Day 7: Golden Circle
I knew this day would come. It’s the final day of the trip. I tried not to think about it and instead just focused on enjoying the day. A visit to Iceland is incomplete without doing the Golden Circle tour. But before embarking on the Golden Circle, the day began at the Friheimar horse farm. Not only do you get to see a brief Icelandic horse show, but you get to spend some time with the horses (and perhaps rearrange their hairstyle). It also turns out that the horses can gallop so smoothly that you can ride these horses while holding a beer mug without spilling a drop. True story.
Before the official Golden Circle tour, yep, another waterfall, Faxi Falls (Vatnsleysufoss).
The next stop was the final waterfall of the trip, Gullfoss (Golden falls). As we drove closer to Reykjavik, the crowds became larger, especially throughout the Golden Circle. Interestingly, we finally heard English coming from mouths other than our own for once (most tourists we encountered were from non-English speaking countries).
And right next door was everybody’s favorite, the Strokkur Geysir. Capturing the fountain eruption moment requires patience and strong deltoids for steadily holding your camera since it shoots every 5-10 minutes. I heard that several tourists per week are scalded for putting their hands in the thermal pools, mostly due to curiosity. When up close, the Geysir definitely catches everybody by surprise since there is no warning signal. I found that the best way to capture the height of this thing was to climb to the highest peak as usual. The Geysir can shoot up to 120 ft, and I may have caught the big one. Score!
The last piece of the Golden Circle and the final stop in our grand ring road tour was Thingvellir (Parliament Plains) National park. This is where the old Icelandic parliament was founded. It’s situated on the tectonic plates that divide Europe and North America. The main path takes you between the edges of the plates.
Toward the entrance, there were water streams that were transparent enough that you could see the bottom clearly. Although my camera wasn’t state of the art like most people, it was waterproof, and so I was able to dip my hand in the freezing water to see what it looks like under there. I hear that there are snorkeling and diving tours close by.
Before we knew it, we were back in Reykjavik. For our final meal, we maneuvered around the soccer crowd in the city center and dined at Restaurant Reykjavik. We were lucky to have seats since this place books fast, and I soon found out why. The buffet blew my mind away. If you ever visit Iceland, reserve a spot here and have a seafood party. Even whale is on the menu, which actually tastes pretty good.
I usually look forward to returning home after a long vacation, but not this time. I’m hooked and I’m not alone in the Iceland addiction. This is definitely a country to revisit. It’s never taken more than 2 posts to summarize a trip. A one week sampler in Iceland took 6 posts, and that was scratching the surface. You could snowmobile on a glacier, hike up volcanoes and snow-capped mountains, go kayaking or horseback riding, trek through all types of landscapes, encounter every waterfall, climb every hill, bathe in every geothermal pool, walk every trail, and witness the northern lights. My message is simple–put this country high on your bucket list. Iceland is like another planet on a small island. As a going away present, Iceland gave me a view of Greenland on my flight back to the dirty, muggy, and fast-paced city of New York, the place I call home.
Goodbye Iceland, for now.