Iceland: Golden Circle Tour
The last day we were in Iceland, my companion and I took the Golden Circle Tour out of Reykjavik to some of the most visited sites in the country. We rode in a Nissan 4-wheel drive off-road vehicle with a native Icelander, Ingi. and we were gone for eight hours. It was just the three of us on this tour and we were able to ask questions and learn a lot of interesting things about the country.
The first stop on this drive was at Thingvellir valley, which is the site of the world’s first parliament. At this site you are on a seam called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which is essentially a volcanic seam many thousands of miles long, mostly under the sea. In Iceland it makes a brief appearance above ground. When you are standing at the seam, you have the North American continent on the right and the Eurasian continent on your left. It was at this location that the Game of Thrones was filmed, along with other locations in Iceland. This geological feature is also referred to as a tectonic plate. We stood on top of the seam and also walked down into the chasm, ultimately reaching a beautiful waterfall.
The Icelandic Commonwealth lasted from 930 to 1262. The first Parliament convened in 930 ad at Thingvellir. All this time, Iceland was an independent nation. The Althing (Icelandic Parliament) in Thingvellir held the supreme authority of the country. The Althing was both a legislative and judicial assembly. There, disputes from all over the country were resolved. This was considered the “Golden Age of Iceland.”
After 1262, Iceland became a part of the monarchy of the Norwegian King and later of the Danish King. The Althing nevertheless continued to convene in Thingvellir as a legislative assembly and judicial court up to the end of the 18th century. Thus, Thingvellir, as in earlier times, was a centre of national life at the time of assembly each year.
After we left this amazing area, we drove to see geysers (gay’-seer, as pronounced by Icelanders). We spent almost an hour there, enjoying lunch in a nearby restaurant after experiencing several eruptions and walking around the area looking at wildflowers. The most active geyser in this area erupted every 5-7 minutes.
After our lunch break, Ingi drove us toward the glaciers. Along the way he asked us if we were ready for an adventure. Two eager replies of “Yes!” led him to immediately drive off the road as he approached a bridge, going through the small river rather than over the bridge. Water flew all around us and we had a great laugh before he resumed his travel on the road. We drove for a bit and approached glaciers in the distance. Ingi stopped the vehicle, got out saying that he had to prepare himself and his vehicle for the next leg of the journey. I had noticed he was wearing sandals with socks, so I figured he was putting on boots. I was partially correct. He was also deflating the massive tires on this vehicle from 25 psi to 4 psi, to get traction on the glacier, which was of course soft snow now that the weather was warming. And, off we went, bouncing along over rough terrain covered with 20″ of snow. At some point I said to Ingi, “You really enjoy this, don’t you?” and he replied enthusiastically and with a big smile, “Yes, I do.” We stopped on the glacier and walked around a bit, taking in the sight of beautiful white snow.
After using an air compressor to refill the tires, Ingi drove us to Gulifoss waterfall. We spent a little time there with many other people walking around to get all the angles of the waterfall. It was a busy place.
I may post one more blog about Iceland. There are some things I learned about the country from Ingi, and from our City Walk tour of Reykjavik that we took the first day in Iceland that I want to share. Interesting country, for sure.