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Gulfoss

Geysir, Golden Circle, Gulfoss, Iceland, Reykjavik, Travel

The (Frozen) Golden Circle & Our Return to Reykjavik

Gulfoss at sunrise

We wake early in Selfoss, forfeit a shower in order to make sunrise, make a quick cup of coffee and get on the road. We head towards Gulfoss, which is a 72 kilometer drive, and in good conditions should take us about an hour. The winds are still high, but after being very cautious for the first part of the drive, we realize the road conditions have improved dramatically. And for this, we are thankful.

We head to Gulfoss and arrive with plenty of extra time. We’re the only ones about, and when the sun slowly begins to creep up into the sky, showing little slivers of pink, we’re still the only ones about. The winds are just as fierce as yesterday, and they’re cutting through us. Add to this the fact that the winds are blowing a steady mist off the waterfalls and onto us and our camera lenses, and it seems like we’re fighting a losing battle. It’s a white, winter wonderland all around the falls, and the surrounding pathways are closed, seeing as they’ve frozen into sheets of ice.

Geysir

Geysir

We attempt a few shots, but decide that we may have better light and angles at Geysir, so we hop into the car and drive the 10 minutes down the road. I take this opportunity to dig my long johns out of my backpack and slip them on under my jeans. The temperature is hovering around 0°C, but it’s about -4° with the windchill. Despite the cold temps, Geysir is just beautiful, and we’re blessed with a golden sunrise as a backdrop to every eruption. However, today, we’re finding it more difficult to stand outside for long periods of time. My body isn’t that cold, but my hands actually hurt from holding my camera up waiting to capture the geysir’s eruption. I tell Bill to take his time, but I need to head back to the car. He agrees it’s too cold to stay out much longer, so we head over to the visitor’s center across the road and warm up with some soup.

Gulfoss

Conditions on the drive back to Reykjavik

We decide to make one more trip back to Gulfoss to see if we have any luck with better conditions. We arrive to hoards of tour buses, but manage to get a spot to shoot overlooking the falls. The light is better, but there’s still a mist rising. However, now because we have brighter light now, a rainbow is forming and hanging over the middle of the falls. We’re not here long though, because today, it seems as if the cold has got in our bones and we just can’t shake it. We decide to call it a day and head to Reykjavik, where we will spend our last night.

 

Our Suzuki Swift

Reykjavik’s OK Hotel

It’s just over an hours drive to Reykjavik, but we take our time, seeing as the winds seem to be just a fierce as yesterday’s. And at times, the wind is whipping so much snow across the road, it’s like we’re driving through white out conditions. When we finally clear the worst of it, we’re about 30 minutes from downtown Reykjavik.
When we do arrive, we find a parking garage near the OK Hotel and make our way to check in. Instead of a normal hotel, we have rented a studio apartment for the night. It’s small and cozy, but the decor is trendy and unique, and we manage to get a sense of what it would be like to be a Reykjavik resident. I dive right under the duvet with my jacket and hat on and proceed to power nap for about 30 minutes. We have nothing on the agenda for the afternoon. Our only plans are to go out and treat ourselves to a nice dinner seeing as it’s our last night and we’ve had one sit down dinner so far this week.

Scallop App at Old Iceland Restaurant

Delicious Icelandic Lamb at Old Iceland Restaurant

We head out around 7pm and venture two doors down to the Old Iceland Restaurant. This place received awesome reviews on TripAdvisor, but what sealed the deal was how close it is to where we’re staying.

Considering alcohol is taxed at 26% in Iceland, we haven’t had a drink all week, so we decide since it’s our last night, we’ll split a bottle of wine with our meal. We indulge in scallop appetizers and Icelandic Lamb for dinner. It’s a treat from start to finish, and worth every bit of the $200 it costs us!

As I do at the end of any journey, I look back and wonder how these five days passed so quickly. This has been an epic journey, and Bill and I toast to our incredible adventures.  Despite being my second time here, I am still as awed by the natural beauty found here. It truly is unlike any other country I’ve visited. And even though we had fewer hours of daylight, some incredibly cold conditions, two near car crashes and a very very bad waterfall hiking experience, in my mind I’m already plotting as to when I can get back here for a third visit. There’s just something so special about this island country! Tak, Iceland!

 

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


Geysir



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…