Iceland, the land of fire and ice. So named because of it’s active volcanoes and lumbering glaciers.
Home to whales, puffins, and it’s own breed of horses, this may be the Viking’s greatest discovery.
If you visit Iceland, you will no doubt be in Reykjavik it’s capital city. Reykjavik is the perfect launch point to much of the countries natural wonders.
Perhaps the easiest to visit natural attraction’s in Iceland are those located on the Golden Circle. The whole trip will take you less than a day by car and the instructions couldn’t be clearer: drive in a big circle.
Iceland has a thing for circles: the Golden Circle, the Ring Road, roundabouts. Perhaps it’s an island thing.
Many bus and tourist travel companies offer packages that are available. But if you don’t mind a little extra leg work, I would recommend renting a car. You can move at your own pace stopping wherever and for however long you wish. Plus, if you go with friends, the split cost means you’ll be saving quite a bit of money.
The Golden Circle is a route just outside Reykjavik that takes you through a National Park. Massive waterfalls, Geysers, and a continental divide are among the main attractions here.
Þingvellir, Iceland (Thingvellir)
First big attraction on the Golden Circle is the continental divide. Mountains from each side frame this valley of rocks.
From this spot you can stand between the North American and European tectonic plates. “Middle earth” can even be explored by scuba where swimmers may glide between the two colliding masses.
History buffs or Viking fans may find the site doubly interesting. Signs throughout tell bits about the early Icelandic history. It is a fascinating period of settlement and feudal life before law, royal rule, and written language.
There are two main entrances for Þingvellir. One will take you to the top of a small cliff overlooking the valley. From here you can walk down and see more up close.
The other entrance will take you to the lower area where you can walk up to see the view. It’s your choice.
So named because, well, it’s a geyser. In fact, we get the English word geyser from their language.
Volcanic activity beneath the earth’s crust thrusts boiling water up out of the ground in a voluminous plume. *rumble rumble* *Woosh*!
Every 10-15 minutes the water recedes just a bit. A large bubble forms at the surface of Geysir and boiling water get’s launched high into the sky.
Mineral deposits and geothermic pools dot the hillside. Steam spews constantly from the ground.
Though not typically something I would mention, the visitors center here is among the best I have seen. It’s stylish and comfortable with reasonable prices on food and beverages. Rest here if you’ve been out for a bit already.
Simply put, this is a massive waterfall. Massive.
Gullfoss is in fact Iceland’s largest waterfall. 60+ tanker trucks of glacial water thunder through each second. So much water that it’s deep basin below has actually overflowed in the past.
More that a single large waterfall, Gullfoss is comprised of many smaller falls throughout. It reminds me of a (very large) set of river rapids at some points. Though you would need a death wish to try navigating these falls.
Many lookout and photography points are available. It doesn’t matter if you park in the upper area, or down below to get closer. As long as you are able bodied, you can climb the stairs for a majestic lookout or walk the path that follows the edge.
Bonus points go to Iceland for maintaining the integrity of their natural beauty. Wherever you go, travelers information in available but at a respectable distance from the site. Fences and walk ways are tastefully done so as not to detract from nature. Iceland does it right.
If you are only in Iceland for a day, or simply want an easy to visit natural beauty, visit Iceland’s Golden Circle.
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