HON195 Student Post By: Hailey Janelle, Environmental Science Major; Ecology/Nature Tourism, and Honors Minor
Career Aspirations: Environmental/Adventure Educator or Park Ranger
Must-See Iceland: The Golden Circle (updated: 6/23/17)
When planning a trip to Iceland, there are a few must-see things. The Golden Circle is one of them. Starting at þingvellir national park and continuing past waterfalls and geysers, the Golden Circle, an incredible natural phenomenon, is rich in history.
Our first stop of the day is þingvellir, about an hour’s drive by van from the Geocamp base in Keflavik. After the van pulls up and everyone departs, we begin our walk into the heart of the park. Walking at a slight downgrade we descend into a fissure then work our way up to the site of the Alþing general assembly, the national parliament of Iceland. The Alþing, established circa 930, was a general outdoor assembly where people, originally limited to the most powerful leaders and then expanded to include commoners, met to decide on legislation and justice. As the oldest parliament in the world, the Alþing laid the foundation for an independent Iceland. The Alþing continued to convene until 1798. Major events in Icelandic history have occurred at this site and it is preserved as a national shrine. After a nice walk through this amazing historic park, we all pile into the van and continue on our journey to the next stop, Gullfoss.
After about another hour in the van, we arrive at the waterfall Gullfoss. In 1979, the area surrounding Gullfoss and the waterfall itself were made a nature preserve. The ecosystem is protected and the vegetation remains virtually untouched. These things, along with attempts to minimize the ecological footprints of visitors to conserve this amazing natural phenomenon continue to impress the thousands of visitors that come to this waterfall very year. Despite the rain and mist slowly soaking us to our core, we ran down the path that leads to an incredible view of Gullfoss and fully enjoyed the view. By the time we made it back to the van, everyone in the group was drenched but we pushed on to the third stop of the day, Geysir and Strokkur.
Geysir and Strokkur are both geysers, hot springs that explode every so often with tall jets of boiling hot water. Geysir is currently inactive but Strokkur erupts every 10 to 15 minutes and can shoot as high as 120 ft. At only about 10 minutes from our last stop at Gullfoss, this was the quickest van ride all day. Along the way, we looked out the window and saw a small teaser of the incredible eruption. As soon as the van pulled to a stop in the Geysir parking lot everyone raced off the bus and ran to see the eruption. Phones were out, videos on and everyone was waiting impatiently to see it. About 5 minutes into standing behind the safety ropes everyone started to get restless, then BOOM, the jet of steaming hot water burst into the air. It was incredibly stunning, something that few can rival. After stopping for a quick bite to eat at a nearby soup bar, I ran up with a friend to see the eruption again, then the bus picked us up and drove about an hour to our last stop of the day, Seljalandsfoss.
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland and is a once in a lifetime experience. Falling at about 200 ft and featuring a trail that allows visitors to walk behind the waterfall, Seljalandsfoss is truly a breathtakingly beautiful waterfall, a must see when visiting Iceland. After the bus dropped us off, we walked down the trail that lead to the waterfall and stopping for several photos, we reached the trail that winds behind the waterfall. Immediately we became drenched but very exhilarated. The trail then winds past a few other waterfalls, eventually reaching a second amazing waterfall. Glúfrabúi is slightly blocked by rocks but by walking into a large cavern, one can look up and see the incredible waterfall raining down from above. While staring at this incredible sight, I couldn’t help but feel insignificant, tiny compared to this intense natural landscape of Iceland. After taking a few photos, we loaded up the bus and drove into a small town to spend the night.
Even though it was raining and we were continuously soaked to the bone, the Golden Circle was the most amazing and awe inspiring trip full of incredible must-see natural and historical places.