A Day of Water and Rock

HON195 Student Post: Vitaliy Popov, Electrical Engineering Major; Honors Minor

Career Aspirations: Pursue a Masters Degree in International Business

A Day of Water and Rock

On Tuesday when I awoke, it was raining like it always does in Iceland. As I waited for the van with my classmates, I gazed out the window—the rain and low fog in the distance made the sky so mesmerizing. When the van pulled in to Geocamp, we all ran to it like ants to sugar. I grabbed a window seat so that I could continue looking at the vast, flat landscape during the hour ride to Thingvellir, our first destination.  As we drove Iceland’s Golden Circle, it started to rain a lot harder and it was extremely difficult to take photos with the fast water droplets flying by on the glass.  Einar, our guide, began telling us about the history of the Thingvellir, the site of the law rock, Iceland’s first parliament, established around 930 AD.  

Rainy Icelandic Landscape at 90 km/hr

 Once we arrived at the National Park, the first thing I noticed was the amount of tourists who were already there.  As this was the first day where we were truly immersed in the natural beauty of the land, it was so sad to see how many other people were also visiting the Golden Circle.  In my mind, Iceland was a land of roaming horses with wild, unexplored territory.  Instead, what I saw was a human herd walking through a crack in the mountains with two thin ropes to hold it all together.

The human herd at Thingvellir

In addition to being an important historical site, Thingvellir is also a geological phenomenon.  It is where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are separating.  When I started walking down the path, all of a sudden there were rocks on both sides (see above photograph).  The landscape was so unique that I had my camera out the whole time.  Even though I was walking through one of the youngest parts of the land, where the tectonic plates were separating two centimeters every year, I felt as if time had stopped.  I felt so insignificant between the two continents.   

Inside the park, our first destination was the law rock, where the first settlers of Iceland came together and discussed the law of the land as well as introduced new laws.  In the early years, the laws were memorized by one of the elders, and passed down orally, generation to generation.  An Icelandic flag marks the spot where these laws were made so many years ago.  I took a photograph at this spot because to me, it symbolizes the respect Iceland has for its nature and its history.

Me at the Law Rock

The next stop on our Golden Circle tour was Geysir, the site where the word geyser originated.  As we rode on the bumpy road, with rain still falling sideways, we once again pulled up to a parking lot full of huge tour buses and vans.  I zipped up my drenched coat and pulled out my camera to make sure I captured the 100ft geyser as it was erupting.  As I made my way to join the large amount of people standing around a wet hole in the ground, the rotten-egg smell of sulfur entered my nostrils.  Upwards of 100 people were just standing around watching and waiting for the explosion of Strokkur, the only active geyser on the site. 

Awaiting the Eruption

As I pressed the record button on my phone, the geyser exploded and startled me to the point where I almost dropped my phone. I was so happy that I captured the explosion and water falling down, that when it exploded again three seconds later, it scared me to the bone.  My heart was racing as I did not expect to see so much amazing natural beauty on the trip, never mind on just one day. And yet, we had one more stop remaining.

Our final stop on the Golden Circle was a waterfall called Seljalandsfoss.  It was the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen; the water fell about 100 feet right below the glacier that produced the water.  

Approaching Seljalandsfoss

What makes this site so unique is the ability to walk behind the waterfall along a muddy path.  As I walked behind the waterfall, I took so many photos in order to retain the memory of this unbelievable experience.  We even filled our water bottles from the falling water, and sacrificed our dry clothes in the process; here is the picture to prove it.

Filling water bottles from the waterfall

Wet and exhilarated, I walked down with the group further down to the second waterfall which, to my surprise was in every way, shape, and form even better than the one I previously thought of as “the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.” The second waterfall was equally large, but instead of being in the open, this waterfall fell into a cave with a narrow opening, where you could stand underneath the falls and take photos.  The sound of the water falling in the cave was loud and yet some how calming.  As we visited the second waterfall, the sky also cleared up and the rainy clouds that were over us all day had vanished.  Now, it was warm and sunny, with a slight wind coming from the west.



The natural beauty of Iceland, as seen on the Golden Circle, showed me that the preservation of nature, and a respect for nature is not lost on the Icelandic people.  The diverse landscape, ranging from bare rock to falling water to frozen glaciers, makes Iceland both an experience and a destination that teaches visitors that nature and humans can continue to coexist.