The Golden Circle tour is considered as the most popular and the most booked tour in Iceland. I had booked the Golden Circle Classic tour – a full day trip with Gray Line. I found Gray Line to be the least expensive among all the operators in Iceland.
At around 9 a.m., I was picked up by a mini bus from my hostel and transferred to a larger coach for the day.
Our first stop for the day was about 40 kms from Reykjavik – Pingvellir National Park (Ping – assembly; vollr – field) also called as Thingvellir. This is Iceland’s first National Park and is also an UNESCO world heritage site.
Enroute, we crossed volcanic fields and mountains. Iceland, being the biggest volcanic island in the world, most of its landscape comprises volcanic lava with a layer of green/ brown moss over it which takes almost 100 years to gather!
This park is a site of historical, cultural and geological significance. It lies in a rift valley that separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The continental drift between the two plates can be clearly seen in the cracks or faults which traverse the region. Scuba diving is permitted in Silfra– one of the rifts in the lake where divers can swim between both tectonic plates.
In 930 AD, the Vikings, the first settlers of Iceland, had met here for the first time to discuss parliamentary affairs. This place has been marked by the National Flag of Iceland (can be seen in the picture below). South of the park, lies the Pingvallavatn, the largest fresh water lake in Iceland (about 84 sq. kms.). This lake is also called the Lake of Parliamentary Fields.
The national parliament of Iceland, the Althing assembled in Pingvellir from 930 AD till 1271, when Iceland lost its independence and became part of Norway.
After spending about 2 hours in the park, we moved ahead to the see the mighty Gulfoss, the golden waterfalls of Iceland. The waterfall posed against the mountains in the background offer a spectacular view of the forces and beauty of untouched nature.
Gulfoss is on the Hvita river, which is fed by Iceland’s second largest glacier, the Langjokull. The water plummets 32 mts. in two stages into a rugged canyon with walls upto 70 mts. high. With the sun shining down on the falls, the view of the rainbow over it is worth a sight.
The next stop on the Golden circle tour was the Geothermal area beside the Hvita river. Iceland is full of hot water springs and this place also had several geysers.
The most reliable and famous fountain geyser is the Strokkur, which erupts every 4-5 minutes and upto a height of about 20 mts.
On the way back to Reykjavik, I saw several small waterfalls, quaint churches, turf houses etc.
And the day ended with a beautiful sunset over the snow-clad mountains.
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