In this video, we cover the 3rd part of our travel. We started from our small farm/guest house in a small village about an hours drive west of Selfoss. The day's itinerary was to cover the famous Gulfoss - a really wide rapid waterfall, and the Strokurr geyser - that periodically erupted, throwing out hot water from the earth below. it was the first time in our trip that it was pretty sunny, and we were lucky to witness the rainbow over Gulfoss - something that amazed us greatly.
But the welcome stopover at Vik, where we got some hot traditional Icelandic soup and food was rejuvenating. We continued through the evening to reach the famous waterfalls - the Skogafoss and the Seljalandsfoss. Standing behind a waterfall was something I hadn't experienced before till I was at Seljalandsfoss. Continuing our drive, when we finally reached out stop for the night, it was already past 2:00 am. But who would have guessed... the sun was still up in the horizon!
Thingvellir National Park
Driving out of Reykavik (Rey-kya-vik) armed only with maps and a GPS was one of the best scenic road trips I ever had, combing through the extensively unspoiled nature. We took the Golden circle route in South Iceland initially, covering about 300km looping from the main city district into central Iceland - this got us through Pingvellir national park (a UNESCO world heritage site), lunch at Gullfoss waterfall (translated as 'golden falls') which was one of the most painful lunches I had as I couldn't feel my hands, much less savour my ham sandwich, and Haukadalur, an active geothermal valley which had Strokkur and Geysir geysers. Driving up North, we explored Pingvellir, Glymur and the Hvalfjordour region, and stopped by small towns like Akranes, Borgarnes and Hellnar, just to poke our noses into how countryside Nordic life is like. Some of our leisure drives also found us looking out for Kerið crater and 101 other waterfalls including Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss along a coastal drive. Others found us mounting random hills (okay, mostly the guys) and walking on thin ice. The main roads are smooth to drive on, and some roads and sidewalks branching out from Reykavik are heated by geothermal energy to melt ice (not that we even realized, but we read about it). But if you steer off the beaten path, you may find yourself well in several inches of snow or gravel.
Our day started slow, with some cooking in the camp’s kitchen and then we left off for the trip around what Iceland refers to as it’s Golden Circle, the very first stop being the Geysir, a town after which the word “geyser” has been named as Geysir. It was the first known geyser to the Europeans. The place boasts of an array of beautiful geysers, one of which (Strokkur) is active and blows up every 10 mins, the area is quite commercialised with many restaurants and a big shop that even sells original fox fur. A visit to Geysir surely ticked off one item from my bucket list which was taking a bath in geothermal water, since I was left drenched post one of strokkur’s eruptions. However, it did prepare us for our next stop, the rainbow marked Gulfoss.
While en route, we made stops at these outdoor marvels. At Seljalandsfoss, there is a trail that leads you literally go behind these falls. Starting from the right, the trail winds around the back of the waterfall going underneath a cavern. Here, you can see and hear up close the continuing water. Then, you can head back out to the left to climb up a viewing area to check a different angle of Seljalandsfoss. Be careful, too, as these spots can be slippery.
Thingvellir National Park
The next stop was Thingvellir National Park. This place is significant because it's where the tectonic plates that separate the American continent for the Eurasia continent are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year. Every few decades there's a bit of an earthquake that causes the plates to drop, and there's now a significant crevices in the ground that runs miles across the land at this point. You can see the huge cracks in the ground due to the shifting of the tectonic plates. This is the actual spot where the North American continent officially ends. They have built a ramp where the ground collapsed a few years ago so that you can walk right through one of the crevices.
One of the most impressive waterfalls to see in Iceland is Gullfoss, no doubt. Found in Iceland’s southwestern region, and marking the endpoint of an area known as The Golden Circle, Gullfoss is definitely worth making at least an hour or so stop at this cascade. Fed by the Hivítá river, these waters plunge into a crevice that is more than 100 feet deep. To me, the closest comparison would be Niagara Falls, as this Icelandic wonder also produces a mist and spray. For viewing, you can venture along Gullfoss via a pathway with a guardrail to get different angles. A second area for getting a closer viewpoint is on a rocky platform that you have to step up to get on top. What’s also interesting about this place is that it almost didn’t last in its true form. Its present existence is thanks to a woman named Sigríour Tómasdóttir, who fought her father (who owned the area around the falls) and the Icelandic government against building a hydraulic dam from being built in the 1920s. Though permission was given to construct the dam, the plans never went into place because of public outcry and later on Gullfoss became a protected reserve. You can learn more about the story through a plaque as well as see a statue in her memory.
A quick lunch later, we started our drive towards Reykjavik through the Thingvellir National Park, where the historical 1st parliament of Iceland was situated. The park, lying in a valley between the mid-Atlantic ridge, provides one with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to touch the continental plates of Europe and America at once. Nearing nightfall, we took our halt at an inconspicuous little waterfall, the Oxarafoss, hidden between two rock walls. The hues of the sky and the soft gurgling of the water was something unforgettable. At the end of our day's drive, we reached Reykjavik for a much-needed sleep for the next day's drive up to the snow-capped mountains.
In addition to waterfalls, Iceland’s glaciers are a beauty unto themselves. You can actually book tours to climb them, or simply walk near them. The day’s itinerary included a spot at the amazing Solheimajökull glacier, an outlet of an ice cap known as Mýrdalsjökull. You can walk up to this glacier, and get close enough to touch the ice and see the river next to it. My time outdoors ended with a jaunt to Dyrholaey Nature Reserve, not too far from the town of Vik. Since 1978, this marine protected area consists of cliffs and a rock archway where puffins and other species of birds come to roost. Unfortunately, on this day, the weather suddenly changed and didn’t want to cooperate on giving us a clear view. However, it is neat to walk around here. And, of course, be careful near the edges.
This was the day when our Icelandic odyssey really began. After having a quick breakfast which we cooked at the campsite itself, we set out along the ring road south-east from the Icelandic capital. Mostly people take the north-western route but we took the opposite one (I don’t know why). Our first pit stop was at a pretty little town known as Selfoss. On the way we witnessed beautiful flowery fields under a perfectly clear blue sky. There were also huge volcanic rocks covered with moss. The first major attraction we reached was Geysir, a town after which the word “geyser” has been named as Geysir was the first known geyser to the Europeans. It consists of a number of natural hot springs and the one which erupts regularly is known as Strokkur. After our date with the hot springs it was time to experience two majestic waterfalls Gulfoss and Seljalandsfoss which are among the most popular attractions in Iceland. After this we reached Vik nearly at midnight and set up our camps under a beautiful small hillock. It was tough to set up camps as Vik was very cold and windy but the thrill to set up tents by ourselves is something else.
The next day was our last full day in Iceland. We’d booked to go walking on a glacier which turned out to be right next to Eyjafjallajokul, the volcano that brought the world to a halt a few years back. That was absolutely amazing, even if the ice wasn’t quite as blue and pristine as we’d been expecting. After a couple of hours of cramponing about on the ice, we headed back down and back towards Reykjavik one more time, stopping off along the way at a viewing point for the volcano and at two huge waterfalls: Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss, the latter of which you can even wander behind!!