The Land of Fire and Ice.
Here’s the thing about Iceland; there are many things about Iceland. While relatively small in scale compared to America it packs a powerful array of wild landscapes. The first of those landscapes we happened to travel was the Golden Circle.
Here’s a tip for anyone traveling abroad, or time traveling as I like to call it. Are you ready for this sage advice? Book a flight that lands closer to check-in time, or at least within reasonable time of check-in. I did not on this adventure to Iceland, and I paid the price with sleep deprivation on my first day. We landed at 6 am, and couldn’t check in until 2 pm. Our place was roughly 2 hours away from the airport. We had 8 hours of dead time, and we were too tired to explore. Heed my advice and book closer to check-in time. Once we got into our room I took a nap, swallowed some pills, and headed out to Gullfoss.
Our first real attraction after I felt better was Gullfoss again (we went there earlier when I was sleep deprived and I just couldn’t bring myself to function properly.) Gullfoss is a raging bull of pure force that is fed from Iceland’s second largest glacier Langjökull. Admittedly, I did not venture out to the edge of the fall because it was wet, and I didn’t feel like wiping my lens every 2 seconds to clean it. After Gullfoss, we saw Strokkur geysir. We had actually stayed across the street from the Geysir so we saw it earlier through the window, but seeing it up close was admittedly cooler. Or hotter? Er… After Gullfoss we ventured back to Thingvellir. This time I was awake, and my wife and daughter joined us. They napped the first time we stopped there. HBO filmed scenes from Game of Thrones here. In fact, we saw a Game of Thrones tour with a guide dressed like a Crow. Scenes from the show ranged from the Vale to the wildling camp before the sack of Castle Black. After trekking a portion of the Golden Circle we headed to the western fjords of Grundarfjordur.
Notable photography locations along the Golden Circle are Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss, and Geysirs 'Geysir' which has been dormant for years now, and "Strokkur' that erupts every 5 to 10 minutes. The term Golden Circle has no true meaning outside of a marketing campaign to promote tourism. These locations are all within an hour or two from downtown Reykjavik.
Thingvellir is a nice hike for the most part. There is one rough area coming down from the Oxarafoss Parking lot where it can be rough terrain, but overall it's a walk in the park. Plus, you can come in from the bottom instead of hiking down from that area in the paved parking lots. Oxarafoss wasn't the largest waterfall we had seen in Iceland, but it turned out to be my favorite. We visited the fall three times during our stay!
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