After a wonderful night sleep, because of shades that actually darken the room, we are ready to continue the adventure by driving east to the “Golden Circle.” The owner of the restaurant at Hotel Ranga, Frederick, was kind enough to sit down with us at dinner and give us a few places that he felt we shouldn’t miss….and we would not be with the large buses.
As we start the weather is back to dreary – raining and foggy. Not complaining at all, just noting because as a Floridian, a day without sunshine is dreary LOL!
The country side is rolling hills, greener landscape with more trees and more cars on the road touring. Our first stop off of route 35 is to see a larger volcanic crater, Kerid. There is a trail around the top edge and steps down to the edge of the lake in the crater. It is starting to rain hard but we are hardy souls, so we walk the trail taking too many pictures, of course.
Next stop is the historic epicenter of Lutheranism, Skalholt. Skalholt was the cultural, ecclesiastical and political center of Iceland from the 11th century up until the 18th century. When Iceland was a territory of Denmark, Denmark determined their laws and religion. Everyone was Catholic until the Reformation in the 1500’s. Denmark decided they were going to become Lutheran and all the Catholics in Denmark and their territories needed to convert. The Bishop in the southern part of Iceland at this location converted from Catholicism to Lutheranism. The northern Bishops started an uprising and eventually were captured, brought here and beheaded. Recently they have unearthed many historic items in this area including the tombs of the Bishops.
The surrounding countryside vistas are beautiful, even in the rain. You can see why this spot was chosen as a settlement and continues to be a place of interest. A small youth choir is singing in the church when we arrive. Rich and Stacy talk to the choir director and learn the youth are from different parts the country of Iceland and are attending a music camp for honors students. They will be performing in the church on Sunday.
Next to the church is an older sod building which is a museum and not open when we are here. There is also an archeological site on the other side of the church property. This church building was built in 1956.
Departing here and driving the winding road to the next recommended stop, Fridheimar, a farm where tomatoes are being grown inside geothermal powered green houses. We decide not to stop, just a picture.
As we continue the drive on the Golden Circle, we pass a group of horseback riders accompanying a herd of horses down the road. Beautiful horses and impressive to see.
We make a stop in Fludir. Here is Gamla Laugin (Secret Lagoon). Built in 1891, the Secret Lagoon is considered the oldest geothermal swimming pool of Iceland. No one took a dip; it is just too raining and cold right now for our thin skin. This location is also a favorite of people from Reykjavik on the weekends we are told. In the parking lot, we notice one of many small mini-van-type vehicles for renting to camp.
On the Golden Circle, there are several major geological sites. The town of Geysir is appropriately named. Several geysers in a geothermal field are here spitting up every several minutes or so. Seems like everyone stops here to see the Strokkur. Strokkur’s height varies as it erupts erratically. You have to be quick with your camera to catch it’s eruption. So different from Yellowstone’s Old Faithful that erupts like clockwater and always seems to be the same height.
A beautiful blue pool called Konungshver is near by steaming from the heat of the water into the cool air. It’s only 50 degrees.
Now for the waterfall of all waterfalls. A short drive across a seemingly remove area you come to Gullfoss. It is compared to Niagara Falls in how iconic, powerful and massive in size. There is an easy trail to the falls and all the way down to the main overflow with lots of water spraying. It is spectacular!
We have heard about a nice geothermal spa called Fontana in the small town of Laugarvatn on a lake. A quick look and we see two babies with their parents in the spa pools. Hhhmmmm not as inviting as we pictured.
Our last stop on the Golden Circle is the Pingvellir National Park. The Oxara river flows through here and after settling Iceland, plans for a formal government structure were made. The first assembly was in this area of Iceland around 930 AD. Courts remained operating here until 1798. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. While this information is interesting, we were coming to Pingvellir to see the mid-Atlantic Ridge, the junction of the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Pingvellir is located at the Western end of Rift Valley. The Information Center person points to a black line running through the mountains in the distance and the uplifted gorge shelf near by explaining this is the rift between the two tectonic plates. We pictured them more like to cliffs closer together like in this picture of me.
And of course there is another beautiful waterfall – Oxarafoss – an easy walk.
That is the Golden Circle for us and we drive back to Reykjavík and our hotel. Dinner at a cute burger joint right next door to the hotel. Lots of ‘character’ and ‘characters’ in the place.
End the evening with a walk into the old city center of Reykjavik.