The Golden Circle

The celebration of our fifth anniversary in Iceland and the Faroe Islands started in Reykjavik with a heavy dose of jet lag and a lot of Icelandic coffee. More on Reykjavik, where we circled back later in the trip, coming in a future post, because I want to take you straight out of the city and into the rugged and stony landscape of the country.

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We were headed about halfway along the southern coast of Iceland for 4 nights to stay in a remote cottage, so on our first day of driving we took a popular scenic route only slightly north of where we'd end to see some famous Icelandic attractions along the famous Golden Circle route.

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Our first stop was Þingvellir (pronounced "Thingvellir"), the national park of Iceland and the spot where the Icelandic laws were first set in 930 AD. It is also the home of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, where the tectonic plates of Europe and North America divide. We stopped at the visitor's center to use the (immaculate!) bathrooms and were shocked to see the earth split open into meadows and streams out back.

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We journeyed down into the rift between continents where it looked like the earth had split apart and had healed with sage leaves and white butterflies in the most beautiful of scars.

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We hadn't planned to, but we hiked down to an ancient church built by the king of Norway and past meadows bubbling with musical brooks,

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but my favorite part of the hike were the Silfra fissures filled with turquoise waters. If we visit again, I'd love to snorkel in these clear slits between the continents.

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We kept hiking and hiking, which we hadn't planned and which took a few hours. The whole place held an idyllic ancient stillness.

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After Thingvellir, we drove to find lunch is Efsti Dalur, a lunch spot that unfortunately was closed due to the chef being ill, but we grabbed ice cream and waffles in the ice cream barn that conveniently had this view of the cows.

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Our next destination was the most frustrating and most rewarding on the trip: Bruarfoss. I had read about a magical blue waterfall with absolutely no signage.

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The way in was through a summer home camp, and the directions had combination of left turns and small parking areas that were impossible to decipher.

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Someday I'd like to do an in-depth post with concrete directions, because we met a few others looking for the waterfall and each of us had different directions---all of which made no sense! Needless to say, we trekked and drove around for about 2 hours, even hiking 30 minutes one direction through a mossy meadow to no avail, before finally landing at this little bridge,

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which led us to the fall (or 'foss' in Icelandic). And it was enchanted, this clear mountain spring turning milky blue when it fell.

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The typical next stop in the Golden Circle route is Geysir, but since we'd seen lot of geysers last year in Yellowstone, and we were losing light, we skipped past the steaming hills to Gullfoss, a confluence of two gigantic waterfalls that looked like they were falling off the earth completely. Here's a look:

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If you can spot people, you can see just how massive these falls are. Our jaws were almost falling in with the 100 cubic meters of water a second!

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A little damp from the fall's mists, we stopped back near the geysers at Hotel Geysir's Glima restaurant for dinner, and were pleasantly surprised. The chef made a completely new menu item for me that was gluten free with just-caught fish. And then? We were off into the starry night to find our little place down gravel roads with the cleanest breezes that ever did brush our car.

Next up: the waterfalls of the southern coast!