lagoon||Irina||Waters of the lagoon|
|Silica facial||Steamy sunset||Silhouette||Shadow selfie|
|Bridge||Svartsengi power plant||Red hot truck and a field of cold lava||Sunset over silica pools||Sunset over silica pools|