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Geysir, Gulfoss, Iceland, Pingvellir, Reykjavik, Ring Road

Day 1 – The Golden Circle

Both needing more sleep, Carolyn and I sluggishly pack up and check out of the hostel in Reykjavik, not before chugging two cups of coffee each. We walk across the street to ProCar, and within a matter of 10 minutes, we are proud renters of a silver Nissan Mica compact car. It will serve as our wheels for the next four days as we circle Iceland’s ring road, Route 1.

A small church on the outskirts of Reykjavik
We head in the direction of the Golden Circle, which is made up of three main sights, Pingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir) National Park, Geysir and Gulfoss. We head first to Pingvellir, driving next to ThingvallavatnIceland’s largest lake, 83 square kilometers!
We arrive at the park and hike up to a waterfall before standing in the place where according to history, parliament was first formed. This is the site where Iceland was declared to be a free republic in 1944, and where their Independence Day is still celebrated today. This is one of the most historically important places in the country. We are also starting to get a sense of why they say Iceland is “a place of lonely beauty.” We seem to be in the middle of nowhere.
Pingvellir National Park


Only 30 minutes away, after driving through remote farmlands, fields of horses and rolling hills, we come to the small village of Geysir. The “village” is actually a gift shop and restaurant, and to the left is a small looped walking trail around three geysers. The most active is “Strokkur,” which erupts with force every 5 minutes or so, shooting water and steam 30 meters up into the sky.  

From Geysir, it’s literally a stones throw to Gulfoss, one of Iceland’s most well-known waterfalls. I was expecting something tall and beautiful, but the roar of water was audible from the parking lot.

Gulfoss is considered to be Iceland’s Niagra Falls, and as we approach, I understood why. We stand in awe as we watch water descend first from an upper terrace of fall to a lower section before crashing into a riverbed below with such unbelievable force. The mist rising from the falls keeps creating a small rainbow above us.

End of day rainbows over Gulfoss

From Gulfoss, we don’t have much daylight left, so we begin our drive to Vik, where we are spending the night. The skies are clear the entire drive and we hope for a chance to see the northern lights, but as we get closer to the seaside town of Vik, the rain clouds are impending and slowly those chances dwindle away.

We check into a cozy hostel, Nordur Vik, and make plans to meet Doruk and Cha in town for dinner, as they are driving back from their trip to the glacial lagoon. We decide to meet at Cafe Puffin… I just hope there is more to the menu than the name implies…