Day 5 was yet another day to use Reykjavik as a base for heading a little further afield – however this time we used a tour company (Mountaineers of Iceland) to make the most of a trip around the Golden Circle. I usually pride myself on my photography but on this day it was hammering down with rain… All the time – so please excuse the quality of the photos in this one, not only was the lighting terrible, I was using a lower resolution water proof camera.
This golden circle tour includes stops at:
Thingvellir National Park
This is a mind blowingly beautiful area, but is much nicer when it is dry… We arrived and it was pouring down which wasn’t great for us or our cameras, so we decided to return again on another day (as I will get to in a later post). It is a very historic place as well, being the location of the first true parliament – make sure to see the visitor center and read the signs to make the most of your visit, or take a guide who can tell you all about it!
More importantly for some people it is also one of the filming locations for game of thrones. Very cool for the fans of the show to see where the “bloody gate” was filmed – however it is a bit of a shame that the park authorities don’t make a little bit more of this fact. They would attract more people and could probably cash in on some merchandise to raise extra funding.
This is a little added extra which Oleg, our tour guide added in – not sure if they all add it, but it’s a nice little stop to explain a little more about the geothermal activity in the area, as well as being a nice and safe place to reach out and touch the warm lake and see some of the little springs bubbling away in puddles. It was still pouring down so we only stopped for 3 minutes or so, but well worth a quick stop – I bet it’s worth spending an hour or so soaking your feet here when it’s nice!
Geysir Geothermal Park
Although people no longer go to see geyser which is now dormant, and possibly even extinct… However when geyser disappeared (to the relief of the people with businesses in the area) its little cousin strokkur started spewing out regularly and in a fairly impressive way! It should be active at intervals of about every 10 minutes, and while it should reach 15 or so meters we only saw it between 5 and 10 meters at best. So keep your cameras at the ready!
It is a fairly nice area to walk around, but you don’t need to stop for too long – there is a pretty good shop and restaurant across the road (the Geysir Kantina) though to give you a nice break half way through your golden circle tour.
We went for the snowmobile option so make sure you add this on – it is an incredible experience… and most importantly if you want to really enjoy it, pay the extra and get a snowmobile each! The drive there is pretty bumpy but great fun, and upon arrival you are given some great protective gear. I would recommend wearing waterproofs underneath if it is raining as their suits are only kind of water proof, and bring sensible shoes! Don’t go snowmobiling in your dancing shoes – they won’t allow it and said that it does happen!
Snowmobiling is great fun and everyone should try it at least once – not to mention that it is dead easy… and if you can do it on a glacier, even better! Although watch out for white outs when the wind whips up the powder snow – until you experience it you don’t realise how creepy it is… You literally cannot tell the difference between ground and sky.
I ate some glacier snow while up there – you can’t get much cleaner and fresher, but I was very lucky… I looked down to where I scooped some up and saw a small area of the dreaded yellow snow! In the middle of nowhere with the entire glacier to choose from and I almost scooped up some (what I assume to have been) rabbit pee flavoured ice!
The final official stop of the tour is one of the most visited tourist stops in Iceland, Gullfoss – the golden falls! There is no denying that they are stunning to see. If you don’t have too much time or it is very wet I would recommend leaving the top viewing area (you can see the view on the way down anyway) and heading for the lower car park – this is the nicest view for photos. You can then walk down to the bottom of the falls where you WILL get soaked by the spray (understandable as about 140 cubic meters of water hit the bottom there every second), and expect that to the crux of the experience down there. You are very up close to the falls there so the view is not even comparable to the beautiful view of the whole thing.
Efsti Dalur farm
The final stop on this tour was another one which Oleg recommended and once again not sure if the other guides from Mountaineers of Iceland stop here… If not ask them to – it’s worth seeing. This is a really cool idea from a dairy farmer cashing in on the huge wave of tourists in to the country (something a lot of farmers are doing in various ways now for a little extra income). They make their own ice cream… The banana is delicious by the way while the liquorice is also very tasty but super weird (it’s like absinthe in a cone – thankfully I happen to really like absinthe)!
The coolest and quirkiest thing about it us that it’s built on the side of their cattle barn and you can see the cows which produced the milk for what you are eating… Very cool concept and really special for kids in particular… A great stop on the way back to Reykjavik from Gullfoss! If you want to find it yourself it is on route 37, about half way between route 35 and 365.
If you leave at around 8:00am to start this action packed tour, you should make it back to Reykjavik for about 6:00pm, so just in time for a well-deserved dinner. There are plenty of hearty dinner options in Reykjavik but if you stay at the Reykjavik Lights hotel, like we did the options are a little more limited, and after this tour I don’t think you’ll be wanting to head in to the city. In such a case I recommend Eldsmidjan next to the hotel… A lovely pizza place where the service was friendly and quick with the pizzas being delicious when they came out. You can tell they use good quality ingredients not only from the great flavours but also because all the time they are open you can see people going in to eat or turning up to pick up take away. Do not try the Pho Vietnamese Restaurant a few doors down! Portions are tiny, service is terrible (I think almost everyone had their order messed up or bits forgotten), and when I got my noodles (fresh from the fridge), it was like chilled snot… Not the best end to a long day!