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The Golden Circle

Thingvellír on Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour

If you should be so lucky as to visit Iceland, I highly recommend taking the Golden Circle tour offered by several tour bus companies. It attempts—and successfully—to highlight the uniqueness of the country by visiting three or four major attractions within a short distance of the capital at Reykjavík.

Before it got gobbled up by Norway, Iceland was governed by an annual outdoor meeting at Thingvellír, where the laws were read out loud and cases were tried to resolve conflicts. It also is a significant site geologically, as the line between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates runs right through it. You can see how much the plates have moved since the early days of the 9th century AD.

The Waterfall at Gullfoss

Not far from Thingvellír is the huge waterfall at Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) on the Hvitá River. The falls is in three “steps” before plunging 11 metres or 36 feet, and 21 metres or 69 feet as seen in the above picture. One of the most incredible things about Iceland is that, throughout the country, I saw hundreds of waterfalls of various sizes.

The Geyser Strokkur at the Original Geysir

The word geyser comes from the name of a famous erupting hot spring which, for many reasons, does not erupt any more. Not to worry: There are dozens of other geysers, especially Strokkur, which erupts several times an hour. There are numerous bubbling hot springs throughout Iceland, necessitating considerable care to avoid boiling your extremities as the result of a misstep.

Some of the Golden Circle tours also include sa visit to a geothermal power plant on the route back to Reykjavík. It was incredible to me that the whole city of Reykjavík has central heating: no coal, no oil, no gas—but steam as the result of drilling strategic holes in the earth’s crust near lava and sending water down the hole.

Iceland is one of the most eerily beautiful countries on earth, even if it isn’t very green.