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To Reykjavík i Go – Day Five (Part One)

28 September, 2014

Almost every tourist that goes to Iceland goes on a trip around the Golden Circle – an eight hour excursion from Reykjavík that takes in Geysír, Gullfoss falls and Þingvellir National Park. Half a million people a year climb on buses or into hire cars to see these sights, and I joined this number.

As soon as we drove beyond the sprawling outer suburbs of Reykjavík, it was clear that apart from a handful of towns and a couple of cities, Iceland is a country of tiny villages, or sometimes just clusters of farmhouses. The barren, beautiful landscape of vast plains punctuated by high mountains or meandering rivers spread out on all sides and I tried to capture as much of this as I could from the bus window as we drove towards our first stop. I knew it would be impossible, I knew that a camera shot can never represent the three-dimensional, almost infinite views from horizon to horizon, and I knew that trying to do so through the window of a speeding coach reduced my chances even further. But the majesty of the country, the continual change of my surroundings, meant my camera was in my hand for the whole journey, my finger poised over the shutter button. Each corner we turned, each hill we climbed or rounded, revealed another breath-taking view that I snapped happily. I know I looked like a rabid tourist, desperately taking pictures of everything, but I didn’t care. I love the country and I would have set the video setting to run permanently if I could.




And if the unending morphing of the terrain itself wasn’t fascinating enough, our guide occasionally pointed out a geo-thermal power station, or what looked to our ignorant human eyes like rocks but were in fact Elf Houses – a fact we knew to be true as our guide told us tales of Elves helping humans and being consulted on road building schemes.


We called in on a family-run tomato farm – enormous, climate-controlled greenhouses run on geothermal power from a plant in the next field – for a cup of tomato soup and fresh basil and then it was on to Geysír. This is the hot-water spring, bursting noisily and steamily from the ground at regular intervals, after which every Geyser in the world is named (albeit via a mispronunciation and misspelling). The ground steams, the smell of sulphur is all around, giving this spot an even more alien appearance than the already unique landscape around the rest of the country. Geysír itself no longer spouts – a subterranean rock movement some years ago closed off the route for the hot water jets – but Strokkur does still eject a jet of scalding hot water and steam every eight minutes or so, and this is where most people gather to take that iconic shot and capture this stunning natural phenomenon on video



And so on to Gullfoss. As with Geysír, this beautiful, humbling example of nature’s power sits in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The road passes it, there is a small visitor centre and gift shop, but for miles in every direction, there is nothing, no one. Just that same landscape. Gullfoss is an enormous waterfall. Not high, but wide and loud and deep and powerful and wet and cold. Viewing spots and steps have been built to allow us tourists the best access for the best sights and pictures, but as we approached I was increasingly aware of how insignificant human beings are, how something as simple as water running down from a mountain can carve these huge ruts through the rock, and if we stepped any closer we would be swept away and never found.





Coming soon in Day Five Part Two… the Golden Circle Tour continues to Þingvellir, and on my return to Reykjavík I watch Iceland play football.



  1. Heck if I can pronounce any of the town names in this, but WOW! What a great adventure you’re on, TRG! Thanks for sharing! (And, btw, the pics look amazing, even if you did have to take them out the window as you were speeding by. 😉 )

  2. So majestic

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