Destinations Magazine

Golden Circle Pt. One

By Laurawh77 @travladventurer


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Today was the Golden Circle tour. We awoke very early in order to catch the early bus and get the most out of our last day in Iceland. We were staying at the Cabin Hotel and they offered us a free continental breakfast. The spread was incredible. Everything seemed both Icelandic and also North American to satisfy those who aren’t so adventurous. I took everything that I couldn’t identify, I love taking chances and surprises, as well as some breakfast staples. We filled up quickly and waited on the front steps for the bus.

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When the bus arrived it was a small mini van with around 15 seats inside. The bus driver stepped out of the van and came to collect our money and immediately I knew this was going to be an amazing tour. The man was a huge boisterous Icelandic man that seemed like a viking come back thru time to take us around his country. As soon as the guide starting taking I was in love. He was so funny, crazy and passionate about his home and the history of his country. And Icelanders have the strangest accent, it seems like a combination or nordic, scottish and danish all mixed together in a blender with that most oddly and inappropriately inserted points on enunciation.

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While driving between destinations our guide would regale us with myths of the ancient Vikings and their lives as they came to thee shores. The stories were full of violence and gore.Our guide did voices for each of the character, like a father reading to his child at night but instead of a soothing sleepy voice, he voice boomed and echoed throughout the entire van as he would yell and scream as one of the Great Viking kings. One of the stories featured a small boy who had a growing diseased where his bones would grow really fast and since this was so painful he was fed booze by the bottle when he was a baby, I wouldn’t have put it past it that this man’s mother had given him the same treatment.

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After driving through the countryside and getting out of the city we could truly appreciate the oddness and lunar-like landscape of this country. Strange blue and green moss waved over rolling hills against dark blue mountains in the background. We arrived at our first destinations, Þingvellir, which was both the location of the first parliament as well as the Rift Valley, a geological wonder of the world. The Rift Valley is a part of the North Atlantic rift system where the Eurasian and the North American plates meet, causing the sea-floor to spread, and creating a crustal rift in the earth. As the two plates shift, it causes these two walls down the center of the rift to spread. As you walk down these huge rift walls you can see the layers of volcanic earth stacked one on top of the other. Each layer represents a different era of history and it is truly an awe inspiring sight to see.

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Surrounding this gorgeous rift valley are two other Icelandic marvels. Lake Þingvallavatn is the largest lake in Iceland and sit across from the rift and sitting in a midst the lake is Hengill volcano. Although Hengill is still an active volcano, it’s last eruption was over 2000 years ago. Nevertheless, Hengill still produces fumaroles and hot springs, evidence that somewhere deep within, the lava still boils, waiting for the day it will erupt again.

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Standing against the lava walls stands a tall flag poll signifying the location of the first Parliament or Alþingi. The first parliament in Iceland was established at Þingvellir in 930 and remained there until 1789. This whole area is protected by the national park association to protect the national shrine for all Icelanders. Looking out over this vista and at the landscape around us, our guide informed us that because Iceland is a relatively new continent, this is how the rest of the world would have looked hundreds of years ago before the landscape developed. It was like being able to look back in time, another way in which Iceland is a magical land where the unbelievable becomes reality.

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After finishing up at the rift we continued down to Gullfoss, or the golden waterfall, Iceland’s Niagara Falls. On our way to this next destination, our guide told more stories of Iceland’s history with his classic and hilarious voice acting.

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I actually found a video online of him, so here it is for you. The Icelandic accent is so interesting, it sounds like a mix of scottish, swedish and a nordic Viking.

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When we arrived at the waterfall and stepped out of the van we were immediately hit with the cold air and gently sprays of freezing cold water coming from the falls. We donned out rain jackets (so glad we brought them) and made our way out of the van to look out over at the falls.

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Standing in front of the falls you can hear the rushing water so loudly but standing in front of the falls, you cannot see the crevasse where the water falls down into and it looks like all that rushing water simply disappears into nothingness. We walked along the edge of the falls to the lookout point where you could stand only a few feet away from the rushing water.

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Niagara falls is much bigger but I didn’t feel like I ever got as close to the water falls as you did here. You feel beneath you and only inches from your body the immense power and surging energy that this rushing water created. The water fell sharply down into a crevasse and the stories we were told about the people have been lost falling down there were all the more haunting as we looked down and the white wispy mist swirled along the bottom, like silent ghosts still waiting for rescue.

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After we finished at the falls we ducked inside the restaurant that sits at the top of the falls for a bowl of their famous lamb soup. It was so hot, hearty and filling, the perect food to warm our freezing cold bodies. The soup is all you can eat, and even though I couldn’t finish another whole bowl I took a little more after finishing my first simply because it was so delicious. It was that kinda of simple, traditional dish that although it doesn’t have any bells of whistles, tastes like it was made just for you, with loving care and although I’d never had it before, it tastes like something you’ve had all your life – and having it one more time, feels like coming home.

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After lunch, we took a walk over top of the falls to look out of the giant vista of land around us, framed by huge mountains on all sides. It was so strange since the sky was over cast the mountains, covered in white snow, seemed to almost disappear into the clouds and sky. Another one of Iceland’s beautiful, mysterious wonders.

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